Do you bring $5,000 worth of stuff on vacation?

Written by Lila
Tuesday, 20 January 2009 18:27
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When you add it up, you have more than you think.

This morning I heard a radio commentator, Bill Handle, comment on an article which said that the survivors of the US Airway "Miracle on the Hudson" were being issued checks for $5,000 each. The commentators said "who brings $5,000 worth of stuff with them when they travel?"

This triggered something inside of me since I work with disaster survivors and creating a personal property inventory can be a very tedious task. We constantly tell people to itemize EVERY ITEM as it will add up to way more than you realize. I thought this might prove to be a good example. I decided to itemize everything one person might bring on a 3-4 day trip.

My list includes items in four categories. 1) my purse 2) one carry on 3) one checked on bag and 4) what I wore on my person, much of which would've been left behind or damaged by the Hudson river.

The list started out strong when I dumped out my purse and wrote down every item and added a couple of items that I would have on an airline trip. I was surprised that it came to over $2,500 but because I travel with most of my electronic devices, plus I always have my prescription glasses and a Tiffany key ring in my purse so I guess the total shouldn't be very surprising.

When it came to a carry on bag and a checked bag I kind of made it up as if I was packing. For the price of clothes I tried to be moderate. Not Wal-Mart, but not Neiman Marcus either. I probably under-estimated the volume of personal care products and clothes I usually bring with me, so this is the bare minimum I would bring for a 3-4 day trip. 

I used actual replacement costs, as if I had to go to the store and re-purchase the items, although the airline is actually only required to reimburse you for the used value. In the end, the list was almost $7,500 before tax or shipping. Since the per traveler limit set by the Department of Transportation is $3,300 for lost bags, the travelers probably did pretty good, but I think this is an illustrative example that a personal property inventory list will add up faster than you think.

One more thing to think about, is that (at least I heard) this $5,000 was supposed to be used for any and all expenses due to the unexpected landing. It is possible that individuals will have other costs beyond their personal property. Other expenses might include:

  1. ER costs (total costs for the uninsured and deductible amounts for the insured)
  2. Ambulance costs
  3. Extra Hotel accommodations
  4. Extra ground transportation costs (i.e. taxi to and from the airport for the replacement flight)
  5. Additional flight charges

I would hope that US Airways will recognize this and pay for additional costs if their passengers ask, but I have a feeling that this will take many weeks and/or months of phone calls, letters and possibly legal battles to straighten out for these survivors. As always, the "recovery" takes much longer than the tragedy.

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References:

1. My Inventory: http://www.lila-hayes.com/files/PPInventoryOnVacation.xls

2. Story about the reimbursement: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/01/20/usairways.passengers/

3. Inventory Template: http://carehelp.org/downloads/handouts/PPInventory.xls 

4. Lost bag info: http://thetravelinsider.info/travelaccessories/lostbaggagerights.htm

5. Traveler statistics: http://www.tia.org/pressmedia/domestic_a_to_z.html

6. Miracle on the Hudson info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549