My experiences and thoughts on [mostly] technology.

Category: Miscellaneous

Random topics that don’t fit in any other category, or information on the blog maintenance itself.

My Experience with World Nomad/Trip Mate Travel Insurance

TLDR: I made a claim, I got paid; I want to write in more detail since it seems like these types of experience descriptions/reviews are lacking.

Highlights:

  • Make sure you understand what your policy covers. It seems a common phrasing is that the event should be “unexpected”. If you reasonably expected the event to happen, it probably isn’t covered by your policy unless your purchased a pricy cancellation-for-any-reason policy.
  • You are expected to make a reasonable attempt to get your money back. (you’ll need to attempt getting refunds from all vendors)
  • You’ll need to provide documentation to support your claim. The documents you may need are:
    • Receipts of the expense
    • A copy of cancelation policies
    • Flight itinerary/some proof of travel
    • Credit card or bank statement showing that you made the purchase and that the statement belongs to you
    • Medical Certificate from GP or an APS (Attending Physician Statement) signed by your physician if claim is medical in nature. Use the form insurer provides you.
    • Potentially, proof that you attempted to get a refund.
  • It took ~45 days from claim submission to receiving e-check.
  • Note you will receive a checks per covered traveler.
  • Still recommend refundable rates where possible. It’s just a lot easier/faster to deal with (and often only costs $10-20 for hotel rooms)

Why I’m Writing This Review

First and foremost, I don’t get paid for this or any sort of kick back or anything. I’m just hoping to “give back” to the online community and help other travelers.

My wife and I had planned on a 2-week trip to Italy in May, and I decided I should probably get travel insurance for such a large (and more expensive than usual) international trip. After much research, I went with World Nomads.

It was frustrating at the time seeing lots of reviews, but no/few reviews that detailed the process of actually making a claim and receiving funds . The ones I did read were almost always negative or had very little detail. This seemed to be the case for most insurers- probably most of the people writing reviews are frustrated enough to write. (Hell, I almost didn’t write a review either- after all, I got my money back, right? Why do any more work?)

A problem seems to be that travel insurance companies may work with travel bloggers to “review” their insurance product but it’s a fairly useless review because all the reviewer can do is talk about the insurer, the policy, the ease of use, and the website- they don’t actually make a claim. That’s fine but I mostly want to know I wont run into any shenanigans when I file my claim.

That leaves us with a bunch of bad reviews for those that do make claims- and when that’s the case for almost every insurer, it’s almost just as bad as when everyone writing a good review or no review- because it doesn’t add any meaningful signal. This review is my attempt to help with that.

What happened

My wife got pretty sick just a few days before out trip (high fever, dizziness, weakness, etc.)- and we knew it was almost certainly COVID-19. Then she tested positive. Next morning she called in sick for work- and her boss actually told her other employees had also caught COVID-19. So yeah. This was literally 2-3 days before our trip, and it was immensely disappointing. But! We had purchased the “Explorer Plan” through World Nomads (specifically N300E)- so I felt like even though it might take some work, I should be covered for this exact situation.

I had read horror stories for the claim processes- so I instantly went to work. I figured collecting proof quickly would be critical to my claim after having read through the policy-so the first thing I did is tell my wife to make sure we got a doctor’s note ASAP. It turned out later this wasn’t very helpful, because we needed a specific insurance-provided note signed by the doctor- but whatever, she sent this and we got a letter from her doctor as additional evidence.

I then went to the World Nomads site and began the claims process.

Intermission: A note about World Nomad’s Website

The World Nomads site could be great. It’s pretty close to being great. But it has a bunch of really annoying bugs: (at least as of 7/9/2022)

  • Sometimes you’re logged out or a page crashes and to fix it you need to log in and out again. (they even ask you to do that)
  • The “Need Help?” section at the bottom literally has broken links. Clicking “Contact us” or “Help Desk” takes me to an unreachable URL (https://service.worldnomads.com/)
  • The design is clunky. If I log in, I will want to go see my claims. Why else would I be logged in? It’s weird you have to go to the top-right corner, under MEMBER tab, hit the expand button under MEMBER DASHBOARD, click MY CLAIMS, and finally see claims there.
  • Right on cue for their clunky/buggy interface, is an admission of the state of things along the top in red: “If you can’t see an old claim on this page then click here to view it in our membership console.” Why can’t you show them all in one place?

I’m a software engineer by trade, so I might be being a bit harsh- but I really don’t think so- for a company whose their entire business model is online insurance they really should do that as best as possible. And that is their model- because as far as I can tell, they don’t actually insure you- Nationwide does. Not that that is a bad thing.

World Nomads seems to specialize in having designed two flavors of travel insurance policies that they feel make sense for most travelers- but the actual claims are administered by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

In my mind what World Nomads offers is the unique policy they’ve designed and negotiated, a competitive price, and (theoretically) a smooth online way to navigate the claims process. It’s fine they’re not the administrators- but if their bread and butter (and the face of their business) is this online portal- they should really try to get that down.

All that said, where World Nomads really shines is in hand-holding first time customers through the actual claims process. And to the extent this can be done online- they do a decent job.

Back to what happened- the claims process.

I jumped online and began the claims process. They had a Wizard with multiple steps to walk me through the process- and that was actually pretty nice. I began filling it out section by section:

This took a while, and gathering the documentation was by far the most tedious process. Luckily, I keep digital receipts of everything- but it still took 4-6 hours overall. At the end, there was a nice checklist page they generated for me to help me check off each of the remaining documents I needed:

I was also expected to have attempted to get my money back- to ask for a refund. This kind of makes sense, but I wasn’t expecting it- took a little bit of time to write all the vendors, but I was surprised at how often businesses “bent” the rules and returned the money.

For example, Airlo- which I was using to get a e-SIM so I could use my phone in Italy without absurd charges, has a policy against refunds but they made an exception for me when I wrote to them. (Which on a side note definitely increased my confidence in using them in the future – so good customer support on their end)

The documentation that had to be compiled was:

  • Proof of travel: relatively easy- I simply provided my flight tickets and itinerary.
  • Receipts: self explanatory
  • Cancelation policies: Unexpected; but all I had to do was to find each cancelation policy on each vendor’s website.
  • Medical proof– originally I had asked my wife to request one in writing but I realized as I got towards the end of their wizard that there was a specific document of theirs that I needed to have her doctor sign- so we had to go back and get that. That was a pain but it was necessary.
  • Bank/Credit Card statement. This one was a PITA. Some online credit card interfaces will not show a long enough list of transactions to where you can see all the expenses and that the statement belongs to me. Also, most card websites have security features that prevent them from being saved such that you can still see the transactions; but after some “finagling” I got what I needed from my card’s website.

Armed with all my proof, I submitted it all. Then, we waited…

About ~10 days later I received an email from Trip Mate that they had received my claim- and then I was just waiting again.

More radio silence. After 3 additional weeks, I respond to their original email asking for a status update- they respond a week later asking for my claim number in order to help. (fair enough). I don’t ever hear back.

About 10 days after that I decide I’m going to call them. It took a while to get them on the phone, but when I finally did, they were actually pretty helpful. Turns out they had approved the claim, and at this point it had to be “batched” and the check “cut”.

Sure enough, a couple days later I got an email about an e-check that I should expect. It had been 46 days from claim submission to e-check delivery. The day after that I got an email from “deluxe payment exchange” which is the company that they apparently use to pay out claims.

One minor thing to note is that you get paid per traveler. So in my case, my wife was the one who was the subject of the claim but it caused a cancellation for both of us; so we each got a check for the cost of the trip split in half. I think the idea here is to prevent pooling costs when insuring the trip but then double dipping to get extra money if some of the travelers are still able travel.

Deluxe Payment Exchange

My experience using deluxe payment exchange was pretty crappy- they have what I’ve heard called “asshole design“. They specifically designed their product in a way that tries to force you to do what they’d prefer over a good product experience or what you actually need. Thankfully- it’s not too hard to get past it.

When you first get the email and “link to your check”, they want you to create an account (Why does everyone want me to create an account to their system? To cash a check? Really?).

You can avoid creating the account, but if you do they show you a big scary warning about getting to see the check only once and that if you don’t print it then and there you’ll lose it. To be fair, if you click it and your computer somehow instantly shuts off for some reason, it would probably be a huge PITA to figure out how to get them to send you a new check link – but I think that’s mostly due to their design choices. I suspect the real reason they try to steer you away from that is because you get directly to the check and can be done, which they don’t want.


When you do create an account, you are taken to some screen where you can see the check but it’s got a watermark on it so you can’t print it. You can download a “copy” (there’s a FILE COPY button), but it has a big fat “FILE COPY” watermark as well so you can’t print it either. Finally there’s a button to get your money, which when you click has a bunch of expensive options (except for the last).

The options cost a fee + some percentage… ACH transfer, credit card, etc. So if you’re getting charged a percentage of your claim to have it deposited in your bank, it adds up. For me some of these options were $80 just to move the money to my bank. The last option is that you can print a the check, but they give you a warning about sending and it taking 7-10 business days.

Ugh. It’s an e-check. I should be able to just print it, scan with my bank app, and be done. There’s no need to snail mail it. The only reason for it is to coax you into forking out more money.


I reluctantly clicked that last option just accepting I’m going to have to wait another week. When I did, it allowed me to download the PDF immediately with the check, no watermarks, and instructions to send/print…

Why isn’t printing my check the very first option?!

Anywho, I printed my check, scanned it that night, and within 2-3 business days it showed up on my Ally account.

What expenses were covered?

Everything trip related: Flights, lodging (non refundable cancelations, AirBnB partial refunds, etc), bus/train transportation, and the few tours that were non refundable (surprisingly most were!)

Conclusion

I would use World Nomads again and definitely get trip insurance at least for international/expensive trips. Lots of travel credit cards also offer travel insurance nowadays, but I was hesitant to use mine. I did actually try to go through their website and it was terrible. The submission page was actually broken, and they try really hard to be secondary insurance. Their coverage also wasn’t as comprehensive. That said, for trips within the US I’ll probably use that.

Paying ~$280 for peace of mind was definitely worth it for my trip which was one of the more pricy ones for me- as well as for the medical coverage, trip interruption, etc. It certainly paid back for itself, as in the end my reimbursement was over $3,500.

That said, I still recommend splurging the often $10-20 extra for refundable room rates on a hotel- refunds are just so much quicker and easier. If possibly and cheap try to get cancellable rates/refundable reservations for anything you can. But the insurance is nice for everything else (and some stuff like airline tickets is far too expensive to get refundable rates on).

Hopefully this helps someone out there. Feel free to add your experiences or if you have anything to correct about my understanding of World Nomads/Nationwide/insurance process.

Good luck, and safe travels!

Pablo Aizpiri

Note: I also posted this on reddit here. Due to that subreddit’s “no blogs” rule I didn’t link to my blog. The only difference between the two is here I have some more pictures and links to the forms.

.NET Serial Communication and Microbotlabs’ Robotic Claw

Microbotlabs Robotic Claw

Microbotlabs Robotic Claw

I always enjoy playing with electronics and seeing what I can do with them, so I’m a big fan of Arduino and the maker movement. One area I had been wanting to explore with electronics was real world physical interactions, like moving robots or robotic claws. So I added a robotic kit to my wish list on Amazon and just so happened to get one for the holidays!

This is the Microbotlabs “MeArm DIY Robot Arm Kit With MeCon Pro Motion Control Software and Arduino Source Code” that you can get on Amazon MeArm DIY Robot Arm Kit With MeCon Pro Motion Control Software and Arduino Source Code. The kit quality is a little low (especially the servos) and the instructions and support seem lacking; but I was able to put it together and it was still a lot of fun and pretty cool. Once I built the claw, I connected it to my Arduino and tried running the application Microbotlabs include to control the claw from your computer (MeCon).

With everything working, I toyed around with the application for a bit. The idea of “recording” servo positions and playing them back so that the robot could record and playback motions seemed like a fun way to interact with the arm. Below is a screenshot of the application, where you can see the controls. There’s the ability to move the base and each of the 3 servos controlling various parts of the arm, and the on the right there is a list of “coordinates”. These are servo positions, and you can use the application to record a list of these “coordinates” and play them back so that the robotic claw can perform a specified movement (and presumably so you can generate code from it that you can maybe add in your project).

Microbotloabs MeCon application

Microbotlabs MeCon application

This was fun at first, but it very quickly became obvious it was going to be difficult to record and playback smooth motions without a lot of work. I would record some movements and then I would play the recording back, but the Robotic Claw would jerk and jump to the new servo positions. I was either going to need to record a lot of motion data or just accept jerky movements. Adding insult to injury, it was also difficult to edit a motion once recorded. Here’s a short video of playback of the motion recording with the standard software:

To be fair, I’m sure if I would have spent enough time adjusting and tweaking I could have gotten that to work somewhat, but I still had limitations. I decided it would be fun to build my own interface to address these problems using .NET and very generically called it “Crawl Controller”:

.NET ClawController Application

.NET “ClawController” Application

Basically, the major feature difference is that you can move the claw to the desired position and record “key frames” much like 3D animation for 3D models in video games. On playback, you can have the application interpolate in between each key frame and come up with the “frames” in between so that the motion is nice and smooth. I went ahead and put all my code (which wasn’t the prettiest, but hopefully clear enough) on GitHub so anyone can download and play with it. The application also makes it easier to delete and add new key frames wherever desired which really comes in handy when “designing” a new movement. The application also allows the user to send more precise servo positions rather than just a degree (180 degrees), but the application is still backwards compatible with the code that Microlabs provides out of the box. (See GitHub for Arduino code that allows “Crawl Controller” to use more precise servo positions)

Anyway, here is a video of the finished product with interpolation. It is much easier to put together complex motions and the smooth movement allows much more gentle motions making it easier to pick up and set down objects consistently and repeatedly. Here, I recorded movement for the claw that loops and you can see the claw can repeatedly put down and pick up the VGA/DVI adapter again after finishing the animation without knocking over the adapter- the animation also was easy to record.

Code on GitHub: https://github.com/JhottMaster/ClawController

Executing an SSIS package from Stored Procedure

I recently needed to do this for a report. In theory, the SSIS package was going to run on some sort of schedule, but then it was decided that the user wanted the ability to run the report on-demand. Since the SSIS package didn’t take too long to execute, I decided I would try to run it on-demand. I was using this in an SSRS report, so I had to build a stored procedure to do this.

The key here is that I had to run the SSIS package, wait until the package was done, and then return data. I also didn’t want the package to potentially run indefinitely, and so if a package ran longer than the timeout or the job ran into an issue, the report should return empty.

NOTE: Make sure the user that will run the procedure also has access to run the SSIS package. (This is granted by giving user access to SSIS database; more here)

This is what I came up with which ended up working rather nicely:

-- =============================================
-- Author:		Pablo Aizpiri
-- Create date: 7.15.2015
-- Description:	Runs the SSIS package that returns results
-- results
-- =============================================
ALTER PROCEDURE [dbo].[RefreshAndQueryFromSSIS]
	@TIMEOUT_SECONDS INT = 60 -- Max number of seconds to wait for SP to execute.
AS
BEGIN
	-- SET NOCOUNT ON added to prevent extra result sets from
	-- interfering with SELECT statements.
	SET NOCOUNT ON;

	DECLARE @EXECUTION_ID BIGINT, @OUTPUT_EXECUTION_ID BIGINT

	-- Setup SSIS package to run:
	EXEC SSISDB.CATALOG.CREATE_EXECUTION
						@FOLDER_NAME = '[SSIS Package Folder Name]'
						,@PROJECT_NAME = '[SSIS Project Name'
						,@PACKAGE_NAME = '[SSIS Package .DTSX File Name]'
						,@EXECUTION_ID = @EXECUTION_ID OUTPUT

	-- Run SSIS package:
	EXEC SSISDB.CATALOG.START_EXECUTION @EXECUTION_ID
	SET @OUTPUT_EXECUTION_ID = @EXECUTION_ID;

	DECLARE @STATEID AS INT = 0, @SECONDSRAN AS INT = 0
	-- Waits until package is successfully completed or until max timeout is reached:
	WHILE (@STATEID < 3 OR @STATEID = 5) AND @SECONDSRAN < @TIMEOUT_SECONDS
	BEGIN
		WAITFOR DELAY '00:00:00:5'; -- Give time back to CPU while waiting for timeout
		SELECT @STATEID = status, @SECONDSRAN = DATEDIFF(SECOND, start_time, GETUTCDATE())
		FROM SSISDB.catalog.executions
		WHERE execution_id = @EXECUTION_ID;
	END

	SELECT *
	FROM [Results table here]
	WHERE @STATEID = 7 -- this ensures results are only returned if the package execution was successful.
END

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