Americans planning vacations to hurricane-prone areas this summer should shop now for travel insurance, since they won’t be eligible for coverage if a named storm is on the way, said Chris Harvey, chief executive of Squaremouth.com, America’s fastest-growing comparison web site for travel insurance.
When a storm grows big enough to be given an official name, it’s assumed to be a “foreseen” event, meaning insurance won’t cover any related losses.
“Policies are written to protect insurance companies from people trying to claim for a disaster that everyone knew was about to happen,” Harvey explained.
“The first a traveler should do is inspect the policy’s fine print to know how soon they need to buy insurance to be able to claim for losses caused by a hurricane,” he said.
Hurricane season began June 1, and continues through to November. It is expected to be of average strength, with potentially nine to 14 named storms and four to seven hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One to three hurricanes could reach Category 3 status with winds of at least 111 mph.
Caribbean countries, parts of Mexico, along with the states of Florida, New York and Texas, are traditionally at greatest risk of hurricanes. Early to mid-September is the peak of the season.
Some companies’ hurricane coverage falls under the catchall category of a “natural disaster,” and claims are interpreted on a case-by-case basis.
Travelers should also check policies for key hurricane-related phrases that can have a huge impact on claims. Many certificates, for example, don’t even mention the term “mandatory evacuation.” A few carriers break out hurricane coverage as a separate feature of their policies. For most insurance, check for phrases such as:
“Complete cessation of your Common Carrier services for 24 hours.” This typically refers to airport closings. If a hotel is under an evacuation order but the airport remains open for flights into or out of the city, a traveler may not be able to make a claim. And on a road trip, they may not be covered for losses at all, since they don’t hold tickets for a “Common Carrier” – an aircraft – that has ceased to be able to fly.
“Hurricane Warning.” This benefit appears on many TravelSafe policies and allows for cancellation of a trip within 24 hours of the travelers departure date if the destination is under a hurricane warning issued by the NOAA National Hurricane Center. There is a restriction – the cancellation of the trip must occur more than 15 days after the policy takes effect.
“Accommodation at destination rendered uninhabitable.” This provides good coverage, since it applies to hotels or condos that have been irreparably damaged even if no evacuation order was given.
Mandatory evacuation “Conditionally covered” or “Not covered.” The former ensures compensation for at least part of the expense of cutting short a trip in the event of an evacuation advisement order by a public official. The latter denies claims in cases where a hurricane comes close, but ultimately misses, a destination, even with an order to evacuate. (If the hurricane strikes a direct hit, claims may be filed under the “Accommodation at destination made uninhabitable” clause.)
“Covered for inclement weather.” Last year, Tropical Storm Fay closed theme parks across central Florida and dropped more than 20 inches of rain, evidence that even a weak hurricane or tropical depression can wreak havoc on holiday plans. This more liberal version of “Complete cessation of common carrier services,” covering storm-related flight cancellations, comes in handy under some circumstances. It is also the best choice for driving vacations as it covers travel via private/non-commercial automobile transportation, for any severe weather condition which prevents an insured from reaching the destination. This benefit is provided by Travel Guard.
“Cancel for any reason.” This benefit can help recover some losses due to a hurricane, though it typically pays less than 100% of a claim and stops within two days of departure. It covers canceled travel plans ahead of a threatening storm, but doesn’t apply during a trip at all, so it won’t cover losses related to an evacuation.
Finally, Harvey advised travelers not to make the mistake of over-insuring a vacation. “Paying more for insurance doesn’t necessarily guarantee better protection,” he said.
“Every company targets a different demographic, so if a policy with great hurricane protection seems cheap, it may just be that you’re hitting the sweet spot of that particular company or product.”
For detailed information on the hurricane benefits for all policies, visit our Hurricane Travel Insurance section .
Squaremouth is America’s fastest growing travel insurance comparison site, helping customers instantly quote, compare and buy policies from every major carrier. Squaremouth has web sites in the US and UK, and an extensive network of partner sites worldwide. The company is headquartered in St Pete Beach, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Visit Squaremouth.com or Squaremouth.co.uk.
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