ST. PETERSBURG, FL June 26, 2012 – Travelers heading to the Gulf Coast may be more inclined to purchase travel insurance as Tropical Storm Debby continues to drench Florida, but comparison site Squaremouth.com warns it’s too late to purchase coverage.
“Once a tropical storm is named, insurance providers will not cover any new policies for losses related that storm. So travelers who are scrambling to buy travel insurance now will not have coverage for Debby,” explains Squaremouth CEO Chris Harvey.
For those travelers who had already purchased travel insurance, Squaremouth advises them to double-check their policies.
“Travelers should never assume that they have hurricane and weather coverage, because it’s not always included,” says Squaremouth Marketing Manager Anna Coats.
For the policies that do include hurricane and weather coverage, the provisions can vary. Some policies allow travelers to cancel their trip only if the airline cannot fly for a specific number of hours due to weather, while others provide reimbursement if there is any inclement weather that causes a loss.
To help travelers better understand their hurricane and weather coverage, Squaremouth clarifies these benefits:
1. “Accommodation at destination made uninhabitable”
Although this will not typically affect cruisers, travelers can be reimbursed if they cancel their trip because the hotel or other accommodation at their destination is destroyed or irreparably damaged.
2. “Mandatory evacuation”
While most travelers assume hurricane and weather coverage protects against evacuation, it is not always the case. Unless it is listed in the policy certificate, there is no evacuation coverage, and the policies that do provide this benefit can treat evacuation differently.
A “conditionally covered” mandatory evacuation provides reimbursement only if there is a certain amount of the trip length remaining at the end of an evacuation order, usually 50 percent or four days, whichever is less.
A “covered” mandatory evacuation means that travelers can cancel or interrupt their trip to go home early if an evacuation order is announced. To the travelers’ benefit, there is no stipulation with remaining trip length.
“Travelers should understand the distinction between “covered” and “conditionally covered” evacuations if hurricanes and weather are a concern,” says Coats. “‘Conditional coverage’ may not allow for reimbursement if travelers cancel their trip because of an evacuation order that is lifted after day two of a one week trip.”
3. “Hurricane warning”
A small percentage of policies allow travelers to cancel their trip if a hurricane warning is issued within 24 hours of the departure date and if the policy was purchased at least 15 days prior. However, wanting to cancel a trip because of the concern for bad weather is not covered.
4. “Complete cessation of common carrier services”
Policies with this coverage reimburse travelers if they cancel their trip because the airline is unable fly due to turbulent weather. The number of hours that the airline must be grounded to invoke this coverage varies among policies, usually 12-48 hours. Travelers who drive to their destination are not eligible for this coverage.
5. “Covered for inclement weather”
This benefit is a more liberal version of “complete cessation of common carrier services” and allows travelers to claim a loss if a flight is cancelled or delayed without a specific amount of downtime.
“Policies may only include one or two of these covered reasons, so travelers need to decide which coverages are important to them or they could end up purchasing a travel insurance policy that doesn’t fit their needs,” warns Harvey.
Harvey also adds that “travelers should not assume that a policy has better hurricane and weather coverage just because it is more expensive.”
Travelers who are not satisfied with a policy’s hurricane and weather coverage should consider a cancel for any reason policy. This benefit allows them to cancel their trip two days prior to departure no matter the cause. However, the flexibility comes at a higher cost. Most cancel for any reason policies increase premiums as much as 50% and travelers are usually only reimbursed about 75% of their trip cost.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a normal hurricane season this year, with an estimated nine to fifteen storms expected from June through November.
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. Petersburg, FL., with offices in Fort Wayne, IN. Visit Squaremouth.com or Squaremouth.co.uk.
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