If you made travel plans early this year, perhaps before COVID-19 was even an illness with a name, you’ve likely run into a number of roadblocks since: closed borders, flight changes, required quarantines, and to top it all off, difficulties securing refunds for cancelled itineraries.
Although the industry is rapidly adapting to our new normal—for example, by instituting relaxed cancellation policies as well as creating outdoor and private opportunities that would be viable even during a second wave—the uncertainty around travel has sparked a renewed interest in travel insurance. If you were one of the lucky ones who thought to insure a trip booked pre-pandemic, your policy was likely a welcome recourse when things went haywire. But now that the pandemic has been thoroughly baked into every aspect of our lives, is travel insurance still a useful safety net?
We spoke with Kasara Barto, public relations manager for the travel-insurance comparison website, Squaremouth, to get the low-down on when travel insurance is typically the most helpful and what you can reasonably expect it to cover.
Related: Virtual Tourism Is the Future of Real-World Travel—Here’s What You Need to Know, According to Experts
It won’t necessarily cover all losses related to the pandemic.
Insurance kicks in when an unforeseen circumstance causes a monetary loss, and at this point, the pandemic is a known threat, says Barto. Most travel insurance providers stopped covering losses triggered by COVID-19 as early as January 21, the date the first CDC alert was issued, while others considered March 11 the cut-off (the date it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization). Because we’re well past both of these dates, any insurance policy purchased going forward will likely exclude COVID-19 losses from coverage.
However, there is one important caveat: If you contract the illness or are required by law to physically quarantine, the cancellation or medical benefits of your policy may still be effective, adds Barto: “Your provider may not consider contracting an illness to be a foreseen event, even during a global pandemic—which works in your favor.”
It can be good for more than just cancellation coverage.
While most people buy travel insurance with the goal of a guaranteed refund should their trip need to be postponed or cancelled, it has a host of lesser-known benefits, like coverage for emergency medical, medical evacuation, travel delay, and baggage delay. If these perks appeal and cancellation isn’t an issue for you (i.e. your hotel, airline, and/or tour company has offered a refund in the case of an unexpected change), it’s smart to opt out of trip-cancellation coverage when purchasing travel insurance. This way, you won’t be protecting expenses that you already know you’ll be able to get refunded, and you’ll wind up with a much cheaper policy.
You can get additional protection with a cancel-for-any-reason upgrade.
If you anticipate a change of plans due to fear of catching the virus—a concern that won’t be covered by a standard policy, at this point—consider buying the cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) upgrade. Just like it sounds, this addition allows you to cancel your trip for any reason at all (no questions asked) and receive a reimbursement for 75 percent of the trip cost, so long as you cancel at least a couple days prior to departure. The only catch: It’ll typically hike up the price of your policy about 40 percent, so you should only purchase it for an expensive trip when there’s a high chance that you’ll need to back out for a reason not typically covered (or in any case where the extra peace of mind feels worth the extra cost).
Many providers are making exceptions to money-back rules.
If there’s anything we’ve learned since the pandemic struck, it’s that rules can change in unprecedented times—and that applies to travel insurance, too. Usually, if you end up needing to cancel your trip by choice (and therefore, no longer need the coverage for it), you’d only be able to terminate your policy and get a refund of the premium during the money-back guarantee period, 10 to 14 days from purchase. But if you have to cancel after this window, it’s still worth asking about your options, says Barto: “Many providers are offering flexibility for these types of customers, and providing refunds of policy premiums or vouchers for a future purchase even for those well outside the money-back window.”
Read the full Martha Stewart article online here: https://www.marthastewart.com/8001157/travel-insurance-during-coronavirus-covid-19