Wildfires and Travel Insurance

Published by July 1, 2011

Travel insurance helps protect a vacation against many unexpected situations that can ruin a trip.  The wildfires in the southwestern United States has many travelers asking how travel insurance can help.  Depending on which policy and when the policy was purchased, there can be several coverage benefits that apply.

First it is important to note that a policy must be purchased before an event is considered foreseeable.  This means it would be too late to purchase a policy today to cover the fires already burning in Arizona, since the fires first started on May 29th.

For those who already have a policy, look in the certificate for travel delay, trip cancellation and interruption or cancel for any reason coverage.

Travel delay reimburses expenses during a time of delay.  These expenses can include food, taxis and hotels.  Most policies provide coverage if a common carrier delay lasts for a set amount of time,  anywhere from 3 to 24 hours.  So the extra costs incurred because smoke delayed a flight can be reimbursed by travel delay coverage.

Trip cancellation and trip interruption covers the unused expenses of a trip that are not refunded if the trip is scrapped for a covered reason.  Review a policy’s covered reasons to see if fire is covered.  Many plans cover if the traveler’s home or the accommodation at the destination is damaged by a fire or natural disaster.  So if the fires ruin the traveler’s home or lodging during the trip is uninhabitable, the trip can be cancelled or end early, and the travelers reimbursed.

The catch all coverage is cancel for any reason.  This allows the trip to be cancelled entirely without having to provide an explanation, even if it is concern about the wildfires.  There are some restrictions with this benefit.  First, it is only available if the policy is purchased within a short time from the trip deposit date, anywhere from 9 to 30 days.  Second, the full trip cost has to be insured in order to qualify for this coverage.  This means the traveler doesn’t have the option to only insure a flight, but not a tour, all prepaid and non-refundable expenses have to be insured.  Next, the trip has to be cancelled at least two days before departure.  Once within two days of the trip start date, the coverage no longer applies.  Last, a claim will not reimburse 100% of the trip cost, most policies reimburse 75% of the trip cost.