Americans are splurging on travel this summer, and COVID-19 remains on the prowl — do you still need travel insurance?
Even with inflation higher than a summer day in the desert, you’ll still find airports, cruise ships, hotels, resorts and highways crowded these days with people determined to free their pent up holiday energy.
But with COVID variants looming, travelers are seriously considering adding an extra expense: travel insurance.
Millions of people learned the value of a travel insurance policy the hard way in the early days of the pandemic. A Forbes Advisor survey in February found that half of Americans had been forced to cancel travel because of the virus, and more than 80% of those people had lost money.
With Americans planning to spend an average of $2,644 on vacation this summer — a 30% increase from 2019, according to Allianz Partners USA — that’s a big potential loss to bear.
But it’s not always so obvious if you should plan to pack an insurance policy with your beach readings and sunscreen. Here’s what you need to know when making this choice.
What travel insurance covers
Most travel insurance comes in a package that covers trip cancellation and delays, baggage, accident, medical coverage, and emergency evacuation if you need to be sent home for treatment. Policies may also cover damage and theft to property.
Typical trip cancellation policies cover you in the event of illness, injury, or death of the traveler, close family member, or travel companion; military deployment or civil unrest; a serious family emergency and sometimes even unscheduled jury duty.
Other acceptable reasons may include if your travel agency ceases to offer services for 24 hours due to a natural disaster, extreme weather conditions or a strike, if you or a member of your group loses your job or if your home or destination becomes uninhabitable.
Of course, to get coverage, you’ll need to have already purchased a policy before any of these things happen.
There are also a host of options you can add to a policy, such as additional medical cover, adventure sports cover, pet cover, private security, weddings and even a “inconvenience” package offered by AIG which covers inconveniences such as closure of attractions, construction at your hotel or rental car breakdown.
Is travel insurance worth it right now?
Before potential travelers rush out to buy insurance, they might want to ask themselves if they even need it. For trips where the only initial cost is an airfare or a small deposit, the cost of insuring your trip could be more than your potential loss.
From there, you’ll want to review the cancellation policies offered by the airline, cruise line, or resort you’ve chosen. The pandemic has prompted companies in the travel industry to create better cancellation policies for consumers, which means that in most cases tickets can be booked for less than it costs to buy. a travel policy.
Some airlines, like Southwest, do not charge any change or cancellation fees. But you are responsible for the price difference if your new ticket costs more than what you originally paid. Delta, on the other hand, charges up to $500 on its non-refundable tickets to make a change.
With JetBlue, expect to pay between $100 and $200, again depending on the route. And the company also charges you an additional $25 to make the change over the phone, but you can avoid this fee by completing the transaction online.
If you’re worried about having to change your plan, upgrading your flight from a basic economy ticket to a main cabin fare often allows you to change or cancel a trip free of charge. Most airline cancellation policies do not provide for refunds, but usually involve a credit or travel voucher for another flight that will be valid for one year.
Be warned, though: Cancellation policies are constantly changing as COVID rises and falls. In May, for example, Airbnb ended its “extenuating circumstances” policy allowing travelers to cancel for virus-related reasons.
Your best bet will usually be to call and discuss the details with the travel provider to see if you can get some wiggle room. And before you buy coverage, make sure the policy will cover specific perils that could prevent you from taking or completing a trip.
How to know when you need travel insurance
Travel insurance is best suited for trips that involve large deposits and other payments that would not be refunded if you cannot make it to your destination.
You should consider the age and health of everyone in your group, as well as the likelihood of other potential disruptions, such as tight schedules that may cause you to miss a connection.
So this 30-day cruise with the grandkids that involves large deposits and prepaid shore excursions is a good bet for travel insurance. The three-day weekend in Vegas, not so much.
Travel experts recommend using an independent travel insurance company rather than purchasing coverage from a tour operator or travel service. If the operator goes bankrupt and cancels a trip, the insurance will be worthless.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re buying real travel insurance and not some lesser benefit called “travel protection” or “travel protection.” This option is limited to granting travelers a full or partial refund, or a credit for future travel.
Does travel insurance cover me if I contract COVID?
At the start of the pandemic, travelers who canceled a trip because of COVID-19 were simply out of luck. Since then, travel insurers have modified their policies to cover some aspects of the disease, but not all.
If you contract COVID-19 while travelling, it is treated like any other medical condition. But if you are required to quarantine, some policies may only cover seven days, not the full 10 days required by many countries.
You should be able to find what your policy allows for COVID-19 in the fine print.
Insurers are also offering additional COVID-19 policy upgrades that cover trip interruptions and provide a quarantine allowance.
Keep in mind that some countries require visitors to have their own insurance in case they contract COVID-19 while traveling. This includes Aruba, the Bahamas and Fiji.
Jamaica requires visitors to subscribe to the “Jamaica Cares” program, which is compulsory travel insurance for all visitors, at a cost of $40 to $50 per person. And Laos requires its tourists to carry proof of their travel medical insurance with a minimum coverage of $50,000.
So, before you start getting quotes for a policy, make sure they meet the requirements of the country you plan to visit.
With all that settled, I hope you come back from vacation with a tan – and not a big medical or cancellation bill.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.