To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unusual and confusing time is an understatement. As travel plans were canceled, many travelers turned to travel insurance and were surprised when they were unable to claim their trip cancellations due to COVID-19.
We have learned a few things and wanted to share some tips and guidelines for what to look for when choosing trip insurance, regardless of whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or other crisis. Please note that our suggestions do not constitute professional insurance advice. You must do your own due diligence and ask the insurance provider questions about any policy you are considering in order to understand what is and what isn’t covered.
Find information on our recommended travel insurance provider, including contact information and quote forms here.
General tips when looking for trip insurance
First of all, read your policy closely
Though it might sound obvious, make sure to carefully review any policy you are considering. The policy spells out exactly what is covered and will list explicit exclusions. If you have a very specific scenario that you are seeking coverage for, then call the insurance provider and talk to them. If you don’t understand the policy fully and want clarification, ask the insurance provider, and yes they do answer the phone most of the time!
Be aware of standard exclusions.
Travel insurers do not consider travel warnings a valid cancellation reason. Another standard exclusion are pandemics (as many of us had to learn this year).
Other common exclusions: reckless behavior by the insured, loss of enjoyment, pre-existing conditions (exceptions may apply if you purchase within the ‘coverage of pre-existing conditions’ window).
Is Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) still available?
Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policies allow travelers to cancel for any reason. These policies are often more expensive. As the COVID-19 pandemic became more serious, many insurance providers temporarily suspended offering CFAR. Some may permanently eliminate the option while others have brought it back. If this is a provision that is important to you be sure it is available from your provider of choice.
Trip Insurance and Medical Insurance – they both matter
Travel Insurance does not always include medical emergency assistance coverage.
- Travel insurance reimburses you for any loss related to the trip itself, e.g. if something happens and you have to cancel your trip before leaving, or if something happens while traveling.
- Medical Emergency Assistance provides coverage if you have a medical emergency while traveling. Medical coverage may not always be included, so be sure to check the policy.
We recommend looking for medical coverage that acts as primary (i.e. it covers your costs first – rather than being a supplemental plan to your standard health insurance coverage). On the other hand, if your standard health insurance has good global coverage, you may not need medical emergency coverage. You might find this extensive article on Outsideonline.com insightful.
Call your insurance at the time of emergency
Look for insurance products that have 24-hour assistance, they’re there to help and provide guidance.
In case you have to file a claim with your travel insurance, be aware that they will ask for documentation. Be prepared and document everything. Here are a few examples:
- Lost baggage? Make sure you have a written confirmation from the airline.
- Something got stolen? Obtain a police report, or have the hotel where it happened give you a written statement.
- Had to see a doctor? Get a written confirmation and be sure you see a certified medical professional.
- If you become ill during your trip and miss out on your tour you must see a doctor and provide documentation of that visit. Just staying at the hotel and laying low will not qualify as a claim.
What if I get COVID-19 during my trip?
Ask your insurance provider. From what we have seen, if you contract COVID-19 while traveling, it will be treated like any other illness and you can file a claim.
The Take Away
Keep in mind that trip insurance is not only useful to recover costs due to cancellations before you travel, it is most useful to cover the unexpected during your trip. Knowing what’s included and excluded in your policy is essential. AFAR Magazine has put together a practical guide to buying travel insurance that you might also find helpful.