The best-laid plans of travelers often go awry. The weather and life – and thus travel – are unpredictable. From headaches like lost baggage to emergencies that can interrupt or cancel your trip, travel insurance can save you from the unplanned.
Increased apprehension over health outbreaks, natural disasters and fear of terrorism have caused a rise in travelers’ desire to seek extra protection from travel insurance. The COVID-19 pandemic especially increased awareness of how quickly our travel plans can change. Now more than ever it seems too high of a gamble to go without some kind of coverage.
“Travel insurance covers so many different scenarios in people’s lives,” said Wendy Marley, a AAA Northeast travel agent in the Newton, Mass., branch. “It covers their family members, travel delays, missed ports of call [for cruises] or emergencies that happen while they are traveling.”
Here’s how AAA travel insurance partner Allianz Global Assistance helps to ease top traveler concerns.
Hurricanes and Natural Disasters
June through November is a great time for travel deals, but it also happens to be hurricane season. Remember, insurance is designed to protect against the unexpected. Once a storm or weather event such as a wildfire or earthquake is tracked and/or named, it’s considered “known and foreseeable.” A policy purchased on or after the date the National Weather Service issues a warning will not cover losses related to the event.
Unfortunately, no one’s immune to getting sick on vacation. Caroline Haylett, a AAA Northeast travel agent in the Narragansett, R.I., branch recalls a trip where a grandfather traveling with a family of six fell ill in the Bahamas and was hospitalized for two weeks. “Not only did [travel insurance] pay for his medical bills and the transportation back to the U.S.,” Haylett said, “they also covered the accommodation for the entire family to stay abroad, as well as their airfare back home.”
Travel insurance ensures that any medical care you might need abroad does not get lost in translation. Many U.S. plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, do not cover international travel or out-of-country emergency medical transportation. Without coverage, a medical evacuation can cost more than $50,000.
Most travel protection plans exclude losses caused directly or indirectly by an epidemic, as in the case of COVID-19. Like storms, once a health alert is issued it is considered a “known event” and excluded from coverage.
Check cdc.gov/travel for all warning and alerts.
“Cancel anytime” or “cancel for any reason” insurance comes at an additional cost and provides the most options to travelers, but even these policies may include exclusions due to known events or an epidemic.
Marley has noticed an increased awareness of such travel insurance limits. “While people are more willing to take the insurance, they are more savvy in calculating their risk to the point where I send multi-levels of coverage policy quotes,” she said. “It still takes time to go over all of the benefits of insurance but most people come around once you do.”
Terror attacks can occur anywhere at any time, although the risk is higher in some places more than others. In order to be covered, a terror event must not occur within 25 miles of any city (U.S. or foreign) you are traveling to within 30 days of your certificate’s coverage effective date.
Before traveling anywhere abroad, check the State Department website for travel advisories on potential dangers related to health, politics and violence.
Delays and Cancellations
Delays and cancellations happen. So far in 2023, there have been 26,720 domestic flights canceled and 345,726 delayed, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But the coverage that airlines and credit cards offer for these inconveniences is limited. With travel insurance, a covered delay can mean cash for rebooking fees, meals and accommodations. Similarly, if you are renting a car, you will get more for your dollar than what is provided by a standard car rental policy.
Tour Company Closes
What happens if the company you used to plan your trip goes out of business after you’ve already paid upfront expenses for your cruise, flight or excursions? If you make sure to secure travel insurance first, you’ll be less likely to have to pay for an experience you won’t have.
Most people purchase the one-off insurance on a per-trip basis, but if you travel a lot throughout the year (two to three times per year), you should consider an annual plan. It may work out better for you cost-wise.
Keep in mind that the earlier you buy travel insurance, the bigger your coverage window. The best time to buy is as soon as you place your initial deposit or payment for vacation. And always read over your policy carefully, including the fine print. Talk to your AAA travel agent if you have any questions.
Travel should be as stress-free as possible. Your biggest worry should be how many 3.4-ounce liquids you can fit into the 1-quart bag in your carry-on. Let your travel insurance take on the heavier burdens.
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