As a recent NerdWallet survey highlighted, Americans’ financial habits have already been altered by the pandemic, with many saving more and spending less. Nearly 7 in 10 have faced a reduction in household income and three-quarters of U.S. adults say they plan to take financial action post-pandemic, such as spending less on non-essential items and putting more money into their emergency funds. COVID-19 has also changed the way people think about travel insurance. While just 1 in 5 purchased travel insurance for leisure trips prior to the coronavirus pandemic, almost half say that they are likely to purchase it after COVID-19.
The pandemic has forced many to learn an important lesson the hard way as a recent Bankrate survey found. Nearly two-thirds of Americans have canceled plans or no longer plan to attend upcoming events due to the spread of COVID-19, and 59 million lost money in the process. Only 30 percent of those who canceled travel plans said they’ve received or will receive a full refund.
Quick Stats: COVID-19 and Canceled Travel Plans
- 20 percent of Americans purchased travel insurance prior to COVID-19; 45 percent say they’re likely to purchase post-pandemic
- 59 million American lost money spent on travel due to the pandemic
- Only 30 percent of Americans who canceled travel plans will or have received a refund
Millions of people discovered that travel insurance should not be optional, while others have come to the realization that standard travel insurance generally does not cover any losses directly or indirectly related to an epidemic. As we move forward, after COVID-19, savvy consumers should learn how travel insurance can help cover losses, pandemic or not. Purchasing the right plan can not only cover potential medical expenses and much more, but it will reimburse you if your trip is interrupted or canceled for a long list of possible reasons.
Despite expressing concerns about travel, a Destination Analysts survey revealed that more than one-third of Americans say there is at least some likelihood they’ll take a leisure trip that they hadn’t considered if a good opportunity presented itself soon.
In the immediate aftermath, it’s not about COVID-19 itself but the other types of things that can happen around it, such as airlines cutting flights and hotels closing down. While pandemic exclusions will be written into travel insurance policies, if you buy trip cancellation insurance, it may reimburse for the non-refundable and prepaid forfeited portion of your trip if you cancel for a covered reason.
After being cooped up for so long, just about everyone is ready to travel again, but with all the uncertainty, now more than ever it’s important to understand the different insurance policies available, what they cover and what they don’t.
Standard Travel Insurance
As many travelers discovered too late, standard travel insurance policies generally do not cover fears related to becoming ill or pandemics. Travel insurance plans have a specific list of covered reasons for cancellations, like a job loss or a natural disaster. For example, benefits may be paid if an official public evacuation order is issued due to a natural disaster, or the natural disaster renders your destination residence or your principal residence uninhabitable.
While standard travel insurance is unlikely to protect you against a cancellation due to COVID-19, it can cover many different circumstances. Lots of us may be focusing on pandemics, but tropical storms and hurricanes are another big concern, as these weather events have been on the increase due to climate change. In fact, eight of the 10 costliest hurricanes on record have occurred in the past 15 years as USA Today reports. There were far too many travelers who didn’t think travel insurance was necessary when booking their trips to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in 2017, only to find that after their bags were packed and ready to go, that their flights were canceled or their prepaid hotels were completely destroyed.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, exploring ice caves in Iceland, marveling at the Egyptian Pyramids, or even sunbathing on Thailand’s pristine white sand beaches can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But if something goes wrong so far from home, medical help can be extremely expensive. A standard travel insurance policy can protect you against medical emergencies like this. These polices also would have covered cancellation if you had purchased travel insurance before the date COVID-19 became a known threat and you contracted COVID-19 which prevented you from traveling.
Standard travel insurance generally covers many other circumstances too, such as:
- A terrorist attack at your destination
- Bankruptcy of the airline or travel company
- Jury duty
- Military redeployment
- Bankruptcy of the travel company, airline, etc.
- The death, injury or illness of the insured, a traveling companion or a family member
- Unexpected job loss or job transfer
Cancel for Any Reason Coverage
Travelers who wanted to cancel their trips while COVID-19 was gathering steam but before travel was shut off by governments around the world, were often told that their travel insurance did not cover canceling out of fear of contracting the virus unless they had purchased an upgrade to their policy: cancel for any reason insurance, or CFAR.
While there are certain conditions for purchasing CFAR, if it’s available for your future trip, it may be well worth the extra cost in this environment of uncertainty. This is not a stand-alone travel insurance policy, rather an add-on coverage which expands your trip cancellation coverage to include canceling a trip for any reason. That means that in addition to covered reasons as mentioned above, like an illness, injury, natural disaster or job loss, when you purchase CFAR add-on insurance, you can cancel your trip for any reason, with some caveats.
Typical requirements for purchasing CFAR:
- Must be purchased within 14-21 days from the first deposit made for the trip
- Your trip must be insured for 100% of its value
- Depending on the plan selected, you must cancel with the travel provider at least 48 to 72 hours before departure
- Reimbursement is typically 50%-75% of the total cost depending on the plan purchased
Timing is a critical element when purchasing CFAR as most policies require that you buy this coverage within 14-21 days after making the first initial trip deposit. Most have other requirements for purchasing, such as insuring your trip for 100 percent of the total cost. While this coverage is pricier than a standard travel insurance policy because it covers more situations, that extra premium can be well worth the peace of mind.
Where to Purchase Cancel For Any Reason Coverage
As mentioned, CFAR coverage is sold as an optional upgrade to standard travel insurance plans. What that means is that you will need to purchase a travel insurance plan and then add CFAR coverage to it. Although some insurance companies have stopped offering this upgrade, fortunately it is still readily available. The easiest way to compare coverage options and costs is to use a site that does it for you, such as TravelInsurance.com which works with top-rated insurers and is a member of the US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA). Otherwise, you will need to do quite a bit of research, obtain multiple quotes individually from each company, and be very diligent about reading all the fine print which can be a time-consuming process.