Booking future travel plans typically involves a bit of uncertainty, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made traveling more unpredictable than ever. With countries moving in and out of lock down and COVID-19 hot-spots popping up around the world, you’ll want to understand what travel insurance can and can’t protect you from if you choose to travel during the outbreak.
Travel insurance can cover trip cancellations and medical emergencies only if you are currently insured and you meet the policy’s conditions. Travel insurance coverage during the coronavirus pandemic is constantly evolving and varies across policies, so it is best to read the terms and conditions of your policy to verify what coronavirus-related coverage you are eligible for.
How Does Travel Insurance Cover COVID-19?
Most standard travel insurance policies distinguish between foreseen and unforeseen events and do not cover claims due to known, foreseeable, or expected events including pandemics. Most travel insurance companies have declared a date by which they considered the COVID-19 pandemic to be a foreseeable risk. If you purchased travel insurance before this date, you may be eligible for trip cancellation or trip interruption benefits if you become sick with COVID-19 before or during your trip, and emergency medical care if you become sick with COVID-19 while traveling.
If you purchased your travel insurance after the pandemic hit, your insurance company will likely consider the coronavirus as a foreseeable event, which may affect your coverage. Some insurers may have a pandemic exclusion, meaning that they do not provide any coverage for this event. However, several insurers consider contracting COVID-19 similar to contracting any other medical condition and may cover emergency medical, trip cancellation and trip interruption if you unexpectedly contract COVID-19 after you’ve purchased the insurance. You will need to review your particular policy for details applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If You Purchased Travel Insurance Before COVID-19 Was Declared a Pandemic
If you had already purchased travel insurance prior to the pandemic declaration, you may have coverage for the following:
Travel insurance typically covers nonrefundable costs such as airfare and hotel bookings if your trip is canceled or delayed due to covered reasons including illness, natural disaster, or job loss. This may include trip-cancellation benefits if you get sick with COVID-19 before your trip or if you get quarantined during your travels. Travel insurance does not cover all situations, such as work emergencies, pre-existing medical conditions, or if you simply change your mind about a trip.
Trip interruption coverage provides reimbursement for prepaid and nonrefundable travel costs if your trip needs to be cut short for a variety of covered reasons. Covered reasons can range from unforeseen illness or death of a family member to natural disasters. If you purchased travel insurance before the COVID-19 pandemic, your plan may include coverage if you become ill from the coronavirus during your trip.
Emergency Medical Insurance
Travel insurance typically covers emergency medical expenses if you get sick or injured on a trip. This may include emergency medical expenses if you get sick with the coronavirus on your trip. In this case, COVID-19 may be treated the same as any other medical illness, depending on your plan’s specific design. If you become seriously ill, this coverage may also include medical evacuation benefits. This coverage often excludes sports injuries and pre-existing conditions.
Even if you purchase travel insurance after the date the pandemic became a known event, some “pandemic-friendly” plans will offer trip cancellation, trip interruption or emergency medical coverage if you contract COVID-19 after you’ve purchased your travel insurance policy.
What Travel Insurance Does Not Cover Related to COVID-19
Standard travel insurance does not cover trip cancellation due to fears or concerns about traveling during the coronavirus pandemic or any other epidemic. Standard travel insurance will not offer trip cancellation for government mandated travel restrictions either. Many travel insurance companies offer “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage at an additional cost, which allows you to cancel your trip for any reason, including fears of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to note that CFAR upgrade must be purchased within a set number of days from your initial trip payment (usually 7-21 depending on the plan) and you must insure 100% of your pre-paid and non-refundable trip costs in order to be eligible.
If You Want to Buy a New Travel Insurance Policy
For new policies, many travel insurers now consider COVID-19 a foreseeable event and may exclude trip cancellation and emergency medical benefits related to COVID-19. If COVID-19 coverage is important to you, you should be sure to look for policies with broader coverage and flexibility. Since this is an evolving issue, it would be best to consult your travel insurance policy for an explanation of its COVID-19-related coverage.
What Travel Insurance is Best for COVID-19?
Given the uncertainty of how the coronavirus pandemic may affect future travel, travel insurance with the CFAR benefit may be the best option. This would allow you to book travel while the situation is still evolving, knowing that you can recoup a portion of your travel costs if you decide not to travel due to pandemic concerns.
How Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) Coverage Works
Standard travel insurance plans often let you upgrade to CFAR coverage for an additional fee. You must first purchase a standard travel insurance plan to be eligible for the optional CFAR coverage. Some plans include CFAR coverage; these tend to be priced higher than standard plans. CFAR coverage must be purchased soon after your first trip payment, typically within 7 to 21 days depending on the policy, and you are required to insure 100% of your nonrefundable trip costs. CFAR coverage doesn’t usually offer a full reimbursement, but typically reimburses from 50% to 75% of trip costs. Trip cancellation usually must be made at least 48 hours before departure to be eligible for coverage.
Are There Any Other Options?
Book Refundable Airline Tickets
Booking refundable airline tickets cost significantly more but may be a good option with so much uncertainty surrounding the future of air travel. Most airlines are issuing vouchers or waiving change fees for flights due to coronavirus concerns. The only way to get a full refund, however, is if you purchased a refundable ticket, if the airline cancels your flight, or if there is a significant schedule change.
Most U.S. and international airlines are currently waiving change fees and cancellation costs, although the date your ticket was purchased may determine waiver eligibility. If you are eligible for a waiver, you can change your travel dates, opt for a new destination, or receive a voucher to use for future travel. Fare differences may apply and, in some cases, fare differences may also be waived.
|Travel Insurance for COVID-19|
|If you have an existing travel insurance plan, concerns over the coronavirus is not usually a covered reason for cancelling your trip, unless you have Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) coverage.|
|If you become ill with COVID-19 prior to your departure, you may be eligible for trip cancellation coverage depending on when you purchased your plan and which plan you purchased.|
|If you become ill with COVID-19 during your trip and your plan includes medical expense coverage, you may be covered with trip interruption and medical expense benefits depending on when you purchased the plan, and which plan you purchased.|
|If you are planning on purchasing a new travel insurance policy, consult the policy’s COVID-19 coverage and consider adding CFAR coverage.|
|Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) Coverage|
|Allows policy holders to cancel a trip over COVID-19 concerns, whereas traditional travel insurance plans do not.|
|Typically reimburses from 50-75% of prepaid, non-refundable trip costs.|
|Travelers must meet specific plan requirements and purchase a CFAR plan within a certain number of days from initial trip payment.|
|Trips usually must be cancelled at least 48 hours prior to departure to be eligible for coverage.|
Compare and Buy Travel Insurance