Early last year I planned a trip to India to visit good friends. But instead of scooping up spicy curry a few months later, I found myself eating pot roast, potatoes and carrots at home in Minnesota.
Sure I’d purchased travel insurance, but pandemic-related items weren’t covered. Insurance companies thankfully flexed somewhat after public pressure. My internal flight within India was reimbursed. Fifteen months later though I’m still sitting on over $1200 worth of eCredit for my canceled flight from the USA to New Delhi.
Today travelers are sitting on billions of dollars of travel credits. They’re poised to take to the skies as soon as those travel doors fully open. Are they going to get travel insurance? Guaranteed. But this time you can be sure “pandemic” is accounted for in the policy.
So what should you look for in travel insurance in a pandemic world?
If you’re one of those people who gets lost in all the fine print, here’s a quick guide to help narrow the funnel of information and help you know what to look for.
Something to consider
If you’re overwhelmed with the thought of scouring every policy for every eventuality, you might zero in on the biggest factors in your search. In other words, what’s most important to you? Are you worried your elderly parent may contract covid while you’re away? Then look for a policy that will cover your expenses flying home. What are your biggest priorities?
The 4 “W’s” of Travel Insurance
What – What is covered? Know what exactly is covered and what is not. They’ll be clearly listed. In all fairness to the travel insurance companies, pandemics never were covered and that was stated. Before 2020, who would have cared, right?
Where – Where do I look to find what is covered? If covid is what you’re concerned about, start by look under “emergency medical care” and “Trip cancellation or interruption” in the policy. If it’s covered, then familiarize yourself with any restrictions. For instance, maybe after laying on the beach in Mexico, you’re tempted to plead covid to extend your stay. But your policy states you have to prove you’ve had covid with a written notice from a doctor.
Who – Who is covered? Travel insurance might cover you, the traveler, if you become sick before the trip and can’t travel. But what about cancellation if a non-travelling family member gets covid before you leave and you want to stay home and care for them?
When – When should I buy travel insurance? Is there a time limit for purchasing your coverage? Most policies, for instance, will only cover pre-existing conditions (e.g. heart conditions) if you purchase within a certain period of the first deposit of the trip. Look for any such restrictions when you’re researching travel insurance.
Once you narrow down your travel insurance choice, you can always call and speak to a representative to ask questions.
One thing travel insurance won’t cover
Almost all policies agree on this: Travel insurance doesn’t cover being afraid to travel. If the news in Israel is making you too nervous to travel there, don’t expect your travel insurance company to oblige with a refund.
“Cancel For Any Reason” travel insurance
Given the restrictions on regular travel insurance, more people are looking to CFAR insurance (Cancel for Any Reason). If travel insurance companies offer this option (and not all do), they usually offer it as an upgrade to a current policy. At times it’s included in trip cancellation, but not always.
Plan to buy early. To qualify you have to purchase the policy within a required time limit (14 days, 21 days, etc. days depending on the company) from when you made the first purchase on your trip (deposit, airfare, etc.).
Also, keep in mind that even with CFAR insurance, you may not get a full refund of trip costs. Just be sure you check the covered amount.
Several sites make it easier to comparison shop. Forbes, for instance, recently came out with a list of the best pandemic travel insurance. Consumer advocate does something similar, making it easier to find the specific coverage you want.