Don’t Make These Travel Protection Mistakes During The COVID Surge

The latest COVID surge is sending shock waves across the travel industry, prompting many people with vacation plans to have second thoughts.

The delta variant is already affecting air travel. Both Southwest Airlines and Frontier earlier disclosed that bookings had slowed down because of the rise in infections. And travel sentiment is wavering, according to a new survey of customer sentiment, sliding four percentage points to 61 percent this month.

“Traveling during the delta surge presents additional safety risks due to increased transmissibility and travel uncertainties from trip cancellations or delays,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage.com, an insurance marketplace. “In both cases, travel insurance can be your best safeguard.”

If you’re one of those having second thoughts about traveling, then you might be wondering if there’s a way to protect your upcoming trip with travel insurance or travel protection. There is, but it’s a process that requires a little insider knowledge and the right timing.

You need travel insurance “now more than ever”

But first things first: If you’re traveling, you almost definitely need some kind of travel protection.

“The delta variant has made travel even more unpredictable,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz Partners USA. “The uncertainty facing travelers has made travel insurance even more important for families, especially those traveling with children who are too young to receive the vaccine.”

But not just any travel protection will do, experts say. It has to protect you against COVID and other likely perils.

“I always recommend buying comprehensive travel protection programs to insure against unexpected events,” says Karisa Cernera, senior manager of travel services at Redpoint Travel Protection, which sells Ripcord, Cavalry and Harbor insurance products. “But now more than ever.”

And the reason is simple — so much can go wrong when you’re on the road. That includes dangerous new variants, lockdowns, and quarantines, as well as heat waves, wildfires, and anything else Mother Nature could throw at you.

And she can pack a punch these days.

Questions about travel protection that you absolutely must ask before you leave

Experts say you have to ask these questions about your travel protection or travel insurance policy for any trip you’re planning. Failure to do so may land you in a lot of trouble — or worse.

Related: Best Covid-19 Travel Insurance Plans 2021

Does your policy include COVID-19 losses?

It absolutely must if you are planning a trip during or after the surge. That’s the recommendation of Bailey Foster, vice president of trip cancellations at Trawick International. “Many travel insurance providers still do not offer plans that protect against COVID-19,” she warns. Trawick’s plans have never excluded COVID-19 and don’t have any carve-out for the delta and lambda variants, he adds.

Are the delta and lambda variants covered under your policy?

Generally, they are. “If the policy has infectious disease coverage, then it could be covered,” says John Rose, chief risk and security officer for ALTOUR. “You have to read and understand the policy thoroughly. Some policies may not cover infectious diseases, and even then, it is only for medical costs and not for quarantine if someone is not hospitalized.” 

I asked Sasha Gainullin, CEO of battleface, if travel insurance companies had begun to treat the new variants differently, for coverage purposes. “We have not seen any company who are separating coverage and benefits between Covid-19 delta and lambda variants,” he says. 

Did you read the policy before you bought it?

You can’t skip this step, say experts. “Read the policy — and I mean cover to cover — before you go,” advises Laura Heidt, the insurance desk manager at Brownell Travel. “Be very, very clear on what is, and more importantly, what is not covered.” Here’s one thing to look for: If you have a “cancel for any reason” insurance policy, it can include “fear of travel due to the new variants,” but it has rules: the trip must be canceled no later than 48 hours before your departure date, and the policy must have been purchased no more than 21 days after you made the initial deposit. Heidt also recommends a membership like MedjetAssist, which added global COVID transport coverage last month and covers all the variants. 

Have you considered a “cancel for any reason” policy?

It’s expensive, but it offers the maximum coverage. “I  would suggest you buy a plan that offers a ‘cancel for any reason’ benefit, often as a rider at an additional cost,” says Joe Cronin, CEO of International Citizens Insurance, which provides insurance to expats, global travelers and digital nomads. “As the reality of traveling during COVID changes on a daily basis, being able to cancel for any reason is more valuable than ever.” But “cancel for any reason” coverage is not cheap. It costs between 9% and 12% of the cost of your trip, versus 6% to 8% for a standard named-perils policy. Also, some insurance companies exclude COVID as a reason for a cancellation, so read your policy or rider very carefully.

Did you pay attention to this?

There are three insurance benefits you have to review extra carefully. “When searching for a travel insurance policy that offers COVID protection, it is best to thoroughly review the emergency medical benefits and the trip cancellation benefit language, as well as the exclusions listed in the fulfillment document,” says Renee Stecker, head of product development at AXA Assistance USA. That’s where you’ll find the key policy language that will tell you if you’ll get the protection you need. Stecker says some travel insurance policies will offer coverage for COVID-19 treatment, just as for any other eligible sickness that occurs after the policy’s effective date and while on your trip. But some don’t. If you don’t familiarize yourself with the emergencymedical benefits, trip cancellation benefits, and exclusions, you might miss something very important.

What if you get sick before your trip?

There’s coverage for that. For example, Allianz Partners’ new epidemic coverage endorsement adds coverage for certain losses related to COVID-19 and any future epidemic. If you catch COVID either before or during your trip, you can cancel your itinerary for a refund of your prepaid, nonrefundable costs. Or you can interrupt your trip and be covered for additional lodging, food, and transportation costs if you have to quarantine. And Redpoint’s programs include not only trip cancellation and interruption coverage but also medical evacuation services and medical expense coverage in the event of an unforeseen illness such as COVID-19.

Have you considered the limits of your travel insurance?

Insurance doesn’t cover everything. I’ve noted this often in previous articles on this topic. There are significant limits to travel insurance. “The pandemic raised awareness of the limitations of traditional travel insurance and the value of a stand-alone medical assistance and evacuation safety net,” notes Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, a provider of medical evacuation and travel risk management services. For example, emergency rescue and evacuation services are often essential, “whether it’s due to a natural disaster, civil unrest, or simply needing emergency help when you’re traveling,” says Richards.

If you want to avoid a travel protection mistake, be careful

Making a smart decision about travel insurance is harder than ever. And mistakes are easy to make. You might have no idea if you’re covered or not at a time when travel protection and travel insurance are covered or not, at a time when you need travel protection and insurance the most. Now more than ever, you need to consider travel insurance. But you also need to read your policy carefully before you buy it — and to understand what you do — and don’t — need. 

In other words, be careful out there. And carefully consider your insurance needs.

Related: Best Covid-19 Travel Insurance Plans 2021

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