As vaccinations rise and restrictions ease, more and more Americans are making travel plans for the summer and beyond. But many are proceeding with caution amid the lingering uncertainty about the future of COVID-19 and memories of frantic trip cancellations in 2020 ― hence the increasing interest in travel insurance.
“Travel insurance is being seen more as an essential coverage,” Amy Danise, chief insurance analyst at Forbes Advisor, told HuffPost. “The pandemic showed us how unpredictable travel can be. Frankly, travel has always been unpredictable ― after all, you don’t expect that you’re going to get injured or ill before or during a trip. But the pandemic put a spotlight on ways we can increase our financial security, and travel insurance certainly fits that bill.”
People were quick to buy travel insurance as the coronavirus situation escalated last February, and the interest has continued. But is travel insurance actually worth it now? Below, Danise and other experts share their guidance.
Consider the trip in question
Your personal financial situation and the amount you’re splurging on the trip in question are big factors when assessing the need for travel insurance.
“If you have just dropped a large amount of money on non-refundable trip deposits, travel insurance is already a necessity for you ― unless you can easily afford to lose that money if something goes wrong,” Danise noted.
“On the flip side, if you’re staying in the U.S. and you have refundable airline tickets and a hotel with a good cancellation policy, you may not need travel insurance because you don’t have much to lose,” she added.
Make sure the plan covers what you want
If you do decide to purchase travel insurance, it’s important to read the details before committing to a particular plan.
“The biggest mistake that people regularly make with insurance is buying it with just a hope that it’ll be useful and protective, but only looking at the fine print when they actually need to use it,” said Scott Keyes, author of “Take More Vacations” and founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “It’s all well and good to buy things to give us comfort and peace of mind, but it’s important to recognize if you actually need to use this product, it might not be as protective or expansive as you assumed.”
Many people learned early in the pandemic that their travel insurance didn’t necessarily cover flights or accommodations they canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus because they hadn’t purchased “cancel for any reason” plans. As the name suggests, this type of insurance allows travelers to cancel their trips for any reason, including fear.
Naturally, the pandemic increased interest in this benefit. Last week, the travel insurance company Seven Corners reported a 180% increase in sales of “cancel for any reason” insurance plans in 2020 compared with 2019 and noted that this upward trend has continued into 2021.
“Unless you get ‘cancel for any reason’ insurance, travel insurance is mostly worthless for pandemic-related circumstances,” said Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of the travel app Tripscout. “It can still certainly help for all the typical pre-pandemic related issues, such as sickness, injury, or common airline cancellations, but it’s unlikely any of the covered reasons will help you with the recent added uncertainty of traveling in the world of COVID-19.”
See how you’re already covered
In some cases, your travel concerns may already be covered without the need to purchase insurance.
“Be cognizant of what is covered from the beginning,” Keyes noted. “I get the sense that people under-account for how much protection they already have without having to buy anything extra. The things people worry about ― what happens if there’s a big delay, if the flight gets canceled, if my bag gets lost ― generally speaking if those things happen, the airline itself will give you compensation if you reach out and ask. It varies but it’s not as if anything can happen to you and you’re left completely on your own.”
He added that many credit cards also carry some form of travel protection, so the card you used to pay for your flight may cover you or offer some amount of money to buy a new flight or a new bag and clothes if yours was lost.
“Find out the ways you’re already protected and then, with that in mind, ask, ‘Is it worth it for me to buy extra? Are there other things I’m concerned about?’” Keyes suggested.
Don’t forget about travel medical insurance
Travel insurance isn’t just about covering flights, accommodations or activities. If you’re concerned about health and safety amid the pandemic, you may want to invest in travel medical insurance. This is more often a consideration with international trips.
“If you’re traveling outside the U.S., travel medical insurance is a necessity,” Danise said. “That’s because U.S. health plans and Medicare generally have little or no coverage outside the U.S. You simply don’t want to be traveling abroad without the safety net of medical coverage.”
Take advantage of your coverage
If you decide to buy travel insurance, it’s important to familiarize yourself with everything it entails to ensure you get your money’s worth.
“People may not realize the range of problems that travel insurance can cover ― from trip cancellation to medical expenses to lost baggage,” Danise said, adding that travel insurance may also cover the hotel room, meals or toiletries you need to buy if you wind up stuck somewhere due to a flight delay.
“People also may not be aware of the assistance available beyond the coverage,” she added. “For example, travel insurance companies typically have 24/7 assistance lines. They can help you locate a pharmacy, or help you with a lost passport. Some companies even have concierge services to assist you with fun things like restaurant reservations.”