Over the past few months, I have seen so many people lose a lot of money on vacations they couldn’t take due to the pandemic. Fortunately, this did not happen to any of my travelers, who were all granted full refunds or were able to change their vacation dates without penalty. This is because I helped them make sure they were doing all they could to protect their vacation investment. So how do you do that?
Understand Your Booking Policy
The very first thing you should do to protect yourself is to make sure you know the cancellation and change policies for all of the components of your vacation. Start by asking how much of your deposit is refundable, and know what date you need to cancel by in order to get your money back. Many companies have a fee structure: if you cancel by X date, you get 100% back; after the next date, you get 90% back, and so on. Walt Disney World has one of the most flexible cancellation policies, with their $200 deposit fully refundable up to 30 days prior to check-in, when the final payment is due. During the pandemic, they even changed it to 7 days prior to check-in, making their policiy even more risk-averse.
Understand Your Health Insurance
The next thing you want to look into is your own health insurance. A lot of plans will cover you for domestic travel, but not many will reimburse you if you have to be seen internationally. One thing you will want to ask yourself is if you can afford the cost of medical evacuation if you are not covered by health insurance. This should be a huge factor in whether or not you should look into travel insurance.
Remember: Travel insurance is not one size fits all! There are as many nuances between providers and plans as there are for health insurance. While booking, before just clicking the box to add whatever your cruise line or tour operator offers, make sure you know what it covers. It is an added cost; a standard cancellation policy costs about 7%–10% of the insured trip cost. I really recommend working with an insurance agent to find the right fit. It is important to note that most travel insurance will not cover global pandemics, acts of god, unrest, and many more; this is why adding a CFAR waiver is becoming more popular. CFAR—which stands for “cancel for any reason”—allows you to do just that. It does, however, add an additional 3–4% cost for that flexibility and protection.
Don’t assume your credit card has you covered even if they talk about travel protection. Most credit cards don’t provide trip cancellation or built-in medical coverage, nor will they reimburse for inconveniences caused by travel delays. Your credit card may cover some costs associated with baggage delay or damage, but only if you purchased your trip with that credit card.
Still a little confused? Here is my advice on how to understand travel insurance.
Use a Travel Advisor
Of course, the last thing I am going to recommend is using a travel advisor. While I am subject to the same cancellation policies and insurance coverage as you are, I am able to help you navigate them a little easier. In most cases you are not cancelling your trip because you want to; there is usually some type of emergency or family situation involved, so you don’t want to have to worry about calling al of your vendors to process cancellations. That could mean days on hold unsure if it will actually work out. I am here to do that for you, though I can not submit insurance claims on your behalf. Even before that happens, a good travel advisor will walk you through policies, offer travel insurance suggestions, and remind you when certain risk milestones pop up.
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