Here is the situation: a hurricane has pushed through the northern Caribbean and is fast approaching the United States . Officials are calling for evacuations, warning residents and vacationers of Florida and the Southern United States to not underestimate the magnitude of this storm with severe damaging winds, storm surges and flooding rain. Ripple-effect travel delays will be felt across the country, both domestically and internationally.
So, when a hurricane impacts your vacation plans, what can travel insurance cover?
A lot of essentials. If you experience a covered trip cancellation or interruption due to severe weather, travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance can reimburse you for non-refundable, pre-paid costs plus the extra cost of flying home early up to the maximum amounts spelled out in your policy. If your journey home is delayed, travel insurance may reimburse you for the cost of a hotel room, meals or other essentials. And if you're injured in a storm, travel insurance can provide emergency medical and dental benefits, as well as emergency medical transportation benefits.
Here are a few answers to common questions asked about hurricanes and travel insurance.
You click on the Weather Channel and see ominous clouds swirling over the Atlantic. Looks like a hurricane's forming, and it's headed straight for your resort. You hope it's not too late to get travel insurance. Is it?
It's not too late to purchase travel insurance for your vacation, but it may be too late for insurance to cover you for potential losses caused by the storm.
Travel insurance is designed to offer protection against sudden and unforeseen situations and events. When a hurricane (or other severe weather) becomes a named storm, it also becomes a "foreseeable event" with known potential to affect your travel. If you buy travel insurance after a storm is named, your plan won't provide coverage for storm-related claims.
It's always smart to purchase travel insurance right after you book your trip, so you know you can be protected.
You've spent months looking forward to your five-night cruise in the Caribbean, but now a hurricane is threatening to dampen your fun. The cruise line hasn't called off the trip, but the forecast is predicting a week of gray skies and rain. If you purchased travel insurance when you booked the trip, can you seek reimbursement if you cancel your cruise?
No. However, if your travel carrier could not get you to your original itinerary’s destination for at least 24 consecutive hours from when you were originally scheduled to arrive because of a hurricane or severe weather event, your travel insurance can reimburse you for pre-paid, non-refundable travel costs.
Your cruise line informs you that it'll be changing the itinerary to skip San Juan; instead, you'll be making port in the Dominican Republic. You're bummed. You've been to La Romana before and you don't really want to go back. Will travel insurance cover you if you cancel the trip?
No. If a hurricane causes a cruise line or tour operator to offer an alternate itinerary — whether a different destination or different dates — you must accept the change. Travel insurance is designed to protect you from financial loss, and if the substitute itinerary is the same value as your original trip, you haven't suffered a loss. (For example, if you had an itinerary change that somehow required you to change an airline ticket, you could be reimbursed change fees.)
Shortly before you leave for your honeymoon in Saint Lucia, a hurricane hits. The resort is in shambles: There's a hole in the hotel's roof and no running water. If you purchased travel insurance before the hurricane was named, can you be covered if you cancel the trip?
If your destination is uninhabitable because of a natural disaster, Allianz Global Assistance’s travel insurance considers that a covered reason for trip cancellation or interruption. "Uninhabitable" means there has been enough damage to make a reasonable person find their accommodation unfit for use.
This definition can't be stretched to include minor inconveniences. If the golf course is closed because of storm damage, or if the resort places you in a garden-view suite because the oceanfront rooms aren't habitable, that's not sufficient reason for cancellation. Also, pre-emptive evacuations ordered by local authorities are not covered.
An approaching hurricane causes airlines to cancel all flights leaving Miami. This leaves you stuck in rainy Florida when you'd planned to be in Costa Rica on a week-long eco-tour. After a full day and night of waiting for airlines to restore service, you give up. You've already missed the tour bus's departure, so you decide to go home.
Don't do it! Yes, trip cancellation benefits can kick in if your travel carrier cannot get you to your original itinerary’s destination for at least 24 hours (or whatever timeframe is specified in your policy) from the originally scheduled arrival time because of a natural disaster. That said, in order to make a trip cancellation claim, you must have lost more than 50 percent of your scheduled trip due to a covered travel delay — and you must have made a good-faith effort to continue your travels.
Call Allianz Global Assistance's 24-hour assistance toll-free number, and our travel experts can help you figure out the alternative ways to get to your destination — with costs that can be covered by your travel insurance. Trip interruption and trip delay benefits can all help reimburse you for the additional costs of continuing your travels.
The most important thing to know about hurricanes and travel insurance is that Allianz Global Assistance is here to help. If you have questions about what's covered, or what you should do when faced with a hurricane, we can advise you. Make sure you read your plan documents thoroughly as well. Safe travels!