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Natural Disasters: What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Natural Disaster
Allianz - Natural Disaster

Volcanic eruptions in Hawaii. Wildfires in California. Hurricanes in the Caribbean. Earthquakes in Japan. When a natural disaster ruins your trip, can travel insurance help? 

Yes! In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how travel insurance can protect you if your travels are affected by a hurricane, erupting volcano or other disaster. Just remember: If you have a trip planned, you should protect it before a catastrophe is on the horizon. Get a quote for travel insurance and buy your plan today.

How Your Travel Insurance Policy Defines a Natural Disaster 

Allianz Global Assistance defines a natural disaster as “a large‐scale extreme weather or environmental event that damages property, disrupts transportation or utilities, or endangers people, including without limitation: earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, or volcanic eruption.” Your plan excludes losses caused by natural disasters except as expressly covered under trip cancellation coverage, trip Interruption coverage, or travel delay coverage (which we’ll explain in a moment).

You’ll notice that not every major weather or environmental event may count as a natural disaster. If there’s a hurricane that brings heavy rains but doesn’t damage buildings, for instance, it may affect your vacation and yet not be called a natural disaster.

Within the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is charged with managing natural disasters. For an event to be declared a natural disaster, the governor of the affected state or territory must request it, either in advance or after the event. Then, if the event has caused damage so severe that state and local governments are unable to respond, the President of the United States may officially declare a natural disaster.

Trip Cancellation Coverage and Natural Disasters

Travel insurance with trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for non-refundable, pre-paid trip costs if you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason. So how can trip cancellation benefits protect you in case of a natural disaster? Let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios.

  • A wildfire burns down your home, so you cancel your planned vacation. If your primary residence is rendered uninhabitable, that can be considered a covered reason for trip cancellation. “Uninhabitable,” as defined in your travel insurance documents, means “a natural disaster, fire, flood, burglary, or vandalism has caused enough damage (including extended loss of power, gas, or water) to make a reasonable person find their home or destination inaccessible or unfit for use.”
  • An earthquake severely damages your vacation rental in Mexico, so you cancel your trip. If your destination is uninhabitable, due to a natural disaster or another named reason, that can be considered a covered reason for trip cancellation.
  • A volcano erupts in Iceland, forcing your airline to cancel all flights for days. If your travel carrier can’t get you to your original destination for at least 24 consecutive hours from your originally scheduled arrival time due to a natural disaster or another named reason, that can be considered a covered reason for trip cancellation.
  • Your planned river cruise in Vietnam is canceled due to historic flooding of the Mekong. If your tour operator cancels your multi-day tour that was purchased prior to your departure date due to a natural disaster or another named reason, that can be considered a covered reason for trip cancellation.
  • A hurricane is forecasted to hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so you cancel your beach trip. This scenario is not like the others! In general, trip cancellation benefits will not cover you if you cancel your trip before a natural disaster actually happens.

There are a few exceptions. If government authorities order a mandatory evacuation at your destination that is in effect within 24 hours prior to your departure date, or while you are on your trip, that can be a covered reason for trip cancellation/interruption. Or, if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or foreign equivalent issues a cyclone, hurricane or typhoon warning at your destination prior to departure or while you are on your trip, that can also be a covered reason for trip cancellation/interruption (available with the OneTrip Premier Plan only). You must have purchased your policy before the evacuation order or warning was issued. Don’t delay — get a quote for your next trip.

Trip Interruption Coverage and Natural Disasters

What if you’re already on your trip when a natural disaster strikes? That’s when your trip interruption benefits can kick in. The same covered reasons for trip cancellation (as described above) can also apply to trip interruption: your home is uninhabitable, your destination is uninhabitable, your travel carrier has a 24+-hour delay in getting you to your original destination, or a NOAA warning/mandatory evacuation is issued for your destination. There’s one more: If you miss at least 50 percent of the length of your trip due to a natural disaster or another named reason, that can be considered a covered reason for trip interruption.

Keep in mind, too, that your trip interruption benefits can pay for extra transportation expenses you incur to continue your trip or return to your primary residence, in case of a covered trip interruption. Not sure how you’re going to get home after your vacation’s cut short by an earthquake, volcanic eruption or other natural disaster? Call our 24-hour Emergency Assistance hotline! Our expert Assistance team can help you make new travel arrangements.

Travel Delay Coverage and Natural Disasters

If your trip is slowed down — but not totally cancelled — by a natural disaster, your travel delay benefits can make things a little better. First, read your policy documents to find your minimum required delay. If a natural disaster (or another covered reason) delays your trip by the specified number of hours, your travel insurance plan can reimburse you for your lost prepaid trip expenses and for your extra expenses for things like meals, hotel rooms, communication and transportation, up to the daily limit of your plan.

If you’ve purchased the OneTrip Prime or One Trip Premier Plan, you can receive a fixed payment of $100 per day for covered travel delays. No receipts for purchases are required; all you need is proof of your covered delay.

Emergency Medical Coverage and Natural Disasters

Here’s another scenario: You’re traveling in Kathmandu, Nepal, when a major earthquake strikes. You manage to escape your hotel, but a piece of falling rubble seriously injures your leg. How can travel insurance help?

If you’re hurt in a natural disaster while you’re traveling, your emergency medical benefits can help you get the care you need. Emergency medical and dental benefits can cover losses due to covered medical and dental emergencies that occur during your trip. In some cases, we can pre-arrange direct payment to medical providers.

If your covered injuries are so severe that the local medical facilities are unable to provide appropriate medical treatment, emergency transportation benefits can pay for you to be transported to the nearest appropriate facility.

Please understand, however, that travel insurance will not cover you if you deliberately enter into danger or engage in high-risk behavior. If you get hurt because you’re chasing a tornado, climbing a volcano to see active lava flows, or trying to photograph a wildfire up close, your claim will be denied. Please be safe! Read your policy documents closely before you travel, and contact us if you have any questions.

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