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Unpacking Surprises: Common But Unexpected Reasons for Trip Cancellation

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Allianz - travelers at airport

Sometimes trips are over before they even get started.

Getaways ranging from business conferences to destination weddings can come off the rails for any number of reasons. And these travel misfires are almost always surprises; it’s rare that we can anticipate something we planned and already paid for coming undone at the 11th hour.

This is precisely why travel insurance exists. More specifically, this is why trip cancellation protection exists, to safeguard our investments and offer recourse in the event that a trip must be cancelled before our car shoves off or our plane goes wheels up.

Some reasons for trip cancellation may be more common than you’d expect. Let’s take a look at the cause of these unpleasant surprises, and see how and if the trip cancellation benefit can provide you protection and peace of mind.

Defining Trip Cancellation

If you’re new to travel insurance, or simply need a refresher, no problem. As we stated above, trip cancellation protection is a benefit found in some travel insurance plans that can provide reimbursement in the event that your trip is canceled or rescheduled for a covered reason. Because we want to cover all our bases and not leave any potential surprises down the road, here is how we define trip cancellation at Allianz Global Assistance:

If your trip is canceled or rescheduled for a covered reason listed below*, we will reimburse you for your non- refundable trip payments, deposits, cancellation fees, and change fees (less available refunds), up to the maximum benefit for Trip Cancellation Coverage. Please note that this coverage only applies before you have left for your trip.1

*We’ll dig into some of these covered reasons throughout this article.

Make sense? Good. Also know there are a few other details you should keep in mind when determining if a travel insurance plan with trip cancellation protection is a smart move for you. First, you’ll want to review your plan to become familiar with the covered reasons for trip cancellation. (We’ll go through some of Allianz Global Assistance’s covered reasons below). Why is this important? Maybe you have a medical condition that would be considered pre-existing, for example, and want to see if you can find a plan that provides protection.

Also, there are some critical steps to take when you get to the point where you may be filing a claim for trip cancellation. For starters, before you even initiate a trip cancellation, make doubly sure that you’re cancelling for a covered reason. We see this sometimes: folks cancel flights or rooms right away, and it turns out what they thought was a covered reason wasn’t. If you’re uncertain, call the insurance provider and talk through the facts of your scenario. At the same time, you don’t want to delay things, either. You must notify all of your travel suppliers within 72 hours of discovering that you will need to cancel your trip.

If you have any more questions about the details of trip cancellation, and have a plan through Allianz Global Assistance or are considering one, we have a host of resources to help guide you.

Trip Cancellation for Issues of Health & Wellness

Travelling with a cold is no fun. Now imagine upping the ante to a more serious illness or injury, one that can land you in the hospital or under a physician’s care. The mere thought of such a scenario is often enough to compel some travelers to purchase a travel insurance plan.

But what about everyone else, from those who simply don’t consider the possibility of their health or wellness going awry before a getaway to others who fancy themselves as being invincible.

For those, issues of health and wellness, both reasons potentially covered by travel insurance and those that aren’t, usually arrive as a surprise as opposed to an expectation. But they shouldn’t be. For a quick example, look at the case of auto accidents, which if you haven’t studied the numbers, might occur much more commonly than you thought. There were more than 7.2 million of them in 2016 in the United States — and those are just the ones involving passenger cars. You can add another 5 million for accidents involving trucks, buses and motorcycles.2 Also realize you don’t just have to worry about just you getting in an accident and sustaining an injury that’s potentially considered a covered reason for trip cancellation, it could happen to one of your travel companions also covered by your plan.

To provide you a clearer picture of potential covered reasons relating to health and wellness — and the conditions they must meet — here are some of the covered reasons for trip cancellation from Allianz Global Assistance:

  • You or a traveling companion becomes ill or injured, or develops a medical condition. The condition must be disabling enough to make a reasonable person cancel their trip; and a doctor advises you or a traveling companion to cancel your trip before you cancel it.
  • A family member who is not traveling with you becomes seriously ill or injured
  • You need to attend the birth of a family member’s child.
  • You or a traveling companion is in a traffic accident (not including a mechanical breakdown) on the departure date.1

Again, these are just a few reasons that might cause a covered trip cancellation. Depending on your travel insurance provider and plan, covered reasons can vary broadly. And there may be additional conditions that need to be met, so be sure to double and triple check.

Trip Cancellation for Operator Issues

In early 2018, the Lovat Hotel in Perth, Australia, shuttered without so much as a heads up to guests — including a number of brides and grooms scheduled to exchange vows shortly.

Eventually, the hotel reopened. It even takes Bitcoin now. But that’s of little recourse for those who were unable to check into the hotel they had made a reservation for, or even prepaid for rooms and other wedding costs.3

In the United States alone, more than 37,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2016, up 26 percent from the previous year. And yes, while simply declaring bankruptcy — depending on the type — doesn’t mean that a business automatically shutters, it hits home the point that travelers are at the mercy of more than their own health, the weather and traffic accidents. Depending on their sustainability, hotels, tour operators and other travel-related business can also impact travel plans.4 And you might not find this out until the eve of your getaway.

Travel insurance, including Allianz Global Assistance plans, can help in some cases of businesses ceasing operations due to financial conditions, which may or may not include bankruptcy if it meets certain conditions.1 Just take a minute to think through the scenarios that might take place when a hotel closes where you prepaid for rooms, catering and more. One scenario involves you failing to reach a resort by phone shortly before you’re scheduled to depart. Then, you go to the resort’s Facebook page and discover other confused and angry folks who inform you that the resort closed suddenly and unannounced, due to financial difficulties. You could then spend countless hours making calls, sending emails, and chasing down leads to recoup your investment and / or rebook the event somewhere else. OK, that’s the first scenario — frustration, sleepless nights, lost money and no trip. The second scenario simply involves filing a travel insurance claim and calling your provider with any trip cancellation questions.

Which scenario sounds better to you? That’s what we thought.

Trip Cancellation and Random Acts of Misfortune

When it comes to trip cancellation, many of the potential covered reasons are tough to pigeonhole into a single group or category. Instead, these could be considered “random acts of misfortune.” At least that’s what we’re calling them here.

Here’s one: a government-ordered evacuation at your destination. It’s not likely something you would anticipate as you shop for bathing suits and book dinner reservations, right? Take the evacuations prompted by Hurricane Florence in summer of 2018, when more than one million people were evacuated from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.5 If Wilmington or Charleston were on your vacation itinerary, you wouldn’t be able to make the trek to these popular East Coast destinations. (But at least you wouldn’t have to worry about boarding up your home, driving away and hoping for the best.) Instead, if you had purchased a plan prior to the storm being named and met other conditions, you would simply have to file a travel insurance claim and notify trip operators — hotels, airlines, fishing charters, etc. —within 72 hours of the cancellation.

Here are a few more covered reasons for trip cancellation you may find in an Allianz Global Assistance plan:

  • Your primary residence is uninhabitable or your destination is uninhabitable.
  • A terrorist event happens within 100 miles of any U.S. or foreign city you are traveling to during your trip, as indicated on your original itinerary. The following condition applies: a. A terrorist event must not have occurred within 25 miles of that city any time in the 30 days prior to your certificate’s Coverage Effective Date.
  • Government authorities order a mandatory evacuation at your destination that is in effect within 24 hours prior to your departure date.1

By its very nature, travel insurance is designed to work in the times you least expect it. That’s really the case for any insurance plan. And when the initial shock wears off of having to cancel a trip, having purchased a travel insurance plan can bring peace of mind, and potentially much more: reimbursements and other assistance that can make it easier to start focusing on your next trip.

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