The Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1st to November 30th each year. It lasts for six whole months and is always in time for the summer travel rush. If you booked a trip during hurricane season, you might be wondering how you can get a refund on your expenses if you have to cancel. Does trip insurance cover hurricanes?
Travel insurance can cover hurricane season, but you have to know what to look for before buying a plan. Here are 7 things to know when buying trip insurance during hurricane season.
1. EVERY TRAVEL INSURANCE PLAN IS DIFFERENT
While travel insurance companies essentially do the same thing, they still offer different products and services. One company may say they cover hurricanes, while another company may have a specific hurricane warning benefit. It sounds like we're parsing words here, but the language is important.
If a travel insurance plan has a hurricane warning benefit, that means they cover your trip in the event a hurricane is expected to land on a destination within your itinerary. Each plan will be specific, so it is important to understand exactly how this benefit works.
If a travel insurance plan only covers "hurricanes" with no designated benefit, then you are looking at different coverage. A hurricane must cause cancellation/interruption because your destination is inaccessible or uninhabitable.
This means your destination has to be inaccessible or uninhabitable the day of or before departure, even if there is a hurricane projected to land on your destination 24 hours after your arrival.
Policy language is important. Make sure you review exactly how your travel insurance plan covers hurricanes.
2. IT'S TOO LATE OT BUY COVERAGE ONCE THE HURRICANE IS NAMED
Travel insurance covers unforeseen events. You can no longer buy a plan for a storm once it's been predicted or named by weather experts.
You should purchase travel insurance when you begin planning your trip, especially if your trip falls within hurricane season. Not only can you maximize your coverage (think pre-existing conditions), you can ensure you are covered for any hurricanes that may pop up.
3. KNOW THE PLAN EXCLUSIONS
Every insurance plan has a list of exclusions. Exclusions are policy provisions that eliminate coverage for certain risks. They narrow the scope of coverage provided and lower premiums by removing certain risks from coverage. For example, some costs are uninsurable because they are likely to affect a very large number of policyholders. One example is war. Covering wars would be too costly for those buying insurance and a company that experiences the loss.
When it comes to trip insurance and hurricanes, understanding policy exclusions helps you know what you need to do to receive a refund should your trip be affected.
Here are examples of general exclusions that may impact your coverage (these are not from a specific policy or plan):
- Buying coverage after the hurricane has been named.
- Claims are not payable if the trip or portion of the trip was within 30 days after the named hurricane makes the destination uninhabitable or inaccessible.
- If the storm happens within 14 days of your plan's effective date, claims under hurricane warning are not payable.
Hurricanes often require mandatory evacuation of the region they will most heavily impact. In September of 2017, more than 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to leave their homes in light of Hurricane Irma and 200 tourists were left stranded in the Caribbean after the devastating storm. 1
Tourists were required to evacuate, but means of evacuation were limited. Following the hurricane, cruise lines began pitching in to help evacuate those stranded. 2 There are proactive steps travelers can take to ensure they are not reliant on crowdsourced evacuation efforts.
Travel insurance plans with emergency assistance offer evacuation in these circumstances. Once evacuation is necessary for all tourists, you would call your emergency assistance provider and provide your location. The emergency assistance team begins arranging your evacuation as soon as it is confirmed.
The goal of this type of evacuation is not to get you straight home but to get you to safety. The assistance team can help you make the travel arrangements necessary to get you where you need to be, and your policy will most likely reimburse you for the interruption and additional travel expenses.
5. CANCEL FOR ANY REASON
If you are worried that your needs cannot be met by your travel insurance plan, cancel for any reason (CFAR) is always an option. This benefit covers you for things otherwise not covered by trip cancellation. It is a great way to broaden your coverage.
Just like hurricane coverage, each travel insurance plan is unique about its CFAR coverage. So make sure you review your policy before purchasing. Most plans require you to purchase around your first trip payment or deposit, so be sure to get your plan right away if you intend to have cancel for any reason.
To read more about how cancel for any reason works, read what we wrote about the popular industry benefit here.
6. HAVE YOUR PLAN INFORMATION ON YOU
If you are required to evacuate your destination during your trip, you will need to know who to call. It is important to have your plan information available at the drop of a hat. We recommend you always carry digital and paper copies. You should also have someone back home store a backup copy.
Here is the information you need to carry:
- Your Enrollment ID or Confirmation Number (each company has a different name for this)
- Your Emergency Assistance Company’s contact information
- The phone number for your Claims Department
Keep this information available because you’ll need to reference it when filing a claim or making emergency arrangements.
7. WORKING WITH YOUR TRAVEL SUPPLIERS
You’ll want to know how your travel supplier typically handles hurricanes. Under what circumstances do cruise lines cancel their trip? Do they reroute travel in the event of a hurricane? If the latter answer is yes, then you will not be covered by most travel insurance plans for trip cancellation unless you have CFAR.
Know how your airline, cruise line, and tour operator typically handle logistics during a hurricane. Then call your prospective travel insurance company and ask which coverage is typically the best option under the specific circumstances.
The travel supplier is going to do everything they can to avoid cancellation, but they will not put travelers at risk. If your destination is only going to experience heavy rains and not a hurricane, your travel supplier will most likely not cancel or reroute the trip. Be sure you get the coverage that’s right for you if you don’t want a rainy vacation.
If you'd like to understand more about travel insurance, check out our Travel Insurance 101 for some of our most frequently asked questions.
1. Reports of evacuation both before, during and after the storm highlight how travelers were not successfully evacuated prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. For information on Florida's evacuations see Amy Held, "As Irma Shifts West, Powerful Winds Batter Florida Keys," NPR, accessed May 1, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/09/549704585/-the-storm-is-here-floridians-window-to-evacuate-shrinks-as-irma-bears-down. For information on evacuations relating to the Virgin Islands see Gene Sloan, "Cruise Lines Help Evacuate Irma-ravaged St. Thomas," USA Today, accessed May 1, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/cruises/2017/09/09/cruise-lines-help-evacuate-irma-ravaged-st-thomas/649621001/.
2. Gene Sloan, "Cruise Lines Help Evacuate Irma-ravaged St. Thomas," USA Today, accessed May 1, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/cruises/2017/09/09/cruise-lines-help-evacuate-irma-ravaged-st-thomas/649621001/.