As the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1st through November 30th) approaches every year, summer travelers are enticed by the hurricane season travel deals and make their plans to visit the islands of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic coast of the U.S. Those travelers are also encouraged to think about buying travel insurance to protect their trip investment, and yet many travelers are discouraged by reports that travel insurance plans don't pay out when travelers expected them to.
In this article, we'll review the risks of hurricane season travel and help you understand your hurricane travel insurance so you can make the right purchase for your travel plans well ahead of this hurricane season. Let's start by understanding the risks of travel during hurricane season.
The top risks of travel during hurricane season commonly include:
- Having to cancel your trip due to hurricane damage that occurs at your trip destination or to your primary residence or business back home.
- Missed connections, such as connecting flights or cruise departures, and travel delays caused by a hurricane that impacts the travel system.
- Needing to abandon your trip due to an impending hurricane or a mandatory evacuation.
The following are the top do's and don'ts of travel insurance for hurricane season trips.
Do recognize that not all travel insurance plans cover hurricanes
Hurricanes are considered natural disasters, much like tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and severe thunderstorms, and as such, not all travel insurance plans offer coverage for these weather-related events. The trip cancellation and interruption coverage varies by insurance company and by plan. If hurricanes are not specifically listed as a covered reason in one plan, look for an optional add-on that you can purchase, or choose a different plan instead.
Don't wait too long to purchase travel insurance
Just like trying to buy auto insurance at the scene of an accident, you can't buy travel insurance for any trip that's already threatened by a hurricane that's been publicly named by the National Weather Service. That storm is now a known threat and no longer unforeseen.
Most plans that offer coverage for natural disasters require that the plan be purchased soon after the first trip investment—often as soon as 10 days. That means you have to purchase your plan quickly after making the first payment on your trip, be that the airline tickets, the lodging reservations, or other investment.
Do understand the difference between messy and uninhabitable
Travel insurance plans don't cover cancelling or abandoning your trip simply because there's been a lot of damage at your destination. When it comes to travel insurance, there's a difference between messy and uninhabitable.
Trip cancellation and interruption claims can be made on travel insurance plans with coverage for hurricanes if your accommodations were destroyed by a hurricane and rendered uninhabitable. That doesn't mean the resort is a mess with downed trees and cracked swimming pools and the like. It means that your planned place of lodging cannot be safely inhabited - as in, there is a loss of water and electricity, and/or structural issues that make it unsafe to be there.
Don't forget to read your policy to understand the details
The only way to understand what's really covered by your policy—as opposed to making an assumption and being disappointed—is by reading the plan documentation. If you make your travel insurance purchase online, you'll receive the plan certificate in your email inbox along with your receipt of purchase.
Every travel insurance plan comes with a free review period, that is a number of days after your purchase in which you can make changes to your plan or cancel it for a refund. Read your plan document during this time and if you have questions, call the travel assistance services line and get an answer.
Do understand that you have options like 'cancel for any reason'
Regardless of which travel insurance plan you choose, travel insurance plans never cover changing your mind and deciding not to go - even if it seems like a good idea. The possibility of your destination being affected by the storm is not sufficient grounds for cancelling your trip and getting reimbursed for your losses.
As a travel insurance consumer, however, you do have options. If you want the ability to cancel your trip for any reason at all, including changing your mind about heading to the Caribbean while a storm threatens to develop into a hurricane, you can buy 'cancel for any reason' coverage. You'll pay a little extra, but to some travelers, the peace of mind is worth it.