Published: February 2017
There's nothing like the excitement before a vacation, but even the most prepared travelers may worry about forces they can't predict. Travel insurance may help cover unexpected events, such as illnesses, injuries and lost baggage. But what about natural occurrences, like bad weather?
Some travel insurance policies may help minimize your financial losses in case of severe weather conditions, such as a winter or tropical storm, high winds that delay flights or high water that makes it impossible to drive on the roads. Plans will vary, but here are five travel insurance coverages that address bad weather events.
1. Trip cancellation coverage: If bad weather causes your trip to be canceled, this coverage may help reimburse you for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses, such as your flight, nonrefundable hotel reservations or an organized tour. It's important to understand that you may only be covered if your airline, cruise line or other provider is shut down for at least 24 hours. Read the details of your plan carefully to learn what circumstances it may help cover.
2. Trip interruption coverage: If a trip already in progress is cut short by bad weather, prepaid, nonrefundable costs may be reimbursed for the portion of the trip you are unable to complete. You also may be reimbursed up to a set amount for additional covered expenses, such as transportation necessary to return home, says Megan Freedman, executive director of the US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA). Check your plan to see what qualifies as a covered expense, she adds. Some may only cover you if your airline or cruise line shuts down for 24 hours or more (as with trip cancellation) or if you're losing more than half of your trip.
3. Travel delay coverage: Severe weather could delay a flight or other transportation, causing you to lose nights at a hotel or cruise you've already paid for. This coverage may help reimburse you for these and other nonrefundable expenses, according to the UStiA. Freedman notes that plans require a delay of a certain number of hours for coverage to kick in, and the length will vary from plan to plan.
4. Missed connection coverage: If bad weather causes you to miss a connecting flight en route to your destination, you may be covered for expenses needed to catch up, such as additional transportation and meals, Freedman says. Check whether your plan has a limit on your reimbursements for missed connections and/or a minimum required delay.
5. Change fees coverage: Many airlines charge a fee to change a flight, and if unexpected weather is at fault, your travel insurance policy may help reimburse you for these costs. Check to see if your plan has a cap on these reimbursements.
The UStiA advises purchasing travel insurance right when you pay for your trip. It's important to remember that travel insurance for bad weather will only cover you if the weather event is unforeseen at the time of purchase, Freedman stresses. "When an event like a hurricane or winter storm becomes a named event, it's no longer unforeseen or unexpected," she explains.
Your insurance agent can help you determine which type of travel insurance coverage makes the most sense for your next vacation.