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Although it’s always a smart idea to buy a comprehensive travel insurance policy for international trips, the Omicron variant makes travel insurance even more vital. The variant has triggered new testing protocols, Border closings, travel advisories and quarantines, but the right travel insurance plan can give you a financial backup for certain travel hurdles.
If you want the best backup for Covid-related problems, look for a comprehensive travel insurance plan that includes the following coverage:
- “Cancel for any reason”
- Medical expenses and medical evacuation
- Trip cancel
- Travel delay
- Trip interruption, including “interruption for any reason” coverage, if available
Here’s how travel insurance intersects with Covid testing problems, Border closures, travel advisories and warnings, and quarantines.
Covid Tests and Travel Insurance
The recent surge in Covid cases is causing a shortage of Covid tests, delayed results and changes in testing rules for travelers. It’s important to be aware of what your travel insurance plan covers if your trip is disrupted due to a testing snafu. Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison provider, has the following guidance.
You can’t get a required Covid test or results aren’t on time. Standard trip cancellation benefits won’t cover cancellation because you couldn’t get a Covid test within the required timeframe before traveling. Travel insurance also won’t cover you if you were unable to get results in time for your flight and can’t go.
Trip insurance can compensate you for prepaid, non-refundable expenses only if you cancel for a reason listed in the policy, and lack of a Covid test result is not among the acceptable reasons.
If your plan has medical coverage for Covid and you test positive before your trip, you could cancel and make an insurance claim for your lost deposits.
Another possible solution: If you have a “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) upgrade on your travel insurance plan, and you know you won’t have Covid test results in time, you could cancel and make a claim under CFAR. But note: You can’t make a last-minute cancellation and use a CFAR benefit. “Cancel for any reason” coverage requires you to cancel at least 48 hours before your departure if you want to make a claim.
“Cancel for any reason” coverage adds an average of 50% to the travel insurance cost and generally reimburses you 75% of what you lose in non-refundable deposits. You must buy “cancel for any reason” insurance within two to three weeks of your initial trip deposit, so if you’re currently planning a trip, keep this purchase window in mind.
Cancelling a trip because of testing. No one would blame you if you decide to cancel a trip because you find the testing protocols too challenging to handle. Be aware that standard trip insurance won’t compensate you if you cancel because testing is inconvenient. “Cancel for any reason” coverage will cover you in this case, but only if you cancel at least two days prior to your departure.
Unacceptable test results. At-home Covid tests are usually not acceptable if your destination requires a Covid test. Most countries and airlines specify certain types of tests you must have to comply with their guidelines. If you’re unable to take a trip because you don’t have an approved test result, standard travel cancellation insurance won’t cover you. If you have “cancel for any reason” coverage you could use it in this case, as long as you cancel no less than 48 hours before your trip departure.
Test positive prior to departure. If you test positive for Covid before your trip and have to cancel, travel insurance will cover you if your plan includes Covid cancellation coverage. These benefits often extend to traveling companions and non-traveling family members who test positive, according to Squaremouth.
Testing positive while abroad. If you test positive during your trip, a travel insurance plan that includes Covid coverage can cover costs for doctor and hospital bills, medicine and lab work, up to the plan’s medical limits. Make sure your travel insurance plan includes Covid coverage when you buy it.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Border Closures?
“Standard travel insurance policies do not include ‘border closures’ as a covered reason to cancel a trip,” says Megan Moncrief, with Squaremouth.
If your trip is scuttled due to a border closure, check to see if your travel supplier is offering refunds or will allow you to change your travel dates.
There is also one insurance option in these cases: Upgrade your travel insurance plan to “cancel for any reason” coverage when you buy it. With this add-on you can get partial reimbursement if you cancel your trip for a reason not listed in the base policy. “Cancel for any reason” coverage gives you the widest latitude possible to make a cancellation, including a border closure.
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Does Travel Insurance Cover Advisories and Warnings?
There are some rare policies that provide trip cancellation coverage if there is a government-issued travel warning at your destination, says Moncrief. “This coverage is not necessarily common, and the language varies significantly by provider,” she says. “In order to be covered, the policy must be purchased prior to the government-issued warning.”
For example, iTravelInsured’s Travel SE plan accepts government-issued advisories and warnings as a reason for trip cancellation. The policy says it covers “a travel alert or travel warning for levels four (4) and higher or, an evacuation order or, travel ban is, for cities listed on your itinerary after Your effective Date for Trip Cancellation, to a destination specifically listed on Your Itinerary. The travel alert/warning, etc. must occur within thirty (30) days of the scheduled Department Date.”
In this case, you could make a trip cancellation claim and be reimbursed for prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses. The warning or alert must come from the US State Department.
If your base policy doesn’t cover travel warnings, having “cancel for any reason” coverage would allow you to make a cancellation claim because of a travel advisory or warning.
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Does Travel Insurance Cover Hotel Quarantine Costs?
You can get travel insurance for quarantines by buying a plan that includes Covid-related coverage. Extra expenses due to a quarantine would be covered, such as the following.
Travel medical insurance can pay for emergency medical costs during a trip. It can compensate you for hospital and doctor bills and for medicine, exams and lab work, up to the coverage limit of the policy. Make sure to buy a plan that includes Covid coverage for medical expenses.
Travel delay insurance can cover the extra costs of accommodations and meals during a quarantine if you have contracted the virus. If you are forced to stay beyond your return date due to a quarantine, this coverage can reimburse you for expenses up to a week past your original return date.
“Most travel insurance policies on Squaremouth.com cover contracting Covid-19 if a traveler is unable to return home for this reason, and most policies extend up to seven days beyond their intended return date,” says Moncrief.
“Should a traveler need to utilize these benefits, they would have a daily benefit limit for the additional lodging expenses,” Moncrief points out.
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Trip interruption insurance can reimburse you for missed portions of a trip if you’re forced into quarantine due to a positive Covid test—for example, if you miss the departure of a non-refundable cruise. You would need documentation that you contracted the virus in order to file a claim under standard trip interruption insurance.
However, there are a small number of policies that offer an upgrade called “interruption for any reason.” This add-on is similar to “cancel for any reason” coverage but applies when you’re already on the trip and need to cut it short or miss out on part of your itinerary. With “interruption for any reason” coverage you can file a claim for expenses that were booked in advance that you miss due to a quarantine, whether or not you actually contracted Covid. These could include hotel rooms and excursions that you had non-refundable deposits on.
“This is not a common benefit, but is offered by Seven Corners, iTravelInsured, Travel Insured International and Nationwide,” says Moncrief at Squaremouth.
If you’re interested in “interruption for any reason” coverage, make sure to check the rules. For example, you might be able to make a claim under IFAR only if your trip interruption starts 48 hours or more into your trip.
Positive Covid Test Required for Quarantine Coverage
Here are a couple of important caveats to coverage for quarantines:
- You must test positive for Covid and have to quarantine. Mandatory quarantines imposed just because you arrive in a country aren’t covered.
- Only extra expenses are covered, such as a hotel stay that extends past your original departure date.
If you want to cancel your trip because of concerns about Covid or you don’t like a new quarantine restriction, you would not be covered under a standard trip cancellation policy. Here again, “cancel for any reason” coverage would be your way out: You could make a “cancel for any reason” claim because you don’t like your destination’s quarantine rules.
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