Do I Need Travel Insurance More in a Post-Lockdown World for Safe and Healthy Trips?

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Since March 2020, many of us have been "grounded," so to speak—but now it's time to reap the well-being benefits of exploring new places and experiences once again. With Ungrounded, get expert-backed intel all month long to help you feel confident, safe, and energized as you venture outside your front door.

Whether you’re impatiently awaiting to cross off one of your post-quarantine bucket-list destinations or you’re planning to visit family you haven’t seen in a year and a half, the desire to travel is strong right now for a great many of us. In a survey of 3,000 people, American Express Travel’s Global Trends Report found that 78 percent of respondents want to travel in 2021 to relieve the stresses from 2020. But in order to jet off responsibly post-quarantine, these folks may want to consider buying travel insurance. And, it seems many are doing just that.

There are multiple forms of travel insurance, and the guiding purpose of each policy is to cover travelers for risks and losses before and during vacation. Given that travel insurance company Seven Corners has already seen a 1,000 percent increase from 2020 in the number of customers who inquired about gaining travel insurance, according to internal data, it stands to reason that more people are more interested now in getting covered before taking their trips. Paulina Szydlo, chief product officer at travel insurance startup Rene says that her company has also seen a growing number of users, which she says is likely due to people understanding the potential risks associated with taking trips during a period of uncertainty and wanting to be covered in case of emergency.

Depending on your unique circumstances, you’ll want to choose the best plan to suit your needs. Here are four types of travel insurance you can consider purchasing to cover you during your next trip after lockdown.

4 types of travel insurance

1. Standard travel insurance

“Travel insurance is usually an up-sale product on the booking pages and is not as comprehensive when it comes to your health needs,” says Szydlo. Travel insurance typically protects an upcoming trip against interruptions, cancellations, flight delays, lost luggage, and limited medical coverage, says insurance and annuity expert Shawn Plummer. “Many travel insurance policies cover urgent medical care and repatriation due to COVID-19 but only some will cover you for any trip disruptions or cancellations,” he adds. The cost is based on the state of residence, the full cost of the trip, the traveler’s age, departure date, return date, and the initial deposit.

Just as is the case with all other types of insurance, coverage depends on the type of policy you purchase and where you buy it from. When purchasing travel insurance—especially by yourself rather than through an agent with an insurance company—Szydlo reminds that it’s important to look specifically for COVID-19 and medical evacuation coverage and to set up your deductible properly so you’re well prepared in case of emergency.

2. Travel health insurance

Travel health insurance is a more comprehensive coverage plan to cover any expenses in case of a medical emergency, sickness, or injury once the traveler leaves their home country, says Plummer. “Basically, it’s a hybrid of traditional travel insurance and a health-insurance plan designed specifically for international travel,” he says. “Cost varies a lot depending on the length of your trip and the destination, but you can expect to pay between $80 and $200.”

Do you need it? “If you want to avoid stress, high hospital bills, and know where to go in case of a medical emergency abroad, travel health insurance is for you,” says Szydlo, who specifies that there are even special policies for people with pre-existing conditions or for folks who plan to do adventure sports while on vacation. If you’re interested in purchasing a policy, you can buy through an agent, online marketplaces, or directly through an insurance provider.

3. Cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) policies

This policy is exactly what it sounds like: It allows you to cancel your trip for any reason. “CFAR policies cover non-refundable payments and deposits made before your trip is canceled, less any refunds owed. Prepaid accommodations that are canceled, interrupted, or delayed under a covered reason will be insured,” says Plummer. “If you anticipate any circumstances that may result in a trip cancellation—for example, if you're in a job that requires you to change plans last-minute—then it may be worth buying CFAR policies.”

Now, some countries require travel insurance, so especially when visiting those—like Aruba, Bermuda, Costa Rica, and Thailand—Plummer notes that a CFAR policy can help you mitigate potential losses due to trip cancellations. He adds that it's especially worth purchasing in these uncertain times when rules about visiting other countries are still changing.

You can buy CFAR policies as an upgrade to your standard travel insurance policy, through an insurance provider, or via online insurance marketplaces. These plans are good for all types of trips (short or long, domestic or international) and tend add an additional 40 percent to the cost of your standard policy.

4. Credit cards

Many credit cards have insurance options as an add-on service for their customers. “They usually cover trip interruptions, and some basic travel health insurance,” says Szydlo. “Some may cover rental car collision damage waiver, delayed-trip reimbursement, emergency assistance, roadside assistance, emergency medical expenses, travel-accident insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation, and lost or delayed baggage assistance,” adds Plummer.

Some of the most popular travel credit cards offer (limited) travel insurance benefits as well, like rental car insurance, lost luggage, rental car accidents, and more. Just be sure to read the fine print to know exactly what your coverage looks like. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers reimbursement up to $10,000 per covered trip, whereas Capital One Venture Rewards offers 24-hour travel assistance services for things like emergency transportation and medical referrals.

Review your card policy offerings online or call your credit card company to learn more about whether or not you’re covered under your current card.

How has the need for travel insurance changed since pre-pandemic times?

“At the start of quarantine, many insurers would not cover COVID-19-related incidents, as it was a foreseen event,” Plummer says. “Now, more insurers are providing COVID-19 coverage, as there's an increasing recognition that the new normal might not involve the total eradication of COVID-19.” He adds that more insurance companies are currently offering better COVID-19 coverage to help people feel more comfortable about traveling as well as discounts to capitalize on the pent-up demand for taking trips post-lockdown.

That said, Plummer reminds that “countries are still changing travel advisories, and destinations are being added or taken off the green list depending on how the situation evolves.” With that in mind, remember to research restrictions and requirements of your upcoming destinations to learn how to follow location-specific guidelines to keep yourself and others safe. “I do think and hope that the pandemic educated people on how important it is to always remember good coverage for upcoming trips,” says Szydlo.

For more information about travel insurance and guidelines during the pandemic, visit the official websites of your departure and destination locations.

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