As a professional travel advisor, I’m a big proponent of travel insurance. Many travelers will opt to forego a 3rd party insurance plan, or simply rely on the insurance provided through their credit card. Often (and especially with strong credit cards like AMEX Platinum) this coverage is sufficient, but I’ve seen enough unpredictable situations in my career that I truly believe third party travel insurance is worth it. It’s also not that expensive when you consider the hard-earned money you’re investing in your vacation. At the start of the pandemic, I wrote a long post on the ins and outs of travel insurance, but a lot has changed over the past year, with most travel insurance companies adapting their coverage for the post-COVID world. Our preferred travel insurance provider, Travelex, provides comprehensive trip protection should a traveler or family member contract the coronavirus before or during a trip. Still, there are a lot of nuances to the coverage and it is important to understand how a policy can benefit you and in which scenarios it will kick-in. Below is a list of some of the key considerations and how the Travelex Advanced Protection Plan handles each one.
- Trip Cancellation: If a traveler, traveling companion, family member or business partner is diagnosed with coronavirus and the insured is unable to travel, the trip cancellation benefit will cover 100% of the non-refundable trip costs. Travelers will be required to show necessary documentation such as a dated positive test result and a note from a qualified physician stating that the person is unable to travel.
- Trip Interruption: If a traveler or traveling companion is diagnosed with coronavirus while on their trip, the insurance company will reimburse the policyholder for unused, non-refundable trip costs as well as incremental expenses incurred for the travelers’ return home or to rejoin the trip at a later date.
- Trip Delay: If a traveler or traveling companion is diagnosed with coronavirus while on their trip and forced to quarantine (as mandated by a licensed physician), the policy will reimburse the traveler for additional hotel expenses and meals incurred during the quarantine period.
- Emergency Medical & Evacuation: As with other illnesses, the Travelex Advanced Travel Protection Plan will cover up to $50K in medical expenses if a traveler contracts coronavirus while on their trip and requires medical care. It will also cover emergency evacuation if deemed medically necessary.
Check-out Travelex Insurance’s COVID-19 dashboard to learn more about their policy coverage and read responses to the FAQs. Many countries are also now requiring proof of adequate insurance (with emergency medical and evacuation coverage) for international travelers who wish to visit. Typically, travelers visiting these countries will be required to provide a “Visa Medical Letter” that provides an overview of their insurance coverage and verifies the traveler has coverage in the event they become ill with coronavirus while traveling. Travelex can provide this “Visa Medical Letter” on request with any purchased policy.
It is also important to note what is not covered by travel insurance as it relates to the novel coronavirus. Travelex (as with other providers) does not cover cancellation or interruption for fear of travel, if a supplier (such as a hotel or tour operator) cancels your trip due to coronavirus concerns, if a government issues a travel warning, restriction, or ban which prevents you from entering a given country, or if your business or company institutes a travel restriction. These exceptions are all clearly outlined in the policy coverage documents. If one of these scenarios happens, travelers are encouraged to get a refund or credit from the supplier – something us advisors have been working hard at since the start of the pandemic!
Additionally, traditional travel insurance will not cover a medical evacuation for patients that are banned from travel due to coronavirus but are not ill enough to require emergency medical treatment or hospitalization. A new COVID testing requirement for the US is going into effect on January 26th. All travelers (including US citizens) entering the US on an international flight will be required to present a negative COVID test (PCR or antigen) taken within 3 days of the flight. Passengers without this test will be barred from boarding the plane and unable to fly home until they complete a required quarantine and are able to present a negative test or recovery documentation. While most tour operators and hotels are in a race to provide safe, reliable and convenient testing for travelers, there is still a very real possibility that you could test positive at the end of your trip. If this happens, you will of course be required to quarantine in the destination and will be unable to fly home commercially for 2-3 weeks, depending on the recovery time. In the event this occurs, a Travelex insurance policy will help cover the incremental expenses incurred during the quarantine period (lodging and meals), as well as any medical expenses. Medjet is another great option for travelers who fall ill while away and wish to be transferred to their home hospital. They cover transport for any member hospitalized while on their trip – regardless of medical necessity.
If travelers are primarily concerned with returning to the states in the event of a positive test (whether or not they are ill enough to require hospitalization or medical evacuation), it may be worth considering some new COVID-specific evacuation services, such as COVAC Global. This company is new and has not been fully vetted by ATLAS + VALISE, however they do claim to offer transport services to travelers with a positive COVID test, regardless of the seriousness of their infection.