When hurricanes barrel into the Caribbean or winter blizzards blow, cruise passengers who had previously purchased travel insurance breathe a sigh of relief. By purchasing travel insurance, they have a powerful defense against the financial impact of potential trip cancellations. However, it's too late for cruisers who waited to insure their travel plans after the bad weather develops.
Obvious? Not so for many travelers, according to Travel Guard International, the nation's largest provider of travel insurance and assistance services. According to a Travel Guard spokesperson, "Each hurricane season, we receive a surprising number of calls from thoughtful folks who want to buy travel insurance - the moment they learn that their vacation destination is in the path of an oncoming hurricane or tropical storm. "By then, it's typically too late."
Travel insurance, like all types of insurance, is designed to protect against ˜unforeseen circumstances". Once a hurricane or severe storm develops, it is no longer "unforeseen" and therefore new travel insurance cannot be purchased to offer protection.
Travelers who buy travel insurance at the time they book their trip, prior to the issuance of hurricane or tropical storm warnings, protect their deposits and other nonrefundable expenses. For example, if a traveler is forced to cancel a trip due to a hurricane, travel insurance will provide reimbursement for nonrefundable expenses, up to the limit of coverage purchased. To be eligible for the coverage, travelers must purchase their travel insurance policies before the hurricane is forecasted or predicted. Once a warning has been issued, losses resulting from the hurricane are excluded.
Families can learn more about travel insurance and severe weather by visiting Travel Guard's StormGuard Information Center at http://www.travelguard.com/info/stormguard/index.asp. The site also includes answers to frequently asked questions about hurricanes and travel insurance, hurricane preparedness tips and links to hurricane tracking and prediction Web sites.
Families who purchase vacation packages from American Airlines Vacations AAVacations.com can choose to be protected by the company's Cancellation and Change Waiver Policy. This insurance policy covers cancellations, for any reason, up until scheduled departure time. The waiver also covers revision fees. This coverage must be purchased at the initial time of booking, so carefully consider purchasing this form of protection when you are making your travel plans.
When purchasing travel insurance, it is extremely important to understand exactly what is covered - and under what circumstances. Read the policy carefully and talk with an agent before purchasing. The most complete coverage is available under "Cancel for Any Reason" policies, but these are also significantly more expensive as well.