Anticipating a trip is a lot like looking forward to a special meal. Both offer the promise of pleasure, a carnival for the senses and a break from our everyday life. In light of the uncertainties resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, planning for when — and where — we can safely and freely travel again is also a way of kindling hope. So we say, seize the day — but do so with extra protection to back you up, just in case.
Here are some guidelines to give you some peace of mind as you shimmy back into the travel-planning saddle.
Lean on the experts
The benefits of working with an experienced travel advisor can’t be understated, especially now. Every agent has some special travel gems in their portfolio that they love to match with the right client, and they’re not just useful for international trips: A drive or a domestic flight within the U.S. can still connect you with extraordinary experiences.
In addition to knowing what’s great where (and who may be having special deals), seasoned travel advisors are well-informed about the solvency of various suppliers and can steer you away from a bad investment, which is key during this tumultuous economic climate. And when it comes to navigating travel insurance, they can match your circumstances with the right provider and policy. You can find a travel advisor through vetted travel consortiums like Virtuoso or Signature Travel.
Get the facts
In this climate, no one has a magic ball to tell you when or where you’ll be able to travel. “Travelers must make their own decisions and determine their own risk tolerance by staying informed,” says Erika Richter, the senior director of communications for American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).
Within the context of the tsunami of sharing on social media, Richter advises travelers to stick to primary sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. State Department’s travel advisories and the Department of Homeland Security.
Protect your investment
“Travelers are trying to understand their options and make contingency plans for upcoming trips,” says Julie Loffredi, manager of media relations for Insuremytrip.com, an online travel insurance site that enables users to compare policies from different underwriters. “People who have never purchased travel insurance before want to know more,” says Loffredi.
Comprehensive travel insurance is designed to protect your investment in case an unexpected event results in trip cancellation, interruption or requires a medical evacuation. Policies change by company, but they typically include an array of reasons, from medical issues to job losses.
Read the fine print carefully, and make sure you understand what is covered, and what isn’t. “Travel insurance companies are updating their statements about coverage every day,” says Loffredi. As response to the pandemic is constantly evolving, so does the fine print of travel insurance.
CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason)
You may have heard of CFAR, the gold standard add-on of comprehensive travel insurance that allows you to cancel your trip up to 48-72 hours prior to departure, for any reason. However, companies such as Travelex Insurance, underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, no longer offer the CFAR upgrade. Your travel advisor will be apprised of the latest updates.
Timing is everything
To get the most out of your insurance coverage, purchase it as soon as possible after making the first payment on your trip, whether it is for airfare, accommodations or a deposit on a cruise or tour. Travel insurers often include pre-existing conditions only for coverage booked within a certain time period after putting money down, and you don’t want to miss out. Your travel advisor will help you either predict the total cost of your trip, or work with you to increase the total coverage as you add components to your trip planning.
Yes, we’ll be learning how to co-exist with COVID-19 until a vaccine is widely in use. But the world is still beckoning us to explore. With adjusted expectations, travel insurance and a trusted travel advisor, your next adventure awaits.