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Coronavirus-Trip Cancellation: The last decade has seen an array of events that could instill fear even in fearless travelers from swine flu to ebola to zika and the coronavirus. Add to that, age-old diseases from malaria to cholera and dengue fever and sporadic terrorist attacks, travelers must think about health and safety. With so much uncertainty, it can be hard to decide whether to go or stay at home, especially as flights and other travel services are being cancelled daily. I have been a long-time purchaser of travel insurance. I was really glad to have it when surrounded by muggers in broad daylight in a large European train station. I quickly received a 100% payout from my travel insurer for items stolen and even my $34 cab fare replacing them! In light of the current coronavirus epidemic, I have become a real believer in the specialist coverage offered as an upgrade or separate policy known as “Cancel for Any Reason” or “CFAR” coverage. Although it can be pricey, it is the best practical way to make plans when there is so much uncertainty. It can also make sense once the crisis has passed if your plans or circumstances are likely to change.
Standard travel insurance will not cover fear of the coronavirus or other illnesses. However, “CFAR” policies may not be available everywhere for everyone. Within the US, state laws and regulations govern. So, for example, CFAR policies had not been available to New York state residents previously. However, New York state residents can now join other states in purchasing trip cancellation insurance known as “Cancel for Any Reason” or “CFAR” policies as announced by Mayor Cuomo March 6 in light of the coronavirus. (For more information on the state of New York, see the information provided by the New York State Department of Financial Services, OGC Op. No. 10-02-06 prior to the change announced by Gov, Cuomo: “An insurer may not include “Cancel for Any Reason Waiver” or “Change of Mind” coverage in its travel insurance policies because such coverage is not insurance, nor is it necessarily or properly incidental to the kinds of insurance that an insurer is authorized to write in this state.”
Coronavirus-Trip Cancellation: CFAR Coverage:
Special features to note in a CFAR policy:
- There is an initial limited window as short as 7 days when you must purchase the policy.
- CFAR policies also end typically around 48-72 hours prior to departure.
- Claims for nonrefundable losses are generally limited to 50%-75% rather than the full reimbursement available in comprehensive travel insurance.
- Be aware that all insurance policies are contractual agreements subject to local jurisdictions and can vary between the US and Canada and within states as noted above concerning the state of New York.
- In order to recover under a CFAR policy you must cancel your travel with your vendors not simply be a “no show”.
Coronavirus-Trip Cancellation-5 Tips:
Here are our thoughts:
Tip One: During this year unless uncertainty over the coronavirus subsides, adjust your budget to include a CFAR policy. I plan to do this for my next vacation in the fall of 2020. In light of the extra cost, I will likely cut back my lodging costs to stay on budget. (See our free app, the Solo Sherpa for budgeting and tracking expenses, available at the App Store and via the Google Play Store.)
Tip Two: Understand the difference between rescheduling and cancelling outright. Hotels are typically the easiest to reschedule. Airlines are less flexible depending upon the type of ticket you purchased. However, many flights can be rescheduled for a fairly stiff fee. In addition to the penalty, the new ticket cannot be purchased at the cheaper Internet rate. As a result, the total may be substantially higher. Alternatively, ask the airline if you will simply give you a credit to purchase a new ticket. (In the latter case, there is typically a requirement to use the credit within the year.) In light of the global crisis, airlines will likely be more flexible than usual. I received a notice this weekend from United Airlines with the following update:
For flights booked through March 31, United will allow for free changes during the next 12 months whatever the destination or fare type.
If you have an existing ticket or may be looking to purchase one, check to see if your airline has a similar policy in the short-run.
Tip Three: Book for fall or for the end of 2020. I usually vacation abroad in the early fall. The reason? Rates go down for the shoulder season starting as early as Sept. 9. In 2020 when there is so much concern over the coronavirus, it gives 6 months or more to make a plan and see if both health concerns and the economy have settled down.
Tip Four: Consider a vacation in the US and/or Canada. There are no current travel restrictions within the United States. If you can drive, you can save the cost of trains and planes while also avoiding crowds.
Tip Five: Chart your own staycation. The best way to save is to create a vacation that has no or little lodging costs by becoming a tourist in your home or region. Living in Washington, DC, I have found lots of ways to “vacation” at home while typically checking off one or more countries off my bucket list throughout the year. While a nation’s capital in any country offers many options to explore, state capitals and major cities are alternate ways to explore local history, art and architecture plus sampling cuisine. Moving away from urban centers, there are lots of bed and breakfasts to check out. This provides you with an alternate course to try out short-term lessons from haute cuisine cooking to horseback riding and kayaking. (Even in cold weather, there are facilities in certain areas that have indoor kayaking in giant swimming pools.)
If you would like to stay closer to home, a staycation is an ideal way to have your own daily double features from classics with Hollywood greats to sci-fi.