Hermine has reached Category I hurricane status and, at posting time, is headed to Florida’s panhandle and up the East Coast. Should you buy travel insurance to salvage any prepaid fees for your soggy Labor Day getaway? Nope. It’s too late.“ In order to qualify for coverage, you must have had your policy in place before the storm was named,” says Rachel Taft, spokesperson for SquareMouth, a site that compares 114 travel insurance policies from 21 providers. That rule applies to hurricanes as well as tropical storms. Typically, hurricane coverage is not sold separately, but as part of a broader travel insurance policy.
So let’s say the day before your departure the weather forecast predicts a heavy storm at your destination. You reach for the phone to cancel your trip because you purchased travel insurance. Think you’re covered? Maybe.
“Hurricane coverage kicks in if it affects your trip in a way that is covered by your policy – such as significantly delaying your flight or damaging your hotel,” says Taft. If your destination suffered flooding, but your hotel is open, then, guess what – you won’t get a refund. “To trigger cancellation coverage, most policies require your hotel to be rendered uninhabitable,” says Taft.
But what about the hurricane-caused cancellation of the beach party, the no-longer-taking-place evening barbecue with rock band, the closed brew pubs, and the three-days of sitting in a hotel room looking at rain? That says Taft is “loss of enjoyment,” and typically not covered.
So, under what conditions do you get a refund?
“If a hurricane causes you to be significantly delayed in arriving at your destination, you may be covered for the portion of the trip you missed. This means you could be reimbursed for your unused, prepaid, or nonrefundable expenses, such as hotels or tours you missed out on during those days,” says Taft. If a storm delays your flight to Venice for two days, causing you to miss the first three days of your cruise or your bus tour, then you are likely to be reimbursed for the days you missed.
To purchase or not to purchase? To help you evaluate, estimate the cost of a travel insurance policy at about 5% your trip cost. What to do if a long weekend of rain would ruin your trip? You could purchase Cancel For Any Reason insurance ahead of time. “We don’t typically recommend Cancel For Any Reason,” says Taft, “because many times travelers’ major concerns are covered by standard travel insurance. Travelers should look at their policies’ hurricane coverage to determine if it meets their needs.”
And with heavy rains predicted this Labor Day weekend long the Gulf Coast and the beaches of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and into New York, you may have plenty of time to ponder the fine print of the policy you purchased… as well as read the policy you didn’t buy.