Every day, it seems, the news is bringing us stories and images of destruction. In just a few short weeks, there have been widespread tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, and the first named storm of the 2013 hurricane season. People all over the country are concerned about their homes and the damage that could be done to their communities. While vacations may not be the most urgent worry on the minds of those who are in the path of possible devastation, they’re certainly on our minds.
This is high travel season for families — the start of summer, a time when many were supposed to be taking off for family vacations. Unfortunately, for a family whose home has been badly damaged by fire, flood, or storms, those vacations may not be possible any longer. For those would-be travelers, faced with significant repairs or total replacement of their home and belongings, the question becomes: “How can I leave my home now?”
This situation is another example of an unforeseen circumstance that can unfortunately derail vacation plans, and can be covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy. While we most often talk about “primary residence uninhabitable” coverage as a benefit you should seek during hurricane season, it’s certainly not exclusive to hurricanes. Anyone whose home is damaged too badly to be used safely can benefit from this type of travel insurance coverage, which allows you to cancel your trip and recover any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses you’ve insured if you must stay where you are to deal with urgent repairs to your home. However, as with all other travel insurance purchases, you would need to have bought your policy before the threat to your home became imminent — in other words, at a time when the fire, flood, or storm was, in fact, an “unforeseen” event. Once a storm has been named, a wildfire has been identified, or a river begins to reach flood stage, it’s too late to call an insurance company and ask them to protect you against those dangers.
Not all travel insurance policies offer this benefit, so it’s important to read the terms of your coverage carefully. However, another type of travel insurance that could be useful in the case of destruction to your home is Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) coverage. With CFAR, you don’t have to worry about individual benefits or exclusions within the policy — basically, you can change your mind about going through with your travel plans for any reason you choose, whether it’s something as serious as severe storm damage at home or something as minor as just deciding you’d rather not travel as planned. In order to get CFAR, however, you have to follow the eligibility requirements (typically, you need to buy the policy within 7-14 days of making your first payment on your trip); you should also make sure you thoroughly understand claims requirements in case you end up needing to file a claim. In most cases, CFAR requires you to cancel your trip and notify all your travel suppliers 48 hours or more in advance of your scheduled departure to claim the benefit — otherwise, you can still back out, but it will have to be for a reason that’s listed as “covered” on the policy.
In a stressful situation such as the one that’s faced by homeowners under threat of storms or wildfires right now, there are dozens of pressing concerns that need attention. With a travel insurance policy that’s purchased well in advance of any possible danger — ideally, as soon as you’ve made your first trip payment, so you can take advantage of the widest range of benefits available to you — losing the money paid for a vacation that can’t happen doesn’t have to be one of those pressing concerns. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider whether or not you need travel insurance for a summer vacation, but having the ability to cancel your plans to deal with a crisis at home is just one more way travel insurance can provide you with extra peace of mind.