How to Pick the Right Travel Insurance Policy During COVID

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Travel insurance tends to be a detail that gets lost in the afterthoughts of booking. But if you’re planning a trip, particularly out of country, you need coverage. Americans are starting to clue into this. According to Sasha Gainullin, CEO of the travel insurance company Battleface, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 20% of Americans purchased travel insurance before a trip. Since COVID, that number’s risen to 60%.

With the threat of getting sick abroad, travelers are realizing they need a safety net to fall back on. But comparing policies is the last thing you want to do before a trip. We’ll make it easy for you. Here’s what you should look for in a travel insurance policy during the age of COVID:

What it should cover

The number one question on everyone’s mind right now, Gainullin says, is what happens if you catch COVID while traveling? The answer, if you’re not covered by travel insurance, is that you’ll be spending a lot of money. A week-long stay in a foreign ICU comes with a hefty price tag. In Japan, the average cost of a COVID-related hospital trip is $37,000. In Canada it’s $50,000.  

If you’re lucky enough to avoid the hospital, you still have to factor in the extra thousand dollars it’ll cost to cancel and rebook your flight home and pay to quarantine in your accommodations for an extra week. 

Either way, you can bet it wasn’t in your budget.

With the right travel insurance policy, any interruptions, cancellations, baggage loss, and medical emergencies are covered. Some countries have even made travel insurance an entrance requirement.

How much you should pay

The price of your travel insurance policy is dependent on your destination, your age, and the length of stay, Gainullin says. An average benchmark is that the policy will cost between four to 10% of your trip’s total price. Some providers have even started offering lower rates to fully vaccinated travelers. 

The key when purchasing is to find the right policy for you.

“If you’re going to Belize and you want to go scuba diving, your travel insurance that you traditionally purchase may not actually cover scuba diving as an activity,” Gainullin says. “What we are trying to change is the educational aspect of travel insurance, making sure that you as a consumer know exactly what you’re purchasing.”

Before you put money down for a policy, make sure you read the fine print. Some policies don’t start until you’re on the tarmac, so if you catch COVID a week before your trip and have to cancel, you’re not getting any deposits back. Battleface offers “Trip Cancellation” coverage with a “Cancel for Any Reason” clause, meaning you’re covered from the moment you purchase the policy.

When to purchase

COVID has caused a shift in travel insurance purchasing patterns. People have started booking trips well in advance of their departure date. One of the biggest changes Battleface had to make, Gainullin says, was allowing people to purchase travel insurance two years or more before their trip. Previously, the maximum time Battleface would have allowed was a year in advance.

People are purchasing travel insurance as soon as they make their booking to ensure they’re covered in case of any unforeseen cancellations. Gainullin says he and his son just booked a trip to Costa Rica in April and had to put down a non-refundable 50% deposit. If either one of them were to get sick right before the trip and they didn’t have pre-departure coverage, they’d lose that money.  

Gainullin says he does have friends who book 100% refundable resorts, hotels, and flights, so they don’t need to purchase travel insurance until the day before their departure. They’re only worried about in-trip coverage. But these kinds of refund policies can be difficult to find.

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