While travelers can purchase travel insurance plans up to the last minute before leaving on their trip, claims for losses due to natural disasters that are known events are never covered.
What’s a known event?
- When a snow storm is forecasted, it’s a known event.
- When the hurricane is named, it’s a known event.
- When a volcano eruption starts, it’s a known event.
This is, as you might imagine, a feature of insurance – it only covers those things that haven’t happened but are likely to cause serious harm or financial losses IF they do happen. This is why we buy insurance to cover our homes, our cars, and … our trips. It’s also why we recommend that you buy your travel insurance early.
A natural disaster is typically defined by travel insurance plans as “a flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard, or avalanche that is due to natural causes.” But it’s important to note that not all of these disasters are included in every plan’s description of coverage. Some travel insurance plans specifically exclude events like volcanic eruptions and avalanches, for example, classifying them as ‘acts of God’ instead.
It’s important to note that a natural disaster is defined differently than bad weather – see how travel insurance covers bad weather.
Travel insurance coverage for natural disasters
Most travel insurance plans cover natural disasters with these coverage options:
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption – benefits will be paid if mandatory evacuation or official public evacuation orders are issued due to natural disaster, or a natural disaster renders your principal residence or destination residence uninhabitable. It also covers cancellation or interruption of your place of employment is rendered unsuitable for business and you’re required to work.
- Non-medical emergency evacuations (also called security evacuations) – if a formal recommendation is issued from local authorities, or the US State Department, for you to leave the country due to a natural disaster.
- Missed connections and trip delays – if you miss a cruise or tour or are delayed more than a defined number of hours as a result of a natural disaster, benefits will be paid to reimburse your unexpected trip expenses and additional transportation costs.
- AD&D and medical/dental care – if you are injured or killed while traveling as a result of a natural disaster, benefits will be paid to reimburse you, the medical facility who treated you, or your beneficiaries up to the travel insurance plan limits.
- Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation – if you are injured while traveling on a covered trip and require medical treatment that cannot be administered locally, your travel insurance provider will coordinate and pay for you to be evacuated to a medical facility where you can be treated. If you are killed while traveling as a result of a natural disaster, the travel insurance provider will coordinate and pay for your body to be returned home.
Limits on travel insurance cover for natural disasters
As with all insurance plans, travel insurance places limits on the coverage it will pay out for natural disasters. Specifically:
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits are paid only if the traveler will lose at least 50% of their trip due to the mandatory evacuation orders.
- If your destination is adversely affected by the storm, it must be uninhabitable in order to make a claim – not simply that it wasn’t as you expected or the pool was damaged (in that case, it’s the travel supplier’s responsibility to make it up to you).
- Non-medical emergency evacuation coverage pays for all reasonable expenses incurred for your transportation to the nearest place of safety.
- All coverage includes maximum limits that place a cap on the amount the travel insurance company will pay – anything over that amount will come out of the traveler’s pocket.
It’s important to understand that every travel insurance plan varies according to the travel insurance provider’s definitions and reading the plan carefully is the only way you’ll know exactly what coverage you have for natural disasters.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.