Hurricanes and Travel Insurance

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has issued a warning against non-essential travel to part of the US east coast, north of Surf City, North Carolina, in advance of Hurricane Earl. You can see the full warning on our Travel Alerts page, available to Snowbird Plus members. (Not a member yet? Sign up today!)

You are likely to see more such warnings for different parts of the US, Mexican, or Caribbean coastal territories before this hurricane season is over.

What this means for you is that if you purchased travel insurance with trip cancellation or interruption benefits before the government issued its warning, you will be covered for any prepaid, non-reimbursable funds you paid out for a vacation trip to that specific region according to the terms of the policy. (But read your policy because there are limitations on what the insurer will pay, and there are also exclusions.) If you bought insurance only after the warning was issued, you will not be covered for travel to that area.

But before you cancel your travel plans, make sure you consult with the agent who sold you the policy because there are policy conditions that could affect your coverage. For example, if the storm subsides or turns out to sea and leaves your destination unharmed, or if the travel warning is lifted before your scheduled travel date, don’t expect a refund. You can’t just cancel on your own initiative because you feel “uneasy” about travelling. If your destination resort is still operational and the airlines are still flying, your unilateral cancellation will not hold water.

This is important because the Atlantic hurricane season is now shifting into high gear. From now through October, the big storms generated off the coast of Africa will be making a beeline for the US east coast, the Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Any travel you have planned to these areas should be covered by trip cancellation or interruption insurance. But you need to know the terms of coverage and you need to stay tuned in to advisories from DFATD, US government advisories, or National Hurricane Center warnings.

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