Recent bouts of wild weather have played havoc with millions of travellers, leaving them stuck for hours or even days in airports throughout Canada, the US, and abroad—where they have had nothing to do but scrounge for sleeping space and agonize over lost hotel deposits, missed connections, and other prepaid vacation fees.
Of course there is nothing you can do about the weather, especially in Canada in January, but if you bought travel and/or trip cancellation insurance, you can certainly minimize your losses.
Many travel insurance policies sold in Canada have built-in trip cancellation/interruption benefits to supplement their emergency health benefits. Some sell trip cancellation policies separately. But since no two policies are exactly the same, you need to familiarize yourself not only with each plan’s benefits, but with its limitations and exclusions.
The Travel Underwriters Freedom Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption plan covers “Delay of a connecting common carrier due to weather conditions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,” and losses due to other situations.
The TIC Trip Cancellation & Interruption plan covers losses due to “Adverse weather, volcanic eruptions, or a natural disaster which would prevent you from travelling for a period not less than 30% of the total duration of the insured trip when you choose not to continue with the trip prior to departure from the point of origin.” What that means in plain language is that if the “adverse event” interrupts 30 per cent or more of your trip, your losses will be covered. If it interrupts less than 30 per cent, there will be no coverage benefit.
The Travel Underwriters Freedom plan uses the same 30 per cent threshold. So do several other insurers. Most trip cancellation plans may also cover reasonable allowances for hotel rooms, meals, and other incidental costs should you be stranded or delayed by adverse events, but only up to limits specified in the policies. Make sure you are aware of those limitations before you book a room at the Four Seasons or the Ritz.
Also, most trip cancellation policies will not cover losses from any event that you knew might prevent you from travelling when you applied for coverage. For example, if you were planning to travel to Florida in September, the height of hurricane season, and you booked a room at a resort directly in the path of the storm, you would likely not be covered.
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance is becoming increasingly popular, but you must read the policy carefully or discuss it with a travel insurance professional. And remember that benefits are designed to cover only payments and fees you have already paid out, and only up to certain limits. Trip cancellation is designed to mitigate your monetary losses—not to replace the joys and aspirations of your dream trip.