Post-Brussels Travel: Protect your Investment

First Paris, then Brussels. What now for your travel plans to Europe this summer? It’s only reasonable you should be nervous about laying down thousands of dollars in deposits and other advance fees if by June, July, or August you change your mind and decide you no longer want to go.

I’m not suggesting you should or shouldn’t travel—only you can make that decision, in consultation with your family and your travel partners. But I am suggesting, as strongly as I can, that you take the time now to protect your investment by buying trip cancellation/interruption travel insurance that allows you to “change your mind” later. Such products are available, but you need to talk to a travel insurance professional to ensure you understand (1) how these plans work and (2) what you need to do to make sure you are covered.

Basic trip cancellation insurance covers you for incidents where you or your travel partners become ill and unable to travel, you lose your job, you are called for jury duty, a domestic situation arises that prevents travel, your house burns down, a close family relative becomes seriously ill, or your government issues an “Avoid All Travel” or “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” to the region of your planned visit, etc. These situations are usually spelled out in the policy, and these policies are certainly worth buying as benefits on their own.

But not all trip cancellation policies cover the eventuality that another situation like the terrorist attacks in Paris or Brussels knocks you out of your comfort zone and threatens your decision to travel. You need a back-up.

Here’s what you need to do.

Buy your travel insurance at the same time you buy your trip cancellation/interruption plan and reserve your airline tickets, hotel reservations, special tours, etc. That stands for whether your buy your basic plan or a plan that includes the “change of mind” option. Most plans require twinned purchases, or purchases made within hours or days of each other. Remember, the point here is protection.

If you purchase your trip May 1, and your insurance the day before you depart on July 15, you will lose 76 days of protection. If some catastrophe happens in the meantime, it’s a little late to change your mind. Then, you may have to count on the good graces of your airline, foreign tour operator, or hotel chain to “forgive” your cancellation penalties. They may give you consideration if a disruption happens at their location or on their route, but not on the sole anticipation of your being nervous about something that “might” happen.

If you have the basic trip cancellation and your government raises the travel warning signals, you may still be covered for any non-refundable deposits or advance payments you have made (up to certain limits, and I’ll touch on that).

But if you have a “change of mind” option (or some similar term), you may not have to rely on a government advisory or another disruption or attack to convince yourself or your travel partners that the emotional anxiety and risk simply aren’t worth it. You can then cancel your trip on the strength of those emotions. And bad emotions can ruin the best of trips.

However—and this is a big however—whether you buy the basic trip cancellation/interruption insurance or the “change your mind” version, understand that only the non-refundable portion of what you have already paid out will be covered (and then only up to certain limits defined by your policy). If you prepay $1,500 per a night for the Georges Cinq Hotel in Paris, don’t expect your insurer to cover every dollar. There will be limits. You still have to pay for the luxury.

And if the kind folks at the Georges Cinq generously offer you a rebate on their own volition, that refund will not be covered by your trip insurance. No double dipping allowed. Similarly, if your airline waives the fee for changing your flight, or refunds part of your fare or offers you a voucher for future travel, an insurance payout will not kick in. Only non-refundable payments for goods or services will be covered. But if you’re paying $10,000 or $15,000 to take your family to Germany, Slovakia, or Croatia this summer, having a trip cancellation backup can still save you a bundle.

You need to understand trip cancellation/interruption plans, read the fine print, and, most importantly, let a travel insurance professional guide you. This is no game for amateurs.

I don’t endorse specific plans. I make no specific recommendations. I prefer to let the experts do it. Contact those connected with this site; they represent Canada’s major providers of trip cancellation policies, so you have good choices.

I believe the one choice you don’t have, though, during what could be another summer of discontent, is the option to leave your investment unprotected. The anxiety just isn’t worth it.


What can travel insurance do for you if your trip is interrupted by an act of terrorism? Find out more.

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