Travel to the US Will Be a Bargain This Summer—But Pack Your Travel Insurance

With Canada’s loonie charging to new highs, travel to the US can provide terrific bargains this summer, especially as many Americans are feeling the pinch from a stubbornly bad economy and are expected to stay close to home for their vacations.

Reports from major tourist locations like Las Vegas and most of Florida show that hotel room rates, when transposed to Canadian dollars, will remain low. Las Vegas is still in the grip of the economic downturn (more underwater mortgages than any other single location in the country), and Florida is fighting to regain the tourism it lost last year because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That’s going to keep hotel rates very competitive, which is good news for you—especially since the beaches are sparkling clean again and the weather remains highly predictable, which is excellent.

Accommodations along the Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle are especially proactive in seeking your business. The only fly in the ointment is the inevitability of hurricane season—which officially runs from June through November, but which really peaks only in August and September. If the hurricane season is anything like last year’s, you have little to fear. But predicting hurricanes is a chancy business. Still, you can build in a good measure of protection by purchasing trip cancellation insurance when you put down a deposit on a hotel or resort reservation. But, to be valid, trip cancellation must be bought when you make your first payment on your trip, usually within a couple of days. So be prepared to make a decision on that when committing to your trip.

Getting “Cancel for any Reason” or “Change of Mind” insurance options (such as those offered by Manulife and TravelGuard policies) can increase your flexibility if you are faced with the prospect of a hurricane coming ashore at your chosen location. You may not get all of your deposit or prepaid money back, but depending on when you buy your coverage and when you choose to cancel—if you do cancel—you may get back a substantial amount. These options are worth asking about—but they have limitations, so go beyond the sales slogan and look at the fine print.

If you do buy a trip cancellation plan, you need to understand it well.  Discuss it with your agent and read the coverage conditions and exclusions carefully.

I know people with trip cancellation policies who have cancelled plans just because a storm was churning up in the Caribbean and they didn’t want to take a chance it might land ashore at their hotel—only to see the storm take a right turn and blow out to sea, leaving their resort untouched. Bad luck for them, because cancellation would not kick in under those conditions. You have to know your policy, but there’s no question that you need one.

Unfortunately, not all travel agents are well-informed about trip cancellation benefits, so buy only from an agent or company with a lot of experience in travel insurance.

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