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Winter is thawing, midterms are on the horizon and beach travel deals are populating every other post on your social feeds. This can only mean one thing — spring break is coming.
Amid the daydreams of sun and relaxation, ski hills and hot tubs, or community service trips, college and graduate students might be weighing the pros and cons of spring break travel in the COVID-19 era.
If you choose to travel, getting a travel insurance policy can be a smart money move. This coverage can help protect not only you, but the money you prepay for trip expenses like flights, hotels or that must-see concert. In case your plans go awry (which, let’s face it, feels more likely now than ever before), this coverage can be your saving grace.
What kind of travel insurance is out there? Do you even need it? Here are a few important points to keep in mind when deciding whether to purchase travel insurance for spring break.
Seek travel insurance that includes COVID coverage
Regardless of if you’re traveling abroad or domestically, if you’re considering purchasing travel insurance, it’s wise to ensure it covers COVID-related losses. While it is tempting to buy cheap basic travel insurance, getting more comprehensive coverage will better protect you during the pandemic.
This is important for a few reasons:
You’ll be covered for any medical costs incurred if you become sick with COVID during your trip.
If you catch COVID a few days before departure and need to cancel your nonrefundable trip plans, COVID-related trip cancellation coverage will protect your down payments.
If you test positive before your return flight home and need to quarantine, trip interruption insurance will kick in.
“If you or a traveling companion are individually ordered to quarantine before or during your trip because you were exposed to COVID-19, that can be a covered reason for trip interruption,” according to Allianz Travel Insurance policies that include COVID coverage.
In a scenario like this, the covered limits will vary. But generally, you can expect to be covered for extra hotel nights, transportation costs because of the interruption and the money needed to potentially cancel your existing flight and rebook a new one.
These last-minute costs can really add up, so a policy that protects you against these losses is helpful.
Not all bookings are nonrefundable
As a general rule, travel insurance is best for protecting nonrefundable trip plans. If your transport or stay is nonrefundable, trip insurance will help you get your money back if you need to cancel for a covered reason.
However, many travel companies, including most airlines and hotels, have loosened their change and cancellation policies in recent years. United, for instance, has “permanently gotten rid of change fees for most economy and premium cabin tickets for flights within the U.S., or between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean.” Note that this doesn't include its basic economy fares.
If your spring break trip can be changed or canceled without a penalty, decide if you still need the benefits of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. You might not.
You can buy specific policies a la carte
If you’re still worried about trip interruptions — such as potentially catching COVID while traveling — you can buy separate trip interruption and travel medical insurance policies a la carte. This can be cheaper than buying a comprehensive plan.
Another instance when you may not need a comprehensive policy is if you booked your spring break trip with a credit card that offers travel insurance. While the limits may be lower than on a comprehensive plan, it may be enough for you. Built-in credit card travel insurance typically includes trip interruption coverage but not medical emergency expenses.
So if you choose not to buy a travel insurance policy, consider getting a separate travel medical insurance plan for peace of mind.
Award travel cancellations are a slightly different ballgame
Some award travel bookings — that is, bookings made with points and miles — still incur out-of-pocket taxes or redeposit fees for cancellations. In instances of covered trip changes, travel insurance can cover those costs.
However, several airlines and hotels have also loosened their change and cancellation policies for award bookings, and many allow travel rewards to be reinstated without cost.
Some travel credit card issuers, like Chase, offer cardholders an online travel booking portal. If you book travel on the platform with the credit card that includes built-in travel insurance, your trip will be covered. However, if you transfer points to an airline or a hotel, you no longer get the coverage from your credit card.
» Learn more: Does travel insurance cover award flights?
If you’re nervous you’ll change your mind
What if you found a good spring break deal that you want to book, but you’re not sure whether you’ll want to travel when the time comes? In this case, weigh your options.
If the flight and hotel have a flexible cancellation policy or the plans are refundable, you don’t need to get travel insurance right away. If you end up going, you can always purchase a policy a few days before departure.
However, if it's a nonrefundable booking, the only way you can cancel and get some of your money back for any reason is if you purchase a travel insurance policy and add on the optional Cancel For Any Reason coverage. CFAR will allow you to cancel a trip up to 48-72 hours before departure and gives back 75% of your nonrefundable deposits.
CFAR must be purchased at the same time as a comprehensive travel insurance plan, within 10-21 days of booking the trip, and must insure the entire amount of the trip.
Final thoughts on spring break travel insurance
If spring break travel is doodled in your planner, travel insurance can be useful for a variety of reasons — but it doesn’t make sense for every trip. Look at what coverage you have and comb through cancellation policies before booking. If you’re still nervous about the what-ifs, consider giving yourself more confidence in your travel plans and protect yourself with coverage.
It could be one less thing to worry about; plus, you’ll get an A in preparedness.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card