With the spreading omicron variant, should you get travel insurance?

Travelers enter security at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — This week with thousands of flights canceled, we have seen how COVID-19 really can still wreak havoc with travel plans. Travel can get expensive, so having travel insurance helps protect your vacation money – especially as the pandemic keeps everyone guessing.

But it turns out, fewer people say they are buying travel insurance this December than in December 2020. So, is the cost of the insurance worth it?

When the pandemic first struck, travel insurance rarely covered cancellations due to COVID-19. But times have changed according to travel insurance expert Kathy Kimmel of InsureMyTrip.com.

“The industry realized that COVID-19 would be considered unforeseen, so they are covering it as an unforeseen illness,” Kimmel explained.

So now, if you get COVID and cannot travel, travel insurance will cover your expenses including those prepaid, non-refundable deposits made on accommodations and transportation, and other expenses.

Yet, statistically, it seems interest in travel insurance is waning. In December 2020, half of travelers bought insurance according to the consumer website ValuePenguin. That number dropped down to 29{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} this December. Kimmel says that is likely because travelers still have travel insurance that carried over from canceled trips.

“What we found out from 2020 to 2021, the folks in 2020, who maybe had their trips canceled two, three times they’ve transferred to this year,” she said.

The industry realized that COVID-19 would be considered unforeseen, so they are covering it as an unforeseen illness.

–Kathy Kimmel, InsureMyTrip.com

Kimmel said typical travel policies cover health costs if you are outside the reach of your insurance network. Travel delay coverage can reimburse you for extra lodging and food if you have to quarantine during a trip. And if a canceled flight leaves you stranded at the airport, it can reimburse you for a hotel, meals, even transportation.

“First thing you always have to do is go up to the check-in counter and get some sort of document that states why you were delayed,” she advised. “Because it (the coverage) goes from then your time of flight on.”

But you should know, if you plan to cancel your trip because you are afraid you might come down with COVID, that is not a reimbursable claim unless you add “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage.

“You cancel two or more days prior to departure and you get up to 75{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} (of your trip expenses covered.) So, you’re right, at least it would be something,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel said the typical travel insurance will cost around 6{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} of your trip expenses but can run 10{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} if you buy the additional Cancel for Any Reason coverage. You can buy coverage any time before your trip, but she recommended having it in hand no later than 21 days before you take off. If COVID sidelines your travel plans, you must have insurance before getting sick to make a claim.

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