Travel Insurance

Does Travel Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

Does Travel Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

We’re all familiar with the buzz around emergencies and natural disasters—whether it’s an emergency alert on your phone, a natural disaster news story on TV, or a tweet popping up in your feed. But if you were caught in a natural disaster, would you know what steps to take? How about if a natural disaster disrupted your scheduled or current trip?

You might wonder if travel insurance could provide protection in this scenario. While it depends on the type of policy you purchase, travel insurance generally covers natural disasters.

Table of Contents

What Is a Natural Disaster

What Do Insurance Companies Consider a Natural Disaster?

What Does Travel Insurance Cover in a Natural Disaster?

Does Travel Insurance Cover Severe Weather Including Hurricane Damage?

Foreseeable vs. Unexpected Natural Disasters

What Disasters Are Not Covered by Insurance?

What to Do if You Are Stranded Abroad

How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster Emergency

Trip Insurance & Natural Disasters: Real-World Scenarios

Choose Wisely with a Trusted Travel Insurance Partner

Here’s what you need to know about handling natural disasters while traveling and how trip insurance can help.

What Is a Natural Disaster?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, natural disasters include: “all types of severe weather, which have the potential to pose a significant threat to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security.” These events can include, but aren’t limited to, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, and snowstorms.

What Do Insurance Companies Consider a Natural Disaster?

The definition of a natural disaster used by insurance companies typically aligns with that of the Department of Homeland Security, focusing on natural events or perils that are beyond human control. However, the exact definition and coverage can vary by insurer and policy.

A covered natural disaster could include:

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Blizzard
  • Hurricane
  • Cyclone
  • Tornado
  • Tsunami
  • & more
Natural disaster coverage will vary from plan to plan. It’s important to review a policy’s wording to understand what types of natural disasters are covered and other conditions that must be met in order to receive benefits for trip cancellations, interruptions, or delays.

When it comes to travel insurance, it’s important to note that coverage is for those natural disasters which occur unexpectedly – meaning that if a natural disaster is imminent and reported before you purchase your travel insurance policy, you likely won’t be covered for your travel interruptions.

However, a sudden and unexpected covered natural disaster as listed in the policy’s description of coverage would be considered an eligible reason for benefits if it causes a hiccup in your travel plans.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover in a Natural Disaster?

Unexpected circumstances are a natural part of life. Travel insurance protection for natural disasters acknowledges this. It can provide numerous benefits if a weather emergency disrupts your trip, ultimately reducing financial and personal stress.

Trip Cancellations

Travel insurance can cover canceled flights due to weather concerns. If you need to cancel your trip, your travel insurance policy will reimburse you for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses, such as transportation and lodging fees. Trip cancellations specifically pertain to travelers who must cancel their trip completely before departure.

Trip Interruptions

What if you’re already on your trip? If you’ve got trip interruption on your policy, you should be good.

Let’s say a natural disaster occurs while you’re on vacation. As a result, you have to cut it short. Travel insurance can cover the costs of any remaining travel expenses (e.g., unused lodging fees) and any additional transportation costs to get you back home safely.

Trip Delays

An unexpected natural disaster can also cause delays in trip schedules. If this is the case and your policy includes trip delays, your insurance can cover additional costs, such as accommodation and meals you may need during the delay.

Emergency Medical Evacuations and Repatriations

Emergency medical evacuation is a procedure that involves airlifting an injured or ill person from a hard-to-access area and transporting them to the nearest medical facility for care. For the uninsured traveler, the evacuation alone could cost upwards of $100,000.

With trip insurance, your medical evacuation would likely be covered. Additionally, the repatriation benefit available on some trip insurance plans can help cover costs if you need to return to your home country for care.

Even though it’s not pleasant to think about finding yourself in such dire circumstances, natural calamity coverage in travel policies can significantly lessen the financial impact of a bad situation.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Severe Weather Including Hurricane Damage?

Yes, travel insurance typically covers unexpected severe weather and its impacts on your trip. This often includes hurricane damage that renders your destination uninhabitable. Before your trip, we advise you to carefully read your policy to educate yourself on the exact types of severe weather and conditions your insurance covers. 

Foreseeable vs. Unexpected Natural Disasters

Note that if a natural disaster is considered foreseeable before purchasing your policy, your claims (any of the circumstances noted above) may not be eligible for reimbursement. 

The key phrase to keep in mind is unexpected natural disasters. To receive coverage, you need to purchase your insurance plan before the severe weather develops into a “known event.” For example, if a hurricane happening near you has already been named, it is likely too late to purchase travel insurance and get disaster-related coverage. 

Again, travel insurance policies differ, so we encourage you to do your research. It’s always a good idea to plan for the unexpected to mitigate as much financial and personal risk as possible. Travel insurance can help you achieve this. 

Reach out to an insurance policy professional to ensure you’ve got all your bases covered.

What Disasters Are Not Covered by Insurance?

Travel insurance policies vary widely in coverage and exclusions. However, there are some common exclusions and limitations that apply to many travel insurance plans.

Here are some disasters that standard travel insurance policies might not cover:

  • Pandemics and epidemics: Many travel insurance plans exclude coverage for losses related to pandemics or epidemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • War or terrorism: Damage or disruptions caused by war, terrorism, or related events are typically excluded from coverage, even if they result in disasters like bombings.
  • Nuclear accidents: Travel insurance usually does not cover losses arising from nuclear accidents, radiation, or nuclear warfare.
  • Volcanic eruptions: Some travel insurance plans may exclude coverage for losses due to volcanic eruptions, especially if the volcano was active before the policy was purchased.
  • Civil unrest: Damage or disruptions resulting from civil unrest, riots, or political instability might not be covered by travel insurance.
  • Specific weather events: While some travel insurance plans cover weather-related incidents like flight delays due to snowstorms, coverage for extensive weather-related damage or cancellations (e.g., due to widespread flooding or hurricanes) can vary.
  • Losses after evacuation: Travel insurance may not cover expenses incurred after you’ve been evacuated from an area due to a natural disaster or other emergency.

What to Do if You Are Stranded Abroad

If you’re stranded abroad in the event of a natural disaster and unsure what to do, there are two main courses of action: 

  • If you have travel insurance, you can file a claim. The claim should document losses with relevant receipts (e.g., flight tickets, cancellation costs). If applicable, you can also request repatriation to get you and your loved ones back home safely. 
  • If you do not have travel insurance, contact the embassy or consulate of your home country. They can provide guidance on the best way to navigate your situation. While there is no guarantee that your expenses and losses will be covered, keeping a record is still in your best interest.

How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster Emergency

The best thing travelers can do is prepare for a natural disaster before it even happens. Here’s how:

  • Follow alerts and travel advisories. Keep up with travel advisories and alerts for your destination city and country so you know what to expect. If there are any risks or potential dangers you can prepare before you even leave. 
  • Plan and pack carefully. If you’re traveling to a destination prone to natural disasters or during a time when weather-related events are more likely to disrupt your trip, pack any items you might need in the event of severe weather, like a first aid kit or an emergency go bag.
  • Strategize for worst-case scenarios. While you’re much more likely to have your trip canceled by a natural disaster than actually get caught in one while traveling, it can still happen. The bulk of your trip planning can and should center around building your dream itinerary, but you should also devote some time to strategizing for weather-related catastrophes. This includes making sure you have an emergency plan in place and every traveler in your party knows what they need to do should the worst happen.
  • Buy trip insurance with Cancel For Any Reason. This coverage can give you more flexibility and protect your financial investment. While basic trip insurance may cover expenses if you inclement weather cancels your flight or cuts your trip short, only Cancel For Any Reason or Interruption for Any Reason coverage gives you the ability to cancel or cut your trips short for any reason and still recoup prepaid financial losses. Some stipulations do apply, so you always want to read your policy documents.

Trip Insurance & Natural Disasters: Real-World Scenarios

It’s important to understand the details and limitations of trip insurance coverage so you know exactly what to expect in the event of a natural disaster. The best way to be sure of what is and isn’t covered by a trip insurance plan is to read the policy documents before you make a purchase.

But since policy language can be confusing, it’s a good idea to reach out to licensed trip insurance experts, like the team at VisitorsCoverage, for help breaking it all down into simple, accessible language. To give you a better idea of what trip insurance may and may not cover in specific scenarios, we’ve got a few stories for you.

Earl and the Earthquake

Earl is planning on visiting San Francisco for the first time. Before leaving his home in Minnesota, he buys trip insurance. Three days before he’s scheduled to depart, an earthquake hits San Francisco, grounding all flights for the next week.

Since Earl’s flight is canceled, he is now out for the costs of nonrefundable prepaid expenses like flight tickets and hotel deposits. His lost expenses total $1,000.

Will Earl Be Reimbursed?

Yes, most likely. The good news for Earl is that since he had purchased the trip insurance well before the earthquake was perceived as an imminent threat, his policy should reimburse him.

However, he must file a claim, thoroughly documenting these losses with receipts and any other important notes. The claim will then go through a review process. If it’s deemed credible, the reimbursement will be approved.

Harold and the Hurricane

Harold is vacationing in Miami during hurricane season. Since he doesn’t expect anything but fun and sun, he neglects to get trip insurance.

However, two days into his trip, he gets a notice that Hurricane Ian is headed for Miami. He thinks quickly, gets online and purchases a trip insurance policy.

When the storm hits, his hotel is badly damaged, he needs medical attention, and his return flight home has been canceled. He’s looking at a total of $7,000 in fees.

Is Harold Covered?

Unfortunately, no. Trip insurance will only cover unexpected natural disasters. Harold didn’t even think about trip insurance until he found out Hurricane Ian was headed his way.

Trip insurance won’t cover the policyholder for any impact a hurricane or tropical storm has if purchased after the storm has been named. Had Harold planned ahead and spent as little as $100 to buy a policy, he could have avoided all those fees.

Beth and the Blizzard

Before Beth leaves for her big ski trip in Colorado, she purchases trip insurance. On her second day of skiing, Beth gets stuck in a blizzard. She’s stranded in the snow and sub-zero temperatures for hours.

When emergency crews find Beth, she is badly in need of medical attention. They escort her to the nearest hospital, where she is treated, kept overnight for observation, and discharged. Although Beth makes a full recovery, her medical bills total $20,000.

Is Beth Covered?

Yes, most likely. Trip insurance often includes Accident & Sickness coverage. Depending on the plan policy, this benefit can cover unexpected costs related to urgently needed medical care up to $500,000.

Beth would need to file a claim that includes medical receipts, doctor’s notices, and any other pertinent information. The insurer will review the claim and make a judgment. If the claim is deemed credible, it will be approved.

Choose Wisely with a Trusted Travel Insurance Partner

In recent years, natural disasters have become more frequent. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and snowstorms have been responsible for upending numerous trips. But you can take steps to lessen the impact of these catastrophic events. To learn more about what emergency coverage for natural disasters can do for you, explore trip insurance plans with VisitorsCoverage.