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Gephardt: What Travel Insurance Can, Won’t Do If Coronavirus Affects Your Travel

FILE: Travelers at the Salt Lake City International Airport. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

BOUNTIFUL, Utah – Now is the time many Utah families are booking travel for their upcoming summer vacations. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has many wondering if they should get travel insurance.

That wondering has been keeping Columbus Travel agents in Bountiful busy answering calls and emails about the coronavirus. And it has owner Larry Gelwix pushing travel protection plans.

The plans come with a wide array of terms and conditions on what they cover and what they won’t. One thing they almost all do – provide you a reimbursement if you get sick during your trip. Coverage can include an emergency hospital visit or emergency evacuation. But again, only if you get sick.

“What travel protection does not include is, I’m afraid I might get sick,” Gelwix said.

Larry Gelwix of Columbus Travel explains the “Cancel for any Reason” waiver for travel insurance.

So, if you booked a trip to Hawaii and right before your departure the region is hit with COVID-19 and you wanted to cancel, many travel protection plans will not do anything for you. Also, if the outbreak forces your trip to get canceled or interrupted somehow, you likely will not be covered. But there is a very important exception.

“One of the most important things now with this coronavirus scare is ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ coverage,” said Gelwix, who has 40 years of experience in the travel industry.

If the U.S. Government issues a travel advisory for your destination, there is a strong chance you will see airlines waive change fees and cruise ships, letting you off that hook.

However, with “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, you have the power.

“Cancel for Any Reason” travel insurance covers coronavirus, but you must buy within two weeks of booking travel.

“You can cancel for any reason,” Gelwix said. “’I don’t feel like going to Hawaii today’ and for any reason.”

Two things you should know about “Cancel For Any Reason”: You have to buy it within two weeks of booking your trip and it will reimburse you for 50-to-70% of the cost of your trip.

Still, Gelwix said now — more than ever — travel insurance is something you should consider when booking your trip, even as he estimates less than five percent of travelers who buy it actually use it.

“The potential financial consequences can be enormous (without travel insurance),” Gelwix said. “I hate paying for my auto insurance but I wouldn’t dream of driving without it. And, so it is with travel protection.”

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