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Travel Insurance - Buy it or Deny it?

The talk of the past week has been “What will happen with Hurricane Dorian and how will it affect St. George Island?” While the major hurricane turned north and did not affect St. George Island (just 7-8 days ago it looked like St. George Island vacationers were going to be impacted by two major hurricanes in less than twelve months), it is still having a major impact on the Atlantic coast. Just a few days ago, those renting vacation homes on St. George Island were seriously questioning whether they should make the drive down for the Labor Day weekend.

Nobody wants to see this when heading to SGI! (Radar snapshot courtesy of Weather Channel)

As many remember, just 331 days ago (October 10, 2018), Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach with peak maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The hurricane caused $25 billion in damages to the Florida panhandle and significantly impacted St. George Island. At one point, just about 24 hours before the storm made landfall, St. George Island was in the direct path of the eyewall. Thankfully (for those in our area; unfortunate for those in Mexico Beach), the hurricane turned north and west and as a result made landfall just west of Mexico Beach.

Mexico Beach - October 2018 (Photo courtesy of NY Times)

So…why the history lesson? A hurricane on the gulf coast can really ruin a vacation! Last year, the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Michael meant that many travelers were not able to enjoy their St. George Island beach vacation. We wanted to give travelers an idea of when they should consider travel insurance and when it’s probably not worth the money.

Reasons to purchase travel insurance:

1) Pre-existing condition – If you have a recent or chronic medical condition that could affect your ability to go on your vacation, you should definitely consider travel insurance. According to Allianz Travel Insurance, a “pre-existing condition” could include any condition that “1) caused a person to seek medical examination, diagnosis, care or treatment by a doctor, 2) Presented symptoms or 3) Requires a person to take medication prescribed by a doctor.” For example, a person with cancer that could require radiation or chemo treatments would be considered a pre-existing condition. A last minute health emergency related to your pre-existing condition for a summer trip to St. George Island that was booked twelve months in advance would result in a loss of thousands of dollars. Therefore, travel insurance would reimburse you for the cost of your trip (assuming you have a plan with pre-existing condition coverage).

2) Hurricane season – In our area on the Florida Gulf Coast, tropical weather (i.e. hurricane season) is a threat from June 1 to November 30. The peak of Hurricane Season is mid August through late October (i.e. right now!). If you are traveling any time during hurricane season, travel insurance is highly recommended.

We recently surveyed approximately 100 vacation rental owners across the country. All of the owners have cancellation policies that range from absolutely no refund to partial refunds if you cancel at least 30 days in advance. However, if a hurricane hits the area and a mandatory evacuation takes place, many homeowners (including SGI Beach Vacations) will forego their stated cancellation policy and issue a full refund anyway. However, this generosity adds a significant burden to the homeowner. Not only does the homeowner have to pay for repairs to their property, many will also reimburse travelers for their lost vacation. However, if travelers spent a small amount of money on a proper travel insurance policy, the financial burden of traveler refunds is eliminated.

3) High priced vacation – While a beachfront vacation on St. George Island always sounds great, it also carries with it a significant cost (typically a 4 bedroom beachfront home would cost more than $5,000 for a week in the summer). A summer vacation where rates are highest on St. George Island is also a prime time to purchase travel insurance. Reimbursement for the cost of the trip could result in a significant refund, making the small outlay for travel insurance well worth the cost. There are even “cancel for any reason” policies that you can purchase.

When you probably don’t need travel insurance:

1) Short & last minute stays – While we typically rent our homes by the week at St. George Island Beach Vacations, we do occasionally allow shorter or last minute stays. These short stays typically carry with them a far smaller financial burden than a week-long stay in peak season. Therefore, travel insurance is likely unnecessary.

2) When you can afford to lose the money – Similar to #1 above, if losing the money that you paid for a trip does not result in a big burden for your personal finances, then you probably don’t need travel insurance.

Two things to remember:

1) To qualify for full coverage under a travel insurance policy, you typically must purchase it within 15 days of signing your rental contract or making the payment for your vacation. For instance, most travel insurance policies do not allow for pre-existing condition coverage if you purchase the policy after 15 days. Also, if you decide to purchase travel insurance after a known possibility of tropical weather (and the potential for a tropical storm or hurricane) more than likely your travel insurance policy will not cover the cost of your vacation for that tropical weather. Purchase the policy right away to get the best coverage!

2) Check your credit card for any travel protection that may be associated with your card. For example, some Chase Sapphire credit cards offer trip cancellation/interruption insurance if you’re a card holder. Check the fine print and see if you can save money. (Note: we do not receive any benefit from Chase for mentioning their cards.)

If you’d like a quote for travel insurance, you can click on the link here. We have decided to offer travel insurance in order to provide the full suite of services to our guests at St. George Island Beach Vacations when they book direct that they could get at one of the largest management companies or VRBO.

Have you ever purchased travel insurance and needed to use it? Tell us in the comment section below.


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