Travel agents recommend buying it in case an emergency disrupts your plans.

Cruise lines require it if you don’t have the COVID-19 vaccine.

But what is travel insurance, and what does it do for travelers if something goes wrong when they travel?

Depending on the type of coverage offered, travel insurance can help people when unexpected setbacks occur on their vacations.

More travelers intend to play it safe because of the pandemic. A recent survey from AAA, the Auto Club Group, found about 48% of Floridians are more likely to buy travel insurance now than before the pandemic began.

“Travel insurance is extremely important in today’s environment,” Debbie Haas, AAA’s Vice President of Travel, said in a statement. “There are various policies that can help offset unexpected out of pocket expenses, in case you get sick or your trip is cancelled or delayed.”

What Travel Insurance Does

Generally speaking, travel insurance will protect travelers when a covered illness, job loss or an unforeseen event like a terrorist attack prevents someone from traveling.

Travel insurance will help reimburse travelers for nonrefundable expenses resulting from trips cut short or canceled because of a circumstance covered under the plan, cover baggage loss or damage, and provide emergency benefits during travel, according to AAA.

Robert Paluszak, president of The Villages Worldwide Foreign Travel Club, recalled one club member who purchased travel insurance and had a vacation cut short due to a fall.

Travel insurance covered the medical evacuation and medical treatment the member needed, he said.

“They were very helpful,” said Paluszak, of the Village of Mallory Square. “They flew a nurse to escort her through the whole process. She was just amazed at the quality of care.”

Since the pandemic, some insurance companies are adapting their service to meet pandemic-related needs, such as covering doctor or hospital visits due to COVID, trip cancellations due to COVID, a doctor ordering a quarantine before a trip, and pandemic-related job losses, according to InsureMyTrip, a travel insurance comparison website.

Allianz Travel Insurance, an AAA travel insurance partner, began offering plans that include an Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which covers trip delays, interruptions or cancellations because of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

What Travel Insurance Doesn’t Do

Most travel insurance plans will not cover trips that are canceled or cut short because of known or foreseeable events, or fears of travel, according to AAA.

The only option available to cancel a trip because of fear of travel is an add-on offered in some plans called cancel for any reason, or CFAR, according to InsureMyTrip.

As the name suggests, it allows a traveler to cancel their travel plans for any reason beyond what’s covered on a policy, though travelers aren’t fully reimbursed for their itinerary’s costs. It typically amounts to 50% to 75% of costs, according to InsureMyTrip.

Cancel for any reason policies may be attractive to travelers concerned about COVID because not all pandemic-related claims are readily covered, Paluszak said.

“I know people who got caught with COVID-type claims and the bottom line is some companies thought it was an act of God or a known precondition, so it wasn’t covered,” he said. “Or if their destination was still open and had a high risk, the insurance wouldn’t pick up on it.”

Why Insure

For many travelers, purchasing travel insurance gives them a sense of security in case something should go wrong.

But for others — especially international travelers — it can be a necessity.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line require cruisers to purchase travel insurance ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 before their itinerary if they don’t provide proof of vaccination. Some countries including the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cuba and the British Virgin Islands require insurance for visitors to enter, according to InsureMyTrip.

“Travel insurance is now top-of-mind for travelers,” Cheryl Golden, vice president of ecommerce for InsureMyTrip, said in March about increased demand for travel insurance. “And, as the travel industry begins to rebound from a pandemic-related slump, we are doing everything we can to ensure travelers have the right travel insurance.”

Ultimately, the decision to insure a vacation rests in the hands of the traveler, Paluszak said.

“It’s an interesting topic, but there’s no right answer,” he said. “But if you talk to somebody who’s used it, they’re a big fan of it.”

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.