Booking a trip when someone close to you is being treated for an illness?

Booking a trip when someone close to you is being treated for an illness?

Last Updated on July 14, 2023 by Stacey Levesque

It is hard to decide if you should commit to a trip when you are worried that an illness can deteriorate to the point where, if you need to cancel or postpone your trip, you know you will lose money. Monies paid are mostly non-refundable for leisure travel arrangements. If you cancel early enough, you may get a partial refund, but there are deadline dates to be aware of. Cancellation penalties are necessary to avoid empty seats and hotel rooms and lower the cost of travel overall. Cancellation fees are unavoidable. They are usually written in stone. Unfortunately, sad stories to empathetic call centre agents will not work.

How your cancellation insurance will work:

If someone is aware of a new medical condition at the time travel is booked (received test results, consulted a doctor with symptoms) this condition will be considered a “pre-existing condition” and not covered by standard travel insurance policies.  It’s like trying to insure yourself for life insurance while having a condition – it increases the risks of payouts.

Cancellation insurance requires the reason for cancellation to be unforeseen.

If someone has been prescribed an increase or decrease in medication for the treatment of an illness within XX days before booking travel, they are not considered to be “stable” at the time of booking, and any deterioration caused by the change will not be covered.  Insurance companies are as concerned about decreases as they can have a negative effect.

All this said insurance WILL cover situations unrelated to the pre-existing illness that were unforeseen after the time of booking (slips and falls, a condition completely unrelated).

Here is an example of a situation that highlights WHY you need to be aware of the Terms & Conditions of your insurance policy:

An elderly parent or close family member has a condition, and you may not be aware of the situation concerning their test results, hospital visits, or consultations with doctors. The situation deteriorates. However, things are not so bad – weeks before you are set to travel, and you do not contact us for advice.

You have not read your policy booklet of the insurance carefully, so you are unaware of the pre-existing condition provisions or think they only apply to the travelling companions so you ASSUME you will be covered if they must cancel. The situation deteriorates as travel gets closer.

We are contacted to find out that if you are to cancel now, penalties are 100% therefore no refund.  Had you called just 10 days ago, you could have had a 50% refund.

What can you do to avoid these situations when booking travel with a possible uncertain need to cancel:

  • Advise our agent that you possibly have a pre-existing condition that may require you to cancel or postpone the trip you are about to book.  Our agents are required by regulation to offer cancellation and medical insurance at the time of booking, but customers “tune out”, feel sales pressure, and sometimes decline mid-sentence.  When it is called out, there will be extra diligence in explaining this thoroughly.
  • Paying more for the travel service may give the flexibility to change or cancel with lower penalties – particularly where airfare and hotel are purchased separately.  It is possible to buy travel on a fully refundable basis, but this is far more expensive than anyone typically wants to pay, but sometimes there is a middle ground.  Some cruise lines offer different deposit amounts and fares that are higher with a bit more flexibility.
  • Often the travel is packaged and there is an option to buy a waiver that relaxes the cancellation and change penalties.  This is not insurance, and there are strings.  Some or all the prepaid value will be turned into a credit to be used only by the passengers booked, within a period of time (often a year), with fees to re-book.  FYI – this is highly labour-intensive for us to cancel, track, and re-book and we charge service fees of $XX to process partial refunds and again when you are re-booking to apply a credit. 
  • Cancel for any reason is available for 25% more than the standard cancellation premium when purchased on the date of the booking by our agents (you cannot buy this product online).  You cannot purchase it after you book.  It will offer 75% coverage to a maximum of $XXXX per person if you cancel more than 14 days before departure and 75% up to a maximum of $1500 per person (only important if the price of travel is above $2,000 per person) if you cancel within 14 days and up to 72hrs prior.
  • No credit card or group insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions.

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