Swine flu messing with your travel plans?

With the swine flu alert level at level five, the anxiety level for many travelers has been  cranked up to 11.

And while the World Health Organization hasn’t officially called for a restriction on regular travel – just yet – worry about exposure to the deadly influenza bug is spurring many people to cancel or postpone their scheduled trips to Mexico.


If you have travel insurance you may be wondering:

Will my policy cover the costs associated with making those changes?

Briefly, it seems that the answer is: if you’ve got swine flu, yes; if you’re just worried about getting the bug, then maybe not.

Unless, that is, you’ve purchased an upgrade commonly known as “cancel for any reason” insurance. But even those policies come with restrictions: Usually a trip must be canceled 48 hours before departure and the policy must be purchased 14 days from the date of an initial trip deposit. And even then, there can be exclusions.

That’s why the U.S. Travel Insurance Association is urging everyone to “check with their individual travel insurance company and carefully review their policy to see what is covered.”

No insurance? You still have options

Most airlines, hotels and travel agencies are being flexible in relaxing reservation policies and waiving fees for cancellations and refunds – but each has set it’s own deadline for that. Right now the range is from May 6 through  the end of May.

If you’ve got a trip planned and are considering making changes, sit down and start charting your options, deadlines and alternatives.  Many airlines, resorts and hotels will let you make changes online, but if you need to call a supplier, set aside some time and patience: there are plenty of people in your situation, so you may be on hold for a long time.

phone5For more on this, see my complete MSNBC.com column – Insurance may not cover your canceled trip – and the related articles on that site.

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