By Candyce H. Stapen
After more than a year of the pandemic lockdown, we've planned a June trip to Anguilla, a Caribbean island known for its gorgeous beaches and great food. We've booked a house at Long Bay Villas to celebrate all the missed birthdays and milestones for our multigenerational family.
We're happy, hopeful and also hesitant. After all, the pandemic still looms large. Many countries require negative COVID-19 tests for entry. If the coronavirus surges, places now open may slam their borders shut, locking visitors in or out with little or no warning.
More than ever, purchasing travel insurance is important. The right policy may help you recover lodging costs and, if needed, pay for healthcare. Anguilla is one of the destinations that require negative COVID-19 test results for entry. They also add a travel application on which each visitor, even toddlers, must show proof of medical insurance covering COVID-19 treatment as well as air-ambulance costs. As more visitors and locals are vaccinated, however, Anguilla announces new, less restrictive fees and rules.
To cut through the tedious legalese of insurance definitions, terms and conditions, we use www.squaremouth.com, one of several sites that compare policies, coverage and costs based on your checklist of requirements.
We chose a Seven Corners policy. Interestingly, the fine print does not explicitly state COVID coverage, but neither does the policy exclude it. An agent explained that Seven Corners treats COVID-19 as it would any other emergency illness. Our eyes rolled back in our heads when we envisioned explaining this to harried immigration personnel in Anguilla. Fortunately, our policy's summary clearly states coverage for COVID-19 treatment and medical evacuation. We plan to keep copies of the outline with our passports.
Once we receive approval to visit Anguilla, the hefty fees for fully vaccinated visitors staying fewer than 90 days currently are $300 for individuals and $200 for each dependent. This includes two COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, one upon arrival and one later, as well as surveillance and administrative expenses. We have not yet heard whether our primary U.S. insurance will reimburse us for these test expenses. After Anguilla officials approve our application and we show negative COVID tests within three to five days of arrival, we may enter Anguilla.
But what if we can't? Let's say a storm grounds our plane, causing us to miss two days of our vacation, or our grandkids come down with the flu three days before takeoff. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance should enable us to get refunds. Always pay attention to requirements. Most companies demand you purchase trip cancellation and interruption within 14 to 30 days of paying the initial deposit for your trip.
But what happens if, suddenly, we don't want to travel? If a coronavirus surge in the states or the Caribbean scares us from traveling, do we get the money back that we paid for our vacation? No, trip cancellation and interruption insurance doesn't cover fear. As long as Anguilla remains open to visitors, we'd forfeit the villa's payment as well as any other nonrefundable fees.
"Cancel for any reason" insurance (CFAR), as the name suggests, covers other reasons you might cancel a trip — your new job doesn't yet give you vacation days, you broke up with your fiance so you no longer need the expensive honeymoon safari or you want to be in town to attend a close friend's funeral. The bad news: These policies cost 40% to 50% more than other insurance and cover only about 75% of your costs.
We thought long and hard about purchasing the pricey "cancel for any reason" policy. Ultimately, we did. In a pandemic world, you never know what might happen, even though in June we're hoping to be beachside, listening to the lapping waves and catching up with our family.
WHEN YOU GO
Squaremouth compares nearly 100 travel insurance policies from more than 20 providers: www.squaremouth.com.
Long Bay Villas Anguilla consists of three stand-alone seaside properties. Two feature five bedrooms, and one has six bedrooms. Rates include Continental breakfast: www.long-bay-villas-anguilla.com.
For information on Anguilla: www.ivisitanguilla.com
Candyce H. Stapen is a freelance writer at www.greatfamilyvacations.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @FamilyiTrips, on Instagram @CandyceStapen, and discover www.hennyskids.org, Stapen's charity that brings solar-powered computers and training to rural schools in Africa. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
In the age of COVID-19, travel insurance is especially important. Photo courtesy of iStock.