Due to the nature of travel planning for large groups, unforeseen circumstances can sometimes cause postponements, cancellations, or even mid-trip withdrawals. How can you protect your students, chaperones, and faculty from the risk of losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in non-refundable trip costs? There are solutions. Although not technically “insurance policies,” companies do offer numerous travel protection plans that can provide significant peace of mind before and during a trip. Once trip deposits and commitments are made, these plans can offset or refund monies paid when travel is prohibited.
Most well-established tour operators either offer plans or partner with reputable companies to offer plans that allow for sudden or unexpected changes, even if full cancellation is required. If a passenger falls ill or a trip is interrupted for any reason, protection plans may ensure a portion or all of the trip investment is refunded. However, as with any offering of this sort, it is essential to read the policy plan document’s fine print and determine what the policy covers, especially concerning acceptable reasons for cancellation.
The minimum offering provided by most tour operators is a standard protection plan. These basic coverages strictly limit the acceptable reasons for trip cancellation. However, if the reason for cancellation does fall under the limitations, the policy will typically reimburse up to 100% of the nonrefundable monies paid toward the trip before the trip departs. (These types of policies do not cover cancellation for pandemic or school/government-mandated shut-down reasons.)
Cancel for Any Reason Plans
Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) clauses are not standard in travel plans, but they are available as an upgraded option. Without this highest level of protection, the tour company or protection plan provider will likely not offer any refund or reimbursement unless under stringent conditions such as acute sickness or hospitalization of the traveler. CFAR plans can also have a short list of approved refund reasons for 100% refundability. If the reason does not fall under the short-list of allowable injury, sickness or death, then the reimbursement or refund would likely be 75%. Considering the recent COVID-19 pandemic crisis, where many school trips were canceled under no control of the tour operator or participants, CFAR policies are the only ones that will cover pandemic-related cancellations or government-mandated shutdowns.
Most policies have a 72-hour window for cancellation prior to the trip. Once inside the 72-hour window and while on tour, all protection plans will transition to only issue refunds for extremely limited cancellation reasons. But, they do allow for reimbursement should you have to change flights, delays requiring a stay in a hotel (up to $750), lost baggage, or medical costs that aren’t covered by your own health insurance.
How Trip Refunds and Reimbursements Are Issued
For any travel protection plan, it is essential to understand how reimbursements or refunds are handled during cancellation. Some larger tour operators may state they offer a “100% refund policy” if a trip is canceled or participation is prohibited. However, it may be issued in voucher form that must be redeemed with their company on future travel.
Unless your school has already agreed to travel in the future with the tour company in a year when your student is still in school, you may not be able to redeem the voucher. To prevent this, ensure that any refund is a cash or credit card reimbursement.
It’s important to note, participants who have purchased a travel protection policy will receive their refund from the travel protection underwriter, not the tour operator. Passengers should reference their plan documents regarding the submission of their claim and check on the status of their refund.