Travel Insurance and Natural Disasters: Are You Covered?


Ru Chen

- Updated June 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • You might need specific insurance add-ons to cover natural disasters
  • Travel insurance can cover expensive bills
  • Trip cancellations, medical expenses, and other plans can be tailored
Travel Insurance and Natural Disasters: Are You Covered?

Travel insurance helps travelers pay for emergency medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost baggage, and other unexpected events. With how unpredictable and disruptive natural disasters can be, carrying the right travel insurance policy is important.

This guide goes over how to see if your travel insurance covers natural disasters and how to decide what policy is best for you.


Understanding Coverage for Natural Disasters

Definition of Natural Disasters

Earthquakes: Earthquakes can cause structural damage to airports, streets, and public transportation systems. After an earthquake, it might be difficult for you to continue your trip as planned. Leaving or reaching the affected area may be impossible until repairs are completed.

Hurricanes: Airports and common carriers often shut down operations when there is a hurricane warning. This leads to widespread flight delays and cancellations, which can affect your trip.

Floods: Flooded roads and airports can cause lengthy delays and trip cancellations, interfering with your travel plans. Travelers may also get injured from flooding or ill due to waterborne diseases.

Wildfires: Wildfires can be unpredictable and dangerous, posing health risks to travelers in the area. Emergency medical services and medical evacuation may be necessary. Since the roads and transportation services might be disrupted by the fire, it can be difficult to leave or reach the affected areas.

Volcanoes: A volcano can cause smog, smoke damage, and widespread disruptions. Volcanic eruptions may not be covered if the insurer already views an eruption as an imminent possibility.

Standard Travel Insurance Coverage

The standard travel insurance policy covers trip cancellations, trip delays, emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and lost baggage. The perils and incidents covered relate to unforeseen events. While some travel insurers do cover natural disasters, this is not the case for every insurer.

Natural Disasters and Coverage

Standard travel insurance plans usually exclude natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. If you want them to be covered, you will need an add-on or a separate policy.

In addition, if an extreme weather event has already been predicted or named, such as a hurricane, it will not be covered.

If you’re heading to a destination with a high risk of natural disasters, such as wildfires and earthquakes, be sure that your policy includes the corresponding coverage.


Key Coverage Options Related to Natural Disasters

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance provides financial compensation if your trip gets disrupted by a covered reason. A natural disaster can cause flight cancellations, hotels to close down, and other issues that cut your trip short or force you to cancel it altogether.

If your trip cancellation insurance covers the natural disaster that affects your destination, you can receive a reimbursement for a portion or all of the prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses. This includes hotel fees, flight tickets, and other costs.

Generally, if a natural disaster is considered “foreseeable”, then it will not be considered a valid reason for canceling your trip. For example, when you purchase travel insurance, if a hurricane has already been named, it will not be covered by your trip cancellation insurance policy.

Emergency Medical and Evacuation Coverage

If a natural disaster causes injuries or illnesses, travel insurance can help cover a substantial portion of the emergency medical expenses. For example, it can cover:

  • Prescription medications
  • Treatment for illnesses
  • Stabilization and medical care
  • Diagnostics
  • Hospital stays

Medical evacuation insurance is another essential part commonly included in travel medical insurance. It covers emergency evacuation costs, such as if you need an air ambulance.

Repatriation coverage is an element that travelers should consider. If you are injured and need to be transported back to your home country for medical treatment, it can get extremely expensive.

Baggage and Personal Belongings Coverage

Belongings are often lost or damaged when transported on common carriers (e.g. airlines and cruises). If your belongings get damaged due to natural disasters, it may or may not be covered depending on your travel insurance policy. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the policy’s limits and exclusions related to natural disasters.

Travel Delay Coverage

Travel delay insurance can protect you in case your trip gets delayed for a covered reason, such as a natural disaster. What acts of God (AKA natural disasters) are covered will depend on your insurance provider.

Trip delay insurance can provide financial compensation for:

  • Transportation
  • Meals
  • Hotel rooms and lodging
  • Toiletries and personal items
  • Other necessary expenses incurred during the delay

Evaluating Travel Insurance Policies

Reading the Fine Print

Travel insurance policy terms and conditions can be complicated. Here are some terms you should know for travel insurance.

  • Coverage limit: This refers to the dollar cap on coverage. For example, your travel medical insurance might have a coverage limit of $100,000 in emergency medical expenses. Above that, and you would have to pay the extra costs yourself.

  • Deductible: Some policies come with a deductible. You have to pay out-of-pocket to reach the deductible before insurance coverage kicks in.

  • Excluded perils: These are incidents (e.g. earthquakes, fire, or war) that are not covered by insurance.

  • Pre-existing condition: A health condition that you already have before going on your trip. Most travel insurance companies exclude pre-existing health conditions from standard coverage.

  • Timely filing limit: You must file insurance claims within the timely filing limit or you risk claim denial. Usually, this is 90 days after the travel incident occurs.

  • CFAR time limit: Even with Cancel For Any Reason insurance, you typically need to cancel the trip and notify the insurer at least 48 hours before departure.

Keep an eye out for specific clauses related to natural disasters. That way you can know whether each type of natural disaster is covered by your policy.

Comparing Different Providers

Insurance providers use their own underwriters and insurance analysts to decide on their policy terms and conditions. Travelers should take the time to research and compare policies from various insurers before purchasing a plan. By comparing different travel insurance providers, you can find more suitable and affordable coverage.

Customizing Your Policy

If your insurance policy lacks the necessary coverage for natural disasters, you can customize your policy using riders, add-ons, or endorsements. Check to see whether your destination has high risks of certain natural disasters, and then tailor your travel policies to your specific travel risks.

Tips for Ensuring Adequate Coverage

Purchasing Insurance Early

Travelers are highly recommended to buy travel insurance as soon as possible once the trip has been booked. The benefits of buying insurance early include:

Better coverage: Ideally, you want to activate coverage promptly even before you set off for your trip. This is because you want a trip cancellation due to injuries, illnesses, job loss, or other reasons to be covered by insurance.

Cheaper insurance: Many travel insurance providers offer discounts for travelers to buy policies earlier rather than later. Obtaining travel insurance last minute often makes it much more expensive.

Pre-existing condition waiver: If you want to obtain coverage for your pre-existing health conditions, insurers typically require you to buy the policy within 14 days of making the initial trip deposit. The full nonrefundable, prepaid costs of the trip also need to be insured.

Documenting Everything

Documentation plays an important role in building a successful insurance claim. Make sure to keep detailed records of travel plans and expenses so that you can use them to build a case. By having sufficient proof, you can avoid insurance claim delays and disputes.

Here are the types of information you should keep safe in case you need to file an insurance claim:

  • Receipts
  • Medical records
  • Flight and hotel confirmations
  • Deposits and payments

Understanding Policy Exclusions

Travel insurance policies come with a list of exclusions that will not be covered. Before purchasing any insurance product, it’s important to be aware of what is not covered.

Risk Mitigation Strategies

If your purchased policy does not cover certain worrisome risks, you can still take action to protect yourself during your trip. Here are some useful ways.

  1. Look at natural disaster add-ons

Insurance add-ons, endorsements, and riders can help you tailor your insurance coverage so that it suits your needs. For example, if you’re headed to Hawaii, you might want to ensure you have earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods covered by your travel cancellation insurance policy.

  1. Take precautionary measures

Traveling is a great source of joy, relaxation, and bonding. By following local safety guidelines and staying informed about the risks of your destination, you can greatly improve your chances of a smooth travel experience.

Precautionary measures include:

  • Checking the weather forecast
  • Wearing suitable clothes
  • Avoiding high-risk areas and activities

Consulting with Insurance Specialists

Insurance experts, such as brokers and agents, can give you personalized guidance. This advice can help you choose the optimal policy for your trip and situation, tailoring coverage to your specific needs.

If you want to properly protect your trip’s financial investment, it is a good idea to consult with an insurance specialist.

Real-World Scenarios and Case Studies

Case Study: Trip Cancellation Due to Hurricane

A happy couple decided to go on a cruise together to the Caribbean. They planned their trip meticulously and booked it well in advance. Shortly after booking the cruise itself, Marie and Jake booked a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covered cancellations due to severe weather events and natural disasters, including hurricanes.

Unfortunately, a hurricane warning was issued a week before their cruise departure date. The cruise line ended up canceling the trip as a safety precaution.

Jake and Marie immediately reached out to their travel insurance provider, notifying them that the trip had been canceled. They supplied the travel insurer with the cruise booking confirmation, an official cancellation notice from the cruise line, and receipts for all nonrefundable, prepaid expenses.

After reviewing the claim, the insurance provider approved the reimbursement for all the prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses. This helped the couple recoup most of the losses, allowing them to plan for their next vacation without issue.

Case Study: Evacuation During a Wildfire

California has plenty of fun tourist spots to explore, but it also has a significant wildfire risk between June and October. Sarah was hiking when a wildfire abruptly broke out nearby, forcing her to quickly evacuate. The smoke caused some injuries that required urgent medical attention, and she also needed to evacuate to a safe location.

Sarah called her insurance provider’s 24/7 assistance hotline. An agent responded quickly to help her with her next steps, providing comfort and direction. After getting the necessary medical care and evacuating the dangerous area, Sarah was able to file insurance claims for her emergency expenses.

Case Study: Delayed Travel Due to Flooding

Trevor is enjoying his stay in Florida and is about to head back to his home in New York. An unexpected flood causes his cruise to get delayed. He will need to pay for his extended stay, which includes hotel, food, and other accommodations.

Thankfully, he can file a travel delay insurance claim. With his policy, flooding is covered as a reason for delay. He receives financial compensation of up to $300 a day, allowing him to afford the extra expenses during the delay period until he can safely head home.



Natural disasters may be excluded from standard travel insurance policies. Check your policy terms and conditions to see if you need any insurance add-ons. In general, natural disasters are excluded if they are predictable (e.g. a hurricane has been named).

Make sure that your trip cancellation and medical insurance policies cover issues caused by unforeseen natural disasters. Travelers should consider:

  • Medical evacuation coverage
  • Repatriation insurance
  • Trip delay insurance due to natural disasters

Finding a reliable insurance provider makes a big difference. Here are some of the best travel insurance companies that can protect your trip.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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