The health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on how we all will travel going forward. And though it may be difficult to think about venturing far beyond your home during these uncertain times, here are some things to consider if you do decide to get away this fall or winter or are rescheduling the summer vacation you had to cancel this year.
1. Check your travel provider's cancellation policy
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many airlines and hotels have relaxed their cancellation policies by waiving traditional cancellation and change fees. The type of reimbursements will vary, depending on your travel provider, but may range from full refunds to vouchers/credit for future travel. It's important to contact your travel provider directly to find out their individual cancellation policies before booking.
2. Be aware of travel advisories
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, global travel advisories were at an all-time high, and domestic travel advisory were issued for certain geographic areas within the United States. Your first step before planning any travel should be to check the travel advisories for your destination. Be sure to visit the U.S. Department of State website at state.gov, along with your state and local government, for up-to-date travel warnings.
3. Read the fine print
Before you purchase a trip cancellation/interruption insurance policy, read the fine print to determine what is specifically covered. Typically, it will reimburse you only if you cancel your travel plans before you leave or cut your trip short due to an "unforeseen event" such as illness or death of a family member. Most policies with cancellation and interruption coverage will exclude a "known event" such as COVID-19 once it's declared an epidemic or pandemic.
If you are concerned about having to cancel or cut short a trip due to the coronavirus pandemic, one option you may have is to purchase additional "cancel for any reason" (CFAR) coverage. This is usually an add-on benefit to certain traditional trip insurance policies and allows you to cancel your trip for any reason up to a certain date before your departure (typically 48 to 72 hours) and will reimburse a percentage of your trip cost.
CFAR coverage can cost quite a bit more than a basic trip cancellation/interruption policy and may have additional eligibility requirements. In addition, you usually have to purchase CFAR coverage soon after purchasing your original policy (typically within two to three weeks).
4. Get a REAL ID if your driver's license is up for renewal
If you need to renew your driver’s license this year or next year, consider upgrading to a REAL ID. Starting October 1, 2021 (postponed from October 1, 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis), you’ll need to use a driver’s license with REAL ID credentials as identification when you travel by air domestically. If you don’t have a REAL ID, you’ll need to use another form of identification (such as your passport), since your regular driver’s license alone won’t get you through the gate.
Since many state motor vehicle registries are still closed as of this writing, some states are allowing people to use alternative REAL ID application processes. For example, in Massachusetts, you can begin applying for your REAL ID online. You can then complete the application (which requires several different kinds of documentation) in person at a local AAA office (most offices now require you to make appointments, which you can do online).
Other states may be re-opening their registry locations for in-person applications. Check with your own state’s motor vehicle registry to find out how they’re handling REAL ID applications.
Chris Gullotti is a financial advisor and Partner located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or [email protected]
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2020. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.