Why You Should Consider Buying Trip Cancellation Insurance

From a fender bender that leaves your car with an unsightly dent, to a storm that wreaks havoc on your roof, insurance is a lifesaver during unforeseen circumstances. We don’t think twice about protecting our vehicles and houses, but many people underestimate the value in purchasing cancellation insurance for their vacations. Having to cancel a trip that you were excited about is disheartening on its own, without the added stress of financial loss. Purchasing trip cancellation insurance allows us peace of mind when things don’t go as planned. Read on for GEEO’s guide to trip cancellation insurance.

What is trip cancellation insurance?

Trip cancellation insurance, or TCTI (Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage), is a safety net that protects a traveler financially in the event they must unexpectedly cancel a trip. In certain circumstances, the traveler can file a claim with the insurance provider to be reimbursed for the cost of their canceled trip; the amount of the reimbursement varies based on the policy and provider.

What happens if I cancel off of a GEEO/G Adventures program?

We have tremendous sympathy for our participants who must make last-minute cancellations. Unfortunately, it is rare that we can deviate from the cancellation terms and conditions listed below:

  • Cancellation 60 days or more prior to the program’s start date: Deposit is kept on file for future use and all other program fee payments are refunded.
  • Cancellation between 30–59 days prior to the program’s start date after paying final balance: 50% refund and your deposit is kept on file for future use.
  • Cancellation within 30 days of the program’s start date after paying final balance: No refund, but your deposit is kept on file for future use.

For more information, please see our Terms and Conditions or reach out to us. Our Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica trips have different terms and conditions.

If you do not purchase cancellation insurance for your GEEO program, you must be prepared to accept the financial penalty that could be incurred if you cancel within 60 days of your program’s start date.

Why should I consider getting trip cancellation insurance?

On average, two percent of GEEO travelers cancel their trip within 60 days of their program’s start date, triggering cancellation penalties. While cancellations happen for many reasons, below are a few common scenarios we’ve seen:

  • Traveler A was just days away from departure before they became very sick and tested positive for Covid-19. They were not able to participate in their trip both because they were contagious and not well enough to travel.
  • Traveler B had a family emergency that was covered under the cancellation insurance plan they had purchased. Thanks to trip cancellation insurance, they were able to cancel their trip and get their qualifying travel expenses refunded by the insurance company.
  • Traveler C’s trip to the Galapagos Islands faced a setback when their initial flight was canceled. They were rescheduled for a flight two days later, but on this program, the group departs the mainland for the islands on Day 2. In this case, having cancelation insurance that covered flight issues allowed Traveler C to cancel and postpone their trip for the future, rather than miss out on the first day in the islands. While most GEEO programs do not pose such catch-up challenges, it’s crucial to note this risk for trips that leave the starting city/location on Day 2. Arriving a day or more early and booking extra pre-trip nights is another way to provide a buffer against delays. Please note that not all cancellation insurance covers flight problems.

Which insurance does GEEO recommend?

Emergency medical insurance is already mandatory for GEEO travelers. Our suggested provider is the Volunteer Card, whose Premium Plan for emergency medical coverage is priced at just $79, is valid for a full year, and will cover any trips (international or domestic) that take place at least 100 miles away from the traveler’s home. This means if you participate in multiple GEEO programs within the same year, you can not only take advantage of our multi-trip discount, but you can also use the same medical insurance policy for all of your trips.

Cancellation insurance can only be purchased as an add-on to a travel health insurance policy. Given the excellent value of the Volunteer Card travel health insurance policy, if you opt to purchase cancellation insurance, the best deal would likely be adding TCTI coverage to your Volunteer Card plan. This coverage costs 6.5% of your chosen insured amount (e.g., $195 for $3,000 travel expenses), and TCTI coverage can be added for multiple trips during the travel insurance plan’s one year of validity.

Please note that you should exclude your $350 deposit when calculating your trip cost. This deposit, which you pay when initially booking your GEEO or G Adventures trip, is not refundable but can be put on your file for future use; insurance companies will typically not provide reimbursement for payments that are held as future travel credits. For example, if you wish to purchase TCTI for a $1,000 flight and a $2,000 GEEO program, you would want to insure a total trip cost of $2,650; this amount of coverage would cost $172.25 with Volunteer Card, plus the $79 base premium, for a total of $247.25.

When should you buy cancellation insurance?

Cancellation insurance providers have different requirements on when coverage must be purchased, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with individual policies. If you decide to purchase the add-on through Volunteer Card, we strongly recommend purchasing TCTI insurance at least 60 days before departure so that you are covered from the moment you make final payment for your trip. Volunteer Card only requires you to add cancellation insurance at least 10 days in advance of your departure date, but this means you risk not having coverage if an unexpected event occurs between final payment and the date you purchase TCTI. If you do not already have TCTI coverage at the time of the incident, you will not be able to file a cancellation reimbursement claim, as documentation must be dated. You can find more information about Volunteer Card’s reimbursement policy here.

What situations are covered by Volunteer Card?

While there are many events that could prevent you from traveling, the specific situations covered by Volunteer Card’s cancellation insurance include:

  • Sickness, injury or death of you or your traveling companion, you or your traveling companion’s family member, or business partner.
  • Common carrier delays or cancellations (e.g., flight delays or cancellations) that are outside of the customer’s control, such as mechanical issues, inclement weather, or organized labor strikes that affect public transportation. (If the airline provides you with a credit that doesn’t meet your satisfaction, you may let the credit expire and still apply for TCTI coverage. If you accept the credit provided by the airline, you will not qualify for TCTI coverage.)
  • Financial insolvency of your tour operator, airline, hotel, rental car company, etc.
  • A terrorist act which occurs in your departure city or in a city which is a scheduled destination for your trip, provided the terrorist act occurs within 30 days of the scheduled departure date.

What situations are not covered by Volunteer Card?

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Normal pregnancy or resulting childbirth
  • Participation as a professional in athletics
  • Declared or undeclared war or any act of war, civil disorders, or travel warning/alerts
  • Mechanical issues resulting in flight cancellation

How far in advance do I need to cancel a trip to be covered by Volunteer Card?

While there is no deadline to notify Volunteer Card of a canceled trip, sooner is better than later, as Volunteer Card will need documentation to file your claim.

How much money will I get reimbursed?

Volunteer Card’s TCTI coverage will reimburse you for 100% of your uncompensated (i.e., no refunds or travel credits) travel costs, as long as the reason for cancellation is covered and proper documentation is provided during the claims process.

What if I want to insure a trip for a reason outside of the situations Volunteer Card covers?

If you want your trip insurance for situations beyond those covered by Volunteer Card, consider purchasing Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) insurance. As the name suggests, these policies provide broader coverage and allow considerable flexibility. Here are some examples of situations covered by CFAR:

  • Your new passport didn’t arrive on time.
  • Travel guidelines for your destination change. (Even if it’s no longer recommended to travel somewhere, standard trip insurance is not guaranteed to cover cancellation.)
  • Unexpected job changes.

Cancel For Any Reason insurance has limitations. Most CFAR plans must be purchased within 10-21 days of the day you first book your trip, though policies vary. As GEEO programs are not confirmed until at least 8 participants are booked, you may risk purchasing insurance for a trip that does not end up running. While rare, this scenario is worth considering before investing in CFAR coverage.

Also, to take advantage of CFAR coverage, travelers often must cancel their trip at least 48-72 hours prior to departure, meaning you cannot make a last-minute cancellation decision.

Finally, CFAR reimbursement is typically only 50-75% of the trip cost.