Watch CBS News

How to avoid getting duped by "worthless" travel insurance amid new threat of COVID cancellations

What to know about summer travel protection
What to know about summer travel protection amid COVID cancellations 04:40

Holiday travel is expected to rebound this summer after two years of disruptions caused by the pandemic. But Americans heading overseas should be prepared for potential flight cancellations as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

To make matters worse, travelers may have more trouble getting their money back if they test positive. Airbnb, for example, said it's dropping cancellation exceptions for COVID starting May 31, which means a host's original rules will apply.

One way to minimize the pain of cancellations is by choosing the best type of travel insurance. CBS News senior travel adviser Peter Greenberg said that was the top complaint among travelers during the pandemic, when many people opted to pay for travel insurance.

"They did it, but they had no idea what they were covered for. And worse, they had no idea what they were not covered for," he said Wednesday on "CBS Mornings."

Some of those travelers later discovered their insurance did not have any pandemic coverage, Greenberg said.

"So millions of dollars were lost, and basically people were out of their money," he said. "They bought worthless insurance and didn't get the cancellation."

Greenberg offered some tips on how and where to get travel insurance. First, don't buy it online, he said.

"Don't buy it from the travel provider themselves because many of them self-insure. So if they go out of business, so does your insurance," he said.

It's better to go through a third party, like a travel agent or a travel adviser, because they "can walk you through the hieroglyphics of that policy language so you know what the exclusions are," Greenberg said. He noted that insurance policies have exclusions for age, pre-existing medical conditions and even destinations for which the U.S. has issued travel warnings.

Travelers should expect to pay about 6% to 10% of the cost of their trip, Greenberg said.

"It's worth it, as long as you know what you're covered for as well as what you're not covered for," he said.

Despite rising COVID cases, airlines expect to see a surge in demand this summer as Americans become more comfortable flying — and can now do so without wearing a mask. 

A recent AAA report found twice as many bookings for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, compared to last year. And a survey by American Express revealed that 72% of Americans plan to travel more this year than last.

Greenberg also encouraged travelers to pay for medical evacuation and repatriation insurance since U.S. medical insurance doesn't typically cover them overseas.

"If you get sick or injured overseas, in the best policies they'll pay to get you stabilized over there," he said. "They will consult with your own doctor who knows your medical history, and then, if needed, they will fly you back on a medically equipped jet to the doctor and medical facility of your choice."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.