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How to Travel Safely in Uncertain Times

  • Angela Borden
Jul 14, 2016

Have recent terrorist events caused you to be fearful about traveling? It’s common these days for many people to be concerned about travel plans, especially when venturing abroad. Fear of the unknown is always difficult, and for this scenario it centers around not knowing when or where a terrorist event could occur and how to deal with it.     

The good news is people are not letting their fears prevent them from traveling. For example, two European cities have moved to the top of the list for American summer travel destinations — Rome and London. This is a change from 2015 when Cancun and Punta Cana were the most popular destinations. According to AAA’s senior vice president of travel and publishing, Bill Sutherland, “Europe remains very popular with American travelers despite recent terrorism concerns. A strong dollar, discounted pricing and a continued sense of resilience are motivating millions of Americans to venture across the pond for their summer vacations this year.”

What should a worried traveler do?
When you’re traveling, there’s no way to guarantee you will not encounter a terrorist event, but you can take a few steps to lessen the possibility and prepare yourself to deal with an event if it happens. Below are five tools to help you:

  1. When you plan your trip, pay attention to what has been occurring and what will be occurring at your destination. Is there an upcoming event that could make travel to that area potentially dangerous? One way to stay on top of this type of information is to enroll in the United States Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s free, and if you’re a frequent traveler you can create an account. You enroll your trip and receive travel alerts and warnings from the Department of State. It also provides three other key benefits:
    • You receive important safety notices from the embassy in your destination country.
    • It helps the U.S. Embassy contact you for many types of emergencies (natural disaster, civil unrest, family emergency)
    • Family and friends can use STEP to contact you in an emergency.  
    Setting up an account is easy. Pro Tip:  You’ll need your passport handy to answer questions about your passport number, date of issue, and expiration. Also, you’ll have the option to provide emergency contacts. This should always be a trusted person who is not traveling with you.
  2. Plan your itinerary ahead of time, share it with friends and family who are not traveling with you and arrange designated times to check in with them. If you’re traveling with others who are venturing out on their own, establish designated check-in times with them as well.
  3. Try one of the many travel apps that are available. Life360 has a wonderful one that allows you to see exactly where each member of your travel group is on a map, along with their current address. You can also message through it and send a help alert to your circle of connected members.
  4. Before you travel to an area, familiarize yourself with your destination, the location of nearby hospitals and how to contact emergency personnel. For example, in Europe, you dial 112 for a general emergency.
  5. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance. Before doing so, read your plan documents carefully so you understand exactly what is covered.

Coverage if You Need to Cancel Your Trip
Most travelers want to know if you can cancel your trip and get your money back if you’re scheduled to visit a location where a terrorist incident occurs. Or, maybe you’ve simply become more fearful about traveling because of recent events and want to cancel or interrupt your trip. 

Most trip cancellation plans have some type of coverage for a terrorist incident, provided the act of terrorism occurs in your destination city within a certain number of days of your scheduled arrival. This time limit usually ranges from 7 to 30 days and varies by plan.  

PRO TIP #1:
Normally, in order for a terrorist event to be covered, the U.S. Government must declare that the incident is an act of terrorism.

PRO TIP #2:
Once the event meets the definition of a terrorist incident, you will not have coverage for cancellation if you buy the plan after the date the event is declared a terrorist incident. Why? Because at that point, it is a known peril. The easiest way to explain this is with an example. You can’t buy car insurance once your car has been wrecked; you must have the coverage in place before that happens.     

PRO TIP #3:
What if you want to cancel your trip for any type of scary event and get your trip cost back? You need to buy a trip cancellation plan with an optional Cancel for any Reason (CFAR) benefit. With this, you can cancel your trip for literally any reason. Here are a few important points about CFAR you need to know:

  • You must buy it within a specified timeframe of paying your trip deposit (Roundtrip Elite allows up to 20 days).
  • You must buy coverage for 100% of your prepaid trip costs and any subsequent travel arrangements you add to your trip.
  • You must cancel the trip within the required time limit (RoundTrip Elite requires you to cancel 2 days or more before the scheduled departure date, and this is pretty common).
  • You will not be reimbursed for 100% of your nonrefundable trip deposits and will instead receive a stated percentage, typically ranging from 50% to 80% (75% for RoundTrip Elite).
  • You pay extra for this benefit, so you have to decide if the cost is worth it to you.   

Coverage if You are Hurt in a Terrorist Event
Trip cancellation plans typically cover medical expenses due to an accidental injury occurring during your trip, so if you were hurt in a terrorist attack, it would be covered.

A Helpful Friend
Seven Corners Assist is our 24/7 travel assistance team. Their services are provided with an insurance plan purchase. If you run into a travel emergency, and you’re not certain what to do, give them a call, chat with them, or send an email. They’re here to help.

We hope you find these tools helpful in planning your next trip. As always, we wish you safe and enjoyable travel wherever you are going! 


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