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Will travel insurance cover me if I cancel my trip?


An emergency can cut short travel plans. This is where having travel insurance may help but what are you covered for? Read on to find out.

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Emergencies can’t always be avoided when it comes to travel, no matter how well you plan things. An emergency could arise before you go and mean you need to cancel your trip or one could crop up while you’re travelling, causing you to cut your trip short or change plans.

Having travel insurance can help when emergencies arise, but there are some circumstances where you may not be covered. It’s important to be familiar with the inclusions and exclusions in your policy ahead of time so you know what you will be covered for if you need to cancel or change your plans. Be mindful that individual policies can be tailored and the optional extras you select can affect what you will be covered for.

So, what are the most common causes of emergency cancellations and how do they impact your cover? Let’s take a closer look.

Medical and COVID emergencies


Smartraveller is a government website to help Australians travel safely. It provides up-to-date safety advice levels for a range of destinations. Check yourself; if the destination you wish to travel to is Level 3, reconsider your need to travel. If it’s Level 4, do not travel. You will likely not be covered by an insurer. Check Smartraveller for more details.

Before you depart: If you have an existing medical condition or are diagnosed with a medical condition that means you need to cancel your trip, immediately notify your insurance provider. Some conditions may be covered automatically, however others may be excluded. For example, if you or close family member contract COVID-19 prior to departure and it means you can’t leave as planned, this may be covered by some providers and plans, while others may exclude it. If in doubt, check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or call your provider. Ensure you keep a record of any medical documents which you may need to provide to make a claim.

After you depart: If you develop a medical condition or have a complication from an existing medical condition during your trip, you may need to change your plans. Some providers and travel insurance plans may cover this automatically, while others may either exclude it, depending on the condition. If you contract COVID-19 while on your trip for example, many providers have some coverage for this. However, if it’s a complication of an existing condition that’s excluded from your plan, you may not be covered. If this occurs, check the PDS and notify your provider. Ensure you keep a record of any medical documents from your trip which you may need to provide to make a claim.

Death of a loved one

If you need to cancel a trip because a family member unexpectedly dies, usually this will be covered by your travel insurance. If it’s before you leave, you may be reimbursed for some or all of your pre-paid trip expenses. If during your trip you need to return home due to a family death, travel insurance may reimburse you for some or all of your unused pre-paid costs due to your change in travel plans. Again, not all providers and plans will cover this, so refer to the PDS to check if your plan includes this benefit.

War and terrorism

Generally, acts of war and political unrest are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance before or after you leave, however your travel operator may provide a refund for cancellations they make as a result of these events.

Acts of terrorism are also commonly excluded, however some providers may cover cancellations due to acts of terrorism that occur after you depart or may offer cover before and after departure as an optional "add-on". Check with your provider for what is covered and not covered in your policy.

Natural disaster 

Some travel insurance policies offer limited coverage for certain unforeseeable events such as severe storms, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. If you find yourself impacted by a natural disaster make sure you act immediately and contact your insurer. If you delay doing this, it may impact whether or not they will cover you. As with any policy, limits and exclusions may apply. Check your PDS for more information. 

If you break the law, claims made as a result are unlikely to be covered under travel insurance. You are bound by the laws for the country you are visiting but the Australian Government will do what it can to help you within its limits. Visit the Smartraveller website for what to do in this situation.

Travelling against government advice

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continually review and update travel advice based on credible information. It’s advisable not to go against any travel warnings issued as these are in place to protect your safety. Be aware that travel insurance providers may not cover emergency travel cancellations before you depart that are a result of a government-issued travel warning. If advice changed after you left, this may be covered, depending on the type of warning and emergency.

Injury from high-risk activity

Some activities may be included in your policy but in the case of high-risk activities it may require an optional cover, or may not be covered at all. If you’re planning to do high-risk activities such as snow sports, scuba diving, and rock climbing, you may need to add them as an optional extra into your policy. If you are injured by any high-risk activity on your policy prior to leaving, get in touch with your insurer to see if they will cover this and keep a record of documents from your doctor.

Reckless behaviour: Being injured or robbed while intoxicated or scuba diving without a licence are examples of what may be classed as ‘reckless behaviour’ and excluded from your travel insurance policy. It’s a good rule of thumb to review PDS inclusions and general exclusions carefully to make sure you’re covered.

There is a lot to consider when evaluating and understanding what your travel insurance policy will and won’t cover with regards to emergency travel cancellations before and during a trip. Keep in mind that no two trips are the same and no two policies are the same. Be sure to investigate your PDS and reach out to your policy provider if you have any unanswered questions before you embark on your next adventure.  

Related reading: Smartraveller

Members save 10% on Travel Insurance*


National Seniors members receive a 10% discount on travel insurance policies*.

With some cruise cover automatically included, as well as cover for some coronavirus-related events, for when things don’t go to plan.

National Seniors Australia Ltd, ABN 89 050 523 003, AR 282736 is an authorised representative of nib Travel Services (Australia) Pty Ltd (nib), ABN 81 115 932 173, AFSL 308461 and act as nib's agent and not as your agent. This is general advice only. Before you buy, you should consider your needs, the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), Financial Services Guide (FSG) and Target Market Determination available from us. This insurance is underwritten by Pacific International Insurance Pty Ltd, ABN 83 169 311 193 *The discount applies to the total National Seniors travel insurance premium and is for National Seniors Australia members only. Discounts do not apply to the rate of GST and stamp duty or any changes you make to the policy. nib has the discretion to withdraw or amend this discount offer at any time. This discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or discount. 

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