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Ask the Traveler: How can I plan around new travel risks?

From snap border closures to quarantine orders, worst-case travel scenarios have gotten, well, worse lately. But savvy travelers can still have their much-needed getaways and peace of mind. 

For those worried about getting sick abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks countries by COVID threat level. Fair warning: The safest spots often have the strictest entry protocols. Outdoors-focused travel and all-inclusives with vaccine requirements can limit exposure, too.

When the Omicron variant spiked last year, a few nations shocked travelers by suddenly closing their borders. Sidestep these scares by exploring domestic destinations. Or opt for U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that make for easy re-entry.

As for financial risks, consider buying trip insurance.

Personally, I’m a hard sell when it comes to extra travel expenses. But my nightmare scenario is testing positive abroad and having to foot the bill for a multiday mandatory quarantine. So, I insured a Central American vacay that coincided with both a variant spike and hurricane season. (What can I say, I like to fly by the seat of my pants … way back in coach.)

I’m hardly the only recent convert to travel insurance. “Demand for travel insurance has increased as consumers look for ways to protect their travel investment from cancellations caused by pandemic-related illnesses,” says Daniel Durazo, director of external communications for insurer Allianz Partners.

Like many firms, Allianz has enhanced its existing policies—for example, the company raised caps on the trip-interruption benefit for foreign quarantine—and rolled out new products aimed at satisfying destination-imposed insurance requirements. (Yes, that’s a thing now.)

Insurance isn’t a panacea, of course. Leisure travelers should read the policy carefully and weigh whether the cost of insurance—typically between 4% and 10% of the trip total—makes sense for each trip.

Purchasers may be surprised to find that many policies don’t cover cancellations due to border closures or government travel advisories, for instance. And some credit cards offer certain coverages when they’re used to book travel, but be sure to read the fine print.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to put my policy to the test. And for me, mitigating the travel risks that worried me most (and letting some others go) was worth the expense.

Want to suggest an Ask the Traveler topic? Write to Jessica Fender at westways@aaa-calif.com.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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