The short answer, in most such cases, is "probably not, unless you bought a cancel-for-any-reason policy -- and maybe not then, either." Two almost universal conditions in almost all travel insurance limit your chances for recovery.
You can cancel because of "terrorism" at your destination, but even that can be limited. Different companies use varying definitions of "terrorism;" most say an act of violence resulting in loss of life or major damage, a few limit coverage to incidents declared to be terrorism by the U.S. government, and some limit coverage to attacks carried out by a person acting in connection with a generally recognized terrorist organization.
-- Some terrorism coverage is time sensitive, requiring that you buy the policy within a specific time following the trip's initial deposit.
-- Most policies cover cancellation/interruption only if a "terrorist incident" occurs within seven to 30 days of your expected arrival at a city that is on your itinerary; earlier incidents and problems in other cities don't qualify.
-- Some cover you only if the U.S. Department of State issues a travel warning after you buy your policy.
-- Some policies exclude coverage if a "terrorist incident" has occurred within the city or country within six months of the time you buy your policy or if the State Department had issued a warning.
All of the fine print I've seen specifically excludes incidents of civil unrest and riots. Thus, says Cook, policies did not cover the ongoing outbreaks of unrest in Egypt.
Strikes. Although many policies cite strikes or labor disputes as covered reasons, most apply only to strikes that shut down your common carrier completely -- mainly your airline or cruise line -- or render your destination accommodations uninhabitable. Transit strikes don't count.
Foreseeable. As far as I can tell, all named peril policies exclude cancellation/interruption compensation even in the event of a covered reason, if that event was foreseeable at the time you made your payments. Thus, if media reports indicate that travel to certain areas might be risky, terrorism is foreseeable and is therefore not covered. Similarly, you can't prepay your trip early, then belatedly buy insurance only if your destination subsequently experiences a problem.
What to do. For several years, I have urged that if you buy insurance at all, you buy a cancel-for-any-reason policy. Those policies are usually more expensive than conventional policies, and some of them pay off less than 100 percent of your prepayments and penalties. But they have one big advantage: You, not the insurance company, make the go or no-go decision, up until (usually) 48 hours before your scheduled departure.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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