7 On Your Side: Couple learns expensive lesson after buying travel insurance

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Nina Pineda has tips for purchasing travel insurance.

It can be heartbreaking and costly when a trip doesn't go off as planned. Travel insurance can be a lifesaver, but one couple learned it doesn't cover everything.

Air travel is really expensive, so by the time you get to that little square which says "click here" for insurance, no one wants to pay for more for the added protection. But a newlywed couple chose yes to protect a pricey dream honeymoon, only to learn they can't recoup a dime on their $5,700 splurge.


From flying in a drone for a surprise marriage proposal to their Bahamas beach destination wedding, Emily and Chris Elias go big and their honeymoon was no exception.
A week at The Sandals resort in St. Lucia was almost $1,000 per night. So to protect their trip, the couple clicked "yes" when asked if they wanted to add travel insurance to their reservation.

But just before jetting out to the Caribbean, two weeks prior to the trip, Emily found out she was pregnant. Her doctor ordered the couple not to travel to the Caribbean because of the Zika virus, which can be life-threatening to their unborn child.

Chris sent the doctor's note to the resort, assuming the trip insurance he took out for $228 would cover their canceled trip.

The Eliases say they didn't know the trip insurance offered by Sandals is provided by a third-party insurance provider, TripMate, which stated in its terms: Cancellation for normal pregnancy is excluded by the plan.

Travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth said it's important for travelers to know what they're buying and look for specific coverage in advance.

"Travelers can still buy insurance for travel to countries on the CDC alert for the Zika virus," said Carolyn Leckie of Squaremouth. "But standard policies DO NOT COVER cancellation because of a CDC alert or the Zika virus."

A fine point the couple missed.

A Sandals rep says the Eliases aren't entitled to a refund, that's against the original terms of the couple's deal. But it has re-booked their full vacation at one of their family-friendly Beaches resorts.

The big takeaway before buying trip insurance is to shop around. Remember you don't have to buy the policy when you book the trip.

Next, compare multiple policies' prices and what they cover and exclude. And we can't stress enough to get a copy of the policy's terms.

Chris says he's like many who buy insurance but never know what they've bought. That's a lot to pay for something sight unseen.

Sandals released the following statement:

"Chris Elias and Emily Hotetz have been in contact with Sandals Resorts and were given a credit, the option to use the full amount paid (except for the insurance amount paid to TripMate, which is not affiliated with Sandals Resorts) as a credit towards a future stay. This was discussed with the couple last month when they were also given an extension to travel on their credit for an additional six months past the typical year and have until December 31, 2020 to complete travel. They accepted this offer and are currently holding a reservation at Sandals Resorts sister company, family-friendly Beaches Resorts for 6 nights beginning September 14, 2019."

TripMate released the following statement:

"The travel protection plan document, including the plan terms, is provided at the time of purchase. Trip Cancellation due to fear of contracting Zika is not covered by the travel protection plan for full cash reimbursement. The couple was issued a travel certificate for future travel with Unique Vacations (dba Sandals / Beaches) in accordance with the Cancellation Waiver purchased."

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