TIPS: Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance Tips: What you need to know.
We are spoiled here in Canada, with the depth and breadth of our own health care system. As a result, most of us have NO idea what medical care costs elsewhere, and we’ve become pretty blasé about things like travel insurance. In fact 50% of us travel without it. Scary stuff, when you consider that the United States is our most popular travel destination, and has the most expensive medical care in the world.
If the cost of U.S. medical care isn’t reason alone to make sure you’re covered, along comes Covid-19 which has made EVERYONE re-consider their travel insurance, not to mention actually reading their policies if they did previously purchase insurance.
Why EVERYONE Needs Travel Insurance
But before you go thinking that only a global pandemic warrants travel insurance, here are a few more reasons why you really can’t afford to leave home without travel insurance.
Slips and Falls
Travel insurance isn’t just for adrenaline junkies. Take it from me, because I certainly don’t consider myself one. The most common medical travel insurance claims are for sprains, strains, and tears, something that can happen because of an uneven cobblestone or a slippery curb. Even a minor injury can mean a major hit financially, never mind something more serious.
Are you a hunter? As in cross-border bargain hunter?
You probably don’t think about it, but even hopping across the border for a couple of hours to do some outlet shopping puts you at risk, because you are in another country. And all that money you saved at the 50% off sale at Coach won’t even put a dent in the cost of an American medical bill.
Not all provinces are created equal.
Crossing borders isn’t just about international borders, either. Provincial health care plans are all different and although most provinces have reciprocal agreements with each other when it comes to covering the cost of similar medical treatments or services, you may have to pay the difference if those costs aren’t equal. Don’t be surprised by what isn’t included in another province’s health care, so be safe, not sorry, and get insurance even if you are travelling within Canada.
Snowbirds: Know your limit and stay within it.
Every province has different rules for how long you can be away from your Canadian residence and still be eligible for medical coverage here. You may want to look at an ‘expatriate plan’ if you are planning to be away for longer durations. (Check out this list to see how many days you can be away from each province.)
“My credit card has me covered” – or does it?
Even if you think you might be insured through your premium credit card or group benefits plan, do your homework. Factors like the length of your trip or whether your trip was purchased entirely with your card may mean you aren’t as covered as you think. Financially half-covered might as well be not covered, so it’s better to get supplementary travel medical or trip cancellation/interruption insurance to plug those holes.
Tell the truth, and the whole truth …. on that medical questionnaire.
Medical questionnaires usually kick in between the ages of 55-60, and can be intimidating or confusing, so if you aren’t sure about something, ask! This is no time to be cagey or assume you might be covered if you don’t disclose something you consider minor, just to save yourself a few bucks. (But don’t worry, peeing when you laugh is not considered a ‘pre-existing condition’!)
Trip cancellation insurance – sometimes it’s not all about you.
Do you have kids at home? Aging parents? This is where trip cancellation/interruption insurance can be your best friend, should something happen with a loved one back home that requires you to cut your trip short. It can also cover you if something serious happens to your house while you’re away, or even if that cruise you booked suddenly gets cancelled at the last minute.
Just make sure you look at when you need to purchase this insurance, since you typically need to buy it at the same time you book your trip (or before any cancellation fees for that trip would come into effect.)
Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance (CFAR)
After the Coronavirus hit, this type of insurance hit many people’s radar. But be aware that many companies do not offer Cancel for any Reason (CFAR) coverage at all. The ones that do are very specific about when it must be purchased, and when you can ‘pull the trigger’ to cancel. This type of coverage can also add significantly to a regular insurance premium, and may not cover your entire costs. For more information on this type of cancellation insurance, check out this website.
Whether it is civil unrest, a health issue like yellow fever, coronavirus, etc, or a political situation, there are different reasons why a government might issue a travel advisory for a country. It’s always a good idea to check your destination to see if there is anything of concern BEFORE booking any travel. Because if you book travel to a destination that already has a travel advisory at a high level, your insurance likely will not pay if you cancel your trip later.
TIP: For travel advisories from the Government of Canada, visit their site.
You may not consider horseback riding or mountain biking particularly risky because it’s something you do all the time. But some insurance companies might think differently. Make sure you read the fine print about what putting yourself into ‘high-risk’ situations means, not by your definition, but by your insurance provider’s. And if you have any questions, ask! It always pays to double-check before your trip to find out if you are covered.
If you take multiple trips a year it may be more economical – and convenient – to get an annual plan. One policy covers you for the entire year, and you never have to think about it, even for those quick cross-border hops. Just make sure that you understand the maximum length those trips can be (i.e. most plans allow unlimited trips, but no individual trip can be for longer than 15 or 21 days)
TRAVEL INSURANCE RESOURCES
When it comes to comparing and evaluating different travel insurance companies, ConsumersAdvocate.org has done all the work for you with their comprehensive review of over 15 travel insurance providers. These providers are familiar names like World Nomads, Medjet, AXA, AMEX, Allianz and more, and the site offers a great summary of the benefits of each.
Check out their recommendations and in-depth travel insurance guide, too, when you are trying to decide which company is best for you and why.
GETTING COMPARISON QUOTES:
Here’s an all-in-one site that does all the heavy lifting for you. rates.ca is a Canadian aggregator which will give you quotes from multiple underwriters for any or all of the types of insurance you want, all with just one search. So at a glance you can see who is cheapest, and then proceed to contact them for your policy. Super easy!
If you’d like to read more articles on Travel Tips and Trip Planning, click here.