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Summer Travel: When do you need travel insurance?

A Canadian leaves for an exciting trip abroad, but ends up in hospital falling victim to medical expenses far beyond their original budget. This is where travel insurance kicks in. 

If you’re planning on getting out of your hometown in Toronto, even a short trip for the weekend to New York City, do you know if any medical expenses will be covered? Learning about travel insurance and the options within will make for a worry-free trip.

What does travel insurance cover?

There are different types of coverage.  

Basic travel insurance will cover lost bags, provides funding if you miss a connection, or if you get sick or hurt and can’t travel. 

Comprehensive insurance covers all of these including trip delays or if you miss a wake up late and miss your flight altogether. It also includes any expenses related to medical costs, health emergencies, disaster evacuations, and even costs associated with accidental deaths. If any of these happen, with comprehensive, you’ll know you won’t need to pay related costs out of pocket. 

The price for travel insurance varies with most packages costing between 5-12% of the total trip.

When do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance isn’t mandatory, but it’s important to have for taking care of unexpected financial expenses. Sadly, far too many people need travel insurance, but opted out. Without this coverage costs can quickly add up to over $10,000 for treatment and transportation expenses when you are outside of Canada.

There are some trips where you’ll be more likely to need travel insurance than others. If you’re taking an international trip, safari, or backpacking your way across the country you might need insurance for medical reasons, there is a greater risk and an increased likelihood you’ll want travel insurance. 

Some advice: Get an insurance advisor to help do the shopping for you on where to get travel insurance. They’ll speak with travel insurance companies and explain your options with you. Know that policies can differ, even if it’s with the same provider. A reliable insurance broker or travel agent can help you learn what’s best for you.

What’s not covered?

Unfortunately, travel insurance doesn’t cover everything and some individuals had to learn this the hard way. For instance, some known exclusions are losses due to pre-existing medical condition, changing your mind about trip, as well as participation in extreme sports such as skydiving, scuba diving, or bungee jumping. However, this varies based on the provider and the price you’re willing to pay. For example, some companies sell adventure-sports coverage, others provide coverage for pre-existing conditions – you’ll just pay a little more making it so important to shop around. 

You’re still responsible 

Travel insurance companies do expect a level of responsibility from you. It’s expected you will take reasonable care of your belongings throughout the duration of the trip. 

It may seem like common sense, but don’t leave your valuables in a shared hostel room with strangers for roommates. Don’t leave valuables in your rented car overnight due to increased chances of burglary. If you’re going to take valuables such as a laptop on your trip, you will want to specify these items in your policy to ensure their full value is covered.  

Always read your policy in detail to ensure you are properly covered. In case of a medical emergency, you can rest easy knowing your hospital costs are covered. Again, take the time to read through and understand how you’re covered (or not).

Are there instances where I can forego insurance?

It really depends on what kind of trip you’re planning on taking. If it’s a short trip you may not need to buy travel insurance. For last minute, cheap, domestic flights or if the trip cost is relatively low, you may already have enough trip protection benefits with your credit card and could forego the covered. Also, review your employee health plan, sometimes there is coverage while you’re abroad. Be sure to read through your plans and investigate whether you need to top up with any additional coverage.

How would I know when I’m properly covered?

You’re already to go on your trip, bags packed flights booked, and one question you must remember to ask is if you’re covered. 

Questions to ask your insurance provider

Research your needs, confirm the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions with your provider before leaving Canada. You may want to ask some questions like:

  • Does the company have 24/7 emergency contact, in English?
  • Does it pay for foreign hospitalization and illness?
  • What qualifies me to be eligible for this coverage?
  • How much coverage do I get for such unexpected events?
  • If I’m covered, is my family is protected too?

The Bottom Line

  • Remember to bring your insurance card with you. This is a good tip for whenever you decide to go on a trip.
  • If you’re a Canadian ready to explore the streets while abroad, Travel Canada has some great resources to help you get setup with the right insurance.
  • Thinking of some trip ideas on where to travel in 2019? Get some ideas from Travel and Leisure’s best trip ideas for this year.