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Travelling this year? Don’t leave home without insurance

A Boeing 767 (767-300) jetliner, belonging to Air Canada Rouge, lands at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in Ontario on October 24, 2013. .
A Boeing 767 (767-300) jetliner, belonging to Air Canada Rouge, lands at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in Ontario on October 24, 2013. . Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press

Not sure about the rest of you but I am about ready to throw in the towel. The chilling cold that is gripping North America makes me wonder just how mad Mother Nature really is. I, for one, think she decided to pick the world up, give it a good shake, put it down and told all of us to just deal with it! Lately when I see an ad with tranquil, unfrozen waters, clear blue skies with no snowflakes, and temperature readings without a minus or a wind chill, I find myself thinking ‘get me the heck out of here!’.

I am sure there are many of you who are feeling the same way as I am lately and you are probably combing the travel sections of your local papers, visiting travel agents or getting last minute travel savings alerts into your inbox. Along with thoughts of running away to warmer weather though come thoughts about making sure I protect myself and my net worth while I am away. It is amazing how out-of-pocket costs for what might seem like a relatively minor emergency can put a real damper on a vacation. Worse, how a more severe emergency, such as a broken bone, could affect long-term plans for education or retirement. Many out-of-country hospitals may require up-front payment for treatment, which could add up to thousands of dollars.

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The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada conducted a national survey of Canadians about their travel habits and their understanding of provincial health coverage. The survey revealed that 35 per cent of Canadian travelers do not buy travel health insurance. “Only six per cent of Canadians realize that provincial health plans cover approximately nine per cent of medical expenses when travelling outside of Canada,” said THiA President, John Thain. “Travel health insurance is designed to protect against unforeseen medical expenses.”

There are many travel insurance options available but it is wise to compare their benefits. Your employer-sponsored benefit plan for one may provide coverage but you need to find out if there might be an age limit for dependent children living with the employee. Make sure you have your benefit details with you when you are travelling. Also, make sure they are easily accessible and that each member of your travel party knows where to find them in case of an emergency. Credit cards may offer travel insurance coverage but may only provide coverage for a certain number of days or might restrict the amount you can claim so it is always it is always wise to read the fine print as with any contract.

I have the option of flying out of the Toronto Pearson or Buffalo airports and the distance to each is about the same. But I have often thought about when my travel insurance should be in place and upon investigation have found out that it should be in effect from the day I leave home and not the date of my flight which might be different. I have also found that buying travel insurance is not just for crossing the border. I now know that when I am visiting another Canadian province I need protection as well. Not all provinces cover the same thing, for example the cost of an ambulance might be covered here in Ontario but it might not be covered somewhere else.

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Remember too that travel insurance is not just for your health while travelling. You should also consider trip cancellation insurance, in case you or someone in your family becomes ill before you even depart. Vacations are normally something you have saved for and spent your hard-earned money to be able to enjoy, so the last thing you want to do is lose that investment at the last minute. Also, make sure your belongings are covered for theft and lost luggage while you are away from home. That fancy phone and good camera along with all of the other modern gadgets you need to survive a plane ride can easily add up to thousands of dollars before you know it.

As you dream about your next trip and consider what you should pack, here is a link to a handy travel insurance buying checklist. This can help you to avoid surprises by asking your insurance representative these questions before you buy travel insurance.

Have safe and happy travels!