When you’re planning a vacation, you’ve got the basics covered. You know where you’re going, how you plan to get there, where you’ll stay and what you’ll do when you arrive. You might even make reservations for special meals or experiences.
But do you have a plan if things go awry? An unexpected illness or injury or a serious weather event can derail even the most carefully planned getaway, and lead to significant unplanned expenses. For that reason, it’s important to add the cost of travel insurance to your vacation budget to help cover emergency medical care or expenses incurred when your travel plans change.
Types of Travel Insurance
In general, travel insurance generally covers either medical expenses or trip interruption; some policies bundle them together in a comprehensive policy.
While your Canadian health insurance is good anywhere in Canada, when you leave the country, chances are your illnesses or injury won’t be covered. Some provincial policies might cover a limited portion of expenses incurred out of the country, but in most cases, you’re on your own. Coupled with the fact that in some parts of the world doctors can refuse treatment to patients who do not have insurance or the means to pay their bills, it’s vital you purchase a travel health insurance plan to cover any emergency treatments while you’re away from home, especially if you’re being treated for a chronic condition.
Health travel insurance is different than trip interruption or cancellation insurance. The former is only to cover medical expenses, while the latter pays at least a portion of the expenses when your trip runs into an unexpected snag. For example, if something happens at home and you need to end your trip sooner than expected, a trip interruption policy will cover your expenses, including reimbursing any portion of your trip that was prepaid. Trip interruption and cancellation policies generally come with significant restrictions regarding how and when claims can be made; in order to be reimbursed or make a claim, you’ll have to provide proof that you meet the conditions of the policy.
Purchasing Travel Insurance
In general when make travel purchases, whether you buy cheap vacation packages or book each leg of your trip individually, you’ll have the opportunity to add on travel insurance. You can also acquire coverage via a travel agent, an insurance broker and in some cases, through your employer or your credit card issuer.
Before you buy the policy, carefully review the coverage options to ensure that you’re getting the coverage you need. A non-medical or cancellation-and-interruption plan is not going to cover medical expenses, while a medical-only plan won’t help you if the airline loses your bags. You should also check the plan’s coverage limits and whether you’ll be required to pay a deductible on any claims. Few insurance policies offer 100 percent coverage and those that do tend to cost more upfront.
You’ll also want to look into restrictions regarding pre-existing conditions when comparing medical policies. Some policies won’t cover treatment if your ailment is a result of a pre-existing condition like diabetes. If you do have a condition, be honest when purchasing your policy. You might have to pay a bit more, but you won’t face a denied claim if you do need to seek treatment.
While travel insurance offers peace of mind, it’s not a license to go all out and take unnecessary risks. In fact, some policies limit coverage for accidents or illnesses that stem from extreme activities like rock climbing or bungee jumping or drug and alcohol use. Many Canadian policies also limit coverage in certain countries or regions. If a travel advisory is issued for your destination after you purchase coverage, that’s usually grounds for making a cancellation claim. If you choose to go anyway, chances are your insurance coverage will be voided.
Many people head out on vacation thinking that they are covered by their existing health insurance or the coverage offered by their credit cards, and in most cases, it’s never even an issue. If something goes wrong while you’re away though, realizing that you have to cover all of your own expenses is an unpleasant, and possibly expensive, surprise. Avoid it by spending a few extra dollars for insurance coverage.
About the Author: Jamie Jackson is an insurance broker who offers advice, tips and information about various types of coverage on her popular blog. She knows about the benefits of travel insurance firsthand, having used a policy when her Caribbean vacation was interrupted by a hurricane.