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Anything can happen when you travel, which is why you should be financially protected when you leave home. Whether it’s a cancelled flight, lost luggage, or an emergency medical episode abroad — certain situations can leave you with a big bill to pay.

Thankfully, travel insurance can offer protection from several unexpected events so you can receive reimbursement for loss or damages. 

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of policy that provides coverage while travelling abroad, whether out of the province or the country. Common coverage items include medical care, and trip cancellation and interruption. 

Provincial health care plans do not cover much once you leave your home province. Considering how expensive medical care can be in other countries where you’re not covered, it may be worth it to purchase a travel insurance plan.

How To Buy Travel Insurance: Information Required

You’ll need to provide the following pieces of information to an insurance provider when purchasing travel insurance:

  • Your departure and return dates
  • The total cost of your trip
  • Your main destination where you will be spending most of your time
  • Your address
  • The age of each traveller in your party at the time of travel who will be under the policy

Types Of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can be quite comprehensive, depending on the particular policy you choose. The following items are generally covered under travel insurance:

Medical And/Or Dental

Any emergency medical expenses or dental work required on your trip will be covered with medical or dental coverage, respectively.

Trip Cancellation

If you must cancel your trip for whatever reason, trip cancellation will cover you for any expenses that would otherwise be non-refundable. 

Trip Interruption

If you must suddenly return home during your trip, travel interruption coverage will reimburse you for the non-refundable portion of your trip as well as any additional costs for going back home early. 

Travel Delay

This coverage will reimburse you if you’re forced to pay for accommodations or travel expenses due to a delay in your trip of at least 6 hours.  

Missed Flight Connection

If you book an indirect flight and miss your connection as a result of a delay in the first leg of the trip, you may be reimbursed. This may also apply if you miss the embarking of a cruise as a result of a delayed flight. 

Baggage Loss Or Delay

This coverage will reimburse you for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage, as well as if your luggage is delayed for at least 24 hours. 

Emergency Evacuation

If you suffer a medical emergency and require immediate attention, this type of coverage will reimburse you for costs incurred to get you to the nearest hospital.

Accidental Death

If you suffer an accidental death on your trip, accidental death coverage will pay out a death benefit to your named beneficiaries.

24-Hour Assistance

If you need help with anything no matter where you are in the world or what time of the day or night it might be, a policy with 24-hour assistance can help you.

What Type of Travel Insurance Should You Get?

If you want this…Get this…
Reimbursement for expenses paid out if you get sick or injured while on vacation.Travel medical and accident coverage
Transportation to the nearest hospital or a flight home.Emergency evacuation
Payment if you get sick and must cancel your trip or end it early.Trip cancellation and interruption
Reimbursement for lost or stolen luggage.Theft and loss coverage
Assistance locating a physician abroad.24/7 assistance
Reimbursement for rental car damage.Auto collision insurance

What Travel Insurance Doesn’t Cover

While travel insurance may cover a slew of issues, there are also several things that it does not cover, such as the following:

  • Suicide and intentional bodily harm
  • Trip cancellation due to poor weather
  • Losses associated with participating in a criminal act
  • Losses associated with participating in a dangerous sport
  • Losses incurred during a trip to receive medical treatment
  • Losses associated with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs 
  • Claims associated with mental or psychological disorders
  • Claims associated with existing medical conditions
  • Claims whereby you did not take all measures to avoid losses
  • Pre-existing medical conditions that are not stable

Be sure to check your policy thoroughly or speak with an insurance agent to verify what is and isn’t covered in your policy.

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Where Can You Buy Travel Insurance? 

Travel insurance plans are available from a variety of sources:

Direct Insurance Provider

One of the easiest ways to buy travel insurance is directly from an insurance company. Most providers have websites where you can read about their policies and purchase a plan. 

Your Travel Agent Or Airline

When you make travel arrangements, you’ll likely be given the option to add travel insurance to your booking. Whether you book over the phone, in person, or online with a travel agency or airline. Adding travel insurance to your itinerary is an easy and convenient way to protect yourself as it can all be taken care of at the time of travel reservations. 

An Insurance Broker

Insurance brokers serve as a middleman between consumers and insurance companies. The benefit of using a broker is that these professionals work with a variety of insurance providers. They’ll do all the legwork to compare rates among various insurance companies and find the best price so you don’t have to do all the comparison shopping yourself. 

Your Employer’s Insurance Provider

Some employee benefit plans include travel insurance. Consider reviewing your employee plan to see if travel insurance is offered, and if so, find out exactly what type of coverage is provided.

Your Financial Institution

Banks also offer travel insurance policies, particularly the big banks, like RBC, Scotiabank, CIBC, TD Bank, and BMO. Visit your bank’s website to find out what type of coverage you can get before you travel. 

Your Credit Card Issuer 

Rewards-based credit cards typically come with some sort of travel insurance plan with varying types of coverage, such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card, and the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard. While some cards offer comprehensive coverage (particularly those with high annual fees), others offer the basics. 

It should be noted that some credit cards require that you pay for your travels with the card to be covered under the card issuer’s travel insurance policy. In other cases, you may need to charge a certain amount of your trip expenses to be eligible for the policy. 

Further, you may be limited to a specific number of days of coverage. Be sure to find out all these details before relying on your credit card’s travel insurance policy when you travel.

Length Of Travel Insurance Policies Available 

There are generally two types of travel insurance that you can buy:

Single Trip Policies

As the name suggests, single trip coverage will protect you on one trip and will end when you return home. The trip can include a variety of destinations where you will be covered until the entire trip is done. 

Multi-Trip Policies

If you plan to go on numerous trips within 12 months, then a multi-trip policy may be better for you. With this type of coverage, you will be protected for multiple trips within one year. 

Coverage Options Available

No matter what type of coverage you wish to take out, you have options to customize your policy:

Out-Of-Province Travel

Even if you travel within Canada, your home province’s health care plan may not provide full coverage if you travel to another province. In this case, domestic travel coverage will protect you during your travels. 

International Travel

If travelling abroad, then an international insurance policy would be required for coverage. Ensure that the policy covers you in the location that you’re headed to.

Cruise Coverage

While some travel policies include cruises, others require that you add a cruise option or take out a cruise-specific policy.

Comprehensive

A comprehensive insurance policy covers trip cancellation, trip delay, trip interruption, baggage delay, baggage loss, medical, and medical evacuation. 

Luggage Coverage

If your policy does not offer coverage for lost luggage, you can take out a luggage-only policy. 

Medical-Only Coverage

Medical insurance is ideal for those who are only concerned about the cost of emergency medical care. 

Cancellation-Only Coverage

You can buy coverage to protect you if an unexpected event forces the cancellation of your trip. Just be sure to verify the approved reasons for cancellation in your policy. 

How Much Will Travel Insurance Cost You?

The overall cost of travel insurance will depend on numerous factors, including the following:

Your Age

Much like life insurance, the older you are, the more expensive your policy will be. Many credit cards with travel insurance don’t cover those over the age of 64. In such cases, you’ll have to buy a separate policy.

Amount Of Coverage You Need

The biggest factor involved in the cost of travel insurance is the coverage amount requested. The more comprehensive the plan, the more you will likely pay. Only opt for coverage that you need to keep costs down. For instance, if you’re not travelling with checked luggage, then you can get away with a policy with lower luggage coverage. How Long You’re Travelling

The longer your time abroad, the higher your premiums will be. 

The Number Of Travellers In The Group

More people covered will increase the cost of your premiums. That said, some insurance providers offer discounts for multiple travellers on one policy. Be sure to verify with your insurer. 

Things To Consider When Buying Travel Insurance 

Before you take out a travel insurance policy, there are a few important considerations you should make first:

Look For Coverage Under Your Credit Card or Employer Plan 

As mentioned, credit cards often provide travel insurance coverage when you use the card to book travel. If you already have a credit card, check to see if you’re already covered. If you are, find out exactly what type of coverage your card provides.  

While you’re at it, find out what your employer offers in terms of coverage while travelling. You just might already be covered for everything you need. In this case, there would be no need to spend more money on a travel insurance plan. 

Find Out When You Must Contact Your Insurer

In most situations, travel insurance companies require that you contact them before seeking medical attention when travelling, if possible. However, in emergencies when time is of the essence, your insurance provider will likely understand if you contact them afterward, though you should reach out as soon as possible. 

Ask About Deductibles

If you ever have to file a claim, your policy won’t kick in until you’ve paid your deductible first. Deductibles are usually applied to emergency medical care costs, but may also apply to baggage or trip cancellation coverage. Find out how much the deductible is, since you may have to pay this portion out-of-pocket.

Look Into Coverage Well Before Your Holiday

You don’t want to get a last-minute policy right before you leave. Instead, you should take the time to carefully consider exactly what type of coverage you require. As soon as you book your trip, take out a travel insurance policy. 

Find Out How Long You Will Be Covered 

If you are planning to take an extended vacation, make sure you will have coverage for the duration of your travels. For example, credit cards often only provide coverage for up to 14 days. 

Make Sure You’re Adequately Covered

While you don’t want to be over-insured, you also don’t want to be under-insured, especially when travelling overseas. Make sure you’re adequately covered. 

If you suffer from a pre-existing condition, ask your insurance provider about obtaining a waiver. In some cases, you may not be covered due to a pre-existing condition.

Look Into Cruise Coverage

While rare, you can be on a cruise and require emergency evacuation at sea. Cruise coverage isn’t cheap, but it could be worth the cost. 

Final Thoughts

We’re fortunate to have great coverage here in Canada, particularly when it comes to healthcare. But when you cross international borders, that coverage no longer applies, which is why travel insurance can come in extremely handy. In addition to medical coverage, you can get coverage for other losses too, such as those related to a cancelled trip or lost luggage.

Travel Insurance FAQs

Does everyone in my family need separate policies?

It depends on the policy you get. For example, some credit cards will cover your spouse and any dependents travelling with you. However, if you’re buying a separate policy from an insurer, you’ll need to make sure that the policy covers couples and families. 

Will a pre-existing medical condition affect my travel insurance coverage?

It could, depending on how old you are and your medical condition. Some pre-existing conditions are covered by travel insurance plans, as long as they have been stable for a time period as specified in your policy before it takes effect. Make sure you check all the details about pre-existing medical conditions offered by an insurance provider before signing up.

Do I need travel medical insurance when I travel within Canada?

If you’re travelling outside your home province, you’d be well-advised to get travel insurance. Provincial government health plans have limits on emergency medical expense reimbursements for incidents that happen when you’re in another province. For instance, ambulance services, prescription medication, and emergency dental treatment may not be covered.
Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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