Of course, the whole point of insurance is that you hope never to need it. Unfortunately, that hope leads many Canadians to make a terrible mistake when planning their trips: they simply bypass the travel insurance step, feeling that it’s at best an unnecessary precaution, at worst, a cash grab on the part of the travel agent or online booker to squeeze out a few more dollars on an already-expensive vacation!
While you can certainly take your chances – we’ve all done it (I’m guiltily raising my hand right now!) the fact is that buying travel insurance is adulting at its best.
Why Canadians travelling abroad absolutely need travel insurance
You don’t want to be a horrible statistic, falling off a mountain/giving birth/catching a deadly parasite in the US and having to use your entire life savings plus sell your home just to afford the hospital stay, do you? Yes, that is extreme, but it happens. Less discussed are the more minor, but still extremely irritating things that can happen to Canadian travelers with no insurance. Any one of these incidents could completely ruin my trip, and I’m just not willing to have that happen.
- Lost luggage: You might eventually recover your belongings from the airport, but in the meantime, what about the toiletries and fresh clothes you need right away? Covered.
- Trip interruption: A security incident causes the plane to make an unscheduled stop at an airport far from your destination. You have to spend the night at a local hotel and pay for meals and expenses. Covered.
- Trip cancellation: A loved one’s sudden death means you can’t take the longed-for – and already paid-for – trip. Covered.
- You slip on a hike in a remote forested area and twist your ankle. Not a life-threatening injury, but how are you going to make it out of the woods and to the nearest hospital? Transportation: Covered.
- A thief steals your casual canvas backpack and scores big, stealing your passport among many other things (uh oh, should have gotten the theft-proof backpack instead!) Contents: Covered*.
No wonder the Canadian government itself says you should purchase ‘the best travel coverage you can afford’ before leaving the country!
What to know about buying travel insurance
No two policies are identical, but most travel insurance coverage has common elements like baggage insurance, medical care, rental car collision, repatriation (in case you need to be flown home for emergency medical treatment, for example) and so on. Here’s what you need to know:
- A comprehensive policy is best; you always want to get the most possible coverage and the lowest possible deductible (go bare bones on hotel amenities if you must, not on insurance coverage!)
- If you can find a policy that allows you to cancel/reschedule a trip for any reason, I would highly recommend taking it. Even if you’re as secure as a rock, crazy weather events and geopolitical instability is becoming the norm rather than the exception these days.
- Be wary of credit card protection. You may have a wallet full of credit cards that all say they give you unsurpassed travel coverage, but did you activate the policies first? Read the fine print? You may be in for a very nasty surprise if you rely on Visa to protect you on vacation, without first finding out what the deal is.
- Investigate overlaps. If you do purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy, you may not need collision insurance when you rent a car, for example; just make sure you follow all the appropriate procedures.
- Insure your trip when you buy it. Rather than obtaining coverage later, your best bet is to buy the insurance when you book your trip; the policy will automatically be applied with no need to supply travel information to insurers.
What are your thoughts on trip insurance – has it helped you out of a tight spot? Leave your comment below!
*Policies vary, so be sure to read the fine print on your travel insurance documents and find out exactly what is and isn’t covered – preferably before you buy it!