Going on vacation? Don’t forget travel insurance

Your provincial plan provides limited coverage outside Canada



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OTTAWA – Sunscreen, check. Beach hat, check. Camera, check. How about travel medical insurance?

As you prepare to head south on your winter getaway, travel experts want you remember to check your insurance coverage.

“The minute that you leave your home province you need medical coverage,” said Tina Richardson, business development manager for CAA Travel.

“Even within our own country, outside of province we still need travel medical insurance.”

Your provincial health care plan only provides limited coverage for emergency medical costs outside of Canada and even within Canada you may face costs that are only partially covered or not at all.

On its website, the Ontario government strongly advises people to purchase additional health insurance every time they leave Canada to cover any expenses not covered by the provincial health insurance plan.

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You may already have medical travel insurance as part of your benefits package at work. Some credit cards also offer emergency medical and other coverage if you use them to pay for your tickets.

But you need to understand what you already have and where gaps in coverage may be before heading off on holiday. You should know what limitations there are to your coverage and you may or may not be covered, including your spouse and children.

“Now would be the time to read the details on the policy, find out what you’re covered for — and more importantly, the exclusions, what you’re not covered for,” Richardson said.

If you need additional travel insurance you can buy it on an as-needed basis. For frequent travellers, there is multi-trip coverage that can offer some savings.

The cost and coverage depends in part on the typical length of trip you make and will need topping up if you are going to take a longer holiday that usual.

Travel insurance can also be more than just emergency medical coverage.

Flying in Canada in winter is not for the impatient. With ice storms and blizzard-delaying flights not uncommon, there is the possibility of delayed flights and missed connections.

If the delay is caused by weather, the airline is unlikely to provide any compensation, potentially leaving you on the hook for a night in a hotel or an uncomfortable sleep on a bench in the airport.

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Travel delay insurance can take the sting out of an unplanned layover due to a missed connection, while baggage delay insurance can help cover the cost of a new toothbrush and other necessities if your checked luggage doesn’t arrive with you.

Travel agent Omar Guechtal says it may seem like an unnecessary expense, but if something happens it can help manage your stress on what is your vacation.

He says trip cancellation insurance can also be a way of ensuring that the great deal you found on a flight to Paris doesn’t become a loss if something unforeseen happens and you can’t use the ticket.

“Ninety-eight per cent of those incredible rates are 100 per cent non-refundable fares,” says Guechtal, an assistant team leader at Flight Centre in Ottawa.

“We don’t think that we need cancellation (insurance), but when things happen to you between the moment you book and the moment you travel there are circumstances where you would be forced to cancel your flight.”

But if you’re looking to save a few bucks on a trip, Richardson says medical insurance coverage isn’t the place.

“Never skimp on the medical insurance,” she said. “Always understand that the minute you leave your home province you need to be covered.”


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