Get the right travel insurance every time

Get insured, then go

Spending a night in a U.S. hospital can destroy your budget

travel insurance

(Illustration by Jeannie Phan)

Two years ago, Sadie, a 30-year-old writer, took a Caribbean cruise. Between buffets and day trips, she had an appendicitis attack that required her to be airlifted to Florida for surgery. The cost? About $35,000 Cdn. out of pocket because she had forgotten to get travel health insurance that would have cost her just $25 Cdn. “For how little it costs, it isn’t worth worrying about,” says Tim Landry, a benefits specialist. “But people often overlook it—or simply think it will never happen to them.” Here’s how to get the right travel insurance every time you vacation.

Check your benefits at work

Many employers provide travel health insurance. Call your benefit administrator and ask where you can find the travel card with the 1-800 number on it (usually online). Print it off and keep it with you as you’ll need it if you have a medical issue while away.

Do you have to pay upfront?

With employer health insurance plans, you’ll sometimes have to pay for medical services up front and be reimbursed later. Keep all receipts. If your bill is high—$100,000 or more—you’ll likely have to post security before getting medical treatment, even though you’re insured.

Plan ahead

If you travel abroad more than once a year, annual plans bought directly from an insurance company offer the most complete coverage and pay all costs on the spot (so no out-of-pocket fees). Unlimited annual coverage for a 35-year old who takes several short vacations a year costs just $105. “If you increase the deductible to $2,000, the cost is half that,” says Robin Ingle, chairman of Ingle International, a company that provides travel and health-care seminars.

Understand the details

Most of Canada’s best travel credit cards cover travel insurance only for those under 65, or only for two weeks. “If you’re travelling for longer than two weeks buy top-up coverage for the extra days,” says Ingle. “And if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, get it in writing from your insurance company ahead of time that your condition is covered,” says Ingle. The same goes if you’re travelling to do a risky activity, such as mountain climbing. “Check the details,” he says. “It will save you any regrets.”