We’ve all been there – a single click away from booking those hard-earned airline tickets for a little well-deserved R and R, and there it is: the travel insurance option. It can be hard to know which way to go. Do you shell out the extra cash or fly by the seat of your pants? To figure out this complicated issue, we went to the experts—a panel of Canadian travel bloggers. Read on to discover what these seasoned travellers know about travel insurance, and whether you should by it for your vacation.
Types of Travel Insurance and Exemptions
I know, I know—I can see your eyes glossing over. The minutiae of travel insurance may well be one of the factors that prevent folks from buying it!
The good news is that unless you’ve got something really outlandish planned, there are just a few main types to consider: trip cancellation/interruption, baggage loss/theft, and emergency medical travel insurance.
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption: In making a coverage decision, a simple review of your circumstances and trip can do lot of the heavy lifting. Is the cost of your travel substantial? For instance, if you’ve saved for months or years to buy expensive flights, you might want to consider insuring against trip cancellation. If you booked on points or they were otherwise a low investment you can consider going without. Always check the fine print, though, if you’re leaning towards springing for coverage. Some policies won’t reimburse you for cancelling a trip, except in extreme circumstances such as a death in the family.
- Theft and Baggage Loss: The same idea applies to baggage loss or theft, with the additional note that this kind of coverage tends to be very difficult to collect on. If you’re travelling with something extremely valuable like a new laptop or expensive camera equipment, speak with your provider to make sure that it’s covered. These policies can include unexpected exemptions, leaving you uninsured.
- Emergency Medical Travel Insurance: Emergency medical travel coverage protects you in case of injury, and it is, without exception, a must-have according to our experts. However, as with all insurance, it’s crucial to read the policy. Common exemptions include injuries sustained during risky activities – such as skydiving, injuries stemming from pre-existing conditions – and injuries sustained while intoxicated.
- Rental Car Collision/Loss Damage Insurance: In general, car rental collision/loss damage insurance covers you if your rental car is damaged or stolen while you have possession of the vehicle. Unless your home car insurance already covers car rentals, then having this type of insurance is a necessity when you’re renting a car during your travels.
For any kind of policy, you should understand the deductible, maximum payable, and exemptions before you sign.
Canadian Travel Bloggers Share The Low-Down
If there’s one group of people who have had their share of experience with insurance-related travel issues, it’s travel bloggers. Collectively, our panel has visited hundreds of countries under almost every circumstance. Here are their main insurance tips.
Even Canadian Travellers Need Medical Coverage
As Canadians, we’re accustomed to terrific (and mostly free) healthcare, but if we want that coverage to follow us around the world, we need to purchase emergency medical insurance.
Travel and lifestyle blogger Reanna Khan learned this lesson the hard way when, during a 6-week backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, she and a friend grew ill. Her friend had medical insurance which covered 80% of her $600 doctor’s bill. Khan didn’t. “I, a broke student, had no choice to use my savings to pay for the bill and work throughout my first semester back at school.”
For Nora Dunn, blogger at The Professional Hobo, medical insurance is the only must-have. “If I have an option to choose which kinds of insurance I get, I go for the emergency medical coverage only,” she says. “I’d rather keep my premiums low and just get the insurance that could really break me if I run into trouble—which is emergency medical coverage.”
Even if you’re travelling within Canada’s borders, emergency medical coverage can be crucial, according to Dalene Heck, a travel blogger at HeckticTravels.com. “I even buy it if I am travelling to remote locations within Canada, as ambulatory care is not covered between all provinces.”
Consider Getting Your Own Car Rental Insurance
You might not think of car insurance when you’re shopping for travel coverage, but if you’re planning on driving at your destination, it’s worth looking into beforehand. Although you will be offered insurance at the rental counter, these policies are usually restrictive and far more expensive than purchasing in advance.
After he bought insurance directly from a car rental company, Matt Bailey, founder and editor-in-chief of MustDoCanada.com, was hit with a $400 deductible to straighten out a dent. He learned his lesson, and now insists on carrying his own insurance for every trip.
“For me, the peace of mind of knowing I won't go bankrupt is worth the small up-front cost,” he says.
One seriously important thing to note: rental car collision/loss damage insurance policies will never include liability insurance (if someone sues you due to an accident you caused in the rental car), so keep that in mind when you’re assessing your insurance needs.
Read The Fine Print
Understanding the terms of your policy really is crucial. There’s the issue of exemptions mentioned above, but there are other rules and term limits that you absolutely must be know before you go.
As Nora Dunn notes, “If your trip is two weeks long and you land in the hospital, that would be a really bad time to discover that your insurance only covers trips of 10 days or less.”
Check Your Credit Card
You might not be aware of it, but if you have a credit card and you pay for your trip with that card, you may already hold some travel insurance. Make sure you understand the included policy so you don’t spend double on protections. And if you’re looking for a credit card that meets your specific travel insurance needs automatically, consider the following:
If You Despise Delays:
If you’re a frequent traveller, you have almost certainly experienced a flight delay. And the last thing you want to do is sleep in the airport or pay a hefty hotel bill. One of the most underrated coverages, flight delay insurance allows you to claim accommodations, meals, and personal items purchased after a delay of 4 to 6+ hours. While many cards offer this coverage, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite provides a robust $500 towards expenses after just a 4-hour delay. It also has no foreign transaction fees—an enormous bonus for those who make purchases when on the road.
If You Worry About Delayed, Lost, or Stolen Baggage:
Like a delayed flight, losing your luggage is only a matter of time. And it's gonna cost you if you have to buy a bunch of replacement clothes, toiletries, and other stuff (especially if there are foreign transaction fees). Insurance against this annoying situation generally covers essential items, but as discussed above, what is considered essential can vary widely. With the Scotiabank Gold American Express card you’re covered for $1,000 after just a 4-hour delay. It’s also a travel rewards credit card: offering a 15,000 point sign-up bonus, that’s a lot of points you can put towards your travel costs.
For Frequent Road Trippers:
If you frequently couple car rentals with travel, you’ll want to use a card with great coverage for car rental loss or damage insurance (remember: credit cards don’t offer liability insurance). Enter the PC Financial World Elite MasterCard which gives you 31 days of car rental coverage with a maximum value of $65,000. Even better, it has no annual fee.
For Excellent Health Coverage:
But what about emergency medical travel insurance? After hearing from our experts you’ll want to make sure you’re properly covered, and the good news is many cards include up to $1,000,000 in emergency medical travel insurance. This is really essential to have for any trip, as the bills add up during an emergency, and could even bankrupt you.
If you want the ultimate coverage, check out the BMO World Elite MasterCard, which covers the cardholder, their spouse, and their children with emergency medical up to $2,000,000. Also included are policies for car rental insurance, trip cancellation, lost or damaged luggage. That’s sure to give you peace of mind.
Common sense dictates—and our experts agree—travelling without insurance is not only ill-advised, but it’s also unnecessary. By combining your credit card coverage with any required extras, you can travel worry-free. And really, who wants to fret about whether they're covered on a vacation? Bon voyage!