Don't leave home without it

Going on vacation? Make sure to get travel health insurance

Hopping across the country to see family and friends? I’m willing to bet you haven’t bought travel insurance.

You probably think you don’t need it. After all, there’s your provincial health insurance to cover you if you get sick. And if you’ve got one of those fancy-pants premium credit cards in your wallet, you have extra coverage. Plus, you have a health plan at work, so you know you’re insured to the eye teeth, right? Maybe not.

Don’t rely on medicare

Coverage varies from province to province, so don’t assume your provincial health plan will cover you. Check with your health ministry to find out the restrictions or omissions in coverage while you’re in other provinces or abroad. Make sure to call (look under Health in the blue pages).

Your provincial plan doesn’t measure up to American medical costs. Coverage abroad can differ depending on where you live—for example, $75 Cdn a day in hospital for British Columbians and $400 for Ontarians. The average cost for emergency in-patient hospital care in the U.S., however, is more than $1,000 US a day and as high as $10,000 for intensive care.

Watch the fine print

Different plans offer different benefits and restrictions. One thing that can limit your coverage is a “pre-existing condition”—an ongoing or past medical problem that required consultation, prescription drugs or treatment. The travel insurer often requires a stability period where you haven’t needed medical attention for a predetermined period prior to travelling.

Most travel health policies will not cover any pregnancy or childbirth complications if they occurred while you were travelling in your last trimester. Some won’t cover any condition for which you received treatment within the six months prior to your trip—think ulcer, back problems. Shop around since you’ll find big differences in price and in the quality of coverage.

Cover more than your health

There are other types of insurance you might want to consider as part of your travel package. Trip cancellation coverage protects you from losing your deposit if you have to cancel your trip because of a sickness or death in the family, a natural disaster, jury duty or a cancelled conference. Default insurance protects your money when a tour operator or other service supplier goes out of business. Make sure you specify that you want it. When your checked baggage is delayed or lost while travelling on a common carrier or from a hotel, private lost baggage insurance will cover costs up to a specified maximum value so you can replace lost items such as clothes. And rental vehicle damage insurance will cover damage or loss of a rented vehicle.

Insurance aces up your sleeve

Personal property insurance may cover lost or stolen luggage. Your car insurance may provide collision and liability coverage for rented automobiles. Some credit cards even offer baggage insurance or extra medical coverage. Your employer’s health insurance coverage may extend worldwide but watch out for any dollar limitations.

Travel insurance can be expensive, but not buying appropriate coverage could cost a lot more. Be a smart traveller and enjoy a worry-free holiday.

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered a couple of times a week.