When it comes to travel, quite often people forget to consider travel insurance. The cost of health care outside of Canada is insanely expensive. A trip to the walk-in clinic will cost you more than $100 USD, if you need more serious medical attention, you could pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To simply put it, you must have travel insurance when you travel insurance.

What people also forget is that travel insurance isn’t just for your health. A comprehensive travel insurance package will cover you for other things including trip cancellation, lost luggage, car rentals and more.

We spend hours searching for cheap flights and even more time researching our trips, yet many people don’t even think about their travel insurance needs. Travelling without insurance is a huge risk that’s just not worth taking. I’ll explain everything you need to know about travel insurance and how you might already be covered.

The basics of travel insurance

The basics of travel insurance

Travel medical – Travel medical insurance is an absolute musthave when travelling since it covers the basics such as a visit to the doctor or hospital. It also covers emergency services such as ambulance rides and emergency evacuations.

Trip Cancellation/interruption – Unfortunately, sometimes things happen that leave us with no choice but to cancel our travel plans. Assuming it’s for a qualifying reason, trip cancellation/interruption will reimburse your travel costs.

Baggage insurance – Baggage insurance is often overlooked, but you’ll be glad you have it if yours is ever delayed, lost, or stolen. Every policy is different, but if your luggage is delayed for a certain amount of time, you’ll qualify for a set amount of money which you can use to make purchases.

Rental car insurance – If you rent a car, you’re going to need insurance. Many travel insurance policies or even your regular auto insurance policy already include this coverage. Be aware that to qualify for this insurance, you usually need to decline the optional insurance that the rental car company offers.

Hotel/motel burglary insurance – This one is pretty straightforward, if your personal property is stolen from your hotel, you’ll be entitled to make a claim if you’re insured.

Accidental death & dismemberment – AD&D (sometimes known as travel accident) gives you (or your next of kin) a set amount if you lose one of your limbs or pass away while travelling. Obviously, this is something you would prefer not to make a claim on.

Multi-trip insurance – Instead of buying travel insurance every time you travel, you can just buy an annual multi-trip insurance plan. The cost is about the same as buying two 14-day insurance plans, so if you travel a lot, it could be of good value.

Note that with any kind of insurance, you need to read the policy to find out exactly what you have covered. Every plan is different, and not everything is included, so don’t just assume you’re getting what you need.

Evaluating your needs

At the very least, you need to have travel medical insurance whenever you travel. Basically, if you ever leave your home province, travel insurance is a must. Your provincial healthcare will cover you for some basic medical attention, but only up to the amount that’s approved in your home province. It won’t cover any emergency services, so if you need a helicopter medical evacuation, you’re out of luck.

Don’t forget to have it even if you’re going to the U.S. for a weekend trip or a day trip for shopping. Again, medical attention is expensive whereas travel insurance will only cost you a few dollars (for weekend trips).

Trip Cancellation/Interruption is technically optional, but it’s something I prefer to have. With most policies, if you’re delayed for 4 hours, you’ll be entitled to a hotel and possibly some spending money. As weird as it sounds, insurance companies are a lot easier to deal with than airlines when there are delays, so I prefer to have the peace of mind.

Baggage insurance is another optional insurance that is often hotly debated. Technically speaking, your home insurance covers any valuables that are damaged or lost in your luggage, but that doesn’t help you at the moment. I personally like having baggage insurance since it’s pretty cheap, but I can see why some people would not bother with it.

You might already have travel insurance

The great thing about travel insurance is the fact that you might already have a policy. If you have benefits through your employer, take a look to see if you have travel medical insurance included. Most major employers will have travel medical insurance as a standard policy, but it’s rare that they’ll offer trip cancellation/interruption or baggage insurance.

There are also quite a few credit cards with travel insurance that will usually include travel medical insurance, trip cancellation/interruption, baggage insurance, and accidental death & dismemberment. Travel medical insurance always applies, but to qualify for the other types of insurance, you usually need to charge a certain amount of your travel expenses to your credit card for the policy to be valid. Keep in mind that credit card travel insurance usually only covers a set period of time e.g. 10 to 21 days and it may only cover those under the age of 65. If you’re travelling longer or you’re older than 65, you may need to extend your coverage or purchase a separate policy. Remember, every insurance policy is different, always read the fine print to find out exactly what you’re covered for.

Making a claim

Every insurer has different requirements when making a claim, so do read the details of your policy to figure out the proper steps. Generally speaking though, you should do the following:

Travel medical insurance

  • Call your insurance provider as soon as possible, preferably before any procedure is done (this may not be possible)
  • Get any documentation possible e.g. medical records, procedures done, receipts
  • If your insurance provider didn’t make the payments directly, submit your receipts as soon as possible

Trip Cancellation

  • Contact your insurance provider and provide evidence that your reason for cancelling your trip falls under your policy details

Trip interruption / baggage insurance

  • Contact your insurance provider
  • Get documentation from your airline about the delay or lost luggage
  • Make your purchases and save all your receipts
  • Submit receipts as soon as you can

Rental car insurance insurance

  • Decline any insurance from the car rental company
  • If you’re in an accident, get the insurance information from the other party involved
  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible
  • Collect anything that will help with your claim e.g. photos of the accident, police report, witness contact information

Final thoughts

The basics of travel insurance are pretty straight forward once you understand how it works. Look at your employee benefits and credit card benefits first before buying a policy. If you still require coverage, speak to an insurance broker, travel agent or tour operator to find out what they recomment. Travel insurance is a must, never travel without it.

Check out other parts of the series below

Part 1: Budgeting for a trip
Part 2How to pick a vacation destination
Part 3How to find cheap flights
Part 4: How to save money on hotels
Part 5: How to eat cheap when travelling
Part 6The best way to exchange money
Part 7: The basics of travel insurance
Part 8: Sticking to your travel budget