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Travel insurance for Canadians: Questions and answers 

Insurance can be a mystifying topic, and travel insurance is no exception. We’ve developed this Q&A on travel insurance for Canadians based on the questions we receive from RTOERO members.

Travel insurance available through RTOERO

Coverage for extended health care plan members

Travel insurance is part of our extended health care plan. The RTOERO Travel Plan covers emergency medical expenses during out-of-province and out-of-country trips and trip cancellation and interruption costs. You’re covered for up to 93 days and can add extra days for your extended trips. You can also top-up your trip cancellation/interruption coverage.

Multi-trip cancellations and interruption travel insurance available for all RTOERO members

RTOERO members who aren’t insured under the Extended Health Care Plan have access to trip cancellation/interruption insurance, which can be purchased to complement your existing employer medical travel coverage.

General questions and answers about travel insurance for Canadians

The content that follows is general information about travel insurance for Canadians. For details specific to the RTOERO’s plan, visit the insurance section of the website.

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to provide financial protection and coverage for unexpected events and expenses that may occur while travelling. Travel insurance can be purchased for single-trips or annual/multi-trips or included in group health plans, like RTOERO’s extended health plan.

Do I need travel insurance?

The unexpected can happen at any time. The cost of insurance is minimal compared to the financial loss and stress you may face if:

  • You need to cancel your trip or cut it short
  • Your belongings are lost during travel
  • You become sick or injured while travelling

Ensuring you’re adequately covered can provide peace of mind to help you enjoy your trip and reduce stress if the unexpected happens. 

While not required by Canadian law, travel Insurance is essential to protecting you, your family and your finances.

What types of travel insurance are there?

Two main types of travel insurance are available for Canadians: travel medical insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Travel medical/health insurance

Travel medical insurance is designed to pay for certain emergency hospital and medical costs that can arise while travelling. 

Trip cancellation/interruption

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance is designed to cover costs if your trip is cancelled or interrupted. Some plans may include coverage for lost or delayed baggage and personal effects. 

Some travel plans offer both travel medical insurance and cancellation/interruption insurance, such as the RTOERO Travel Plan, which is included in our extended health care plan.  Trip cancellation/interruption coverage is available separately, such as our trip cancellation and interruption travel insurance for members.

Reviewing your coverage to ensure you have both medical and cancellation/interruption insurance is important.

What isn’t covered by travel insurance?

All insurance plans include limitations and exclusions. Reviewing that section of the plan information before travel is important to ensure you’re covered. For example:

  • high-risk activities, such as skydiving, may be excluded
  • some destinations may be excluded based on travel advisories
  • medical costs related to substance use may be excluded

Do preexisting conditions impact travel insurance?

Sometimes pre-existing conditions will impact travel medical insurance. In the case of the RTOERO Travel Plan included in our extended health care plan, coverage may be available for an emergency caused by a pre-existing medical condition, provided the medical condition was stable during the 90 days prior to departure date or prior to the purchase of travel arrangements.

If you have a pre-existing condition, this is an important factor to review with your insurance provider to make sure you will be covered.

What is a stability clause?

A stability clause is designed to make sure that when you’re travelling that there’s no known risks that you’re ignoring and travelling anyway.

Ask yourself: has anything changed health wise in the time before I travelled?

If something happens while travelling, the insurer will look at past medical health history to determine if you qualify for coverage or violated the stability clause.

Do I need travel insurance to travel to another province?

Trip interruption/cancellation coverage is important for travel out of the province as it’ll cover you for non-refundable expenses should you need to cancel or change your trip.

For medical coverage for travel within Canada, an inter-provincial agreement exists. Be sure to check the details of your provincial or territorial health plan to see what’s covered. Some health plans require notification for travel longer than a specified period.

And remember, provincial and territorial coverage doesn’t cover every medical cost, so medical coverage may still benefit you if you travel within Canada.

Should I have insurance for a day trip across the border?

Yes, if crossing the border for a shopping day or other activity, it’s important to make sure you have medical coverage. If something happens that requires immediate care, the costs can be significant.

Where can I purchase travel insurance?

Travel insurance can be purchased through:

  • an organization you’re a member of, such as RTOERO
  • travel agent
  • insurance broker
  • employer’s insurance provider
  • credit card company

How much does travel insurance cost?

Travel insurance costs vary depending on the type of coverage (e.g. medical vs. cancellation/interruption or combined, single trip vs. multi-trip), what’s covered and for how much, and the age of the insured person or people.

Why might I purchase multi-trip coverage vs. single trip coverage?

If you’re taking multiple trips in a year, then it’s worth looking at multi-trip coverage. Remember that travel is more than major vacations – it can include weekend getaways, or even cross-border shopping trips.

Purchasing single trip coverage may not be as cost effective, and it also requires your time and attention each time you need to do it.

Is credit card travel insurance good enough? 

Many credit cards include both medical and trip cancellation and interruption insurance, provided the trip was booked using the credit card. This type of insurance may be sufficient for you, but don’t assume it is.

Always be sure to check the details – for example, there may be a maximum length of trip, or you may not be covered over a certain age. Read the limitations and exclusions carefully. You may also want to top up coverage if the coverage amounts are not enough for your needs.

Do I need to keep my travel insurance documents with me while travelling?

Yes, it’s a good idea to carry your insurance information with you while you’re travelling. You should also leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.

What should I do if I need to use my insurance while travelling?

As soon as you’re able, you should contact the 24/7 emergency contact for your insurer to notify them of your situation. For example, if you or a dependent is sick and needs to visit a clinic or hospital, call the number before you access care. They will provide guidance to help you navigate the situation.

How does the claims process work with travel insurance?

Travel insurance is similar to auto insurance. Payment to providers can be made directly by your insurer whenever possible. Out-of-pocket expenses can be reimbursed through the claims process, which will be outlined in your policy information.

  • Call your insurer’s emergency assistance line if there is one. Your policy may require you to call within 24 to 48 hours of the emergency.
  • Get a detailed report and invoice from the doctor or hospital before you leave the country.
  • Make a copy of all documents and receipts for your files because you will submit originals.
  • If you have coverage through more than one company, tell the first company you call about your additional insurance and they should coordinate with the other companies.

What do I need to make a claim?

It’s important to have a record of all travel and purchases that are part of your trip. If travelling by car, a fuel receipt from before leaving the province/territory/country, and a receipt from across the border can typically serve as proof of departure date. It’s a good idea to keep all receipts associated with your travel.

What happens if I have coverage from more than one provider?

If you have benefits from more than one provider, they will need to be coordinated. The first provider you contact will coordinate with the other providers.

How can I learn more about travel insurance?

Shane Thom, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Project Operations at Intact Financial, presented Travel Insurance 101 for RTOERO members and guests as part of our Focus webinar series. Members can access the full webinar in our learning community now.

Do you have a question we haven’t answered here? Email us at [email protected].

Get your RTOERO membership to access travel insurance

Not a member yet? If you work or worked in any capacity in the education sector in Canada, you can join us. Your membership is free until you retire. Sign up now to access our insurance coverage, including trip interruption and cancellation travel insurance, and many more member benefits.