So, what are your travel plans for the winter? Still up in the air, so to speak?
Many Canadians are used to getting away for two or three weeks each winter, and many snowbirds spend extended periods of time in warmer climates. This year may be a little different, with bookings instead up significantly on Vancouver Island, the B.C. coast, western ski hills, and other slightly milder locations.
However, I’ve also noticed a lot of people who talked about staying home this winter are starting to change that plan, after the first few chilly September nights. This article will try to bring you up to date on some travel insurance options available to you during the pandemic and, spread awareness of some other current issues and concerns.
As always, I suggest you consult an expert, like an insurance broker specializing in travel, a professional travel agent, and government websites. Every time I talk to one of the experts, I’m reminded of the many things I don’t know, but I will try to share some of those here.
After months of uncertainty, most travel insurance companies are now covering COVID-19 infections and treatment. In fact, Air Canada and WestJet have both recently added COVID-19 insurance coverage with their vacation packages, at no extra cost, on trips up to 21 days.
These packages, like some offered by other insurance companies, have special coverage for additional expenses like quarantine accommodation, hospitalization, ambulance, air evacuation home and return airfare for the travelling companion, if air evac is required.
As always, carefully read the policy contract itself, not just a brochure or website description. I was reminded of this by Lori Yorke, owner of Medi-Quote Insurance Brokers, which specializes in various types of travel insurance. The policy wording is what determines your actual coverage and she has found instances where the marketing descriptions differ from the actual contract.
Snowbird Medipac from the Canadian Snowbird Association recently addressed this head-on with the change to its website, which now says about COVID 19 coverage, "… it’s in our policy."
This advice also applies to your group insurance plans or to any coverage you get by booking with a premium credit card.
Yorke also said companies have recently introduced new features, including reimbursement for rides to testing facilities, grocery delivery costs and even extension of coverage till you can travel again at no cost, for people infected with COVID-19 while travelling.
Clearly, it’s a very different situation than last spring, when the initial travel bans were instituted, and insurance companies told their customers to get home or risk loss of coverage.
Things are not quite back to normal, I’m told, as some companies are restricting insurance purchases to 45 or 60 days prior to travel, for example, instead of six months or more, to make sure they can respond to changing conditions in different countries.
As well, your destination will be more important than ever. I presume you cannot get coverage right now to go to Brazil, for example, but the U.S. is available.
Another thing to be clear about are the airline requirements to allow you to fly, and other countries’ rules to deplane at your destination. Some countries are apparently requiring a negative COVID-19 test or a health certificate, to avoid self-isolation or even to enter the country at all.
Yorke told me a company called Travel Health Now can issue such certificates, after you upload your local COVID-19 test to them and then do an online consultation.
Another tip she provided as an app called Sitata Travel Safe (www.sitata.com), which helps with trip planning and then keeps you up-to-date on the latest health information, required vaccinations, flight disruptions and safety and security issues for your destination. This seems more necessary than ever in 2020.
My best advice is to be careful, both about your insurance coverage and about your health. The best way to avoid any problems is to avoid getting sick, so take all the precautions of which you have been made aware.
Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.
David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is recipient of the FP Canada™ Fellow (FCFP) Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada. He is a Portfolio Manager and Senior Vice President with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.
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David has been a practising financial planner and life advisor since 1982, specializing in helping clients identify and reach their most important goals, and then helping them manage all of their financial affairs, including investments.