What Canadians Need to Understand About Their Travel Insurance

min read
Updated: 13 June 2023
Written by
Darrel Pendry
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Key Takeaways

  • Not sure what you need in a travel insurance or emergency medical coverage? This article is your first step to understanding your travel insurance.

As with most types of insurance, finding the right kind of travel insurance can be a challenge, especially if you're familiar with the components of a travel insurance policy.

That's where we come in! This article is your first step to understanding travel insurance. So the next time you need to purchase travel insurance, you'll be prepared.

Travel Insurance has several parts to it. For this article, we will be explaining emergency medical coverage. The main features available from most travel insurance providers are:

  • Emergency medical coverage
  • Trip interruption coverage
  • Trip cancellation coverage
  • Baggage coverage
  • Rental car coverage
  • Sports coverage
  • Extreme sports coverage (yes, you can get this covered!)
  • Visitors to Canada coverage
  • Emergency medical coverage required when applying for a Super Visa
  • Students are attending college or educational institutes in the United States or internationally

Many think that travel insurance has all the features listed above, but this is not the case. They can be purchased separately or part of a package. It is done this way in order to design the perfect travel policy that will suit your or your family's needs.

We have to remember that not all insurer's policies are the same.

What is travel insurance?

Travel Insurance is not a health plan. Travel insurance covers unexpected medical or emergency experiences that you may have while travelling.

It has to be sudden and unexpected. This is why many pre-existing conditions might not be covered. Pre-existing conditions come under an individual health plan or your provincial or state insurance plan. This is one of the most common misconceptions that people have.


What are the benefits of an emergency medical insurance plan?

The main areas of benefits of coverage are:

  • Hospital stays, treatments, and medications
  • Emergency transportation by ambulance or air transport
  • Medical equipment requiring a rental
  • Medical services provided by professionals
  • Treatments for fractures or dental work
  • Transportation of family members or returning of travelling companions, children, or grandchildren
  • Out of pocket expenses that have been incurred from the emergency

Note: Please review the specific policy details from the insurance company you are purchasing the coverage through.

Do insurance companies pay out the claims?

Of course, the insurance companies pay out the claims as long as the request is part of the coverage in the policy.

The most important aspect is that people need to take more time to understand their policy. From my personal experience, any claim that my clients have submitted was paid.

What are the main reasons that travel insurance claims aren't paid out?

In most cases, claims that were not paid out were due to the policy wording' insurability and stability clauses.


At the beginning of a travel insurance application, some basic questions will determine if you are insurable or not. In some cases, you might have to clarify the definitions and policy wordings to understand your situation better. Some questions are:

  • Are you a Canadian resident?
  • Are you travelling against your doctor's advice?
  • Have you been diagnosed with a terminal condition?

These may seem straight forward, but you would be surprised.


Some questions you may have to answer about stability include:

  • If you do have a pre-existing condition, is it stable?
  • Are you undergoing some tests of which you have not been diagnosed yet?

Each company will have a specific number of days your condition needs to be stable before your trip. It is essential to read the policy wordings. Also, discuss your current situation with the agent to ensure you are covered under the stability clause. This doesn't mean you won't be covered; it means you need to confirm.

Yes, read the policy wordings! I can't express enough that you need to read the policy. Your life savings could depend on it. If you don't understand some wordings or have questions, call your insurance company. All insurance companies have a Toll Free phone number with customer service agents ready to handle all your questions.Sample emergency medical claims in real life situations.

Sample emergency medical claims in real-life situations.


Do insurance companies have access to my medical records?

Yes, they do. When you apply for any travel insurance, you are singing off to allow access to your medical records. They don't use this information when applying for coverage. If they had to check everyone's medical records when they apply, the time it would take to get a policy would be lengthy.

Where they do use the medical records' information is at the time of a claim. When a claim occurs they will reach out to your physician to get your file. In these cases, they are usually trying to determine if you had a pre-existing condition that led to the emergency happening or if were you even eligible to purchase the policy? Maybe your doctor wouldn't even want you to travel.

This is why it is so essential to understand the eligibility and stability clauses of the policy. Having several medical conditions or taking several medications doesn't mean you can't get an insurance policy. It means you need to make sure you understand what you may or may not be covered for.

What if you aren't sure about your condition or medication?

Most insurance companies have a medical questionnaire form, if you aren't sure about your condition or medications. You can print it off and get your physician to help you complete it.

Should you choose to go this route, you should allow more time before you plan on travelling. In these cases, the physician might charge you a fee. It will add additional time to getting a travel policy in place. Yet another reason to take the time and work with the travel insurance agent to explain your specifics.

Read: 5 Different Types of Insurance and Who They're Best For

Do I need Travel Insurance if I don't plan to travel outside of Canada?

Absolutely. Your provincial healthcare only covers you while you are in your province of residence. When you travel outside your province, you could have the same emergency medical situations as you would when travelling abroad.

The costs might be lower, but in the end, the costs can add up.

How much does travel insurance cost?

The price of travel insurance varies by your age, family or single coverage, or single trip and multi-trip.

For example, the cost for travel or emergency medical insurance for my family for a 13-day trip to Mexico is $68.00.

In my situation, I would add the trip cancellation, trip interruption, and sports coverage. We all love to do some sports and activities. This would have an additional cost of $344.00 for the family.

How do I personally set up my travel insurance?

I look at my upcoming year of potential travel for myself and my family. I allocate a specific number of days for the trip and approximate costs for each trip. If I am flying, I calculate the value of my trip interruption or cancellation premiums.

I also take into account my credit card coverage. Then, I go to the website and start using the system. For me, because my travel varies, I purchase an Emergency Medical Plan for the family on a multi-trip basis. I select my typical length of a trip, which is 20 days. This will cover me for all my basics.

Then when I am coming up to each travel period, I purchase optional coverage's that I want for those specific trips. I can also do a top-up at that time if one of the trips will be longer. This way I am covered all the time even when I travel from province to province.

Example cost for travel or emergency medical insurance for my family:

  • A 20-day multi-trip plan is $450.00/year.
  • A 10-day multi-trip plan is $370.00/year.

This covers all members of my family to travel to the United States and throughout Canada. To me, this is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

For each trip I go on, I will decide if I need any distinct coverages for that trip. I will purchase those coverages separately closer to the actual trip date.

Read: Expatriate Insurance or Travel Insurance: Which Is Right for Your Long-Term Trip Abroad?

Can you purchase Travel Insurance online?

Yes, you can purchase online. The caution is that if you don't know or fully understand what you need. If this is the case, on each travel quote website, there is a phone number you can call to discuss and get help. Here are a couple of websites where you can purchase right now:

  1. TuGo Insurance.
  2. Manulife Insurance.

What if you have questions when purchasing or after you purchase your travel insurance?

Most companies have customer service available to help along the way if you have questions or aren't sure about your needs or options. I have found them to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

What are some top Canadian Travel Insurance Companies?

Here are a couple of Travel Insurance Companies available:

  1. TuGo
  2. Manulife
  3. GMS

When there is an emergency while travelling, what is the process of making a claim?

Each company will have a specific way of making a claim. Be sure to read up on the process before you travel and make sure all family members know.

Here are a few things to remember if you have a medical emergency claim:

  1. Call the insurance company immediately.
  2. Keep all original receipts.
  3. Take pictures of each receipt, just in case they get lost.
  4. Take notes on what happened with details or record this on your phone.
  5. Take notes on physicians' and hospitals' contact information or any other people involved.

The main takeaway here is to contact your insurance company right away. They will help guide you through this process.

What is the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on travel insurance?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on travelling in and outside our country. This has created changes to each insurance company's policies. Some insurance companies have completely stopped offering travel insurance, and others have modified their coverage.

Each company will have a link explaining how COVID-19 has affected them. As the travel advisories are lifted, each insurer will adjust accordingly. The time frame is unknown, here are a couple of links where you can keep abreast of what is happening in regard to COVID-19.

Tips for choosing the best travel insurance program:

  1. Look at your potential travel for you and all family members for the upcoming year. Take into account the approximate cost of the trip, length of trips, trip destination.
  2. Will you be travelling out of province or country?
  3. Check the government travel advisory.
  4. Will you be making a single trip, or are there more than one trips planned for the year. This determines if you should purchase a single or multi-trip plan.
  5. Have all family members date of births.
  6. If you have a credit card coverage, call your credit card to find out what coverage you have and the limits.
  7. Utilize one of the online travel insurance websites for looking at options and prices.
  8. If you have questions, contact the travel insurance company.

Note: Please ensure you read the policy wordings to fully understand the coverages you decide to purchase.






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