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Pattie Lovett-Reid: Why you need travel insurance

ANALYSIS: Spring Break is right around the corner and many families are getting excited about taking some time away.

It doesn’t matter if you’re plans include whitewater rafting or touring museums, there are some essential items travellers should always remember to bring.

Passports top the list of must have items (75 percent), followed by electronics (53 percent), and medication (49 percent), according to recent survey by RBC Insurance.

Alarmingly, more than half (55 percent) would plan a vacation without travel insurance. In fact, only 26 per cent of millennials (age 18 to 34) rank travel insurance among the items they'd definitely pack.

To be fair, many travellers of all ages think they’re covered by their government health plan. However, government plans may not cover all emergency medical expenses once you leave your home province or territory, and typically cover only a limited portion once you leave the country.

The Canadian Government (Consular Services, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada) urges all citizens to purchase supplemental health insurance when leaving the country.

Depending on your age, level of health, and answers to a few questions from insurance providers, even pre-existing medical conditions can be covered if you have been stable for a period of time.

When answering those health-related questions, be sure to take your time. Read each question carefully. Incorrect answers could lead to cancellation of your coverage, and the denial of a claim. Be sure to list all medications, and review your questions to confirm you have represented yourself accurately.

Talk to your insurance provider about your individual coverage needs. As RBC found, Canadians are all over the map when it comes to travel.

Nearly half of Canadians like to “play-it-by-ear” while on vacation. The rest represent a wide variety of styles:

• “Play-it-by-Ear Pilgrims” (44 percent) plan where they're going, but after that, they see where the journey takes them

• “Timid Trekkers” (18 percent) don't stray far from their comfort zone while on vacation

• “Scheduled Sightseers” (13 percent) plan every minute of vacation so it fits within a tightly-packed schedule

• “Armchair Adventurers” (13 percent) are happy to sit back and relax, and leave the adventures to others

• “Risk-Taking Rovers” (11 percent) fear being bored, so they seek adventure at every turn.

Cautious Canadians come prepared; 'Armchair Adventurers' forget about coverage

“Scheduled Sightseers” (50 percent) are most likely to buy travel insurance, just ahead of “Timid Trekkers” (49 percent), “Play-it-by-Ear Pilgrims” (47 percent), and “Risk-Taking Rovers” (42 percent). “Armchair Adventurers” (32 percent) are least likely to pack travel insurance before leaving home.

Be prepared: Don't be stuck in a sticky situation

Four in 10 (43 percent) Canadian travellers have experienced at least one unwanted scenario while on vacation, with 16 percent finding themselves in the lost luggage office, and 15 percent having to make a stop at a local hospital or doctor's office.

Before you hit the road:

• Keep a photocopy of your passport, insurance policy, and all other important documents in a safe place that is separate from the originals

• Provide family and friends with a copy of your itinerary. It will help reduce their worries and provide assistance if you get lost or delayed. You should also leave a contact number so they can get a hold of you in case of emergency

• Purchase travel insurance and ensure you understand what your policy does and does not cover

• Label luggage by putting your name and contact information on the inside and outside of the bag

As the Chief Financial Commentator for CTV News, Pattie Lovett-Reid gives viewers an informed opinion of the Canadian financial climate. Follow her on Twitter @PattieCTV

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