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As a child with globetrotting parents, I began traveling with my family at a young age. This passion extended into adulthood, as I continued to explore the seven continents on my own. I learned about how to travel safely – and take care of my health and finances while doing it. Below are some tips that may be useful to you as you explore North America and abroad.

1. Always buy emergency medical insurance.
Canadians enjoy free medical care and often forget that this luxury does not extend outside of our country. Even a short trip across the border for a day of shopping requires medical insurance. Remember, this is for medical emergencies – things that are unpredictable and beyond our control.
A car accident can be a horrific experience anywhere, but an accident outside Canada can add to the stress with the potential for thousands of dollars in medical expenses. According to healthcare.gov, in the U.S. a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 and a 3-day hospital stay is around $30,000!
The Ontario Ministry of Health recommends that all residents purchase additional health insurance every time we leave the country. They have very strict guidelines of what they will cover for out-of-country medical emergencies and are clear that the coverage is very limited.

I usually use CAA for my travel insurance, but many banks and health care plans can also provide coverage. Buying any insurance always comes down to risk and probabilities. The comparatively small fee for coverage is a worthwhile investment compared to the risk of thousands incurred in an emergency.

2. Read the fine print of your plan and take precautions.
Most travel insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions that are not stable three months prior to travel. Some policies even require any changes in dosage of medications to occur at least six months before travel for those over age 60.

When buying a plan, look for a minimum of $2 million coverage (though $5 million is recommended, especially for travel to the U.S.), 24-hour emergency assistance, emergency transportation, and emergency prescription drugs. Printouts of all important insurance details should be kept on your person for the duration of a trip. Email this information, along with your flight and hotel reservations, to your immediate family members, even when they are not traveling with you. They might be able to assist as a point of contact and it will be easier for them to trace your location in an emergency.

3. “Snowbirds” should visit the doctor right after returning from their travels.
All necessary checkups should be done in the spring, so a “snowbird’s” health is stable before his or her next trip. In general, everyone should visit their doctor months before a trip, in case of any changes in health. For instance, if you plan to travel to the U.S. on December 27 and any medications need adjustment, it should be done before September 27 or even June 27 depending on the insurance restrictions.

As a final note after this serious and cautionary advice, just remember that once you have planned and are organized at home, you can have fun and enjoy a care-free trip!

 

If you’re interested in more information on this topic, I found the following websites very helpful:
http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/documents/travel-insurance
http://travel.gc.ca/docs/publications/bon_depart-on_your_way-eng.pdf

 

Toshi Hatashita, B.Comm has lived in Canada, the Middle East, England, and sailed the world while working on a cruise ship for four years. She is currently a Staff Accountant at Sloan Partners and is pursuing her CPA designation.

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