If you go, be prepared. Here, insurance experts share their strategies to make sure your next vacation is safe and stress-free. Happy and healthy trails!

The reality check 

The cost of foreign travel, which essentially means travel outside of one’s home province, rises with the risk of illness or injury. The Westland Insurance Group, a B.C.-based retail insurance agency with scores of offices, indicates that a heart attack can cost C$305,000 in Colorado, a bad case of sunburn C$185,000 in Florida and diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia C$66,000 in Arizona.

Travel insurance vendors have plans that allow one to discount and even to predict the cost of health care when travelling. A Blue Cross plan might, for example, allow for up to 32 days of travel anywhere within one year as many times as you like — that’s something between 365 one-day trips or eleven 32-day trips and a 12- or 13-day trip at the end where you have to watch the clock. Pre-existing conditions are excluded on this plan. You need to get approval for any health service when using the plan lest it be thought you have become a medical tourist trying to make use of facilities somewhere other than your own province. —Andrew Allentuck

Peace of mind in Mexico 

While the U.S. Sunbelt remains the No. 1 choice for Canadian snowbirds, Mexico is quickly gaining in popularity. Last year, more than two million of us packed our swimsuits and sunscreen, lured by its beaches, mountains, small-town colonial appeal and low cost-of-living.

According to Jason Nagy, a travel insurance expert with The McLennan Group, the Mexican health-care system has changed the way it operates because of the increased snowbird traffic. “Nowadays, when they know you’re from out of country, their [health-care] fees are much higher than they’d normally be,” he says. “And just because they’re charging U.S. prices doesn’t mean they’re providing a suitable level of care.” That’s why anyone travelling to Mexico needs the right travel insurance policy and should keep the following in mind:

Does your provider have experts who can navigate the local health-care system?

“Say you get the stomach bug in Mexico,” says Nagy. Ensure your provider will direct you to a clinic that will meet your specific needs or, in some cases, send a doctor right to your resort or property.

Does your provider offer plans to suit your individual needs?

Snowbirds are used to buying insurance for their specific trips. However, because so many Canadians live close to the border, they also want a policy that covers them for quick one-off trips to the U.S. Nagy advises to go for the safety of a longer plan and top-up your policy for shorter trips.

What about pre-existing conditions?

As travellers age, they often develop health issues that require more frequent maintenance. Look for a provider that offers products that give you coverage for pre-existing conditions while you’re travelling.

—Peter Muggeridge 

Credit, where credit’s due

If you’ve maxed out your credit cards or are short of funds but desperately want to take that once-in-a-lifetime winter getaway, don’t cancel your plans. Using Uplift (a U.S.-based company that began operating in Canada this year), you can still quench your wanderlust while paying off the bill in monthly instalments. By clicking on the “Pay Monthly” button, you can pay for the trip by taking a small loan. Uplift will show you the full cost of your trip (with fees and interest included), and you can take off to the sun even before you’ve paid it off.

“Uplift is currently available with well-known Canadian travel providers, Tripcentral.ca, Travel Professionals International (TPI), Travel Only, Redtag.ca, and Sunwing.ca — plus the launch of Uplift with retailers i-travel2000 and SellOff Vacations is imminent,” says Denise Heffron, Managing Director, Uplift Canada. uplift.com —PM

A version of this article appeared in the September/October 2019 issue with the headline, “Snowbird Planner,” p. 75.


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