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Top 5 tips for buying travel insurance

- November 25th, 2014


Buying the right kind of travel insurance for your trip can be the trickiest part of planning a holiday. Do you need insurance if travelling outside of Canada? In case of an emergency, what are you covered for? Is your work insurance enough to cover any expenses?

The subject of travel insurance has been back in the news this week in a big way, all because of one Saskatchewan family’s million dollar U.S. hospital bill. Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel travelled to Hawaii while 24 weeks pregnant. She thought she had the proper travel insurance before leaving Canada, but, when she delivered her baby premature and spent weeks in a U.S. hospital, Huculak-Kimmel was shocked to learn her insurance company, Blue Cross, wouldn’t be helping her out with the $950,000 bill. While the reasons behind Blue Cross denying the claim have not been revealed, the company did say “there are more facts related to this story that prevent us from reversing our decision” in a statement.

It’s no wonder a 2013 BMO Insurance study found that just half of Canadians purchase travel insurance before going on vacation. Whether we’re shying away from insurance out of confusion over the coverage we think we already have or just don’t think insurance is all that important, the world of travel insurance can be very tricky to navigate.

So what should you look for and know before buying travel insurance? We turned to experts from Travelzoo Canada and the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada for the top five tips.

1. Know your medical history: The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada recommends Canadians know their medical history and consult with a health care provider before they fill out any insurance forms. They said the top reasons for denied claims are medical non-disclosure and misrepresentation about pre-existing conditions that are not stable.

“Responding accurately to medical forms is the best way to have a carefree holiday and ensure that unexpected medical expenses will be covered by insurance,” said THIA President Alex Bittner in a statement. “If there is a medical questionnaire, it needs to be taken seriously.”

It’s important to note you can still get insurance with a medical condition. Travelzoo Canada‘s travel insurance expert Michael Duchesne joined Sun Media for a chat about travel insurance last summer. He said travellers with pre-existing medical conditions can still get travel insurance and should look for policies that cater toward their conditions.

“I would encourage you to search for specialist travel insurers,” Duchesne said. “Select insurance companies cover people if their medical conditions are under control and stable for certain period. As a caveat, be advised that a minor change in someone’s prescription or medication can mean that the medical condition is not considered ‘stable.’”

2. Medical travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance are not the same thing: “Trip cancellation and travel health insurance are two distinct services,” said Duchesne. “Trip cancellation covers pre-paid and non-refundable expenses if your plans are interrupted or cancelled. The five main types of insurance are generally sold in a combo of sorts. If you only want one, then ask for it and ask whether there are incentives to upgrade to all or just some. A comprehensive package covers trip cancellation and interruption, evacuation, medical and baggage, even flight insurance.”

To read the full chat with Travelzoo Canada’s Michael Duchesne, click here.

3. Know what you are already covered for and if it’s enough: Many people have travel insurance through their work insurance plans or credit cards. Before you travel relying on this insurance alone, though, know what it covers and purchase additional coverage if necessary.

“Many people will already have some coverage through employers or credit cards and it’s important to understand existing coverage and ensure you have the necessary supplemental coverage,” said Bittner.

4. Even if you’re travelling within Canada, you may need travel insurance: You may think your provincial health insurance will cover any medical costs across Canada, but that isn’t the case.

“If you plan to travel outside of your home province, it is strongly recommended that you obtain additional private medical insurance and fully understand what your policy covers,” said Duchesne. “This comes into play with things like trip cancellation or interruption insurance, which covers pre-paid non-refundable expenses should your travel plans be interrupted or cancelled.”

5. Ask a lot of questions: How do you know if your medical condition is compliant with your insurance coverage? What level of coverage is right for your trip? Direct your questions to the insurance provider directly, said Duchesne.

“Keep in mind that travel agents recommend that you get travel insurance because they get a percentage when you buy it, and because they could be held liable for losses if insurance options aren’t explained correctly,” said Duchesne. “While they can give you information and provide direction, they are not insurance agents. It’s very important to direct specific questions to the insurance provider.”

Cozy up with comfort foods from Myrtle Beach

- November 24th, 2014
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Read about my trip to Myrtle Beach: Myrtle Beach musts for travellers on a buget. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Read about my trip to Myrtle Beach: Myrtle Beach musts for travellers on a budget. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

South Carolina may not experience the same frigid temperatures and long, dark nights we Canadians do in winter, but Myrtle Beach still has some unique, regional comfort foods perfect for the time of year when all you want to do is cozy up inside with a warm dish. Here, Visit Myrtle Beach shares two local recipes with us. Stay warm and cuddle up inside with one of these flavourful plates.

Courtesy Visit Myrtle Beach

Courtesy Visit Myrtle Beach

CHICKEN BOG – Courtesy Loris County Chamber of Commerce

6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 (3-pound) whole chicken
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1/2 pound smoked sausage of your choice, sliced
- 2 tablespoons Italian-style seasonings
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon

Place water, salt and onion in a large pot. Add chicken and bring all to a boil; cook until chicken is tender, for about 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Remove skin and bones and chop remaining meat into bite-size pieces. Skim off fat from cooking liquid and measure 3 1/2 cups of this chicken broth into a 6-quart saucepan. Add rice, chicken pieces, sausage, herb seasoning and bouillon to this saucepan. Cook all together for 30 minutes; let come to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, keeping pan covered the whole time. If mixture is too watery or juicy, cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir often while cooking.

Courtesy Visit Myrtle Beach

Courtesy Visit Myrtle Beach

SHE CRAB SOUP – Sea Captain’s House’s Former Secret Recipe

2 large onions diced
- 1 cup clarified butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/3 quarts half and half
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. ground mace
- 1 cup good sherry
- 1 pound fresh white crabmeat (must be good quality)
- Salt and pepper to taste

In large stockpot, cook onions in butter until soft. Add flour, reduce heat to low, stirring constantly for 15 minutes. Add milk products and continue stirring. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Vacation breasts: Is an enhanced bust the next must-pack travel item?

- November 19th, 2014


Is it possible we’ll see the day when packing your vacation breasts is on par with travel insurance?

ABC News reports a New York doctor named Norman Rowe is developing a temporary breast enhancement procedure that gives women a boost of up to one-and-a-half cup sizes for two to three weeks. It’s being called ‘vacation breasts’ and is marketed toward women who want to increase their bust size before they sport a bikini on holiday.

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The doctor previously developed a saline injection called InstaBreast which takes 20 minutes to inject, lasts 24 hours and costs $2,500 per procedure.

“Twenty-four hours is great, but it’s still just 24 hours,” Rowe told ABC News, explaining why he is developing the new formula. He said the product can also help women decide whether or not they want to purchase more permanent implants or could be used for calf implants on men.

ABC’s medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton warned women of the risks. “With this procedure, there is the risk of hitting a blood vessel with the injection, as well as a risk of infection,” she said.

Additionally, the U.K.’s Daily Mail spoke with Dr. Ash Mosahebi, director of surgery of the London Plastic Surgery Centre, who also warned “what you rely on here is that the saline is absorbed, but one side could go quicker than the other. You could be left with one side a B cup and one side a D cup, and who knows how long for.”

It will still be about two years before Rowe’s newest formula is approved by the FDA.

What do you think? Have you ever wished you could change anything about yourself before a vacation?

Canadians to escape winter driving, shoveling snow with beach vacations: Survey

- November 17th, 2014


Canadians who plan to escape the cold weather this winter are being pushed to sunny Caribbean beaches because of a dislike of the dark (39%), winter driving (30%) and shoveling snow (25%), according to a new survey from


The data, released via the 2014 Escape Winter Report, shows most Canadians plan to travel with their partner (45%) or family (33%) this holiday season, though residents of Quebec are three times as likely to travel on their own versus other Canadians.

Before hitting the beach, 55% of Canadians said they bought new clothes and 42% said they get a haircut. Nineteen per cent of women said they dieted before their sunny south vacation, while 12% of men said the same.

The majority of survey respondents (54%) said they book their trip online.

Hockey Night in Cuba: Cruise the Caribbean with former NHL players

- November 6th, 2014
Bernie Nicholls, Jack Valiquette and Gary Leeman. (QMI Agency file photos)

Bernie Nicholls, Jack Valiquette and Gary Leeman. (QMI Agency file photos)

This winter, cruise Cuba with some of the NHL’s biggest stars.

Former players from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers have joined Cuba Cruise to launch the special Hockey Night in Cuba cruise program, combining fun in the sun with special events featuring six players from across Canada.

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The seven-night cruise will depart Havana on Jan. 12, 2015 before sailing to six ports of call, including Santiago de Cuba and Montego Bay, Jamaica. A free commemorative jersey, Canadian beer, Alberta steaks, meet-and-greets with players including Bernie Nicholls, Gary Leeman and Jack Valiquette, and hockey-themed events are all part of the program.

Courtsy Cuba Cruise

Courtsy Cuba Cruise

“We are excited to welcome aboard some of Canada’s great hockey champions this season, such as 1993 Stanley Cup winner Gary Leeman,” Dugald Wells, Cuba Cruise president, said in a statement. “Creating unique programs for fellow Canadians to enjoy both onshore and onboard is our top priority, from serving Canadian beer and broadcasting NHL games in our Sports Bar to offering Hemingway-inspired walking tours and Cuban countryside visits.”

Rates for the Hockey Night in Cuba cruise start at $1,442, including taxes and flights from Toronto. Cruise-only rates start at $830. Up to two kids sail for free. To book and for full details, visit and use code HOCKEY.