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Top 5 tips for buying travel insurance

- November 25th, 2014
(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

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.”

Avoid checked luggage fees: Top 3 rules for travelling only with carry-on

- September 16th, 2014
(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

On Monday, WestJet announced plans to begin charging economy-fare passengers $25 for checked luggage on flights within Canada and between Canada and the United States. Air Canada already charges passengers $25 for checked luggage on flights to the U.S., though not within Canada, and many American airlines also charge a fee to check your baggage.

Want to avoid these fees? Just bring carry-on.

Travelling with just a carry-on bag means never having to wait at a luggage carousel after your flight, never losing a piece of luggage in transit and avoiding fees for checked baggage.

carryon

Before you board your flight, though, know that there are some carry-on rules fliers need to follow for the benefit and safety of fellow passengers and to ensure quick embarkation.

1. Know your airline’s size limits for carry-on. Each airline has a different size limit for carry-on luggage, due to different sizes of aircraft, space under the seats and size of overhead compartments. Check to see what sizes your airline allows before you go to the airport. If you bring a piece of luggage onto the plane that won’t fit in the overhead compartment, the flight attendants may have to check your luggage, delaying the flight.

carryon2

2. Don’t bring more than your fair share. Passengers must share the space in the overhead compartments and everyone is entitled to — and paying for — a fair share of the space above their seat. Don’t bring more carry-on or bigger carry-on bags than you are allowed and try to keep your items in the space above your own seat.

3. Know what you can and can’t pack in carry-on. Know what is allowed in carry-on luggage and what isn’t to save yourself time at airport security check points. Prohibited carry-on items include guns, knives, sports bats, work tools and liquids that exceed 100 mL. For a full list of items, visit the Transport Canada website.

A former flight attendant’s tips: How to avoid in-flight fights over reclining seats and more

- September 9th, 2014
(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

You’ve heard of road rage, but did you ever think you’d hear of air rage?

In the past two weeks, three different planes have been forced to land because of in-flight fights between passengers over reclining seats and, in one case, use of the Knee Defender gadget, which clips on to the seat ahead of you to keep that passenger from reclining.

WHAT IS THE KNEE DEFENDER? Read the blog on the device here

Diverting from a planned flight route is a costly detour for airlines, an inconvenience to other passengers and, depending on how far the on-board altercation goes, can lead to the offending flyer being charged by police once back on the ground.

So, how can air travellers keep their cool when flying, no matter what the situation?

Former flight attendant and internationally renowned etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore is sharing her tips for smooth, stress-free flights in light of the recent bad behaviour in the skies. Be prepared, be patient and follow her tips to make the skies a little bit friendlier and your trip that much easier.

Jacqueline Whitemore. (Handout)

Jacqueline Whitmore. (Handout)

Tips for avoiding on-board altercations – Courtesy Jacqueline Whitmore

- Don’t pack more than you can lift. The number one pet peeve of flight attendants is passengers who bring carry-on luggage too heavy for them to lift. Don’t expect the flight attendant to lift your bag into the overhead bin. If you pack it, you stack it. Research the rules of your particular airline to find out what luggage requirements they have.

- Check before you recline. Airline seats recline to allow passengers to sleep and relax, but it may cause discomfort for the person behind you. If you intend to recline your seat, do it gently or better yet, turn around and make sure you don’t inconvenience the person behind you. Raise your seat during mealtime so the person behind you can enjoy his or her meal.

- Be respectful of those around you. Airplane seating is tight and interaction with your seatmates is inevitable. Keep the volume of your headphones at an appropriate level and lower the light on your electronic devices so you don’t disturb or distract the person next to you. Many people are sensitive to strong scents including garlic and onions so be mindful of what you eat on the plane.

- Allow those in front of you to disembark first. Rather than grab your luggage and make a run for the door, follow protocol. If you need to make a connection or know you’ll be in a rush, try to arrange to be seated near the front of the plane.

- Hold your tongue. If you have a complaint about another passenger, don’t take matters into your own hands and don’t demand that the plane land at the nearest airport. Alert the flight attendant.

- Parents, be prepared. When babies cry uncontrollably in flight it’s probably because their ears hurt from the air pressure. It’s a good idea for parents to be prepared with a bottle or a pacifier or something to make their children swallow and relieve ear pressure.  Also, parents should not wait until the plane takes off to change their baby’s diaper. Change your child’s diaper in the lavatory – not on the tray table.

Best of the chat: Parks Canada answers your camping questions

- August 11th, 2014
(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

With summer well underway, we know many of our Canoe.ca readers are looking forward to a camping or cottage trip. To prepare for that summer escape, we held a live chat with Michael Beaudet, Operations Advisor for Parks Canada’s National Information Service to answer all our readers’ questions on everything from setting up a campsite to avoiding unwanted wildlife to visiting the nation’s parks.

Find the top five questions and answers below. For a full chat transcript, see canoe.ca/campingchat

Q: Can you touch on what options there are for Canadians who want to stay at one of our national parks (camping, yurts, etc.)? – Nicole

Q: What is the best method to prevent bear intrusions when tent camping? I’m motorcycle-camping around the north shore of Lake Superior/Lake Huron so there is no option of keeping the food in the trunk of the vehicle. – DaveM

Q: Although I have quite a bit of family camping experience, rigging a tarp to protect from rain is still a headache. Any secrets? – Dee Hat

Q: We recently had our first camping trip and didn’t have much success with our campfire. We had put some sweet potatoes (in foil) into the fire very early but nothing really happened to them. When we took out, it was still hard and not edible. Any tips on getting a good one going for cooking? – Chris

Q: What best practices do your recommend to introduce camping to young children? (I have 3 under age 6). – Jeff

Beat the polar vortex: What to pack in case of airport delays

- January 24th, 2014

With the weather outside truly frightful and the polar vortex having made a wicked return to the northeast U.S. and Canada, flight delays have been a nasty reality for many travellers this month.

Beat the weather: Check your flight status

And as the minus-double digit temperatures continue and threats of snow this weekend make even more airport delays a real possibility, you’ll want to be prepared by checking your flight status before leaving home and packing essentials to keep you occupied and comfortable at the airport.

Wondering what to pack? Amazon.ca has compiled a list of the best gear to bring along in case of delays, whether travelling alone or as a family.

Amazon