Better safe than sorry. Whoever coined the phrase undoubtedly did so after earning a Ph.D. from the school of hard knocks – with a major in rear-end collisions, AWOL luggage, cancelled flights and medical misadventures. That’s because, according to the gloomy but practical realists at the International Travel Insurance Journal, one in three of us suffer some kind of problem while on holiday. In fact, some eight per cent of travellers report lost luggage (U.S. airlines misplaced 3.5 million bags on domestic flights alone last year), six per cent cancel or cut short holidays due to unforeseen circumstances and one in 100 contend with a holiday foul-up resulting in out-of-pocket expenses that can’t be recouped for lack of the right insurance.
Then there are the nightmares worthy of a Michael Moore documentary, all involving no insurance and myriad random happenstances – traffic jams, household accidents, health problems and ambulance rides – that result in cancelled trips, botched vacations and serious hits to the bank account. One example: flying from Toronto to El Paso, a passenger fell ill and was checked into a medical centre upon arrival in Texas. The diagnosis: gastroenteritis. The bill for treatment and overnight stay: U.S.$11,887. (The latest Conference Board of Canada research reveals that a two-day U.S. hospital stay for “chest discomfort” costs as much as U.S.$10,000; a 13-day recovery from trauma associated with a car accident, U.S.$120,000.)
“We hear so many cautionary tales in this business – good, bad, sad and genuinely shocking,” says AMA Travel’s Nikola Berube. “So it’s amazing how many people have an ‘it’ll never happen to me’ attitude. They don’t think twice about getting all the coverage they need here at home, yet they cross their fingers and hope they’ll never be in an auto accident or get food poisoning on holiday.”
Smart travellers budget insurance into their travel plans from the outset, not as an afterthought, with options covering the full gamut of insurance categories: emergency hospital and/or medical services; accident; baggage and personal effects; personal money; trip cancellation and/or interruption; and trip delay. “You are protecting your vacation investment,” says Berube.
As for car rental insurance, it’s a case unto itself. Rental companies infamously offer their own CDW (collision/loss damage waiver) insurance at rates as high as $35 per day. And while most credit cards automatically deliver varying levels of collision insurance and coverage for drivers and passengers (if you use the card to book your rental), it’s important to read the fine print and note that many cards require drivers to pay the rental company up front for any damages before they’ll reimburse. Another option is CDW insurance, with rates starting as low as $13 per day, which can be purchased through a travel agent in advance of picking up a rental car. AMA Insurance agent Amanda Schimpf suggests members who already have collision and comprehensive coverage on their own vehicle purchase a Standard Endorsement Form (SEF #27). “This extends your Alberta insurance to your rental vehicle anywhere in Canada and the U.S.,” says Schimpf. The cost for rental car coverage: a $15 flat fee for six months, $30 for a year. (Check the terms and conditions for all coverage and claims with your insurance agent.)
Berube’s final advice: “Talk to your agent, ask questions, read the fine print and don’t play with fate – it’s just not worth it.” Also worth noting: AMA members are now able to insurance-shop online. That means last-minute buyers can stock up on coverage from a Wi-Fi zone in the departure lounge.
- Premium Package Plan The best option for applicants age 59 and under. A seven-day, $1,500 vacation would cost approx. $97.
- Emergency Medical Insurance Single-trip and annual multi-trip options deliver up to $5 million in emergency medical coverage at reasonable rates. (A week’s worth of travel medical insurance costs $21.35 for travellers age 54 or under. Travellers age 59 and over can obtain the same insurance options with a medical declaration form.)