TravelReady Travel Essentials, Tips from the Experts
On January 7, we hosted a session on travel insurance, financial and legal essentials, To learn more or watch the video, click HERE.
What follows is an edited transcript of our webinar, for those who prefer to read rather than watch.
Carolyn Ray: Introduction and Welcome
Carolyn: Welcome, everybody. My name is Carolyn Ray and I’m the CEO and Editor-in-Chief at JourneyWoman. We’re here today to talk about travel essentials as part of our new travel-ready theme that we’re working on this year.
Just a few things: Let us know where you’re calling from in the comments here in the chat. We’re going to do a Q&A at the very end but you’re welcome to post questions the whole time.
I do want to remind you that this is being recorded. We are not broadcasting to Facebook, so if you know anybody that was trying to get on Facebook we’ll keep trying, but so far technology is not the best today. But anyway, so it is being recorded so please don’t share any confidential or personal information on this webinar. We want you to be safe at all times.
I want to thank you all for coming. I’m very happy this is happening today and not yesterday because I think we all would have been distracted by what was going on in the world.
We’ve got an exciting agenda for you here today and I want to introduce our speakers in just a minute and talk a bit about what Travel Ready means.
Just before we start, though, I wanted to acknowledge the events of yesterday. We’re all citizens of democratic countries and we believe strongly in the idea of democracy. I think we can take comfort in the fact that that idea is shining through today and that all of the attributes and the qualities of democratic countries are being reflected and will be reflected in the future. Things like respect and empathy and gratitude, and, above all, resilience, because, if nothing else, we know that protecting democracy takes hard work. I grew up in Florida in the U.S. so I have a lot of empathy for what was going on yesterday. We’re going to move ahead, 13 days to go. Obviously an emotional day for many of us.
For those of you who may not know, JourneyWoman is one of the original solo travel websites founded in 1994 by Evelyn Hannon, who is recognized as the world’s first female solo traveller. Our ethos is to empower women to travel safely and provide honest, objective information. I’m really thrilled with the turnout that we have today because I think it’s a very important topic to be talking about travel insurance and the legal and financial essentials that we need to travel safely.
When we talk about being Travel Ready we’re not talking about travelling necessarily today or tomorrow – we’re talking about preparing for the future – whenever that may be for all of us at a time when we feel safe travelling again in the future.
What we’ll be doing over the next few months, and, frankly, for as long as it takes, is to help elevate your confidence and sustain your enthusiasm for travel, and also create opportunities like this for positive, constructive conversations about issues that matter to us.
I believe we will travel again when we’re ready and when we feel safe, and on our own terms. But we also know that travel will not be the same as it was before and that we need to take more responsibility than we have in the past for all of the changes that are in front of us.
So today, as I mentioned, we’re going to talk about travel insurance. There’s been a lot of news in the last few weeks about travel insurance. We’re very lucky to have a wonderful lady, Nancy, with us, who is going to speak about that. I’ll speak more about her in just a moment. Financial and legal planning are also important things, as I’ve come to discover as I’ve gone through various stages of my life. I hope that this session will be a bit of a primer for you and will be the start of a conversation, and of course we welcome your questions following this as well.
I now want to introduce our guests, and I’m so happy to have them with us today and are highly qualified to bring us a really strong perspective on all of these issues. They’re going to come on in just a moment, but Libby Wildman is a senior partner at Davis Rea Investment Counsel, and in addition to being a passionate traveller she’s an expert in financial and estate planning and works with women to help them take control over their legal and financial affairs.
Cathy Godfried has 34 years in the travel business as the CEO of Erawan Travel. She’s also Head Babe at Babes in Bali which offers women’s tours to South East Asia. Both Libby and Kathy are on our JourneyWoman Advisory Council, which is a dedicated group of 13 women, including tour operators. We have JourneyWomen, health and wellness experts and mobility experts, who are here to give you honest and unbiased advice. We launched this council back in August and they’ve just been a tremendous source of inspiration.
Our third speaker today is Nancy Medeiros. She’s a manager in Ontario at TuGo Insurance, which is a privately-owned insurance company that offers travel insurance to Canadians, visitors to Canada, and international students through their national network of insurance providers.
I’d like to thank these three women for joining us today to talk about these critical issues. I’d also like to thank all of you for joining us, and also for your generous donations that we’ll be making to an orphanage in Bali on Cathy’s behalf. This is something that we’re going to be doing for all of our events this year, so every event that you come to at JourneyWoman will be a “pay what you can” event which helps us cover some costs obviously, but more importantly lets us give back, which I think is really important, and going to be very important this year. We just had our holiday social in December and we raised about $800 for Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. So that’s what we’ll be doing for the rest of this year.
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Libby Wildman: Financial and Legal Planning
So I’m going to bring on Libby and start with her. And Libby is, as I said, an expert in financial planning. And she’s had an interesting dilemma today. She’s sideways at the moment but … There we go. But she is in the process of picking her father up from the hospital, so sometimes events just happen so we’re going with it. So thank you, Libby, for joining us today.
Libby: No problem. I’m sitting in my car with a light ring and the Police Station next to the hospital is closed due to Covid so I’m in the parking lot! But this is so awesome, and I want to say we have a home in Florida and we have many, many American friends and we were glued to the TV and our heart absolutely goes out to everybody. And my gosh, the messages of standing together regardless of what party you’re in last night was so clear and motivating that I’ve got to believe a lot of good is going to come out of this, so love to all of our American friends.
Carolyn: Absolutely. So, Libby, you spend most of your time working with women on estate planning. What is your observation right now about women’s comfort level with financial and legal issues, and processes and terminology? What’s your perspective on that?
Libby: You know, I think women have, because of being widowed or divorced, or choosing to be single, have really finally decided that it’s time to take control of their finances and understand the jargon. I can’t tell you how many women come to me and say, “I’m really tired of not understanding what are the appropriate things that I should be doing”. So I would encourage everybody out there to find an advisor that will spend the time to talk to you, explain things to you, say what you should be doing specifically, and how to protect yourself, and if you have a family, your family.
So I think that’s the big thing, Carolyn. Women really want to take back their power and control their own destiny and definitely be more in the know.
Carolyn: Yes, you know, speaking of estate planning, what are the components of that? You were the one that introduced me to all of this a little while ago and I was just thinking it meant a will and power of attorney, but there’s obviously more to it than just those documents.
Libby: In Canada 54% of people die without a will, which is bizarre, but I’m sure the numbers are actually quite similar the world over because human beings are the same. It’s interesting, you know, that people think I’m going to buy insurance because if I’m somewhere – in Bali or Mexico – and I get sick and have to go to the hospital that I want those hospital bills covered. But what about the next step that says when I get home, if I’m still sick, what do I do?
If you’re an income-earning woman you want to make sure that either through your work or if you’re self-employed that you either have income replacement insurance, like disability insurance or critical illness, because the illness, the virus, the something that might happen to you when you’re travelling could easily continue on with you at home and affect your personal finances in a big way. And again on average, and this is a North American number, people can live about two to four weeks without income. And these numbers are really updated because of Covid. We know that those are accurate numbers. So it behoves us to make sure that we have income continuation if that’s important to us.
Carolyn: Absolutely. And, you know, speaking of powers of attorney and wills, I know there are several kind of online services that have cropped up in the last few years. What’s your take on those in terms of, you know, are they appropriate, are they worthwhile? The cost?
Libby: Just so everybody understands, your will only tells somebody what to do once you’ve died. And if you don’t have a will in place, the civil servants in your country will start to make decisions for you and your estate. But if you are not able to act on your own behalf, there’s something called a power of attorney. And a power of attorney says that if I’m mentally incapacitated I give somebody the ability to deal with my affairs. And that might be, you know, covering my utility bills, paying my rent.
Living power of attorney is giving somebody legally to sign your name. I had a friend who – I don’t if you guys remember when the big volcano exploded – who actually was stuck in Europe for about six weeks because the planes stopped flying. And she was not able to have anybody at home deal with her affairs because before she left she never thought this would happen and she didn’t give anybody power of attorney. So you can give someone general power of attorney, or only power of attorney in the event of a mental incapacity. And then there’s “Do not resuscitate” power of attorney.
So they really are three separate things, and again it’s worthy of a conversation to have, because, Carolyn, what we’ve heard from our ladies is that they want to go travelling longer and further. So, you know, there are things other than Covid.
Carolyn: The good news is that most of the women on this call (according to our poll) seem to have a will, which is amazing. I’m really happy to hear that. I also want to talk about power of attorneys and different kinds of powers of attorneys because I personally wasn’t aware that there were different types available. Could you speak to those briefly as well?
Libby: There is “Do not resuscitate”, so that is if you want heroic efforts if something were to happen to you. Quite honestly, if I was travelling for a long period of time I would take that with me. If you are going to be stationed in one country for a number of months you can have your power of attorney wherever you live, so if that’s in Texas or Florida or Toronto or B.C., but they will arrange for a “Do not resuscitate” and a power of attorney let’s say you’re going to be in Bali for three months. Because the Bali doctors will not act on something that is out of their country most likely because of liability on their behalf.
There is the health, “Do not resuscitate”, but then there is the legal and the financial, which means you’re out of town, you can’t get back, or you’re mentally incapacitated. Who is going to pay your rent, arrange your mortgage deals, pay your utility bills, collect your disability insurance if you have it. Because that will all go into trust for you, and again a public servant will become you and look after your financial affairs if you don’t have a legal document telling them who you trust to do that. So people that you name, rest assured, have a fiduciary legal obligation to only act in your best interests. So you want to be careful who that person is, but there is a very, very tightly-worded document that everything must be done in your best interests. Does that answer it, do you think?
Carolyn: Yes. And the last question I have for you is … We’re going to talk about travel insurance in just a second, but are there any other tips or recommendations you have for women when they’re travelling with regard to legal and financial affairs?
Libby: Yes. I mean again I think you should have an advisor. Let’s say you’re travelling and the stock market crashes and you’re freaking out because your money’s all in the stock market and you’re in some other country, again you want to have a relationship with somebody that you can text or email or WhatsApp and say, “I’m freaking out. I’m, you know, on the top of a mountain somewhere but I’m worried that I’ve just lost half of my retirement savings.” So again, very, very important to have people in place back home that will be able to manage these things.
Be very careful of currencies. Where are you buying your currency? Through what entity? We have seen way, way more hack jobs on texting and fake uses of credit cards and all sorts of things like that. So I think, Carolyn, it’s funny I’m actually not a detail person, but we used to really rely on “Oh, I’m sure everything’s fine”. And you know that expression ignorance is bliss, we cannot afford today to just think it will all be OK, particularly if we’re all going to do challenging travel which might include third world countries where they may not even feel the same way we do about, you know, democracy and rules and laws.
My stepson was in Thailand and had his passport taken away for two weeks because he hit somebody on a motorcycle. That was very, very scary times. So again he fortunately … We had to wire money for him because he couldn’t – he couldn’t access his bank account the right amount of money. It was basically a bribe, quite frankly, to the police, but that was what he had to do to be able to leave the country and we were thankful he wasn’t beaten up. So again, have people that know where you are, have access to funds, because you just don’t know when something might need to be taken care of for you.
Carolyn: That’s so important. That’s great, Libby, thank you so much. I’m going to let you off the hook if you need to go get your dad and I’m going to turn to Cathy. Give me one second. All right, there she is.
Cathy Gotfried: Perspective from a Travel Agent and Tour Operator
Carolyn: Cathy, I’m so happy you’re here because you have so much experience in the travel industry, both as a travel agent and as a tour operator. It’s obviously been a hard year for anyone in the tourism sector, but, you know, I’m curious. Have you found that there is a silver lining for you or for some of the people that you collaborate this year?
Cathy: You know, the silver lining is just being able to catch up on a lot of things that I normally don’t have time to do. Of course I was always so busy so it was like, “Oh, I’ll get to that someday”. Well I didn’t have that excuse this year so I’m much more organized in my personal life than I was before.
But in regards to travel, I think one of the benefits I’m hearing from a lot of my clients is that they are researching a lot more on destinations that they would like to visit than they may have had time for before as well. So I think just having extra time has been a bit of a bonus. But I can’t say that it’s been a wonderful thing. I can’t pretend. [Laughs]
Carolyn: Yes, for any of us. We’re having a little poll here for those who want to participate. These polls are all anonymous by the way and we’re just using them for conversation pieces here. But in terms of travel plans for the next little while – And it looks like most of the people so far aren’t sure yet what they’re going to be doing. But you know obviously some women are thinking about travelling internationally in the summer and the fall of this year. Others are waiting until 2022. From your perspective, what should women be looking for in a tour operator right now, given all the change that’s happened? Is there anything that you suggest in terms of criteria?
Cathy: Well, you know, I mean new people are always starting out in the travel business and offering packages, but I think at this point it’s particularly important for someone that’s, you know, tried and true, right, somebody that’s had lots of experience because you really… If you’re going to go on a tour really any time, but particularly once the, you know the restrictions have lifted, it’s really helpful to you to travel with someone that’s a bit of an expert in that area because I think it makes a big difference. Like I know for myself I’ve been doing my Bali group since 2002, but I started to travel to Bali in 1983, so I have lots of great connections there. Like I really have a whole team of people that should anything go sideways, or I need to know anything sitting here in Calgary, Alberta, right now in my home office, that’s going on in Bali in particular, I’ve got people on the ground that are going to give me up to date information.
So I think that’s really important, is to, you know, have somebody that has the experience. I know with this being a little bit of an insurance seminar as well, a webinar, one of the things that I think is important is that your tour operator has their own liability insurance. Because should something go wrong for you on that tour, and it’s mostly medical things, you know you’ve fallen and you’ve broken a leg and now you can’t do your job because you can’t stand for long. And I’m not suggesting everybody should sue their tour operator, but it’s just really good to know that you’ve got some opportunity there if you had some losses financially.
So I have liability insurance, and I think most of the tour operators that do this as a full time business would have that liability insurance. So it’s something that any traveller can ask their tour operator in advance.
Carolyn: And what’s your policy on travel insurance. Are you requiring it now? Are you saying that you recommend it? How are you handling this?
Cathy: Well, in regards to medical insurance and then – that’s the biggest one for most travellers. And then trip cancellation interruption is another big one. There’s also baggage. You know, there’s various other insurances, but let’s just talk about the big one: medical insurance. So I would recommend as a travel agent with 34 years’ experience, if you can’t afford to buy travel medical insurance you cannot afford to travel. It is just a given. Because there’s no way that you’re going to be able to foresee something happening. It could be an accident; it could be just getting ill, so medical insurance is really, really important.
And it’s not just about getting the insurance. Some people have insurance through their companies. So when someone’s on a tour with me medical insurance is mandatory. But they don’t have to purchase it through me if they already have it. So then I say to them, “Please go to your HR department and ask them for a policy. So that might be getting a hard copy that you can read through in advance so you know what your restrictions are, if there’s any pre-existing condition restrictions that you need to know about, but medical for sure.
And then trip cancellation interruption I always recommend as well. It’s not mandatory on my tours but it’s just protection for the things that you’re not expecting to have happened. I know people say, “Oh, I’m going to go, there’s nothing that’s going to stop me.” But, you know, if you have a death in the family the chances are you’re not going to go, so I think it’s really a good investment as well.
Carolyn: Yes, agreed, agreed. And, you know, we’ve done several (JourneyWomen) surveys now and learned a lot about insurance. I’ll talk about it in a minute, but it is good news I think that most – at least most women that we’ve surveyed do purchase comprehensive travel insurance, which includes both medical and cancellation insurance.
I’m going to move now to Nancy and then I’ll bring everybody back in just a moment so we get started on insurance. So thank you very much, Cathy.
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Nancy Medeiros, TuGo Travel Insurance
Nancy is with TuGo Insurance and she has bravely agreed to come on and answer all your questions about insurance, along with Cathy as well given her experience. Nancy, I thank you for being here. I can just imagine that your year last year, and probably so far this year, has been a busy and hectic one. And I just wanted to … You know, part of the reason we wanted to have this discussion, and as I said at the outset this is probably the beginning of a discussion on insurance, is that in our survey that we did last June with 1,300 women insurance came in kind of least trusted of all the travel related industries. And I think that had a lot to do with obviously the unexpectedness of what happened in March. But how’s it going? What’s it been like for you? Give us a little insight.
Nancy: Well, I think that a lot of the lack of trust in insurance companies I think stems from a little bit of a lack of knowledge and understanding of how insurance works. I mean it’s not as simple as just paying your premiums and expecting things to get paid. Insurance is there to protect you when you need it. But of course there always has to be rules or, in insurance terms, exclusions that are in place, not only to protect the insurance companies but also to protect the insurance as well. If, you know, you were able to buy insurance to cover anything and everything insurance would be way too expensive and nobody would be able to afford it, or all the insurance companies would just go bankrupt and we wouldn’t be able to get insurance.
So I think that’s where a lot of that untrust lies. I think once people get a little bit more understanding of insurance companies and how they work and how they can benefit you, then I think that that untrust becomes much less.
Carolyn: And as I mentioned, our survey showed that most women are buying comprehensive insurance, which includes both cancellation and medical insurance, although there were some differences between Americans and Canadians. Oddly Canadians generally purchase health insurance and Americans generally purchase cancellation insurance. I’m not sure what’s behind that but what are some other things that are kind of myths or things that we think insurance might cover that they don’t, or vice versa?
Nancy: Things that you want to keep in mind: There are three things that I like, three little tips that I like to say. You need to know your trip, you need to know your policy, and you need to know your health. So you want to make sure that you know how long are you travelling for? Are you travelling multiple times in a year? Because that would determine whether or not you should just do a single trip or an annual trip type of policy. What are you going to do on your trip? Are you planning on doing any high-risk activities, things like mountain climbing, or scuba diving, or sky diving for example. A lot of policies don’t cover things like that, so you really need to know what you’re going to do on your trips so that you can really sort out the most appropriate insurance product for you. So that’s very important.
The other thing that you want to look at is you want to know what your policy does and doesn’t cover. A lot of people travel based on credit card coverage. They’ve got a credit card and on their statement it says “You’ve got travel insurance coverage”. But when you delve a little bit deeper most people don’t know exactly what it is that they’re covered for. How many days do you have coverage for? What’s the coverage amount? Do they cover pre-existing conditions? Will they cover your family members if they’re travelling with you? Do you have to pay for the trip with that credit card in order to have coverage? Lots of questions that most people won’t have the answers to. And a really, really big one, and the most important one is if something happens to you while you’re away do you know who to call to get help? I mean if you call your credit card company the chances are they’re not going to know where to send you, right. You need to get as much information as possible and know as much about your coverage as you can possibly can before you leave on your trip.
It’s the same with group benefits plans. My husband has travel insurance coverage with his company through Sun Life, and I tried to have a look at it and there’s very minimal information available. I have no idea how much the coverage amount is. I have no idea what stability periods are for existing medical conditions. I have no idea where to call if we need help. So it’s really that type of information that’s very important to have so that you know whether or not the coverage that you have, if you do have it, is suitable for what you’re doing and what your travel needs are.
Carolyn: We’re just running a little poll here on terminology and we want to go through some kind of key phrases and try and simplify those a little bit. So let’s talk about “cancel for any reason”. Could you explain what that is?
Nancy: Absolutely. So trip cancellation is one of those products I feel that is very misunderstood in the marketplace. So a lot of people think, well, my grandmother’s in the hospital, oh it’s not looking good and I have this trip planned, I’m going to buy some trip cancellation insurance so that if I need to cancel my trip then I’ll be covered. That’s not really the way it works. Insurance is meant to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses. It’s not meant to cover something that you know is going to happen or that you think may happen. It’s almost like going to the doctor and getting diagnosed with cancer and then trying to get critical illness insurance. It’s not going to happen.
So that’s one of the most misunderstood products in the marketplace. So with everything that’s going on right now, Covid for example, that’s going to be an exclusion in most cancellation policies because it’s a known circumstance. But if you’ve got an option to purchase a cancel for any reason policy then you would be able to cancel if the cancellation was due to Covid, because it’s technically cancel for any reason. Now you don’t get all of your money back. Depending on where you purchase from some places will offer 50% back, some places will offer 75%, and you usually have to cancel within a timeframe before your departure date. But that’s a great option for people.
And even if, you know, something happens and there is some political unrest where you’re going and you just don’t feel comfortable making the trip, there’s no advisory or anything like that but you just don’t feel comfortable going, that’s not a covered risk under a general trip cancelling policy. But if you had cancelled for any reason you would at least be able to get some of your prepaid non-refundable costs back.
Carolyn: Yes, it’s complicated. What about pre-existing conditions? Could you explain that a little bit?
Nancy: Yes. So that’s a very important thing note, especially when you’re looking at what type of insurance to buy, because many different carriers have different rules when it comes to pre-existing medical conditions. So a pre-existing condition in travel insurance terms is any existing medical or dental condition that you have before you depart for your trip, OK. So what you need to look at is you need to look at what the stability requirements are with the insurance that you’re going for.
So typically it’s based on the age of the person, and then sometimes what the condition is. Typically, if you’re 60 or older you’re going to have to go through a medical questionnaire to determine your rate that you’re going to pay, but just because you go through a medical questionnaire does not mean that you’re automatically going to be covered for your existing medical conditions. That medical questionnaire is typically just to determine the rate that you’re going to pay, but you still have to meet the required stability requirements for your age category in order to have coverage for that particular condition. So that’s usually outlined in the exclusion section of the policy wording, so that’s where you want to look if you’re browsing through a policy to see if it’s going to meet your needs.
Carolyn: Browsing through a policy.
Nancy: [Laughs] Yeah, nobody’s going to browse, it’s kind of boring, but …
Carolyn: Exclusions: So let’s talk about high-risk activities, and also what’s covered and what’s not.
Nancy: Absolutely. So when I say high-risk activities, they’re not fully defined in most policy wording booklets. What you’ll see in the exclusions is any high-risk activity including, but not limited to, and then they’ll name a few. So I mention them on the onset, so things like bungee jumping, scuba diving, mountain climbing, even in some cases zip-lining, is not something that’s typically covered under a travel insurance policy, they consider that high-risk activities. You want to look for a travel insurance company that maybe will offer a rider that you can add to your policy that will cover you when you’re doing those types of activities. A lot of times it might be a specialty insurance provider. In TuGo’s case we do have some options available for people if they are doing those types of high-risk activities.
We’ve tried to streamline it quite significantly so that typical vacation type activities that people do are going to be covered under the base policy, but if you’re doing anything a little bit more high-risk, like the mountain climbing, scuba diving type things, you can purchase additional coverage to cover you while you’re doing those particular activities. And we go so far as to cover things like race car driving and wingsuit flying. So if you’re that adventurous you’re good to go with TuGo.
Carolyn: And things like parasailing, if you’re in the Caribbean and you want to go parasailing is that typically included?
Nancy: Yeah, absolutely.
Carolyn: So that would be a rider?
Nancy: Correct. In most cases, yes. For us, I think we’ve removed parasailing so that would be under the base policy, but most other policies you want to look at that and make sure that if you are doing any of those types of activities you ask them to make sure that you are going to have coverage for that, because the last thing you want is for something to happen to you and then know that you’re not covered, right?
Carolyn: Yes. That’s great. And I also have deductibles written down. Any key points there?
Nancy: Yes. Deductibles are, you know, a way that people use to maybe bring down the premium, especially if you’re travelling for longer periods of time your premiums may be a little bit higher. But again you want to be careful with those because the break that you’re going to get on the premium is never going to be the same amount as the deductible itself. And deductibles are typically paid per event or claim, so if you have multiple claims and you have a high deductible you’re going to have to pay that deductible for every claim. So you just want to be careful of that, if you are choosing to go with a deductible or a higher deductible amount.
Carolyn: That’s great. Any other terminology that you wanted to mention today that we should point out?
Nancy: Those are the big ones. Those are the things that you really want to look at. You really want to look at exclusions and you really want to look at the coverage for pre-existing conditions, especially if you do have any medical conditions you just want to make sure that those things are really taken care of and that you have a greater understanding of exactly what is and what isn’t covered when you’re going away.
Carolyn: That’s great. Thank you. What about, you know, making decisions about insurance? I mean there’s obviously a lot of different options available to us in Canada and the U.S. You know, we often look at price as the number one criteria perhaps. What else would you suggest that we be considering when we’re buying insurance?
Nancy: Again, like I mentioned in the beginning, I think the main thing is you really need to know your trip and what you’re going to be doing on your trip so that you can choose the most appropriate coverage that’s going to match exactly what you’re doing on your trip. The last thing that I look at, typically, is price, and I know that that’s a difficult thing because of course everybody is watching, you know, their money and nobody wants to pay for something that’s not worth it. But when you’re talking about travel insurance you really have to look. If you see someone that’s offering you for this price and then someone that’s offering you for this price there’s probably a reason for that so you want to dig in a little bit deeper and see if the person that’s offering it to you for this amount maybe has better coverages than the person that’s offering it to you for this amount. So you really want to make sure that the product is best for your needs and is going to cover what you’re doing on your trip. You don’t want to go with the cheapest option and then find out that, “Oops, you went scuba diving. Sorry, you’re not covered for that.”
Carolyn: It’s almost like making a list of – It’s really part of trip planning.
Carolyn: But to the extreme though, and in a much more detailed way than perhaps we’re used to.
You know, there have been some recent announcements about Covid tests in Canada, for example, and that we have to have a Covid test before we come into Canada. Obviously, there are questions related to that: Is insurance going to cover that, and what happens if you get a negative test? I mean I know this is fresh, it’s just appeared yesterday and today in some of the papers, but what’s your take on that situation?
Nancy: A lot of insurance companies right now have added a Covid type of coverage to their line-ups, so medical typically will not cover Covid because there is a current travel advisory in place to avoid non-essential travel. So typically it’s not going to be covered in the base medical plan, but a lot of providers are now offering a Covid coverage rider that you can add to your policy that will cover Covid-related expenses. But you always have to remember, travel insurance is specifically for unexpected accidents or illnesses. So something like a Covid test that’s required as a requirement of entry into the country, that’s not a medical emergency or something unexpected, so that’s not something that travel insurance would typically cover.
If someone were showing symptoms, for example, and went to the doctor, and the doctor said that they needed to take a Covid test to rule that out, then that would be something that was covered because they were showing symptoms and it was something that was mandated by a doctor. But if it’s a requirement to get into the country that they’re going to, or to get back into Canada, then that’s not something that typically would be covered under travel insurance. So that’s something that you have to keep in mind.
The other thing that people want to keep in mind is, you know, there’s nothing stopping people from taking a flight somewhere but you really want to keep in mind that even if you do have coverage for Covid-related expenses you want to really make sure that you are aware of the situation back in your home province or city and see what the situation is in the hospitals. Because if you get sick abroad and you think that you’re just going to get flown back, that might not necessarily be the case. If the insurance company can’t find a bed for you in a hospital in your home province then we may not be able to bring you home. So that’s something else that people need to consider and not just expect that insurance companies can, you know, move the moon and move mountains and get everything done for you.
Carolyn: One last question before I bring Cathy back. We have this impression sometimes that decisions at insurance companies are made by a bot or a … you know some, I don’t know, administrative process, yet I believe there is this human element of doctors evaluating complex situations. Can you give us a view into that, like if a complex claim comes in what happens behind the scenes?
Nancy: Lots happens behind the scenes. So travel insurance typically does not do underwriting upfront because pretty much 90% to 95% of people that purchase travel insurance don’t claim, so it doesn’t really make sense to do all that work upfront since most people aren’t using the policy. So the underwriting all really takes place on the backend. So we will check in with the hospital or clinic that the person is at. We will have our doctors dealing with the doctors that are dealing with the traveller as well, just to make sure that whatever testing and procedures are being done are not – are actually necessary and they’re not just trying to use their new MRI machine because the insurance company is going to foot the bill. We’re going to be in contact with the family members, let them know what’s going on. If there is an area evacuation that’s going to take place and we are going to bring them back home we’re going to arrange all of that, we’re going to secure the bed in their home province or home country. We are going to deal with all of the travel arrangements.
I mean there is so much stuff that’s done behind the scenes and nothing is automated when it comes to a claim, regardless of the amount. I know that a lot of companies were trying to do that for small claims, for things like auto and home insurance, but for travel insurance, it’s much more complex so there is always a claims examiner that’s involved and dealing directly with the traveller and their families and their medical care professionals.
Travel Insurance Terminology (Provided by Nancy)
It is highly recommended that you always read your policy wording booklet. Any terms in your policy wording that are in italics, bolded or underlined will typically have a definition and definitions are usually found near the end of the policy wording. Below are some common terms and their meanings as it pertains to travel insurance.
The portion of eligible expenses you must pay from your own pocket when an eligible claim occurs. The deductible applies per insured, per incident claimed.
An unexpected medical condition or accident, which requires immediate treatment to alleviate existing danger to life or health. An emergency no longer exists, when the medical evidence indicates that you are able to continue the trip or return to your province/territory of residence. Once such emergency ends, no further benefits are payable in respect of the medical condition which caused the emergency, unless otherwise specified in a benefit.
Re-examination of you to monitor the effects of earlier treatment related to the initial emergency, except while hospitalized. Follow-up does not include diagnostic tests and/or continued treatment.
Pre-existing condition or Pre-existing medical condition
Any medical or dental condition that exists on or before the date you leave for your trip.
A medical condition is considered stable if there has been no change to the treatment or condition within a specified time frame depending on how old the traveller is. Change in treatment typically includes increasing or decreasing medication as well as stopping medication.
Carolyn: OK, I’m going to bring Cathy back in, and invite all of you, if you have questions to ask this would be a great time to let us know what they are, and we’ll do our best to answer them. I also want to – just while we’re waiting and I see some questions coming in as well – Cathy, you mentioned you had some travel tips, do you want to share any of those now before we get into questions?
Cathy: Oh, there we go. You know, I just think while we’ve got all this time before we start travelling again it’s a really good time to look at all your technology. And I know, Carolyn, we’ve discussed this before, that, you know, when you have women going on trips, whether it’s individual or with groups, there is always lots of technology that comes with us now, whether it’s an iPad, an iPhone, your camera. So I think this is a great time to actually learn how to use all of those. And really, you know, it’s so easy because you can find almost everything that you want online. But even downloading great travel apps or maps so that you’ve got them all ready for you when you are going to be travelling, as well as reading. And I mean I love reading travel books, and I know you were doing your monthly JourneyWoman book club, which is awesome.
So what a great idea now is if you’re looking at going, wherever you’re looking at going, start googling and finding books on that destination. Because that’s often the thing that we don’t have a chance to do before we go, right? And then you might be reading about it while you’re in the destination, but it’s great to be able to do that ahead of time. And the one big one is, make sure you know what your mobile phone coverage is with your provider. Because I know with me doing groups – and my groups are small, 18 women – inevitably someone doesn’t understand data, turning data off, or how many, you know, gigs of data they can access, all that kind of stuff which is a bit overwhelming when you’re travelling internationally. So make sure you put a call through to your mobile company, whoever your provider is, because they all offer different coverages so … And shop around for the best deal right now too, we’ve got lots of time to look at that.
Carolyn: That’s for sure.
Cathy: I was just going to say, international travel requires a lot of planning, so that is one of the gifts that we’ve got right now, is, you know, get healthy, make sure you’ve, you know, obviously checked all of these things that we’re talking about. And I know we’ve talked about doing a webinar just on technology for travelling. But, you know, get in your best health, start taking your probiotics and all that kind of stuff well before you start travelling again.
Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. One of the questions that you just reminded me of, Cathy, you know, is it better to buy a yearly insurance policy versus a per trip? Nancy, what are your thoughts on that?
Nancy: It really just depends on how many times you’re planning on travelling during that year. So a multi-trip plan usually works on an annual basis so you would buy a set number of days, so depending on the travel insurance provider, five days, 10 days, 20 days, whatever it is. So what that means is, you buy that set number of days. That means you can travel that many days at a time as many times as you want within that one year period. So you really just want to ask yourself, “How many times am I going to go away?” Right, if it’s going to be more than twice in one year it’s probably going to be a little bit more economical for you to purchase an annual plan so that you can, you know, go ahead and go wherever you want to go and not have to worry about purchasing a policy every time you’re going to go somewhere. So that’s what you really want to look at there.
If you’re going to have a trip that’s going to be longer than the number of days that you purchased, not to worry, you can always purchase an extension. So if you know that your fifth trip of the year is going to be 25 days instead of ten you can always purchase an extra 15-day extension for that one trip, and then you’ll have coverage for that 25 days for that one particular trip. So it’s really just you want to talk to your insurance advisor or your insurance agent and have them work – play with the quotes and see what’s going to work best for you.
Carolyn: That’s great. So I just want to answer a few questions that are coming through in the chat. One is: Does travel insurance cover a car rental?
Nancy: Depending on the insurance provider. TuGo does have car rental coverage that you can add to your medical plan. It covers only damage to the vehicle, not liability, so you’d have to purchase that separately.
Carolyn: Gloria is asking: Will travel companies commonly fly a traveller back home if she gets Covid during the trip assuming there is no availability of healthcare services?
Nancy: It really just depends. You’re definitely not going to get on any commercial flight if you’ve tested positive for Covid, so it really just depends. It depends on how serious their symptoms are, it depends on whether we can find a bed back in their home country or home province. So there’s a lot of factors that are involved to determine whether or not we’re going to bring someone back to their home country, not the least of which is if they’re medically stable to travel.
Carolyn: What about travel within states, within provinces? I assume here in Canada that we’re covered no matter where we are in Canada?
Nancy: Yes, that is a typical misconception. A lot of people think that if we’re travelling within Canada that our provincial healthcare will cover us no matter what province we’re in, and that’s not necessarily the case. Typically hospitalizations will be covered, but you want to be careful because things like ambulance services will not be covered, prescription medications will not be covered. If you need any type of medical appliances, crutches, wheelchairs, whatever it may be, that would all be coming out of your pocket.
There was a recent news story where a young lady from Ontario went to New Brunswick to visit her parents, and just before she was ready to leave she experienced back pain, she went to a hospital and she had a herniated disc. The hospital that she was at was not able to treat her so they airlifted her to another facility a few miles away. When she got home she found a $12,800 bill for that airlift to another location. That’s not something that OHIP is going to cover, so that’s going to be a bill that she is going to have to pay.
So if you are thinking of travelling within Canada and you are a Canadian resident, you do want to look at getting travel insurance for travel within Canada, which is available pretty much through any travel insurance provider. It’s much lower cost than travel insurance for travelling out of the country to the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. There is no medical questionnaire with TuGo anyway. There is no medical questionnaire no matter how old you are if, it’s just within Canada that you want to purchase. And stability requirements are not necessary for travel within Canada as well. So it’s definitely something that you want to look into if you are travelling within the country, especially right now given the fact that a lot of people are not travelling internationally and maybe they want to have a look at other provinces and see the country that they’re from.
Carolyn: Yes, absolutely. That’s certainly what we’ve been doing, a lot of travel at home.
What about some ways to protect – and I think Libby has stepped away, but to protect assets when you travel? I think Cathy had some thoughts there around credit cards in particular. You know, and we’ve all had that experience. At least I have. I was in Argentina a few years ago and completely had my debit card into overdraft several times over because I used it on a fraudulent machine, I guess, somewhere down there. Any tips for protecting assets while you’re travelling?
Cathy: I would suggest making sure that you’ve got a second credit card for sure. And you know, you just – you never know when, as you say, there’s skimmers on a lot of the ATM machines now internationally, so it’s easy for them to get your information. So that’s probably more a bank card using it an ATM machine. But I also have had clients that have brought one bank card and it won’t work in a destination. And, you know, luckily when you’re on a group tour it’s usually – I mean everybody’s quite helpful with that. And sometimes your bank card can get red flagged, or your credit card, and you can’t use it at all unless you’ve reached your bank which is really inconvenient.
So have a second credit card as a back-up. Some people have a credit card that’s just for travelling purposes so if it does get copied it’s not like they’re getting access to maybe the limit that you would have on your regular card. And also, I really recommend bringing some cash with you. And I usually suggest U.S. cash, not Canadian, because U.S. is a currency that’s recognized around the world. And, you know, a couple of hundred bucks in a crisis situation, of cash, is going to – can mean the difference for you between, you know, getting to your next place or not.
So, you know, you may not use it on your trip but if you are going to bring cash too, another tip is to bring new bills, because a lot of countries now there’s so much counterfeit money going around that if you have a bill that’s older than like ten years often they won’t exchange it for you. So it can’t be ripped, it can’t be written on. It can’t be soiled. So go to the bank and ask them for new bills if they can give it to you. So, you know, definitely have some cash with you. You don’t want to just depend on the ATM machines.
Carolyn: Great advice. I want to go back to another question on insurance. If an insurance company won’t fly a traveller with Covid home will the interruption or delay provisions normally cover the cost of quarantining in the country she is visiting assuming hospitalization is unnecessary?
Nancy: Well again, you have to look at exclusions because Covid, again, is going to be an exclusion in most travel insurance policies right now. If you purchased the additional coverage specifically related to Covid, I can’t speak to all providers but the big ones to go: Manulife, and I believe Allianz as well offer certain trip interruption benefits and certain quarantine benefits as well. So if you do happen to test positive for Covid on your trip and you have to quarantine for 14 days before they’ll allow you to get back on the flight, then there are benefits there to provide some cash to help cover the cost of the quarantine. And there is also a trip interruption benefit if the travel advisory changes to a level 4 and people want to come back home.
Another big misconception that people have is that if they have travel medical insurance, if they get sick and they can’t come back on their scheduled date, that the medical will cover them to change their flight, and that’s not the case. Medical is strictly medical coverage. It will cover medical related expenses. If you need to change flights and things like that, that’s a trip interruption benefits, so that’s something else that needs to be purchased in order for the insurance company to cover that additional cost of changing your flights and things like that. So that’s also something to keep in mind. You might not necessarily want trip cancellation if you’ve booked your trip and you’re leaving in a week, but you can purchase trip interruption separately without the cancellation in case something happens where you have to come home earlier or later than scheduled.
Carolyn: One of the other things that we had talked about was prescriptions and medications and whether that is covered. So for example if you are delayed somewhere on your way back will that cover the gap period?
Nancy: So again, this is all about knowing your policy. So certain policies, if you are hospitalized for example and you’re hospitalized on your date of return most medical policies will auto extend for the amount of time that you’re in the hospital, and then plus a certain number of days depending on the provider we offer an additional seven days once you’ve been released in order for you to make travel arrangements to get back home. So it just depends on the type of policy that you have. If you then once you’re released from the hospital and have made your travel arrangements, again if you don’t have trip interruption then those changed fees are going to come out of your pocket, but at least the insurance itself would auto extend for you.
If it has to do with delays in the flights that you’re taking, again that’s a trip interruption benefit not a medical benefit. So if you’re aware that your flight is going to be delayed and you’re going to have to stay at your destination for an additional day or two, then you would have to contact your insurance company in order to get an extension on the policy and you would have to pay for those additional days.
Carolyn: OK. Wow. You are a real fountain of knowledge. Holy cow. [Laughs] I know we’re coming to the end here. I’m wondering if there’s any other questions. I have one more which is kind of related to what you were just saying, Nancy, which is, you know, in a lot of cases airlines are cancelling flights and giving credits instead of refunds. And then we’re waiting for … You know, you can obviously put in a request for a claim if you’ve got a credit. Any advice in that situation?
Nancy: The biggest advice I have is be patient. The rules are changing so quickly and so often that insurance companies as well are trying – are always trying to catch up. So especially with a trip cancellation claim, because of how things have been changing so rapidly, it’s very difficult for the insurance companies to keep up with everything. And the last thing that you want is, you know, to have people double-dipping, right. This is why insurance ends up costing a lot and people have that horrible idea that insurance companies try their best not to pay claims and things like that. You know, it’s unfortunate, it’s the actions of the few that affect the many, right. So we just have to do our due diligence to make sure that we are providing reimbursement to people that actually need the reimbursement and not people that have been, you know, refunded by the tour company or offered a credit that they can use in the future and things like that.
You know, it’s unfortunate that it works that way, but like I said in the beginning, rules and exclusions have to be put in place for a reason to keep everybody safe and to keep everybody solvent as well. So please just be patient and just, you know, make sure that you’re up to date as well on everything that’s going on and check with your tour operator or your airline and what have you to see what they can do for you.
Carolyn: I have to admit myself when I’ve bought travel insurance in the past it’s been an online just check it off my list and, oh I’ve got it, I’m good to go. And I think, if nothing else, because of where we’re at today we’ll all spend a little more time thinking about travel insurance. And I really like the idea of kind of making a list of what things might I do when I’m travelling so that I can get the right thing for me as much as you can. I think that’s a really, a really smart way to think about things.
We’re going to put some links on our site as well that will have additional resources too. I think TuGo has done a nice job of trying to simplify things and provide some easy tools and obviously simpler terminology for us to understand. So we’ll have those on our website afterwards and you’ll get an email with that information.
I’d like to thank both of you for joining us today. And all of you, if you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking for more to talk about, and obviously we’re here to help you travel safely and well. That’s why we exist. We’ve got a number of other sessions coming up. It’s actually a very busy month. I don’t know why, but as Cathy mentioned, we have a book club coming up on January 20th, which is obviously a momentous day in the next few weeks called “Tales of a Female Nomad”.
We have our next issue of JourneyWoman magazine coming out next week. We’re looking at renewal, and also downsizing, which is something I’m going through myself. And we’ll also have a recording of this event in there to share. Some of you are asking if it is being recorded, and we will share it broadly. And then we’ve also got … We’re going to be launching a solo – well, evolving our current behind the scenes webinar to focus on solo travel wisdom. And then next month we’re doing another webinar on downsizing. So lots and lots going on. I really want to help everyone get ready for the future. We don’t know what it will look like yet, but we have time so let’s get ready and let’s learn as much as we can for the future.
So thank you all of again for joining us today and I look forward to your feedback and your questions. Thank you, Nancy. Thank you, Cathy.
Thanks, Carolyn. Yeah, that was awesome, thanks.
Thank you. Bye everybody.