Travel insurance can kill a travel budget for anyone. We feel the pinch especially hard, since we’re buying travel insurance for a family of four.
When I searched high and low for travel insurance comparisons and reviews for our upcoming trip, I found absolutely nothing (other then the awesome Kanetix ) that would help me compare prices and insurance. So I had to do hours of legwork to get the best prices and policies, and I’ve shared them in this review.
For six months of travel, for a family of four, we got quotes ranging from $418.51 to a whopping $2,461.92 for worldwide travel medical insurance, including the USA.
I got all the prices below and information in
2010 2012. Update! I’ve verified all of the prices and policies as of 2012.
Prices and policies can change almost overnight, so do your own research. This travel insurance review should give a great starting point, though. All prices are in Canadian dollars, although some of the companies (especially World Nomads) will cover people all around the world.
A quick explanation before I name names and point fingers in the review. Travel insurance almost always means medical travel insurance, which includes set amount of coverage (usually one to five million dollars per person for travel accidents and illness). Many travel insurance packages include coverage for baggage, trip cancellation, trip interruption and even emergency dental. Only buy what you need, and you’ll save a lot of money.
World Nomads travel insurance, available through Lonely Planet, was one of the cheapest policies we found, that also happens to include a lot of extras like trip cancellation and coverage for sports.
World Nomads travel insurance is underwritten by Chartis AIG Insurance Company of Canada.
- $814.90 for six months, for a family of four.
- $5 million travel medical insurance.
- World-wide, including USA.
- No deductible.
- Extensions are allowed during a trip, even if you’re not in our country of residence.
- You can buy this insurance after you’ve started you trip, even if you’re not in your country of residence. This is a huge bonus, especially if you’ve somehow forgotten to get insurance before you leave.
- valid provincial health insurance required for the entire duration of our trip.
- Refund available within a short period (10 or 14 days, depending where I looked on their website) after the issue of a Confirmation Letter and of the policy wording, if the trip hasn’t started, and no claim has been made.
- Trip Cancellation: $1,000 per insured.
- Trip Interruption: $5,000 per insured.
- $2,500 luggage and personal effects
- $2,500 sporting equipment coverage
- World Nomads offers baggage and personal effects insurance, and also covers cameras and computers, which is very rare (most policies exclude cell phones, computers, and most electronics). Policy covers prescription eyeglasses. However, there are exclusions to the coverage, for example if your belongings are left unattended in public place or if unattended in car.
- They cover adventure activities like snorkeling or scuba diving.
- World Nomads offers 24 Hour World Wide Emergency Assistance.
- You may extend your policy while on your trip, but NOT if your policy has expired, if you have a finalized Luggage and Personal Effects claim of CAD$2,500 or more. Coverage can be extended up to a maximum trip length of 365 days provided you have obtained an extension of your provincial health insurance plan.
When we took our trip, I didn’t know about World Escapade insurance. However, I’ve included them in this 2012 update, as they offer one of the cheapest plans available, and they would have definitly made our short list.
- $622.46 for six months, for a family of four, including the USA.
- $5 million emergency medical insurance.
- $0 deductible.
- You must be under 60 years of age to get coverage longer than 23 days.
- 365 day trip maximum, if you’ve been granted an extension by your government health insurance plan.
- 24 hour emergency medical assistance.
- They’ll give a full refund if you make the request in writing before the effective date of coverage. You can get a partial refund after leaving on your trip, if you haven’t made a claim, and you make the request within 90 days of the expiry date.
- Adding $6,000 trip cancellation and unlimited trip interruption coverage added $349.92 to the cost.
- No baggage or personal effect coverage.
- Unlike many insurance companies, they cover most sports activities (except motorized sports and participation as a professional athletes), which is a great perk if you plan on hiking, scuba diving, or para sailing.
- World Escapade insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada.
TD Meloche Monnex
We signed up with TD Meloche Monnex: Wide Horizons Solution on our last six month trip though Costa Rica, Mexico, Florida and Texas. Although we didn’t have to make a claim, their customer service was extremely professional and patient when answering all of my questions about the quote.
- $418.51 for six months, for a family of four. Since we have tenants’ insurance with Meloche, we get a good discount on the premium.
- This is a great deal, as it includes a 60 day multi-trip plan that will let us take unlimited trips (of up to 60 days) anywhere in the world for $127 per year. The additional four months top up coverage cost us $291.51 (for a total of $418.51).
- If we didn’t have home, tenants’ insurance, or auto insurance with Meloche , the cost for our initial 60 day multi-trip plan would $381 plus $291.51 for the additional days for a total of $672.51.
- You can get an initial quote online, but their online quote system is very limited. You’ll need to call Meloche to buy your policy. Meloche’s number is 1-866-566-1464.
- $5 million emergency medical insurance, per person.
- $100 deductible (most deductibles are 0). It was worth the higher deductible, given that the premium is so low.
- Free international assistance, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Full refund available anytime during our trip, less a $20 fee.
- Extensions are available while on our trip, but if there’s a claim on file, the extension must be verified by risk manager. You must also have valid provincial health coverage.
- World-wide, including USA, but excludes countries with Government of Alberta or Canada travel warnings.
- Trip cancellation up to $2,500 per person, maximum $5,000 per family for each annual period of coverage.
- Trip interruption up to $5,000 per person, per covered trip.
- No baggage or personal effects insurance.
- Brochure of coverage.
- If we purchase additional tickets/flights after leaving on trip, these are not eligible for trip cancellation/baggage insurance.
- Adventure activities like scuba diving are covered. There were some exceptions, including ultralight flights and paid sports activities, I believe, but they didn’t apply to us.
- Like all the other policies we looked at, we were required to have valid provincial health insurance for the entire duration of our trip.
Bon Voyage Travel Insurance
We used Travel CUTS Bon Voyage insurance insurance for our last trips to Asia and the Philippines. We ended up claiming a few days in a hospital in Thailand, and they were great. If we’d been a single traveller, Bon Voyage or World Nomads would probably have been our choice for insurance.
Bon Vogage has several plans, but we were interested only in Plan D, the Emergency Medical and Hospital Expenses Plan.
- $916.00 for six months, for a family of four.
- $1 million liability per person.
- Insurance must be purchased within 48 hours of booking your trip.
- You can be covered up to a maximum of 18 months.
- Bon Voyage insurance only covers travellers under age 50.
- For extensions while on your trip, you must call at least 10 days before your coverage expires and confirm that your provincial health plan is in effect for the full length of your travel period.
- Coverage includes adventure activities, including Ballooning, Bungee Jumping, Diving, Gliding, Hiking, Jet-Boating, Kayaking, Parachuting, Paragliding, Skiing, Snowboarding, Surfing, Whitewater rafting, but does not cover professional sports, scuba diving without a scuba designation like PADI, or motor racing.
- You can get a full refund if your trip is cancelled before you depart on your trip. You can get a partial refund after you’ve left on trip, if you haven’t made a claim, and if you provide proof of your date of return.
itravel2000 is one of my favorite sites to search for cheap all-inclusive last minute getaways and hotel rooms, so I thought I’d check out their travel insurance. Wow. Pretty darn expensive.
- A gulp-inducing $2,461.92 for six months for a family of four.
- Trip cancellation included.
BMO travel insurance, with $99 purchase of BMO Total Travel and Medical Protection on a BMO MasterCard.
- $1,228.16 for six months insurance for a family of four (this includes a multi-trip policy that allows trips of up to 31 days outside our home province. You’d pay $99/year for just the multi-trip insurance).
- Word-wide including USA.
- $2,000,000 medical liability.
- A refund is available 10 days after purchase, but not after leaving on a trip.
- Trip home assist and medical assist and consult available.
- Coverage can be extended after leaving, but there cannot be an open claim.
- Trip cancellation $2500 per person, or $5000 per card.
- Trip interruption $2000 per person.
- Includes auto rental collision/loss damage coverage.
- Baggage coverage of $750 per person. Coverage excludes exclude baggage or theft on computers, cell phones, contact lenses and glasses (pretty much the only expensive things we have).
- Tickets need to be purchased on credit card to get trip cancellation and interruption coverage.
Sunova Visa Gold (Based on the Desjardins Travel Gold Visa card)
Sunova Credit Union with purchase of Sunova Gold credit card with $65 annual fee. The Sunova credit card issued by a small credit union in Manitoba, Canada, but based Desjardins credit card. If a Sunova card isn’t an option, a Desjardins card is very similar. The fees and details for the Desjardins card may vary a bit.
- $841.62 for six months.
- Word-wide, including USA.
- $5,000,000 medical liability.
- $2,000 trip cancellation.
- $500 baggage.
- Refund available anytime for unused portion.
- Tip home assist.
- Medical assist and consultation.
- Can extend coverage after leaving, but cannot have an open claim.
- The Desjardins Visa is available at numerous Credit Unions and Caisse Populaires across the country as well as Desjardins itself. The prices can vary depending on which bank you go through to get it.
Kanetix is on online insurance quote consolidator. I’m a big fan. They’ll let you compare a number of quotes, and they’re usually a fairly good deal. They do all sorts of insurance, including home, auto, and tenant’s insurance.
The best deals on Kanetix were:
- ETFS insurance $834.48 for six months for a family of four.
- Travel underwriters $850.95 for six months for a family of four.
- Travel Guard $1,064.00 for six months for a family of four.
What if you’re taking a short trip?
For trips of 60 days or less, consider getting a credit card with medical travel insurance. These often offer trip cancellation and interruption, along with baggage insurance. For Canada travel insurance, the cards we looked at were Sunova’s (Desjardins Travel Visa) Gold card ($65 annual fee, which included travel insurance), and BMO’s Air Miles Mosaic Gold Card (which charged $99 for travel insurance on top of the annual credit card fee).
Baggage coverage and personal effects coverage
Baggage coverage insures your bags while in transit (in airplanes, though this may extend to buses and taxis).
Personal effects coverage covers your belongings anywhere, on any portion of your trip. This sounds nice in theory, but I found that most policies had some serious exclusions. They would only cover losses with a police report (makes sense, but a police report can be pretty damn hard to get in a lot of countries). On top of that, most policies would not insure belongings that were unattended. That means that if your wallet is stolen from your beach chair while you’re body surfing, you’re out of luck. No coverage.
Even more important, most policies wouldn’t cover loss or theft of computers, cameras, or cell phones, or jewelery. Seriously. The only expensive things most people travel with aren’t covered.
Here’s a little trick, though. If you have insurance on your home or tenant’s insurance, then your belongings might be covered on your trip. Usually there’s a limit (around 10% of the total coverage on your original policy), and your deductible applies to any claims while travelling. World Nomads had pretty good coverage for personal effects, including computers and camera equipment.
Trip cancellation and interruption generally only cover the portion of your trip that you buy before you leave. Not especially useful for us, since we’re only buying a one-way ticket to Mexico before we leave, and the rest of our tickets will be bought once out of Canada. Not having a set itinerary means that we’ll buy onward legs (by plane, train, car, taxi, water taxi, ferry, cruise liner, or bus) as we need them. I couldn’t find a single travel insurance policy that would cover purchase of additional legs once we left home. Trust me, I tried. And tried.
A lot of Canada travel insurance reviews don’t mention this, but it’s important: If you’re gone for more than six months, ensure you get a written extension from your provincial health care plan (this applies only to Canadians).
Checklist for a travel insurance quote:
- What is the amount of liability you cover?
- Is trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance covered?
- Is there a refund available for unused amount?
- What is the deductible?
- Do you offer a medical service assist, e.g., can you help me find a doctor or hospital?
- Is the policy good worldwide, including the USA?
- Can I top up my insurance once I’ve left on my trip?
- Can I buy my initial insurance after I’ve left on my trip?
Check out our new website!
We’ve had so many great responses to this article that we realized that other travellers were having the exact same problem we had: There are no good websites that do a good job of reviewing and comparing Canadian travel insurance.