Travel Insurance Tips for Snowbirds

13 December 2016
by Sea First Insurance

Heading south to Arizona, Mexico, Florida or beyond for an extended period of time over the holidays? Whether you’ll be gone for three months, six months, or anywhere in-between, your travel insurance needs will differ from those travellers who are taking short-term vacations. With that in mind, here are some general tips for snowbirds looking for the best travel insurance plans.

Snowbird Travel Insurance

When it comes to planning your departure from Canada for sunnier days, the last thing you probably want to deal with is buying travel insurance. Not only can it get expensive, the vastness of competing offers and packages out there can get confusing. Our best advice is to:

  • Shop around. Get free quotes.
  • Be completely upfront about pre-existing health conditions
  • Ask tons of questions of your doctors, travel agents, insurance brokers, and other snowbirds you know
  • Read up on package deals that cover you throughout the year

What is Travel Insurance?

As a snowbird, while it might feel like you’re a Canadian who is “living” in Mexico for the winter, in fact, you’re most likely just a visitor (non-resident) and are thus a traveller in that country. This means that at any given moment you better have travel insurance coverage.

Travel insurance can cover things like medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and other losses you incur while travelling, either internationally or within your own country. Travel insurance is not mandatory, but since international medical emergencies can be outrageously costly, insurance coverage is considered essential for most people, especially seniors who are aged 55+.

Snowbirds need insurance for the exact same reasons regular vacationers need travel insurance: to protect themselves from financial losses in the case of medical emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. It might seem like a stumbling block or a cash grab initially, but it’s actually a huge advantage we gain as Canadians—the opportunity to protect ourselves from financial losses for up to six months out of the year.

Is Travel Insurance Expensive for Snowbirds?

The simple answer is, yes, travel insurance is pricy for snowbirds when factoring in age (often 55+) of the insureds, their pre-existing medical conditions, and duration of their trips. This is why we suggest shopping around. With so many insurance companies competing, it’s likely you’ll be able to find some decently priced packages out there.

So, although the costs varies greatly, what can you expect to pay?

A healthy couple in their mid-60’s travelling for four months coverage between November and March can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $2,700, depending on where they are going. This covers them for $5 million emergency coverage and other perks like limited trip cancellation (non-refundable airfares) and trip interruption insurance (covered unexpected trip back home).

In contrast, the same aged couple with health conditions can expect to pay anywhere from 50 to 75 per cent more for the same amount of coverage, landing them around $4,000 to $4,500 range.

There are ways to bring these numbers down, however. As with any insurance package, the deductible amount that you choose can bring down your premium considerably.

If money is a factor, your best bet is to find a customizable package that suits your lifestyle needs.

Don’t Forget Auto Insurance

If you plan to drive your vehicle in the United States or Mexico, it’s important to also check your car insurance policy to see if you have any out of country coverage. Chances are you’re covered in the United States for a certain duration, but if you are planning on heading as far as Mexico with your vehicle—either car, truck, RV or otherwise—it’s important to know that you’ll have to purchase coverage before you enter that country.

If you plan on renting a vehicle for more than 30 days, you’ll be on the hook for buying additional coverage through an insurance broker or the rental company. Plan to live in your RV? Again, additional coverage is likely required.

Parking your car at home instead? Many snowbirds opt for storage insurance for their vehicles, especially if they live in a wooded area where fallen trees in wind storms have been known to take out vehicles.

House Insurance for Snowbirds

While not related to travel insurance, there is one last type of insurance snowbirds must remember: house insurance. Even if you plan to go south for the winter, make sure you are still meeting all of the requirements of you insurance company. If your house will be unoccupied for more than a few days (especially during winter), your insurance broker will want to take note.

Make sure you go and talk to them about your “absentee residents” clause under your Canadian house insurance package. Typically, if no one is living in your home, you will have to make arrangements for someone like a neighbour or family friend to check on your property at least once a week. Alternatively, you can shut off the water supply and drain the pipes, or connect the ever-so-important plumbing and heating systems to a monitored alarm company that provides around-the-clock service.

Pet Insurance for Travellers

Some travel insurance policies provide compensation for flying your pets home if something happens to you. It’s not a widely advertised feature of travel insurance packages, so if you’ve got a furry family to consider that stays with you down south, ask your insurance broker about this perk.

Likewise, if your pet isn’t already insured in general, brush up on your pet insurance with the post what types of things does pet health insurance include?

Where Can I Buy Travel Insurance?

Having trouble sorting out all of this travel insurance lingo? At SeaFirst Insurance, we offer both Single Trip coverage and Multi Trip Emergency Travel Medical Insurance, which is a policy designed for customers who travel frequently and want the convenience of having an annual policy that will cover all of their trips. Multi-trip policies may be purchased for a variety of trip lengths, ranging from 5 days to 182 days per trip. This type of policy is perfect for anyone who travels frequently  . The premium is often a much better value than buying separate policies for each trip, and it is much more convenient to purchase once a year.

For more travel insurance tips, don’t miss our blog post, 12 Reasons You Should Always Buy Travel Insurance.

Snowbirds are a growing segment of the world’s population. The term snowbirds refers to northerners who move to warmer places in the winter. While the term snowbirds used to refer mainly to retirees, a growing number of younger people are also flocking to warmer geographical regions to either work in the tourist industry and/or work from home.

One reason snowbirds are becoming so widespread is how much easier it has become for Canadians to move abroad for six months out of the year. This has largely to do with the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA). This 100,000-member national not-for-profit advocacy organization was established in 1992 and is dedicated to actively defending and improving the rights and privileges of Canadian travelers.

At SeaFirst Insurance Brokers in Victoria, BC, our brokers are available to help find you an affordable travel insurance package. We look at the length of your stay and the regional rules where you’ll be staying to find you coverage that suits your unique needs.  

With seven locations in the Greater Victoria and Islands area, SeaFirst Insurance Brokers can help meet your travel insurance needs whether you’re a first-time snowbird or are simply looking to switch insurance providers.

Contact us today for your free, no-obligation travel insurance quote. 

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