The Ultimate Guide To Snowbird Travel Insurance - PolicyAdvisor
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The ultimate guide to snowbird travel insurance

SUMMARY

Snowbird travel insurance is a type of insurance specifically designed for Canadians who travel outside of their home province or territory for extended periods of time. It’s usually aimed at seniors since they are the major demographic of snowbirds.

By Jiten Puri
CEO & Founder, Insurance Advisor, LLQP
9 min read
IN THIS ARTICLE

Every year, thousands of Canadians say goodbye to the Great White North as they embark on months-long trips abroad to escape the cold winter. But, like many travellers, the topic of insurance may not cross these snowbirds’ minds until they’re on the plane. By then it may be too late.

Travel insurance can provide adequate coverage for emergency expenses on shorter trips. But, what do Canadians rely on for peace of mind when they’re spending months abroad? This article will go into detail about how snowbirds can make sure they’re covered in case they run into unpleasant emergencies while away from home.

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What is a snowbird?

A snowbird is a Canadian who travels south for the winter, usually to warmer climates like Florida, California, Costa Rica, Mexico, or the Caribbean. In most cases, snowbirds are retired seniors.

They typically spend several months out of the year in their destination of choice (like super visa insurance), or “hop” to a few different places, before returning back home to Canada once the weather’s warmer. They’re called “snowbirds” after the actual birds that migrate south every winter in a similar fashion.

What is snowbird travel insurance?

Snowbird travel insurance is a type of insurance specifically designed for Canadians who travel outside of their home province or territory for extended periods of time. It’s usually aimed at seniors since they are the major demographic of snowbirds.

One of the major differences between regular travel insurance policies and snowbird travel insurance policies is the length of time for coverage. Regular travel insurance coverage can be for up to 21 days of travel away from home, while snowbird travel insurance policies can offer coverage for up to 212 days.

Additionally, there are different coverage options snowbirds can choose from:

  • Single-Trip Plan: Covers one specific trip
  • Multi-Trip Plan: Covers several trips within the span of a year
  • Top-Up Plan: Extends the period of coverage if the trip is extended
travel insurance for Canadian snowbirds

Why do snowbirds need travel insurance?

Snowbird insurance policies can help cover any unexpected costs that may arise on their journey south as well as over the winter months while they’re enjoying the warm weather abroad.

Even for just a short trip to a neighbouring province, costs can quickly — and dramatically — pile up when emergencies happen. Now picture if something goes wrong on a much larger-scale trip: think of the difference between spending a few days in Montreal versus spending four months in Miami.

In particular, with most snowbirds being seniors, they should ensure they have travel medical coverage as they are more likely to be susceptible to health issues that would need attention.

In the United States and overseas, medical costs can get expensive, but having travel health insurance in case you do need emergency medical care during those long months away can make a huge difference. And 212 days, roughly six months, is a long time to be without adequate insurance coverage.

Learn more about how travelling impacts your life insurance

Does OHIP cover snowbirds?

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) or other forms of provincial health insurance only cover a limited amount of costs for medical emergencies outside of the country, including in the United States.

For this reason, the Canadian government recommends travellers, including snowbirds, purchase separate travel insurance so they don’t wind up with enormous medical bills if they have an emergency while away from home.

travel insurance for Canadian snowbirds

How does snowbird travel insurance work?

As with most insurance plans, Canadian snowbirds must provide key information before applying for travel insurance in order to determine whether they can get coverage.

One major requirement insurance companies will have is a “minimum stability period” for any pre-existing conditions.

The “minimum stability period” just means that the certain medical condition you had before you applied for or purchased travel insurance coverage is “stable” for a specific amount of time before you can be insured.

This is basically for the insurance company to make sure this medical condition isn’t likely to cause you any issues while you’re away for a long period of time.

Read more about pre-existing conditions

Can snowbirds purchase travel insurance after leaving Canada?

Canadian snowbirds should purchase travel insurance before leaving the country, so it’s good to sort out your travel plans well ahead of the official start of snowbird season.

In some limited cases, it is possible to purchase travel coverage after you’ve already left Canada for your trip. But this is not recommended because the insurance company would place restrictions on your plan that you would not otherwise have had. For instance, your coverage may not start until at least 48 hours after purchase, and you would be out of pocket for any emergencies that happen in that time frame.

What does snowbird travel insurance cover?

Different plans provide different travel coverage, but can include:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption
  • Lost or stolen baggage
  • Medical emergency coverage, including hospitalization, ambulance fees, and related treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation
  • 24-hour travel assistance services
  • Pre-existing medical conditions coverage

What does snowbird travel insurance not cover?

  • Elective medical procedures
  • Routine checkups
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Dental work (except in the case of an accident)

Do travel advisories affect snowbird insurance coverage? 

If a travel advisory has been issued for a certain destination, it can impact what insurance companies will cover.

Snowbirds should pay particular attention to whether there are any travel warnings related to their chosen destination, or whether the government is advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, as this could mean their insurance provider will not cover emergency travel costs.

Is COVID-19 covered under snowbird travel insurance plans? 

It depends on the policy terms. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed and continues to change the way we travel, given its unexpected nature. Travel advisories can be instated at a moment’s notice, including when snowbirds are already months into their trip.

But there is good news. Unexpected costs related to COVID-19, like quarantine or medical treatments, are currently covered under many standard travel insurance packages. Speak with your insurance broker to see exactly how your policy treats incidents related to COVID-19.

Read more about COVID-19 and travel insurance.

travel insurance for Canadian snowbirds

What are the requirements for snowbirds to qualify for travel insurance?

Typically, the most basic requirements for snowbirds to qualify for travel insurance are:

  • They must be at least 55 years old
  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • Travelling outside of their home province or territory for between 90 to 212 consecutive days

Be aware that different plan types may have differing stipulations.

For instance, if you purchase multi-trip coverage, there may be requirements about the maximum number of days you can travel and be covered for each trip. In this case, some insurance companies specify that you will only be covered for between 30 and 90 days per trip.

It’s always good to find out the exact details of any insurance plan you’re interested in and this is no exception. If you have an existing plan, speak with your insurance provider to find out exactly what stipulations are involved, or you can always speak with one of our advisors for expert advice.

How much does a snowbird travel insurance plan cost?

The cost depends on several factors, including age, trip length, level of coverage, and pre-existing health conditions. Prices can range anywhere from $500 and upwards, depending on these factors.

However, some companies also offer discounts of up to 50% to snowbirds who purchase insurance coverage for travel within Canada.

You can easily request a travel insurance quote through our advisors.

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Which Canadian insurance companies offer snowbird travel insurance?

Many of Canada’s larger insurance companies offer travel insurance options that may not be tailored to snowbirds but that might still fit their needs. For instance, Manulife, Allianz, Tugo, 21st Century, and more all have standard travel insurance plans that could work for snowbirds.

Here are some companies that offer travel insurance packages specifically tailored for snowbirds:

Blue Cross

  • Up to $5 million in emergency healthcare coverage
  • Coverage for emergency dental, accommodation and meals for trip delays due to medical emergency, vehicle transportation, and more
  • Covers some pre-existing conditions
  • 24/7 travel assistance

Desjardins

  • Up to $5 million in emergency healthcare coverage
  • 24/7 travel assistance

Read our review of Desjardins’ Life Insurance

Group Medical Services (GMS)

  • Up to $5 million in emergency healthcare coverage
  • Covers emergency medical expenses for pre-existing conditions that have been stable for at least 180 days before travel
  • Option to extend coverage on a daily basis if needed
  • 24/7 travel assistance

Medipac

  • Up to $5 million in emergency healthcare coverage
  • Covers stable pre-existing conditions
  • 24/7 travel assistance

What is the best snowbird travel insurance?

The best snowbird travel insurance policy is the one that meets your specific needs and budget. There are a lot of different factors to consider when choosing a plan, so it’s important to do your research and compare or speak with one of our expert advisors who can help find the plan that works best for you.

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The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal or financial advice.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Snowbird travel insurance provides emergency healthcare coverage for seniors leaving Canada for long periods of time
  • Canadian provincial health insurance provides very limited coverage for medical emergencies out of country, including in the U.S.
  • Snowbird travel insurance is often offered as either single-trip, multi-trip, or top-up plans

By Jiten Puri
CEO & Founder, Insurance Advisor, LLQP
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