Travelling During a Pandemic: Spring Break Tempts 16% of Canadians

By Lesley Green
A teacher and student wearing masks in a classroom.

It’s almost March break, sorry, spring break in Ontario, and you might be entertaining the travel options available to you that involve a long walk on a beach, barefoot. Or maybe you’re dreaming of a visit to the happiest place on Earth. Wait, are these even options you’re able to entertain?

Not really, not yet. We haven’t come out on the other side of this pandemic.

  • The Canadian-U.S. land border remains closed to all non-essential travel and has been that way since March 14, 2020.
  • Canada’s major airlines have suspended all flights to favoured sunny destinations in Mexico and countries in the Caribbean until April 30, 2021.
  • A COVID test before you depart, before you return, and quarantining once you land safely back at home means any flight beyond Canada’s borders will require lots of planning, not to mention vacation time (certainly more than a week’s worth).

Unfortunately, where there is a will, there’s a way, and some people will do what they want regardless. One survey found that 16% of Canadians are contemplating a flight to a vacation destination outside Canada. The survey was conducted after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the following on Twitter:

Let me be very clear: Nobody should be taking a vacation abroad right now. If you’ve got one planned, cancel it - and don’t book a trip for spring break. We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months, and get through to the spring in the best shape possible.

Ironically, despite throwing caution to the wind, emergency medical travel insurance is still top of mind for many with thoughts of travelling outside of Canada.

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Does the government advisory to “avoid non-essential travel” due to COVID-19 void my travel insurance coverage?

It could, yes. An advisory to avoid non-essential travel (a level 3 advisory) may nullify your coverage. However, the wording in every policy is different. Some policies may only exclude coverage when an advisory to “avoid all travel” (a level 4 advisory) is issued. If you have an existing policy – or if you’re getting ready to buy a new policy - review the wording concerning government advisories or warnings to ensure you have the coverage you expect.

Are there any countries without an “avoid non-essential travel” advisory in place?

There is nowhere in the world right now that the Government of Canada feels is safe for Canadians to travel to; all destinations have either a level 3 or level 4 advisory encouraging Canadians to stay home.

Are there travel insurance policies that cover medical expenses due to COVID-19?

Yes, there are policies available that include coverage for COVID-19 should you fall ill while outside of Canada. However, not all policies cover it, so make sure you purchase a policy that does. When you compare travel insurance quotes at InsuranceHotline.com, we make it easy for you to spot the policies that do – and perhaps more importantly, don’t – provide coverage for COVID-19.

How much COVID-19 medical insurance coverage is enough coverage?

No one answer is right for everyone. Having some coverage is better than none at all. That said, if you’re going to the United States, we’ve all heard how expensive emergency health care can be there, so the more, the better. The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada tries to offer an answer to this question by way of example, to give you an idea of how much it could cost:

A 10-day hospitalization in the Intensive Care Unit on a ventilator in Miami, Florida, could easily run up a bill exceeding USD$ 500,000. COVID-19 patients in severe respiratory failure may need ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) with costs that could easily exceed $1,000,000.

Will travel insurance cover the costs for the COVID-19 test needed to board my flight (both there and back)?

Probably not. Think of your COVID-19 test cost in the same way as you do your passport fees; it’s an essential document to travel, but the costs to get it are not covered by your travel insurance.

Does my travel insurance policy cover the costs associated with the three-night hotel stay required by the Government of Canada on my return?

Again, probably not. You’ll have to chalk that hotel bill up to being another cost of travelling.