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Why do you need snowbird travel insurance?

Snowbird medical insurance for Canadians travelling to the U.S. (and elsewhere) is a must-have travel document that you shouldn’t leave home without.

The Government of Canada states on its website that, “Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada. Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad.” And, the Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that, “On average, government provincial health insurance covers only about 7-9 per cent of the costs incurred for medical services in the U.S.”


We’ve all heard how expensive healthcare is in the U.S., and having to pay the remaining 91-93 per cent of the medical costs out-of-pocket could be financially devastating should you fall ill or be injured. That’s why it’s key to shop around and purchase your snowbird insurance for out-of-country travel wisely.

Frequently asked questions about snowbird travel insurance

Snowbird health and medical insurance coverage is a little different than regular travel insurance. Here's what you need to know.

What does snowbird travel insurance cover?

Much like regular travel insurance, snowbird travel insurance is designed to help pay for your medical care when travelling abroad. The coverage limit is up to you, but most snowbirds opt for between one and five million dollars. In the event of an emergency, snowbird travel insurance should cover:

  • Ambulance fees
  • Medical equipment
  • Hospital stays
  • Medical treatments including surgery
  • Prescription drugs
  • Emergency dental
  • Emergency transportation back to Canada

Many older Canadians worry about getting coverage for a pre-existing condition, and while it can be a little more complicated, it is rarely too prohibitive. Insurers want reassurances that any pre-existing conditions are stable, and if you can prove that, you should be able to find coverage.

Aside from medical costs, snowbird insurance can provide financial assistance when unforeseen events threaten to derail your trip. Popular coverages include trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and lost or damaged baggage insurance. Whether or not you want this additional protection depends on your destination, the reliability of your chosen carrier, and your risk tolerance.

One important distinction when it comes to snowbird insurance is that it typically covers multiple trips within a defined period. This gives you the freedom to travel around between multiple destinations, or even return home for a visit, without needing to take out more than one policy.

Can I get travel insurance if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

Things can get a little more complicated if you have a pre-existing condition—but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t get coverage. Many policies have a stability clause. That means a company will cover pre-existing conditions as long as you’re “stable,” meaning that the condition has been under control for a set duration of time.

Insurers vary on what they consider stable; some only need the condition to have been stable for three months prior to your trip, whereas some companies may need the condition to be under control for as long as a year. The length of time needed by your insurer depends on the severity of the condition, the likelihood of complications and your age, among other considerations.

The most important thing here is to be honest. Don’t try to ignore your illness and simply keep your fingers crossed that you’ll not suffer a relapse.

Depending on your insurance provider and your age, you may also be required to fill out a medical questionnaire to determine what coverage category you belong in. As with pre-existing conditions, it’s vital to answer the questionnaire honestly or you risk losing your coverage.

How much coverage do I need?

Typically, travel policies range from $1 million to as high as $5 million coverage. If you’re the type of person who believes that it’s better to be safe than sorry, you have a number of coverage options to choose from for your peace of mind.

How do I choose the best policy for my needs?

Here are some of the most important things to do to make sure you get the policy that best matches your needs:

  • Compare prices, but it’s equally important to compare policy coverages and options too
  • Find out what’s included, what’s excluded and the policy limits
  • Review the policy wording, even if you’ve purchased policies before. Every policy is different and it’s best to know what you are getting for your money.
  • Buy your snowbird insurance before you leave

How do I know I am getting the best rate for snowbird insurance?

The price of snowbird insurance for Canadians can vary wildly, which is why it pays to shop around. At InsuranceHotline.com, you can compare multiple rates and policies in one search from Canada’s top insurance providers. You can buy the coverage you need at the best possible price easily.

What do I do about my home insurance while I’m away?

It’s essential that you contact your home insurer to see if they have requirements that must be met to ensure your coverage stays in force while you’re down south. Often, they’ll require that you have someone check in on your home on a regular basis. They may also ask that you winterize your home to ensure it can weather the season without incident. Freezing pipes, for example, are all too common when there is no one home for months at a time.

What else can I do to protect my home while I’m away?

While you’re at your home in your hot destination of choice, the following snowbird home preparation tips will ensure you’re home in Canada is looked after:

  • Call your telephone, cable, Internet, and/or satellite provider to suspend your service for the time you’re away (make sure doing this doesn’t interfere with your home monitoring system if you have one)
  • Pause any regular deliveries you have coming to the home (e.g. newspapers)
  • Arrange to have your mail forwarded
  • Ask a trusted neighbour to regularly pick up any junk mail or flyers that end up in your mailbox or at the front door

Will driving my vehicle down south affect my car insurance rate?

No matter where you go in the United States, your car insurance coverage will follow you. Even so, it’s best to consider the following snowbird driving tips to ensure there are no surprises while you’re on the road:

  • The best snowbird auto insurance tip is to reach out to your auto insurance provider. If you’ll be driving down to your sunny destination and staying there for a while, some auto insurers may require that you notify them of your plans. Also, by reaching out to them they can make sure you’re fully covered wherever your travels take you. For example, they can review your coverage options to ensure you’re adequately protected. Depending on your policy’s current liability limit, they may recommend that you increase it given that auto claims can be high in the U.S.
  • If your licence plates, auto insurance, or driver’s licence will expire while you’re away, make sure you renew them before leaving
  • Take your car in to a trusted mechanic for a tune-up and explain that you’re taking it on a long drive so it gets the special attention it needs
  • Make sure your vehicle is equipped with a spare tire and jack
  • Consider joining a roadside assistance program that can assist you with automobile emergencies in Canada and internationally.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you’re leaving the country for an extended period of time. These tips will help make sure all your home, travel, and driving basics are covered. Once everything is taken care of, all that’s left is getting to your destination safely. From there you can enjoy the sun and warm weather stress and worry-free.

How did you calculate an average* snowbird insurance savings of 53 per cent?

The average savings found on InsuranceHotline.com for emergency medical travel insurance for single travellers, age 60 – 75, for single trips of 90 days or more, as compared with the published rates of three financial institutions for their equivalent emergency medical travel insurance. Actual savings vary depending on number of travellers, age, trip duration, medical conditions, and coverage selected. Based on research as of July 28, 2017.

The most popular destinations for Canadian snowbirds

For decades, Canadian snowbirds have escaped our harsh winters by heading for sunnier climes in the southern United States. Most Canadian snowbirds head south in January, after the holiday season is over, and come back in early March.

The most popular destination for snowbirds from eastern provinces is Florida, while snowbirds from the west prefer Arizona or California.

For those who wish to go further than the U.S.A., a recent study found Mexico, China and Australia to be the most visited destinations, with long travel times seemingly no deterrent.

The top five most popular destinations for Canadian snowbirds are:

1. United States

2. Mexico

3. China

4. Australia

5. France

The study defined snowbirds as people who are 55 or older, leaving Canada for at least one month from October to March.