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Travellers not checking insurance policies

Talbot Boggs, The Canadian Press

(Special) - As the winter gets into full swing with all its cold and nasty weather, many Canadians are packing their bags getting ready to escape for their annual pilgrimage to sunny, warmer climates down south.

Snowbirds have a unique set of insurance needs because their winter vacation can not only impact their travel insurance policy but also their auto, recreational vehicle and home insurance policies for both their primary and vacation properties.

A recent survey by TD Insurance has found that a lot Canadians - 50 per cent to be precise --aren't checking their policies before leaving and only 16 per cent are calling their insurance provider to determine if they need to update their policy.

Snowbirds should review the details of their travel medical insurance policy to see if there is a time limit for out-of-the-country coverage and what they need to know about pre-existing conditions and limitations.

"If a snowbird has visited a hospital or switched medications in the past 12 months this information needs to be disclosed to their insurance provider because failure to do so may impact coverage should they make a claim," says David Minor, vice president at TD Insurance.

The Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) recommends travellers complete their insurance applications completely and carefully. Travel policies can require a stability period, usually 90 days prior to departure, during which time there should be no change in your medical conditions, no new conditions and no treatment changes, including drug changes.

The CSA, which publishes a travellers' check list and travel information guide, also recommends travellers carry copies of their annual health examination and their individual medical history, present conditions and a list of prescription drugs in case they are required while away.

It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local medical services which you may need suddenly such as a nearby medical facility, walk-in clinic. Find the nearest reputable hospital in the event of an emergency. For non-urgent visit always call your insurers assistance line before seeking care.

The TD survey also found that 46 per cent of snowbirds incorrectly believe that if they are driving outside of Canada their auto insurance policy will cover them. This isn't always the case.

Snowbirds should call their provider if they're taking their vehicle outside of Canada or the United States of if they plan to rent a vehicle for more than 30 days and should consider increasing their liability limit given that claim in the U.S. can be expensive, and discuss that with either their provider or insurance agent.

For snowbirds going down south with a motorhome of RV, keep in mind that although insurance protection on recreational vehicles is similar to regular auto insurance, it requires a special policy because it also serves as a home.

To reduce the chances of accidents, the CSA recommends getting plenty of rest at night, avoid driving at night where possible, take rest stops at least every two hours and get some walking exercise during the breaks to lessen the chances of developing blood clots and other medical complications.

Keep well hydrated during your travels and when staying overnight be mindful of your surroundings for safety and security reasons.

Home insurance is another area that can be affected by your travels.

Only 12 per cent of snowbirds in the TDF survey say they checked their home insurance policy to ensure their primary residence would be covered while on vacation.

"Often insurance policies have specific 'away' requirements which, if not fulfilled, could void coverage if your home is left unoccupied and unattended for an extended period of time," Minor says. "Contact your provider to make sure you know what steps to take to keep your current policy valid."

And if at any time you're unsure about any details within your insurance policies and how your travel plans may affect them, ask your insurance provider. It could be the best calls you ever make.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Copyright 2013 Talbot Boggs