How to Better Understand Your Travel Insurance Policy


COVID-19 changed the way many of us planned for travel. We’re all different types of travellers, comfortable with different levels of risk. But one thing we all have in common: our need to feel safe and protected is paramount. That’s why, more than ever, travel insurance is so important to consider, whether you’re travelling out-of-province, over the border or internationally.  

Reading your travel insurance policy before your departure will prevent you from making any assumptions about coverage or benefits, by knowing what you are and aren’t covered for. In this post, you’ll learn more about the various components of a travel insurance policy.   

Not sure how to choose the right coverage? Opt for the policy that suits you best by asking the right questions to your travel insurance broker or financial advisor.  

financial advisor consulting an older couple on travel insurance

Before you buy travel insurance

Understanding your travel insurance policy starts with learning more about the type of coverage you have. Before you buy, identify the types of travel insurance that’ll best meet your needs and confirm the coverage limits to know the exact amount of protection you have. At this point, it’s also a good idea to compare coverage from your credit card or group insurance plan and determine if you have the coverage you need.  

Not all travel insurance plans are created equally. Policies can be customized based on individual needs, health, age, and activity preferences. Coverage also differs from one travel insurance provider to another. So, when you buy, it’s important to not only compare the price, but also how the plan will protect you in case of any travel mishaps. 

Being well-informed about your policy and the reasons why your travel insurance claim could be denied can help you avoid costly surprises, both during and after your trip. 

same sex couple with child at home in front of a laptop

Tips to help you navigate your travel insurance policy 

To help you understand your travel insurance plan better, we’ve compiled a few guidelines to apply when reading your policy wording. Take the time to go through the policy; it can be overwhelming at first glance, but if you know what to look for, it can help you become more familiar with your coverage. Plus, if you need clarification, you can always pick up the phone and check in with your insurance professional or travel insurance provider’s customer service team.  

Here are some key components that you should look at:  

  1. Important Contact Information 
  2. Period of Coverage 
  3. Benefits 
  4. Covered Risks 
  5. Exclusions 
  6. Pre-existing Medical Conditions 
  7. Sports & Activities 

Important contact information 

If your travel insurance provider offers emergency medical assistance, keep a record of the contact numbers (along with the international access codes for your destination) listed in the policy document. In case of a travel medical emergency abroad, knowing how to contact your travel insurance company will help you notify them as soon as possible and get the right care and information during your time of need.  

TIP: If you’re a TuGo policyholder, you can also download the TuGo Wallet app on your smartphone for direct access to us, if you’re in a medical emergency. Download for iOS or Android. 

Period of coverage

Depending on the travel insurance coverage you choose, the period of coverage helps you clarify when your coverage kicks in, and when it expires.  

For example, your Multi Trip Annual Travel Within Canada plan might cover you for a maximum of 35 consecutive days per trip, with coverage starting on the date of each departure from your home province and ending each time you return back to your home province or on the expiry date of the policy (whichever occurs first).  

Coverage Benefits

To learn more about the benefits of your Emergency Medical policy, evaluate the eligible medical and related expenses that the company will cover and how you’ll be reimbursed. Here are 2 key things to note: 

  1. Orient yourself with key definitions, such as what is a medical emergency and what isn’t? What is the meaning of a medical treatment? How does the company define a pre-existing medical condition?  
  2. Benefit limits outline the maximum amount that you’ll be reimbursed. Confirm these limits for different emergency medical benefits such as hospital allowance, fracture treatment, dental services, childcare, return of pets & return of vehicle.  

Check out these related articles and/or FAQs to help you better understand your Emergency Medical coverage: 

For non-medical insurance policies like Baggage Insurance and Rental Car Protection, take note of the key terms and conditions. For instance, in case of lost, damaged, or delayed luggage, know exactly what is covered and the different requirements needed to help you open a claim smoothly

Covered Risks

In case your travel plans get delayed, cancelled, or interrupted, Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption Insurance helps you get reimbursed for prepaid, non-refundable unused travel expenses if you have to cancel or interrupt all or part of your trip.  

Covered risks in your policy identify the valid reasons for cancelling or interrupting your trip that the insurance company will provide coverage for. For example, some of the reasons covered by TuGo are: 

  • Medical reasons – i.e., a medical condition, death or quarantine of you, your travelling companion, or a family member. 
  • When an official travel advisory has been issued by the Canadian government for the scheduled travel dates after the date the trip is booked or the insurance is purchased. The travel advisory must be in effect on the scheduled departure date or within the 7 days before. 
  • The cancellation of a common carrier (e.g., your flight) for any reason other than bankruptcy, insolvency, or quarantine.  
  • Natural disasters or unforeseeable events which render your or your travelling companion’s principle residence uninhabitable or place of business inoperative. 
  • Subpoenaed for Jury duty or court appearance during your period of travel. 
  • The non-issuance of you or your travel companion’s travel or student visa for reasons beyond your control. 
  • Loss of Permanent employment provided you had been employed for more than one year. 
  • A job transfer which results in the relocation of you or your travelling companion’s principal residence. 
  • The cancellation of business meeting at your final destination. 

As you finalize your trip, learn more about your destination to better understand the kind of coverage you’ll need. Based on your research, you’ll be able to confirm if your policy will reimburse you in case you need to change your travel plans last minute, due to events beyond your control.  

Exclusions & Conditions

Most travellers are under the impression that once they buy travel insurance, they’ll be covered no matter what. Like any type of insurance, there are some events and conditions that may simply not be covered by travel insurance.  

Before you travel, arm yourself with knowledge on these general exclusions or conditions applicable to all plans that could impact your coverage: 

Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Depending on the plan you purchase, your policy may/may not provide coverage for medical conditions and/or symptoms that existed before your trip. Check your policy to see how it defines “pre-existing medical condition” and “stable/stability”. You’ll also want to review how unstable pre-existing medical conditions can impact claims

Adventure Sports & High-risk Activities

Among all the areas covered by travel insurance, this is one of the areas where providers can differ the most. Before you plan any adventurous sports or activities, make sure they’re covered by your policy. Look for plans where your intended activity is specifically mentioned and whether it’ll cover you if you’re participating as a professional athlete or a coach. Study the policy’s exclusion list carefully to ensure that you’re better prepared when participating in these activities.  

Not all travel insurance providers cover adventure sports and activities, but we do! TuGo’s Emergency Medical Insurance covers you for activities like hiking, ziplining, bungee jumping or even parasailing. Plus, for adrenaline seekers, our Sports & Activities Coverage goes beyond to cover sports and activities like scuba diving, backcountry skiing/snowboarding, downhill mountain biking, mountaineering and more.  

Just like any financial contract, time taken to understand your travel insurance policy always pays off in the long run—whether you’re a seasoned snowbird, a first-time backpacker, or a family on their annual vacation. If you have any questions about understanding your travel insurance policy, share them in the comments below. 

Safe travels,

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for freshness and/or accuracy. 


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