Travel Insurance Tips For Snowbirds

travel tips for snowbirds

Are you planning on leaving the country for a little rest and relaxation down south this winter? If so, you’re not alone; many retired Canadians flock to warmer abodes, leaving the snow and wintry weather behind. However, newbie snowbirds will find it’s more complex than just getting up and going. In fact, there are quite a few things you should do in preparation for your winter vacation. Here’s what you need to check off before taking flight.

Do You Need A Travel Visa?

If you’re a Canadian heading south to the U.S., you can stay there for six months without a travel visa, even if you own U.S. property. Rules vary greatly from country to country though, so be sure to check out visa requirements if you intend to stay abroad.

Cover Your Car

If you’re driving down, at a minimum, you’ll want to take your car in for a tune up and ensure it’s up to the cross-border journey. It’s also very important to check in with your car insurance provider – you may be required to pay a supplemental premium for your trip. It’s also advised to up your coverage to a minimum of $2 million, according to the Canadian Snowbird Association.

Know Your Residency Rules

Depending on which province you live in, your eligibility for health care could be in jeopardy if you’re gone too long. You must reside within your home province for a minimum amount of time to qualify for coverage – six months in most provices. In Ontario, you can be gone for a total of 212 days out of a 12-month period before risking losing residency.

Get Travel Medical Insurance

This one is really important; provincial health care plans only cover the bare minimum when it comes to American health care and they may have daily spending caps that are far below what may be required. (For example, a hospital stay in the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars a day.) It’s absolutely vital that you take out adequate medical coverage for your trip. Ensure that it has a term for the entirety of your stay, and be sure to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions to avoid voiding your coverage.

Get A Checkup Before You Go

Before leaving, you should visit your eye doctor, dentist and regular doctor, just to make sure everything is okay. Travel medical insurance is for emergencies only – you won’t be covered for routine checkups when abroad – and paying out of pocket will be costly.

Get A Detailed Prescription List

While visiting the medical professionals you work with ask them to make a detailed list of your prescriptions, including your prescription for eyeglasses, if you need them. This will save you a lot of time and hassle should something happen while you are away. 

Cover Your Bills

It’s a good idea to set up automatic payments for utilities while you are away, or set up an online banking option. It isn’t a good idea to turn off your utilities completely; an unheated home runs the risk of floods due to freezing and cracked pipes. Also, you’ll want to leave the power on so that lights can be switched on and off using an automatic system. This will make it appear as if someone is in fact home when they actually are not. 

Loop In Friends and Family

Some home insurance companies require you to have someone check in on your home at regular intervals. Check in with your insurance provider to see what they expect you to do.  

As well, it’s important to leave a list of emergency contacts with friends and family – how to reach you, the Canadian consulate and your healthcare practitioner are good bases to cover.

Update All Of Your Personal ID

Double check to see that your health card, driver’s license and passport don’t expire while you are away.

Get Coverage For Personal Items

Bringing expensive items like jewellry or technology along for the ride? It’s a good idea to take out additional coverage in case they’re lost or stolen on your trip. The same goes for your baggage when flying down.

Keep Posted

Uncollected mail is a sure sign that no one is home, especially if it builds up over a long period of time. Be sure to arrange to have your mail forwarded or collected by a friend or neighbour. Arrange to have your driveway shoveled or your lawn mowed, as an unkept home is also a sure sign that the owner has flown the coop.

Let Your Bank Know You’re Leaving

These days, banks and creditors are very careful about fraud. If you don’t tell your bank and/or credit card company that you’re out of country, expect to have your cards cancelled or your accounts temporarily shut down. Most banks will require you to come into the branch in person, which could mean a costly trip home.

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