9 ‘Snowbird’ Safety Tips for Out of Country Travel

Dec 10 | 2019

Everyone in Canada knows that many types of birds, including the iconic Canada goose, migrate south for the cold winter months in our home and native land. However, there’s another type of bird, very different from the rest, that escapes alongside them – the Canadian snowbird.

Flocks of ‘snowbirds’ fly south each winter to ride out the chillier months of the year, but they’re not alone. Many Canadians make shorter trips around the holiday season to visit family and friends or take vacations in warmer locales. To that end, we thought it would be a great time to share some tips and other things to keep in mind when travelling out of the country this winter. We’ve broken them down into two categories: a “before” plan and a “just in case” plan.

The “Before” Travel Plan

Before travelling (out of the country or otherwise), it’s important to get all your ducks in a row. Here’s a few things to do before you go anywhere:

#1. Check your benefits plan and coverage. You’re going to want to know what you’re covered for before you go so that, should the worst happen, you know what to do.

Don’t have coverage through a group plan? You should consider individual travel options, even when travelling within Canada! Coverage varies by province and you may not be covered by your provincial health plan.

#2. Tell your insurer you’re travelling. Regardless of whether or not you have group or individual travel insurance, it’s essential to inform your insurer when you’re travelling. This will also give you the opportunity to confirm your coverage and ask any clarifying questions prior to departure.

#3. Be sure you have your insurance card. Add it to the list of important items you don’t want to forget when travelling. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Passport? Check. Insurance ID card? Check.

#4. Look up the travel advisories. The Government of Canada website offers important information and advice so Canadians can make informed and safe decisions when travelling abroad. These advisories are regularly kept up to date and include information on local safety issues, health hazards, natural disasters, and more. You can view the current travel advisories here.

#5. Ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Depending on where you’re going, you may be required to have specific vaccinations. Make the time before your trip to consult your doctor. Be sure to book your vaccination appointment early, as some vaccinations are administered weeks before travel or require multiple doses.

#6. Consider home security and maintenance. Whether you’re going to be gone for a week or six months, consider taking steps to protect your vacant home. Unplug electrical appliances, set up or check alarm systems, organize for someone to check-in on the place, and consider vacant home insurance if you’re going for longer periods of time.

The “Just in Case” Travel Plan

No one wants to think about something going wrong while travelling, but it’s important to know what to do in the event of an emergency or accident. The “just in case” travel plan is exactly that.

#7. Make sure that you know the local emergency number. If something happens, the last thing you want to be doing is looking up the emergency number. Have it handy and ready at a moment’s notice – it could save a life.

#8. Know who to call and how to process a claim. Much like the local emergency number, it’s important to know who to call in the event you need to make an insurance claim while you are travelling. Notify your insurance company as soon as you can and they’ll talk you through the next steps.

#9. Share your itinerary. If you’re travelling with family or friends, be sure that everyone shares their itinerary and is aware of where everyone should be and when. If something goes wrong while you’re on your own, the rest of your party will know something has gone amiss.

Making a Case for Travel Insurance

Canadians like travelling (particularly when the temperature dips below -0°C), but many do so without the added protection of travel insurance. As an insurance company ourselves, we’ll admit to a bit of bias here, but travelling without insurance opens Canadians and their families up to significant financial risk.

Luckily at Benefits by Design (BBD) Inc., clients with Extended Health Care (EHC) through Green Shield Canada (GSC) have group travel coverage embedded right into the EHC benefit. For those without group travel coverage, that’s where AwayCare comes in! AwayCare is a premier travel insurance Managing General Agent (MGA) specializing in out-of-country and out-of-province medical coverage for Canadians. This coverage can be added to new or existing plans and paired with almost any benefit through BBD, making group travel insurance available to everyone, regardless of participation, number of lives, or level of coverage.

Learn more about AwayCare!