James Daw

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James Daw is a Certified Financial Planner and a former personal finance columnist for the Toronto Star. He has written about travel and other types of insurance for more than two decades.

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James Daw est planificateur financier agréé et ancien chroniqueur sur les finances personnelles au Toronto Star. Il a publié des articles au sujet de l’assurance voyage et d’autres types d’assurances pendant plus d’une vingtaine d’années.

Wild Things—Part III: Fit In with Crowds of Jumbo-Sized Animals in Tanzania

Home to a fifth of Africa’s large mammals­, the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of flamingos, and much, much more, Tanzania is a prime destination for fans of wild things. More than 2 million zebras, gazelles, and gnu antelope (wildebeest) travel together in and around Serengeti National Park, venturing only temporarily into Kenya when looking for greener pastures on the other side of the alligator-infested Mara River. “Mostly all of the big the game can be seen the minute you hit the national parks,” says Vaheeda Dawood, director of AlfaZulu Travel & Tours in Dar es Salaam. “Leopards, cheetahs, and lions have to be looked for as they are solitary animals most of the time. Zebras, giraffes, and elephants are an easy find. In fact, in one of the lodges I had zebras walking in the backyard: My own jungle pets!” A Tanzanian safari is not, however, for the fragile…

Rationing Your Time: Let Ingle Help

Your compensation for helping loyal clients find travel insurance will vary widely. So do yourself a favour and develop a triage or priority system to keep your work in line with your pay. Small sales to healthy, young travellers should be handled quickly and efficiently. That will leave more time for clients who are more at risk, spend long periods away from home, cross the Canada-US border frequently, or book expensive trips to exotic places. Yet, even the cheapest travel policy and puniest sales commission could result in disappointment, resentment, or worse: An accusation of professional negligence. So proceed with caution. “Sometimes it’s better to inform the client that a condition may not be covered rather than to say that it might be,” warns Patrick Chiasson, Broker Services Manager, Ingle International. “You can put yourself at risk if you promise more than you deliver.” Ask clients to commit to…

Wild Things—Part I: Mix Wildlife with White Water on Nahanni River

Medical science writer Michael Smith came home safe and sound after canoeing and camping along the remote South Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT)—even with tales of wild animal sightings. One day, a moose swam across the river toward his group, then turned tail and swam back. The group also saw wood bison, small northern loons, and brown bears on three different days, including a mother with cubs. The swift-flowing river is “what [Mount] Everest is to mountaineers—remote, breathtaking, and mystical,” according to National Geographic. Accessible by helicopter or floatplane, but not by road, it is located in a World Heritage park and nature preserve. It passes between kilometre-high gorges and tumbles twice the height of Niagara Falls at Virginia Falls. Smith’s group took 12 days to paddle 358 kilometres downstream from Rabbitkettle Lake. They ended up in Nahanni Butte, the village of a Dene band located near the…

Fly! Jump! Land! But First, Get the Right Travel Insurance

We put ourselves in a skydiver’s shoes. Just how difficult, we wondered, would it be for them to find medical insurance for travel to another province or country? And so we began our Project Skydivers search for the right travel insurance. While parachuting is not a hugely popular sport, we chose it because of the wakeup call jumpers received in April. BC electrician Kenzie Markey was seriously injured after her parachute collapsed during a jump in Arizona. She was left with $500,000 of uninsured medical bills, according to news reports. Most policies exclude skydivers The first thing that became obvious during our survey of coverage options was that no travel insurer in Canada advertises: “Parachutists: Get your medical insurance here!” Jumpers who shop on their own might have to find and inspect several different polices to get suitable coverage. Our sample of 24 available policies (requires Adobe Reader) includes 20…

These Tips for Annual-Plan Holders Could Save You Time

A client calls to say: “Hi, we are heading across the border next week.” You forget they already have an annual travel plan and jump into your sales routine. “Where will you be going? How long will you be travelling? What sorts of crazy things will you be doing while away?” The interrogation continues. The caller answers all of your questions politely, then mentions their existing coverage. D’oh! Patrick Chiasson, Broker Services Manager at Ingle International, says he has had several such calls over the years, particularly from those who regularly drive across the US border. Eventually the novice annual-plan holders will pop the key question: “Do I have to call you every time I plan a trip?” The short answer is “no.” But you can save them (and yourself!) some time by passing along a few tips at the time of the original sale. Short trips: You need not…

Travel Alert! Warn Your Visitors about the High Cost of Medical Care in Canada

The story: A man and his wife travelled from Croatia to Canada to visit relatives. While here, the husband became ill and spent a few days in Vancouver General Hospital at a cost of close to $50,000. Canadians are familiar with such tales: He didn’t have the right insurance. But as much as we know about our own travel insurance needs—and the astronomical cost of visiting a hospital during our travels—our foreign visitors may know nothing about the cost of medical care here. Europeans who carry a free European Health Insurance Card may romp all over the 28 associated countries and access state-provided health care during a temporary visit, a privilege that Croatians acquired last year. (Many Canadians dream of one day having a reciprocal health care agreement with the United States, as residents of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand have with each other and other countries, though…

Going Where the Wild Things Are: A Beginner’s Guide

Travelling to be among wild animals is no walk in the park. It is costly because of the distances you must travel, and it requires careful preparation. Fortunately, there are professional guides with years of experience to help you canoe or raft down the Nahanni River past bears and wolves, as Canadian prime ministers and musicians have done in the past. There are tour operators that will book guided safari tours and local drivers in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all to make your dream of visiting elephants and lions come true. If former US President Bill Clinton roughed it in Tanzania, so can you. If, instead, you want to visit the Galapagos Islands nearly two centuries after the youthful Charles Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle, you will find a selection of many cruise ships with zodiac boats and local naturalists to take you ashore. There, you can see giant tortoises…

Disappointment Lurks if You Buy the Wrong Travel Insurance

When a resident of Niagara Falls, Canada, planned to join a church group from the American side of the Falls on a trip to Israel and the Middle East, she decided to buy the same travel insurance as others in her group. She just happened to mention to a local travel insurance broker that she had purchased the US policy. It was a good thing she did, reports insurance agent John Wilson. Even in an age of global travel, it’s dangerous to assume you can buy just any travel insurance policy and expect it to suit you. Her tour group’s plan only covered Americans “She sent me an e-mail copy of the policy [and the] first thing I looked for was … if they DID cover non-US residents. Turned out it [DID NOT], so I fixed her up with a [Canadian out-of-country medical] plan.” Outright exclusion of Canadians is…

Travel Insurance: Extras and Exclusions that Will Affect Your Clients

Additional types of coverage available on top of travel medical insurance can double the cost of coverage, and boost your sales revenue. But it may also add potential pitfalls as you strive to satisfy clients. Each type of optional coverage could have its own list of policy exclusions, beyond the obvious exclusion that follows a government advisory to ‘avoid all travel’ to a particular part of the world. So it’s important to ask clients how much they will be spending while away, where they will be going, where they will be staying, and what they will be doing and packing. All of these details matter when it comes to choosing extra coverage. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance, for example, is generally designed to reimburse a traveller for prepaid expenses for commercial transportation, accommodation, and activities. While all insurance plans have a long list of insurable reasons for recovering those prepaid…

The Cancellation Conundrum: B&Bs, Cottage Rentals, and Other Vacation Spots

Now that the snow has come and gone, you can soon start to hike, swim, or boat, listen for the call of a loon, or maybe watch Shakespearean characters brawl, bawl, and strut at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. Just be prepared to book early if you hope to rent a comfortable bed and a private bath when you arrive, and watch out for stiff financial penalties if you must cancel a lengthy stay. Yes, even vacations close to home can come with the risk of financial loss. And, yes, there is trip cancellation insurance to cover the loss of prepaid rental expenses, plus the cost of tickets to a theatre, music festival, or other event that you planned to attend while away on vacation. But if a private cottage or unlicensed bed & breakfast has caught your eye, watch out. Summer warning: Don’t get burned Cancellation charges can be as…

Quiz Insurers about Stability Clauses. Quiz Clients about Their Health

A standard travel insurance policy will include coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, provided the policyholder meets the insurer’s stability requirements. Unfortunately, each insurer defines stability in its own way—years after the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada first tried to promote standard wordings. So we have compiled a list of the words insurers tend to use. Defining ‘stable’ During a specified period, these health-related developments could void coverage for a pre-existing condition when travelling outside of Canada: Symptoms or signs of illness, whether new, more frequent, or severe New diagnoses or tests pointing to a deterioration in health New treatments, medical care, medications, dosages, or admissions to hospital Referral to a specialist, or a recommendation for treatments or tests A failure to act on the recommendation or referral, or a refusal to wait for test results before travelling As a broker, you should expect your clients to question you…

Here Comes the Sun—and the Savings! Spring Travel Tips

The Beatles were sure right this year. “It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.” So it should not come as a surprise if many Canadians reward themselves with a spring trip after record-breaking winter weather. If you are yearning for a short getaway, keep reading for tips on how to save on spring travel.

Travel Insurance: Gather the Right Information to Make the Right Sale

A customer planning a trip may have unique insurance needs. So it is vital to ask key questions to guide your recommendations. No client will want to duplicate coverage they already own. Employer-sponsored benefit plans and extended health care insurance may already pay for air and land ambulance expenses within Canada. Some employers’ plans and credit cards pay for emergency medical care outside of Canada. And basic homeowner policies insure clothes, luggage, and other possessions anywhere in the world. Clients may be unaware of policy limitations, among them lifetime dollar limits, limits on the value of transportation covered, days covered per trip, policy deductible amounts, and the number of travellers covered. So ask questions to better understand your client’s situation and existing coverage. This will help you supply a useful service—and make a sale. Any indication that the client will be leaving the country or province more than once a…

Travel Mix-Ups: Lessons from Gerrit, Maureen, and Dave

North Americans will have plenty of travel mix-up stories to tell after this record-breaking winter—flights have been delayed, airports closed, and plans rearranged. Among those many travel tales, three came with a common lesson: It pays to allow extra time and be adaptable. Trip cancellation, interruption, and baggage insurance will cover financial losses. But insurance can’t pay to get you to your destination if planes are not flying. So you, your travel agent, and your travel providers may have to work together to rescue your vacation. Here’s how three travellers coped this January. Gerrit’s story: Gerrit knew winter travel from Calgary can be unpredictable. So, as a precaution, he and his wife planned to fly to Toronto early. If all went well, then they would see friends before joining the rest of their three-generation family on a flight to a Bahamas resort. Before they left home, they learned renovations…

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk about the Silent Killer with Your Clients

High blood pressure is called the Silent Killer. Yet, as dire as its nickname sounds, it will not be a deal breaker for travel health insurance unless your client deliberately or mistakenly keeps it a secret. What you need to know As a broker, you should remember that both high blood pressure and ignorance of the condition are common. About 17 per cent of Canadians who have it don’t know, while others believe their hypertension disappeared once they began taking their medication. So you may have to pointedly ask: “What medications do you take?” If they say “a water pill,” tell them they’re busted! America’s Mayo Clinic website­­ says these particular medications (i.e., diuretics) are used to treat hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. They control the condition, but do not cure it. What your clients need to know If your client is receiving treatment, that…

Volunteering Abroad: Save on Travel, Help Others, Fulfill Your Dreams

My ideal vacation combines fun and work. It’s a preference that dates back to childhood, when my brother and I passed the time at a rustic cottage near Algonquin Park by building a driftwood raft to paddle around. So it only seemed logical that it would also be fun to combine travel with home construction. In my case, I was drawn to El Salvador, but there are many other places and similar opportunities for a working vacation. My wife and I had sponsored a “foster” child in El Salvador through Plan Canada. We noted in her letters that she had missed many months of school due to illness. Poor water, sanitation, and living quarters likely played a part. We also learned her nation had been set back by natural disasters, civil wars, gang violence, and intimidation. So it was clear to us that other folks in the area could use…

Let It Snow, Let It Snow. Then Go

The beach beckoned Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne on the summer’s day when they wrote and composed Let It Snow. Yet they stayed inside and created a song that made it seem romantic to be trapped in a blizzard—the worst sort of winter storm. The key, of course, was to stay home with a loved one.

The Naked Truth: Too Many Canadians Travel Uncovered

Six per cent of Canadians travel without underwear, according to a revealing national survey. Far more dare to go without travel health insurance, though. A third of us leave the country completely uncovered. The naked truth, according to John Thain, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, is that “travel health insurance should be as essential to a vacation as underwear.” The cost of treating an ordinary fracture in the United States––an average of $10,000­­––would be a “financial crisis” to many. About a third of poll respondents rated a $1,000 or $5,000 bill as a financial crisis. Other revealing findings were these: Six per cent realize that provincial health plans cover only about 9 per cent of out-of-country medical expenses. Twenty-one per cent of travellers have required medical attention during one trip or another. Only 60 per cent of those had insurance to pay for the associated expenses.…

Claim Denied! Summary of 7 Cases

Falvo v. Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada, 2008 Falvo v. Allstate Insurance Company of Canada, 2009 At age 60 in late January, 2004, Frank Falvo purchased a 30-day travel insurance policy at the local Allstate office in Thunder Bay, Ontario. A few days later, he felt chest pain. So his doctor prescribed a third medication for high blood pressure. Nevertheless, Falvo’s agent assured him he would still be covered. He later underwent a stress test, which showed no problems. Despite receiving a green light to travel, and having a week without symptoms before he left, he felt pain again in Florida. He went to a hospital, and received and angioplasty operation at a cost of more than $53,765.04. Allstate denied his claim, but a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that none of the policy exclusions it cited applied to Falvo, including a limit of coverage for…

Dear Doctor: I Need Your Help Before I Travel

Tell Me Like It Is. Be frank if you think my best-before date for travel has passed, or if my health is unstable. Travel insurance policies may NOT pay for my care outside of Canada if you imply, condone, or encourage me to travel when I am not in stable health. So cheerful advice like this may not (on its own) be helpful: You have my blessing* Do whatever you want You are in pretty good shape for 85 You can either be miserable here, or in Vegas by a pool *I may have to ask you if I have your permission to travel. Please don’t give me permission unless you know the conditions and exclusions in my insurance policy. Consider my mental capacity – Would you trust me to shop for YOUR travel insurance? No? Then suggest I get help from an agent or broker, along with a member…

You Don’t Stay the Same. Neither Should Your Travel Insurance

All it takes is a day—at one of the critical age thresholds in life—to make you ineligible for the travel insurance coverage you expect and require. A change in age, a new diagnosis or prescription, a change of address, or an acceptance to a foreign university could all bump you into another category, one where premiums are higher than what you were used to paying.

Trip Risks: Covering the Expense of Interruptions and Cancellations

An unexpected flight interruption could blow up your travel budget like a balloon. A sudden storm or illness that forces you to cancel a pre-paid vacation could cost you even more. But, just as it can shift the potential burden of medical emergency costs, the right travel insurance can also limit your risk of unexpected trip expenses. Q: What should I know about trip cancellation and interruption insurance? Various all-inclusive travel plans provide coverage for medical emergencies as well as for cancelled or interrupted trips. If you do not require an individual medical policy, it’s possible to buy a stand-alone cancellation and/or interruption plan. Quick quote: Trip cancellation insurance or All-inclusive plans Q: How much would it cost me to purchase a comprehensive all-inclusive plan? Prices vary from plan to plan, and from person to person. The cost of medical emergency coverage will typically go up with the…