Kathleen O'Hagan

29 Posts Back Home

Kathleen is a travel lover, a foodie, and most recently, a mom. After her baby boy was diagnosed with several food allergies, it suddenly became a lot more challenging to do some of her favourite things, like eating out and travelling. Now she’s on a mission to find safe eating spots in the city.

Travel Insurance & Food Allergies: Make Sure You’re Protected During Your Travels

When my baby boy was first diagnosed with a number of severe food allergies, I was devastated. All I could think about was all the delicious food he—and we—would miss out on. Peanut butter, once a staple in our home, was now banned. Much-loved bakeries were now off limits. If my husband and I wanted Asian takeout, we’d do so guiltily, after the baby was in bed, and then disinfect our table, countertops and anything else our food may have come into contact with. As time passed, I realized that his food allergies would make it challenging, if not impossible, to take part in other much-loved experiences, like travel. Not only would we need to contend with eye rolls and exasperated sighs on airplanes (not to mention seating areas covered in crumbs that could kill from previous passengers), we’d need to research where it is safe to eat out, and…

Roya’s Story—Revisited

Many Canadians might remember the story of Roya, the young Afghan girl whose dream to go to school, and eventually join the world of politics, put her life at risk every day. We recently had the chance to catch up with this courageous young woman…

Don’t Let Homesickness Send You Home Early

You’ve taken the leap and have moved overseas. You knew life would be different, but still, little things every day surprise you: The deep blue of the ocean that greets you on your drive to work. Those wonderful whiffs of your neighbour’s home-cooked meals. The chatter of shoppers speaking a language you don’t understand. And, a not-so-pleasant surprise—that first bout of homesickness…

11 Days and 9 Lives in Thailand

In 2003, I travelled to Thailand for an 11-day whirlwind of stunning views, coconut curries, and near-death adventures. I think I almost used up all of my nine lives during that one short trip. Sure, I was young and healthy, but when it came to travelling, I was naïve and inexperienced. My travelling companion, Rachelle, and I did silly things like trek—ankles exposed—through jungles that were home to poisonous snakes. We blindly trusted a taxi driver who took us (far) off the beaten track to watch his daughter perform at her school event. (I’m still not sure how we got ourselves into that one!) And to save a few bucks, we opted for the rickety old ferry rather than the shiny new one. We did this and much, much more sans travel insurance—I didn’t realize just how silly that was until I lived to tell about it. Of my several…

Save Money While Living Overseas

Go abroad and save money? While it may sound like an oxymoron, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You don’t have to choose between your dream of studying abroad and all of your life savings! We all know that going on vacation requires a bit of a budget. But one of the greatest parts of life overseas is getting the chance to experience a new society. In other words: You are no longer a tourist. You’re a resident. So you don’t have to spend your time—or your money—hopping from one tourist spot to the next. Taking a more relaxed approach to discovering your new home will be rewarding for you and your bank account. How, you ask? Keep reading for some tips on how to have fun and save big! Learn how to cook Restaurants aren’t the only place to get a taste of authentic Canadian cuisine. Ask…

This Month: Snowbird Photography Exhibition in Toronto

One of this year’s featured exhibitions, Snowbirds, is a glimpse at a community of retired Quebec residents who spend their winters in the Florida sun. The good news is you don’t need to claim Quebec as your birthplace to enjoy this social documentary of life in a trailer park in the “sunshine state.” Snowbirds from all over the country can enjoy seeing themselves reflected in these photos of winter escape. The artist, Mika Goodfriend, was born in Montreal, yet always felt somewhat distanced from the Quebecois identity. His works are unique in that they explore what “being a Quebecois means to him.” Goodfriend is currently completing a Masters in Fine Arts at Concordia University. For more information about Snowbirds, visit: http://scotiabankcontactphoto.com/featured-exhibitions/1492 Or drop by College Boreal, Wednesday to Saturday, 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm. You have until Saturday, May 24 to catch the exhibit. Don’t miss it!

Going Away on Vacation? 5 Things NOT to Post on Social Media

With over one billion people around the world actively using Facebook, it’s no surprise that this particular platform is popular with all demographics—and those aged 45 and up now make up 33 per cent of Facebook users. While it’s an easy way to share good news and great photos, collect tips and ideas, and catch up on the latest gossip, we tend to forget one important thing: The majority of our Facebook “friends” aren’t really our friends at all. (Would you invite them over for tea?) So do you ever worry you are sharing too much? You just might be! When it comes to announcing travel dates or posting pics from far-off lands, that is. Read on to find out which status updates you should keep to yourself—and save for your real friends. “10 more sleeps until we board the plane” Announcing how many days are left until your home…

You Ate What?! April Fool’s… Right?

I’ll never forget that time when I ate a living, breathing fish. I was well into my third year of life in Japan. And it was a special occasion, so my dining companion and I decided to order the most expensive dish on the menu. We shelled out 5,000 yen (over $50) for our favourite type of raw fish: hamachi. Although I had never seen hamachi alive until that night, I always thought it made for a stunning piece of colourful sashimi. The white meat always seemed to shimmer and sparkle, and the multi-hued red meat would create a rainbow of colour along the ultra-enticing edge. But on this particular evening, its beauty was magnified. The whole fish was resting on a platter decorated with yellow flowers, hills of green wasabi, and petals of pink ginger. Mouth-watering sashimi squares were artfully displayed along its body, like a patchwork quilt to…

Papua New Guinea Expedition: Ingle International Supports the Young and Adventurous

If you had the chance to travel to a part of the world so remote that locals had little to no contact with western civilization… a place where more than 799 dialects are spoken (but English ain’t one)… where cannibalism is rumoured to have once been a thing… would you do it? If your answer is no, I don’t blame you. But still, you may want to live vicariously through these two guys from the safety of your armchair. If your answer is yes, you’d better read on to find out how these two are tackling the challenge… and get inspired for your future adventures! This month, twenty-somethings Patrick Hutton and Richard Johnson will attempt to make possible the previously impossible: Completing a “human-powered” crossing of Papua New Guinea in 24 short weeks. When asked what they mean by human-powered, they explained: “We will not be using any motorised transportation…

Infographic: 6 Steps to Buying the Right Travel Insurance

Snowbird, business traveller, or backpacker? Whatever your travel style, you’ll need travel insurance before your trip. But it’s no secret that choosing the right coverage can be confusing. So we designed this infographic to help make your decision a little easier. Make sure to follow our six recommended steps the next time you need travel insurance. Think you’re the only one who finds travel insurance complicated? You’re not! Give our Concerned Snowbird Series a look to see what we mean…

Spring Break Bliss: Make It All You Want It to Be… and More!

Good news for international students: Spring Break is just around the corner! And you know what that means? More time to explore everything Canada has to offer. But with all of those things to do on your list, how do you make sure your Spring Break is everything you want it to be… and more? The tips below might help get you started, so read on! Leave anything you can put off ‘til next week until… next week When it comes to all that stuff you can do year round, this is the perfect time to procrastinate. You can experience everyday things like buying a new pair of jeans or catching the latest movie anytime—so why not leave the ordinary for later? Spring Break is your chance to go anywhere, do anything, or visit anyone for seven whole days! Consider the time of year March is a tricky…

Why Your ‘Invincible’ Kids Aren’t All That Invincible

This Spring Break, Consider My Story before Your Kids Drive Off into the Sunset I’ll never forget the car crash I was in so many years ago. I was just 17, and it had been barely a year since I had passed my driver’s test. It was a summer’s evening, the sun had already set, and a soft rain was hitting my windshield. A mix of hot and cool had produced a foggy mist that didn’t seem to be affecting my visibility. I realized how wrong I was when something I couldn’t make out suddenly appeared on the road a few car lengths ahead of me. I slammed on the brakes before I even had time to process what the object was, but still, I hit it—a car, without its hazard lights on, unmoving in the middle of my lane. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you assumed that,…

6 Travel Tips for Your Next Family Trip

‘Tis the season of love—both romantic and familial! While Valentine’s Day can often mean snuggling up with a loved one at home, some Canadians may find themselves venturing a little farther to celebrate the Family Day long weekend, perhaps hopping the border to nearby American destinations for a bit of family time! For parents of young children, visiting our neighbours to the south is often much easier than navigating a whole new culture, different language, or opposite time zone with the kids in tow. Remember, though, it’s not as simple as booking a hotel and packing your bags! If you’re travelling with children, it’s important to be aware of the following cross-border rules before you go. Children of all ages need a passport to enter the States. A few things to keep in mind: Photo requirements for an infant’s passport are a front-facing head and shoulder shot. Even if your…

New Year, New… Who?

With each new year comes a desire to reinvent ourselves. And magazines and advertisements make it sound so easy. New Year, New You, they promise—as long as you buy our expensive product or service! I’m all for New Year’s resolutions, but why do we need to become all-new people to feel like a success? While everyone can benefit from a little bit of self-improvement, be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself to change in ways that are just not realistic. The more improbable your resolution (a.k.a. “new you”), the greater your chance of failure. If you’re slowly realizing your resolutions were a flop, keep reading! There may still be hope for a new year with the same great you in it! In order to succeed, our goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). So take a look at yours: Were you reaching for the…

6 Reasons Why Travel Insurance Is the Most Thoughtful Gift You’ll Ever Give

The holidays are coming. Time for family, overindulging, and—for many of us—travel.  Whether it’s children planning long trips home to be with aging parents, friends splurging on an overseas New Year’s celebration, couples taking romantic holiday getaways, or snowbirds getting ready for their journeys south, one thing’s for sure: Many Canadians are planning their vacations right about now. If you are taking part in a gift exchange this season, you may be wondering what to get the avid travellers in your life. Have you ever considered… travel insurance? While it’s unlikely insurance will ever make anyone’s wish list, it definitely gets points for originality, so you can rest assured that this is a gift they’ll never, ever forget. And hey, if it’s truly the thought that counts, then gifts don’t get much more thoughtful than this. Really. Don’t believe me? Read on to find out six reasons why travel insurance might be…

Not Home for the Holidays?

…make the best of it with these tips Take it from me. Your first holiday away from home will likely be pretty tough. While living in Japan for several years, I couldn’t help but miss out on some important events: weddings, new babies, and… Christmas. With music and decorations popping up everywhere, it’s hard to ignore the holiday season that is now upon us. And being away from friends and family during times like these—even if Christmas is not one of your traditions—can mean feeling a little lonely, or completely homesick. Having been there… and done that… I don’t recommend it. When I couldn’t make it home for the holidays, I made sure to find a few things that brought the spirit of the season to me. Here are five ways to make the most of your holidays away from home. 1. Make your own family. You know what…

Journey to Japan

As I wandered around the Osaka International Airport, jet-lagged and just a little lost, it suddenly occurred to me: I was now illiterate. Having recently graduated from the University of Toronto’s English program, I was certainly not used to being unable to read. Thinking back to the fear I had felt at being jobless after graduation just a few months before, I realized that my decision to move to the other side of the world to find work was quite a bit more terrifying. If only this thought had crossed my mind before signing the contract, committing myself to an entire year of teaching English as a Second Language in a far-off land… I had boarded the plane dry-eyed, while my mom, dad, and older brother watched, teary and still somewhat shocked. As brave as I must have appeared to them, I admit that there were times leading up to…

I’m Travelling Out of Province. Do I Need Travel Insurance for Trips Within Canada?

Are you one of the many Canadians who loves to explore everything our country has to offer? Whether a ski trip out west, whale watching in the Atlantic, or a weekend getaway, if your travels are going to take you outside of your home province, it might be time to think about travel insurance. And while you may be aware of how important insurance can be for trips outside of the country, there are many benefits to travelling insured within Canada too. Although your provincial health insurance* will travel with you from province to province, you may want to consider the following before deciding whether or not you should supplement your provincial coverage with travel insurance for your out-of-province trip. 1. Provincial coverage will pay for some—but not all—of the unexpected medical expenses you incur outside of the province. This means it should be sufficient for physician or hospital…

Travel Insurance: How Do I Know My Credit Card Coverage is Enough?

Many credit cards provide travel insurance for free, or as part of the annual fee, as an added benefit to customers. The bad news is that credit card coverage is designed as a “one size fits all” option for the general population. This means it hasn’t been customized to meet your unique travel needs—it doesn’t know how old you are, your current health status, where you are going, or for how long. And it may not even apply if you didn’t use your card to pay for your travel arrangements. When you consider the fact that no two travel insurance policies are identical, it could be an expensive mistake to assume yours covers everything you need it to. If you are one of the many people who has travel insurance through their card, don’t fret yet! Just take the time to ask yourself—and your insurer—a few questions… Do I…

Travel Insurance… Not as Tedious as You Might Think

Ah, travel. New places, new faces, and all that fun in the sun. When it comes to travel, we’re all guilty of counting our chickens before they’ve hatched. We’re so excited for all that fun in the sun that we forget just how much planning it takes to actually get there. So what do we do? We daydream about the wonderful adventures to come and conveniently forget about all of the boring stuff we need to do to get there. In the middle of all that travel prep, it’s easy to leave a few important things off of your checklist. And too often, travel insurance is the first to go. While some travellers get it begrudgingly, others don’t get it at all. And yet, it is probably the simplest, quickest piece of your travel planning puzzle—especially when you buy it online or get help from the experts! Don’t believe me?…

I’m Young and Healthy. I Don’t Need Travel Insurance… Do I?

The answer is a resounding yes! If you are on the side of the 50% of Canadian youth not purchasing travel insurance for travel outside of the country, you may want to take five minutes to find out why you absolutely, positively need it. The unexpected can occur when you least expect it Do you remember the story of Anna Leibenko, the Canadian whose trip to Croatia was interrupted by a serious boating accident? A young woman who remained in critical condition for weeks after her injury? The only thing that makes her story more tragic is the fact that Anna was the only one of her group of four who didn’t get travel insurance before her trip. Or what about 11-year-old Jaylynn Graham, a pre-teen from Ontario who travelled—without travel insurance—to Jamaica with her father and suffered a stroke during her time away? Although neither of these emergencies…

10 Transformative Travel Resolutions (Forget Your Bucket List!)

Wondering how a New Year’s resolution is any different from an item on your bucket list? Consider this: A resolution typically results out of a desire to become a better person, while that never-ending bucket list? Isn’t it just about spoiling yourself before you… hit the bucket!? And while having your very own wish list is a great way to experience life to the fullest, it may not be the ideal way to travel the world. Do you want to scurry through Paris, checking off all those ‘must-see’ tourist spots in your travel book? Or would you rather savour the moment while you sip on a café au lait, take in your surroundings, and practice your French with the locals? Do you plan to take the long flight to China just to have your photo taken on the Great Wall, or might you spend one and a half years journeying…

Planning a Vacation? What to Bring and How to Protect Your Stuff

Your bags are packed and they’re ready to go. But have you considered what you’ve put inside them? Or what you would do if their contents were lost or stolen? How valuable are the items you’ve packed? As you were trying to fit in your brand-name clothing, fancy new tablet and smart phone, or high-tech camera gear (and daydreaming about your vacation to come), questions like these were likely not on your mind. Still, they are worth thinking about before getting on that plane. To bring or not to bring? Start by asking yourself if you really need to bring your expensive camera equipment on that jungle trek, your 24-karat gold necklace to the beach wedding, or your newly tailored suit to that business meeting. If your answer is no, leave them behind. A cheaper camera, some costume jewellery, and that inexpensive suit you wear to work will do…

Travel Checklist

You’re serious about going overseas. You’ve signed your contract, bought your ticket, but now it’s time to get really serious. Why? The less prepared you are, the higher the possibility of things going wrong. And there’s nothing worse than having an emergency while far away from family and friends, surrounded by people speaking a language you don’t fully understand! Use our checklist below to get prepared before you go! Double check your itinerary. Verify that your date, departure time, baggage allowance, and seat assignment are all correct, and make any necessary changes ASAP. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your departure date. Keep a passport-sized photo with you in case you need to apply for a new passport while overseas. Buy travel insurance. You’ll need it – The last thing you want to worry about while travelling is high medical costs. Contact us or buy…

Your Baby May Be One in a Million, but Don’t Let it Be the Next Million Dollar Baby!

If you’re planning a trip – and expecting a baby – you’ve likely wondered how much travel insurance can do for you in the event of complications or early labour. Thinking about it is a step in the right direction, but asking questions and informing yourself ahead of time will help ensure your coverage doesn’t fail you when you need it most. You’re pregnant and travelling? 5 things you need to know Pregnancy, like any other health condition, will always be subject to some limitations and exclusions. Even though you and I both know that pregnancy is not an illness, insurers are concerned with the fact that it is a stage of life that influences your health. This means that similar to what would happen if you had a heart condition or diabetes, insurers need to place limitations on the coverage you will receive – otherwise they are taking…

Special Risk Insurance: For Me or Not For Me?

Whether a war correspondent, a hiking enthusiast, or a worldwide traveller, do you ever wonder if your travel insurance covers everything it should? Depending on how dangerous your destination or how adventurous a traveller you are, you need to consider all the details before making a purchase as important as travel insurance. Start by asking yourself these 5 questions. Your responses should help you better understand whether or not your special needs mean you need to buy special risk insurance before your next trip. Is there a government travel advisory in effect for my travel destination? If the answer is yes, regular travel insurance may provide some coverage. But make sure to read the fine print! Most plans will only cover illness or injury unrelated to the advisory while others won’t cover you at all if government authorities have advised against travel to this particular region. Special risk insurance, however,…

Don’t Let Travel Insurance Trip You Up!

CBC Marketplace recently did an exposé on the Canadian travel insurance industry. To an uninformed viewer, the information presented was pretty scary. Even more alarming was how the industry was portrayed as viciously targeting seniors – pre-existing conditions and all. But before jumping to conclusions, let’s dig a little deeper to analyze the problem, consider who is accountable for what, and find out how consumers can empower themselves to make informed decisions when purchasing travel insurance. The problem presented In Tripped Up, we met Canadian snowbirds who purchased travel insurance before heading south to escape the cold. In both cases, one of the travellers needed emergency medical treatment while away from home. Both were later shocked to find that they owed tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) for medical fees they thought were covered – because their claims were denied. What went wrong? Is it the insurance companies…