Save on Snowbird Travel Insurance. Buy Early

As summer kicks into high gear, Canadian snowbirds can expect to see “early bird specials” being promoted for the winter travel season. Though it may seem a little early to be thinking about next winter, the cost of travel insurance for an out-of-country trip of 30, 90, or 182 days (212 in some provinces) amounts to a big investment—and any savings you earn can be worth the extra diligence. How can you benefit from these specials? Read on.

Travel insurance companies offer “early bird specials” in which premiums are pegged to current or last year’s levels, to get more consistent cash flow over the course of year rather than have it bunched up into a three- or four-month crash period in September, October, and November. They also like to get a commitment from their customers before they wander off into some other insurer’s territory.

Consequently, if your travel plans are firm and you know where and for how long you will be travelling, early bird purchases can represent substantial savings. One thing you can pretty well be sure of: premiums starting in September or October, when the new rates come out, will not be lower than they are now and will in all likelihood be higher—even though the Canadian dollar is trading at healthy levels vis-à-vis the US greenback.

Since 1995, the average out-of-country travel insurance premium has risen some 41 per cent, and with US hospital costs rising steadily year after year, Canadian insurers—who collect their premiums in loonies, and pay out claims in more expensive US dollars—are forced to hedge against those rising costs.

But: in seeking out early bird specials, be careful you understand what you are buying and what your own obligations are. All out-of-country travel insurance policies have restrictions on pre-existing conditions that could invalidate your coverage if your health status changes between the time you actually buy your policy and when it goes into effect. When you apply for emergency health coverage, your insurer accepts the risk on the basis of your health status at the time you applied. If that status changes after your application and before your travel—for example, if your blood pressure medication is increased or changed, or you are treated for some new symptoms, or you need referral to a specialist, or a long-standing condition that has been quiet and stable starts to redevelop symptoms—you are obligated to contact your insurer and report those changes. The insurer can then change the terms of your contact—void it, change the premium, or attach conditions to it. If you don’t, and you later generate a claim as a result of that condition, your claim will very likely be denied.

And even if your medical emergency is not attributable to that new or changed condition, and you are travelling on a medically underwritten policy (one that is offered on the basis of answers you gave in a medical questionnaire), your policy can be voided on grounds that you failed to disclose your health condition fully and accurately, and you can be left holding the bag for all your medical bills.

It’s not a trick. It’s not a “gotcha.” It’s an exclusion most insurers specify in their policy—although some are not as forthcoming as they should be in describing it in bigger print on page one or two of their contract.

But then, that’s the beauty of doing early bird shopping: you have plenty of time to read the fine print and study what your policy excludes as well as what it covers. And if you can save money in the process, why not? That’s why I always recommend that you buy your policies well ahead of time and make sure you know what you’re buying.

Canadian Travellers

Travel freely, travel blissfully. We cover Canadian Travellers with travel medical insurance and non-medical travel insurance such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage worldwide. We’ve got it all taken care of. For more information, visit, call us at 1-800-360-3234 or email us at

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