Looking for the best travel insurance for Canadians with binoculars
Chris is looking in all the wrong places for travel insurance.

Here’s how we found the best travel insurance policy for our upcoming six-month trip and the much simpler steps you can follow to overcome overwhelm, save money, and be secure in finding the best travel insurance policy for yourself.

The Perilous Search for the Best Travel Insurance for Canadians

Kim and I are really looking forward to heading to South Africa this winter but there’s one job that comes beforehand that I’ve been dreading: Finding travel insurance.

But since we travel so much, I finally decided to suck it up and do a deep dive into how to truly find the best travel insurance for Canadians.

And man did it suck.

The policies are insanely complicated, I couldn’t trust any commission-hungry blogs, and there is no site where I can easily compare all possible policies.

So I went old-school.

I called up leaders in the travel insurance industry and asked them for insights, off-the-record tips, and advice they give to their best friends and children. They very generously obliged. (Thanks guys!)

I then combined their input with dozens of hours of my own research and comparisons, condensed it all into eight (relatively) simple steps to finding the best travel insurance for Canadians specifically, and, at last, made my choice.

Thanks to all this hard work, I’m confident I bought the right policy for Kim and I and I’m happy to have saved myself a couple hundred bucks doing so.

If you follow these steps to finding the best travel insurance, you can do the same.

Chris and Kim cheersing their pulque at La Hija de los Apaches
Celebrating having finally chosen our travel insurance policy so we can get on with enjoying our trip.

What We Chose and Why

The best travel insurance for Kim and I ended up being a combo.

We’re using my credit card insurance for the first 31 days of our trip, then topping it off with the Merit Travel Budget Plan D.

As you’ll see in my mega comparison spreadsheet below, Merit wasn’t the cheapest option. Azimuth, IMG, and Trawick—all of which we found through Squaremouth.com—were cheaper, but we weren’t comfortable with the low maximums. And they were no longer cheaper at higher maximums.

The Merit package’s $1 million maximum is plenty enough to ensure we’re covered no matter what, as I explain in Step 4 below. And, at $1.50 a day per person, the price was right. It’s extra cheap because it doesn’t include trip cancellation or interruption and baggage loss protection, which our credit card already covers.

The only downside of the Merit package is its zero deductible. As I’ll explain below, we’d take a higher deductible and save money on the policy, but it wasn’t an option with them.

Merit may not be the best travel insurance choice for you though. Follow these 8 simple steps to save money and save your ass in case something goes wrong:

8 Steps to Finding the Best Travel Insurance

Chris' dad jumping off waterfall in Costa Rica, hopefully covered by travel insurance
Let’s hope Chris’ dad didn’t jump too fast into buying his travel insurance plan before going canyoneering Costa Rica and jumping off cliffs.

Step 0: Don’t jump straight into shopping

Buying travel insurance is like buying a used car.

If you dive right in and naively buy the first “deal” you find, you’re likely to pay way more than you should for a lemon you can’t make lemonade with.

Step 1: Check that you’re not an exception

Are you covered by provincial health care?

If not, click here to expand this section. If so, move on.
If you’re not already covered by provincial health care, this should likely be your first priority.

But, just to be clear, provincial health care coverage barely covers you when abroad. At most, it’ll cover only $75 of the thousands of dollars of the daily emergency care costs you can expect to incur if you have an accident.

Being covered by provincial health care does make your travel insurance substantially cheaper, though. This is because your travel insurer can, when appropriate, save on foreign medical costs by bringing you home to get treated.

Are you traveling for more than 6 months?

Are you over 65 years old? 

Kim and family, including pregnant sister
At least one of these people has a pre-existing condition that will affect their search for the best travel insurance.

Step 2: Determine if there’s anything wrong with you

Are you 100% sure you’re 100% healthy?

Do you likely have a pre-existing medical condition?

Another paraglider, with Medellin in background, circling down towards landing
Most basic travel insurance policies won’t cover high-risk activities like paragliding.

Step 3: Asses how risky your trip will be

If you’re just planning to sit on a beach, visit museums, or eat all day in “safe” countries, skip ahead to Step 4.

Are you maybe going somewhere the Canadian government doesn’t want you to go?

The US is Risky?!?

Do you know what’s considered a “high-risk activity”?

Are you only going to do a high-risk activity once or twice?

Are you planning on frequently engaging in a high-risk activity or playing a professional sport?

Chris reading menu at Jugos Canada in Mexico City
Just like when you’re at a smoothie bar, getting every possible ingredient isn’t necessarily the best option when it comes to travel insurance. Decide what you need and don’t need.

Step 4: Decide what you need and don’t need

Protect yourself from getting upsold on expensive extra coverages you don’t need by deciding what you want and, just as importantly, what you don’t want before you start shopping around.

Do you really want zero deductible?

Can you save with a multi-trip policy?

Do you want a refund and/or new trip home if something goes wrong?

Is there a difference between $1 million, $5 million, and $10 million?

Step 5: Max out your credit card (…’s benefits)

Before I got into my research, I suspected there had to be a catch with credit card travel insurance.

There isn’t.

For any trip length up to a month, you can possibly get all the travel insurance you need for $0 by using your credit card. Even the execs I interviewed admitted that the travel insurance provided by Canadian credit cards has gotten a lot better recently and is now quite competitive, so every smart traveler should take maximum advantage of it.

Be very careful, though.

First, understand what credit card travel insurance does and doesn’t cover. Then, consider getting a new card for maximum savings and coverage.

Do you know what your current credit card covers?

Are you interested in getting a new credit card for even better insurance?

Step 6: See what else you can get for free

In addition to insurance from your credit card, there’s a decent chance your employer or homeowners/renters insurance already provides some coverage for you.

Does your employer cover you?

Do your have renters or homeowners insurance?

Shopper in supermarket aisle in Exito Patio Bonito
Only start shopping for your travel insurance plan after you’ve gone through Steps 1 through 6.

Step 7: Start shopping for your travel insurance plan

Now that you know exactly what you need (and don’t need), it’s time to start shopping.

You’ll have to shop around because there is no single site that consolidates every offer on the market. It’s time-consuming but the more quotes you get, the better your odds of finding the absolute best travel insurance policy.

Here are some tips and things to beware of:

  • If Traveling With Others, Buy Travel Insurance With Others

Be on the lookout for companion discounts and family rates. Better yet, ask for them.

  • Don’t Bank on Banks

  • Go for Broke(rs)?

  • Have Your Travel Agent Stick to What They Know Best

  • You Gotta be (No-)Mad

  • Aggre-not-so-great-ors

The Best Least Bad Approach to finding the best travel insurance for Canadians

This approach to picking the best travel insurance for Canadians is far from ideal, but it’s really the only way to ensure you get the lowest possible price while still being fully covered.

  1. Go through the previous six steps of this guide to know exactly what you’re looking for. There are no shortcuts.
  2. Click here to get a copy of the mega policy comparison I made (see below).
  3. Look through the “Example Full” sheet, which has the info from my own search. Pick out 5-10 policies that might have what you’re looking for.
    • If you have special circumstances, you might have to do a Google search for other travel insurers to add to the list.
  4. For the companies you picked, click the links in column A of every row to go to their websites and get quotes for your trip.
  5. Fill out the “Empty Template” tab with as many quotes as you have time to get.
  6. Pick the plan that looks best to you then continue on the final step, Step 8.
Chris eating a meal in a shack in Kenya
“Kim, you’re sure our insurance policy said I’d be covered in case I got sick eating some mystery meat stew in the middle of nowhere in Kenya, right?”

Step 8: Read the Policy and Call Before Buying

Before buying your travel insurance, read through the policy details then call the company to confirm your understanding. Ask as many questions as you can think of.

It doesn’t hurt to ask, but it might really hurt you (and your wallet) if you don’t.

What else to look to for in your policy?

Don’t be too paranoid

Tools and Tips

screenshot of spreadsheet of quotes for travel insurance for Canadians
Click here to see a copy in Google Sheets of the mega travel insurance policy comparison table I made.

Mega Policy Comparison

As I mentioned in the intro, I dove deep into my search for the best travel insurance policy. This spreadsheet is proof.

I went to almost thirty travel insurance websites to get quotes for our trip, downloaded the policy terms, read the details, then summarized my findings in this spreadsheet. Click here to open up a copy.

You don’t have to do the same as me!

At least not to the same extent.

As I explained in Step 7, pick a few of the policies that look good to you, click the links on the sheet to get quotes for your own trip, compare, then double check and buy (Step 8).

One Final Tip

Carry your insurance contact on you.

If an accident happens you need to contact your insurer ASAP so they can guide you to the appropriate medical care. Some insurers work with preferred hospitals, so if you go to one that’s not on their list (especially in the U.S.) you may be liable for 20% or more of the medical fees.

Depending on your accident, you may not be able to communicate with anyone. In that case, your caretaker will need to know who to talk to. Keep a card for your insurer in your wallet so they can find that contact fast.

best travel tips and tricks cover image of Kim in jeep with locals in Jordan

Safe Travels!

Hopefully, all the time you spent on finding the best travel insurance and the money you paid for your coverage is completely wasted because you have zero problems on your trip.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments below. We worked really hard on this guide and would appreciate our input. Just think, if you had a blog how much you’d appreciate getting comments.

Also, take a look through The Unconventional Route to see if we might have any recommendations for the place you’re visiting, and read through some of our general guides like:

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use special links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we'd recommend anyway. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to.


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