Next time your clients announce a future trip remind them vacations aren’t always carefree—21% of Canadian travelers have needed medical attention while away. And 35% don’t buy travel health insurance before they go away.

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THiA) conducted a national survey of Canadians about their travel habits and their understanding of provincial health coverage.

Read: Snowbirds leave insurance up in the air

“Only 6% of Canadians realize that provincial health plans cover approximately 9% of medical expenses when travelling outside of Canada,” said John Thain, THiA president.

  • The most common reasons for seeking medical care include gastrointestinal issues (21.8%), infection (16.%) and fractures (10.7%)
  • Sixty per cent of those who received medical attention while away had extended medical insurance to pay for the associated expenses
  • Most (59.3%) would pay whatever necessary for medical treatment
  • Associated medical expenses of more than $1,000 would represent a financial crisis for 33.6% of respondents and 32% indicated that unforeseen medical expenses of $5,000 or more would represent a financial crisis
  • Only 28.5% correctly identified the average cost of treating a fracture in the US ($10,000)

Read: Are you getting enough vacation time?

The survey also finds 30% of Canadians plan to travel this winter, while 31% consider themselves risk takers. One third of those surveyed reported binge drinking while on vacation.

The good news? 94% reported packing underwear for their travels, the survey finds.

“Travel health insurance should be as essential to a vacation as underwear,” said Thain. “Many people will already have some coverage through employers or credit cards and it’s important to understand existing coverage and ensure you have the necessary supplemental coverage.”

Read: Manulife, RBC strike travel insurance arrangement

THiA recommends that Canadians do the following to have carefree vacations:

  • Know your health and consult a health care provider if you have any questions
  • Know your trip – How long will you be gone? Are you a snowbird? Will you be travelling many times during the year? Do you plan to scuba dive?
  • Understand your travel insurance policy – Insurance companies have staff available to answer any questions related to policies