Add Proof of Insurance to Your Travel Checklist

Your travel plans are set and you’ve purchased your insurance. You may feel like everything is in place. But there’s one vital detail that some travellers can forget: you need to physically have that insurance information. Copied. And in multiple locations.

Yes, that’s right. When you buy insurance for a trip, it’s imperative that you carry your policy information with you—and, equally importantly, that you make a backup copy to leave at home.

 

Why should I bring my insurance information along?

If you require medical care abroad, you’ll want access to your travel insurance details right away. Bringing along documentation that includes your insurance provider and policy number will mean there’s no delay in getting your medical bills sorted, should such a situation arise. In fact, in some cases, doctors abroad may not even be willing to treat you until they know you’re insured.

What’s more, some countries are starting to require that you bring proof of travel insurance when you visit. Always having that proof along will ensure you don’t run into any trouble entering your next destination.

 

Why do I need to leave a backup copy at home?

If you should misplace your policy information while abroad, it helps to have a loved one at home with quick access to the details. And, more importantly, in case of an emergency, your loved ones might themselves need to know the details of your insurance coverage.

Take the case of Zsombor Toth, a Canadian traveller who was recently seriously injured while travelling in Thailand. Toth told his family that he purchased travel insurance before leaving on his trip. Unfortunately, being in critical condition, Toth is not able to communicate the details of his coverage—and his family have not been able to locate his policy number. This puts everyone in a difficult situation; without knowing who Toth’s insurer might be, his family have not been able to contact anyone for help in covering his medical bills.

Not leaving a copy of your details at home is, of course, an innocent mistake—we don’t typically set off on exciting journeys thinking about the worst-case scenario. But by taking that extra step of leaving your policy information at home, you can be absolutely sure that the information will be there and accessible should you ever need it.

 

Is there anything else I should do to prepare before I go?

Confident in your travel insurance policy? Have copies of your details ready to go? Check the rest of the items on our travel checklist to make sure you’re prepared for your next adventure abroad. And travel safe!

Canada Has Eased the Visa Requirements for Mexican Travellers

Planning to visit Canada from Mexico? Good news! The Canadian government has lifted some of the visa requirements that were previously in place, making it easier for Mexican travellers to take trips up north.

Here’s what you need to know about the new rules:

  • As of December 1, 2016, Mexican travellers no longer require a visa for visits to Canada of up to six months.
  • That said, Mexicans planning to travel to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (or eTA). Fortunately, this process can be completed in just a few minutes online for a cost of $7 CAD. You can take care of your eTA right here.
  • Coming to study in Canada? If your study program will be shorter than six months, you’re good to go. For programs longer than that, however, you will still need to apply for a student visa.
  • As well, work permits are still a requirement if you are coming to Canada for work.

Flying with Medical Marijuana? Here’s What to Expect

 

If you have a prescription for cannabis, you may be hoping to bring some along the next time you travel—but this can be much more complicated than travelling with your average prescription drug.

The good news is that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has recently released clarification on the procedures around flying with medical cannabis, as long as you’re travelling within Canada. The bad news? If you’re heading anywhere else in the world, you may have to leave your prescription at home—at least for now.

 

Travelling within Canada

It is legal to travel with medical marijuana within Canada, according to CATSA. However, there are a few important caveats to note:

  • You must bring medical documentation to prove that you have a prescription. And CATSA notes that, in airports where police are present, they will be called in to check this documentation.
  • As well, your bags will be searched to ensure you do not have more than the legal quantity of medical cannabis with you (30 days’ worth).
  • Because of this extra screening, you will likely be spending a longer time than usual at security. That means getting to the airport early is essential—depending on who you ask, it’s recommended that you budget an extra 30 minutes to an hour for this process.
  • It’s always a good idea to call your airline before the day of your flight to let them know about your prescription and find out exactly what their protocol is. You should also inform airport staff up front that you are carrying medical marijuana—this will help to expedite the process of verifying that everything is in order. If you fail to declare it, staff may assume you are trying to bring it along illegally, which will inevitably call for extra screening and delay.
  • While the CATSA site notes that it’s acceptable to bring medical marijuana in your checked luggage, experts highly recommend that you keep it only in your carry-on so that you are able to account for it and present your documentation with it at all times.

 

What about travelling to other destinations?

Here is where things get tricky: CATSA’s rules for travelling with medical marijuana do not apply to international travel. Wherever you go, you will still be subject to the rules of your destination.

What about snowbirds with medical marijuana prescriptions who are hoping to head down to the United States for the winter? Although medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states, it is still prohibited at the federal level. A recent court ruling does protect medical marijuana users in any of those 25 states from federal prosecution, so long as they have fully complied with state laws. However, that applies to those already in those states—not those attempting to fly into them. Unfortunately for travelling snowbirds, the U.S. federal government does not currently allow marijuana on airlines or in secure airport zones.

In fact, there has been recent discussion around a controversial U.S. border policy: denying entry to any Canadian who admits to having smoked marijuana in the past—even if they have a prescription for doing so. With the Trudeau government’s promise to legalize marijuana in Canada—along with the fact that marijuana is now legal in a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska—policies like this are necessarily being reviewed. But, of course, this process will take time.

As the laws continue to shift and evolve, change is more than likely on the horizon. For now, however, those hoping to fly with medical marijuana will have to stick with a Canadian destination.

 

Sources

Cannabis Life Network. “Tips for flying with medical cannabis.” CLN. https://cannabislifenetwork.com/tips-for-flying-with-medical-cannabis/

CanniMed. “Travelling with medical cannabis.” CanniMed Blog. https://www.cannimed.ca/blogs/blog/117970885-travelling-with-medical-cannabis-voyager-avec-son-cannabis-medical

Crawford, Alison. “Flying with prescription pot? CATSA has finally clarified the rules.” CBC. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/catsa-pot-medical-fly-guidelines-1.3802032

Hamilton, Keegan. “Feds can’t prosecute medical marijuana users who follow state law, court rules.” Vice News. https://news.vice.com/article/feds-cant-prosecute-medical-marijuana-users-who-follow-state-law

Hopkins, Andrea. “Canada to press U.S. on ‘ludicrous’ marijuana border policy.” Reuters. https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN11F2HB

 

Planning to travel out of province? Don’t forget: Canadians need travel insurance for trips within Canada.

Travelling with Pets on a Plane

In our last post on this topic, we shared some tips for travelling long distances with your pets in the car. But what about when you’re making the trip by air?

Flying with your pets is, of course, a quicker solution than taking the car, but you also have less control over the situation from start to finish. If you’re trying to decide between flying or driving, try to weigh the overall stress it will place on your pet. Is yours the kind of pet who would easily sleep through a few hours in a cargo hold? Or would they rather stick close to you, but be stuck in a car for a longer period?

If you and your pet are going airborne, here are a few things to note.

  • You’ll need to get in touch with the airline well in advance, as your booking won’t be as flexible as usual. Airlines tend to block off specific times when pets are allowed to travel along on their flights.
  • You will likely have to remove your pet from their carrier at security. If your pet is prone to bolting in terror, you might want to have some kind of harness on them, just in case.
  • If your pet is small enough, you may be able to take them into the cabin with you. However, they’ll need to comfortably fit in a soft carrier that can be placed under the seat in front of you. And, for the sake of other passengers (who may have allergies—or a fear of animals), you shouldn’t take them out of the carrier while you’re flying.
  • If you do bring your pet on board, your other carry-on will be restricted to a satchel or purse. Additional small baggage will be disallowed.

Tip: No matter where you’re travelling or how, placing an absorbent pad at the bottom of your pet’s carrier is a wise thing to do! It will significantly minimize the catastrophe level of an untimely accident.

  • If your pet isn’t petite, then they’ll have to be checked as cargo. Not to worry, they will be treated more gently than your suitcase! And, of course, pets are placed in a pressurized and climate-controlled part of the cargo hold. Still, especially on a long plane ride, this can be a stressful experience. Some travellers choose to give their nervous pets a mild sedative—this is something to discuss with your vet and possibly test out in advance. Placing a favourite toy as well as a t-shirt you have worn a few times into your pet’s carrier may also alleviate stress.
  • Obviously, your pet will not come bouncing down the baggage carousel—you will likely be reunited with them at the “oversized baggage” area. Talk to airport staff at your destination to find out where you can pick up your pet.

Tip: Are you bringing your pet to a new country? You’ll need to ensure they have the proper vaccinations—and get documentation of this on your vet’s letterhead with their signature. Make sure you arrange for their shots well in advance, as a certain amount of time needs to elapse after the vaccine is given to ensure it’s effective. If you take your pet over the border too soon after vaccination, they may have to be quarantined until the wait time is up.

In special circumstances, some airlines make exceptions for larger pets to join the cabin. During the evacuations of Fort McMurray during early spring 2016, WestJet welcomed many animals aboard.

With careful planning and consideration of your fuzzy friend’s needs, you’ll have them safely at your destination in no time!

 

Check out our blog for more travel tips.

Travelling with Pets in a Car

Whether you’re a cat or a dog person, you can agree: our beloved pets are like family members. So, when a new adventure has you moving across the country, of course you’re going to want to take your little buddies along.

This is easier said than done, however. Whether by car or by plane, a long trip is a scary and stressful thing for pets to go through. Preparation is key to making sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible—which means your pet can get out of the car or plane sooner.

Here are some important things to know while planning a long drive with your furry friends.

  • If you don’t often drive with your pet, start out by taking them on short car trips for practice. If you have a new harness or cage you’re planning to use, do test runs with that as well so your pets are comfortable with it before the big day.
  • Do feed them the morning of the big trip, but try to take their food away at least an hour before you hit the road. This will help make sure they don’t have to go to the bathroom immediately upon departure—and it can ease the risk of upset tummies.

Tip: Is your pet travelling in a carrier? Placing a familiar-smelling towel or blanket in with them can be a big help to their nerves.

  • Pets aren’t made to be cooped up for hours on end! Plan out your route so that you can stop every couple of hours and let them stretch their legs, whether in the car or in a safe spot off the road. (And you’ll want to limit the overall driving per day—a 16-hour driving marathon may be bearable for a human, but it can be tough on your pet.) Letting pets roam free in the backseat can help them stretch out, but be cautious—sneaky cats might find their way up front and under the pedals, which could cause a disaster. You’ll want to block them from getting past the backseat area so they can’t mess with the controls or get up on the dashboard.
  • That said, even if you grant your pets freedom in the back of the car, some may not actually use it. Like people, different pets have different feelings about travelling. Some will be bouncing around, looking out the window, while others will react to the stress by simply hiding themselves away for as long as the car is on the road. (This is another reason not to spend too much time on the road per day—some pets will flat-out refuse to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom until they’re safely back on unmoving ground.)
  • Even if you let your pets roam in the backseat, make sure they always have some kind of restraint in place (like a leash or a harness). If an accident happens, you won’t necessarily have time to get them securely leashed before you have to leave the car.
    For small pets, put them back in their carriers before ever opening the car door—even if you’re just stopping for gas. Even if it seems like your pet is napping, you don’t know what the sound of an opening door will do—an opportunistic cat can go from “lounging” to “escaped” in seconds. The last thing you want is to lose your pet somewhere in the middle of your journey, where they won’t be able to find their way home.
  • It can be dehydrating in the car, so having some water accessible for your pets is a good idea. That said, some pets will not be interested in doing much other than hiding while the car is in motion, so you may need to encourage them to drink at rest stops.
  • Take it easy on the music—your pet’s ears are much more sensitive than yours. Keep that volume low!

Tip: While some music can be bothersome to animals, the sound of a person’s voice often has a calming effect. Try a podcast—not only are they good entertainment, but that gentle voice might just soothe your meowing or yapping beast.

  • What about stopping for the night? While some hotels have pet-free policies, many will actually allow pets for a rather low additional cleaning fee (often around $15–$30 for the night). However, you don’t want to be driving around looking for a place to stay with a hungry, stressed-out pet in the back—so it’s imperative that you take the time to locate the pet-friendly options on your route and book your rooms in advance.

Is your destination too far away for a car trip? Check out the second part of this series: Taking the Plane!

Travel in the Age of Social Media

It seems like yesterday that Facebook was just a fledging network for college students—and Twitter was a shorter version of Facebook that no one quite understood yet. Now, these and other social networks seem to have become inseparable parts of our everyday lives. If anything of note is happening in the world, social media is probably the first place you’re going to hear about it.

But news isn’t the only thing that’s travelling differently in the age of social media. In fact, social media is reshaping the world of travel for savvy jet-setters everywhere.

 

Research and preparation

The most obvious benefit of social media is the way it connects you to the thoughts of so many people around the globe. As you’re making your vacation plans, you have endless reviews, ratings, and opinions to consider, and it’s all right at your fingertips. How’s that hotel you’re eyeing? If any past guests are feeling discontent, you can bet social media will have heard about it.

And it’s not just about finding what to avoid. Social media also lets people highlight and share the most interesting parts of their adventures—giving you easy access to inspiration and secret spots you may never have discovered otherwise. Who even knew you could stay in a cave?

 

Traveller tip: Choosing a B&B or vacation rental instead of a hotel can make your trip that much more memorable. However, if you have trip cancellation insurance, your coverage may not extend to these kinds of accommodations. Find out more here.

And don’t forget the explosion of travel apps, which offer seemingly limitless ways to help you figure out your trip—even while the trip is already in progress. You can check out a few of our favourite apps here.

 

Communication on the go

Can you believe there was a time when you would have had to rely on snail mail to let your family know you were safe while abroad? These days, you can take a high-resolution photo and share it with everyone in a matter of seconds—much to the delight (or irritation) of your Facebook friends back home.

But the ease of communication that social media affords isn’t just good for staying in touch. It also means that, in emergencies, news travels faster than ever before. So keeping up on social media can help you stay informed and safe, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

 

Traveller tip: In the event of a natural disaster while you’re abroad, good planning can make all the difference in getting you home safely. Find out more here.

 

Dealing with the unexpected

A unique feature of social media is that it can amplify your voice in an unprecedented way—particularly when it comes to customer feedback. If an airline or hotel treated you badly back in the old days, you might have been stuck writing an angry letter or spending hours on the phone, driven to despair by cheerful hold music. Nowadays, many are taking the strategy of posting their dissatisfaction in the public arena of social media. The visibility of these complaints often spurs image-conscious companies to reach out and solve the problem a lot more quickly than they would have otherwise.

Keep in mind, however, that while tweeting has its uses, it’s not the most direct solution to an actual travel emergency. That’s why trip cancellation and interruption insurance is a great safety net for protecting travellers from the unexpected. Find out more about what trip cancellation insurance can offer you.

 

Gathering inspiration

Of course, the most visible way that travellers engage with social media is in the endless photos that are shared during every trip. And while these may cause some envy when you’re trapped at your desk, stunning travel photos are especially great for one thing: inspiration. So get out there, find your muse among the many travellers of the Internet, and start planning your next trip!