Spring Break Warning: Booze & Travel Insurance Don’t Mix

Spring break is here, and whether you’re a student or a pensioner, you need to be covered by travel insurance.

But even the best coverage is not going to do you any good if your visit to the emergency room is fueled by booze.

Emergency room personnel in hospitals throughout the sunbelt know that the next few weeks are going to be among their busiest of the year. Vacationers out of the north often lose more than their inhibitions when they hit the beaches. Many lose their common sense too.

You go south to relax, unwind, and have fun. Good. And you buy travel insurance to protect yourself against unforeseen medical emergencies. That’s essential. But understand that all travel insurance policies exclude medical emergencies—accidents or illnesses—in which alcohol is a contributing factor. They may use different wording, but it all boils down to the same thing.

You don’t have to be blind drunk, or brought to the ER by police, in order to be disqualified from coverage. If the medical staff who examines you notes that alcohol has contributed to your accident, or your gastric upset, or fainting spell, or the broken bones and cuts you suffered in a fall, you could risk having your medical claim denied. It happens. And that could be a very expensive decision.

That doesn’t mean that travel insurers are playing a game of “gotcha.” Travel insurance is not designed to be a substitute for your provincial health care. If it was, your premiums would be many multiples higher. Travel insurance is there to cover unexpected, unforeseen medical emergencies, not lapses in your judgment or situations you can avoid. It has limitations and exclusions.

Every spring we read about otherwise sensible, hard-working students who do the most incredible things they would never do at home—who fall out of boats or off balconies, or get into alcohol-fueled brawls and suffer injury, incarceration, or worse. It happens to even the nicest of kids. That’s why, when yours tell you they are going off to South Texas, or Florida, or Cancun for spring break, make sure they not only have travel insurance, but that they know what it does NOT cover.

This extends to certain sports like scuba diving, skiing, mountain climbing, and similar high-risk activities. There are travel insurance policies that will cover such sports, but that must be spelled out. Make sure you know if you are covered for them before you go.

This doesn’t mean that you should not enjoy your vacation, or that you should deny yourself those great rum drinks in Cuba or Jamaica, or that you have to live the life of a monk while on vacation. But just be aware that as important as travel insurance is, it has its limitations.

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