Travel Insurance for Spring Break

If you’re planning a spring break this year, you probably have your tickets and vouchers in hand already. But if you don’t also have your travel insurance in place, you’re not ready to go. This is true not only for you and your kids, but especially for young students in your family who are taking trips of their own.

One doesn’t ordinarily think of young people as having great health risks, but at this time of year and until the school break season is over in mid-April, hospital emergency room personnel throughout the US sunbelt and vacation destinations such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Cancun, and Hawaii see unusually high rates of children’s and young persons’ admissions.

More than adults, kids on vacation are especially prone to accidents and mischance: stepping on bad things while walking barefoot on the beach; being stung or bitten by hornets, spiders, scorpions, snakes, or worse; eating strange food from questionable sources; falling off slides or water vehicles; and let’s not think about sharks or stingrays. Kids, unfortunately, do not get discounted rates when they get into a hospital emergency room. And even half a day taken to patch up a broken collarbone or diagnose a mysterious gastric upset can run a hospital tab up to several thousand dollars. Whether the patient is a kid or a grandmother, the hospital will demand payment. The right kind of travel insurance can take care of that.

Now let’s talk about something you would rather not think about: students and spring break. Most parents never think their student offspring would behave inappropriately during that one week in “paradise.” But every year, we hear of tragedies occurring among students who suddenly find themselves in a strange environment, surrounded by hundreds of hormone-laden cohorts who do incredibly dangerous things. These young people, thinking only of blowing off steam and having a good time, are especially vulnerable to sudden illness, accident, or worse.

As parents, you should insist they have appropriate medical insurance and you should also be familiar with the type of insurance they have and what it covers as well as what it excludes. Examine it yourself. If necessary, buy it yourself. There are many spring break packages that include their own travel insurance options, but many are not designed specifically for Canadians and they don’t provide the kind of coverage you get when you buy your own out-of-country travel insurance.

And perhaps the most important point—yet another one you may not feel like talking about with your school-aged children—is this: travel insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for medical emergencies that are related to any alcohol or drug use, and that includes “just one beer” or “just a puff of marijuana.” Every year we hear of the tragic death or hospitalization of spring breakers trying to dive into a pool from a hotel balcony, or swimming in the ocean after dark, or getting into a fight in a part of the town they shouldn’t be visiting. It happens too often to people who never in their wildest dreams thought it could happen to someone in their family. Travel insurance has its limits. Willful misbehaviour or stupid negligence are not covered.

In the dead of winter, a week in paradise has an uplifting ring to it.  But you need to be fully prepared for the potential downside too.

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