Canadian Underwriter

What your snowbird clients need to know before they fly south

October 20, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Two snowmen in the shape of birds sitting on blue beach chairs on the sand. One is wearing a sombrero and is holding a camera. The other is wearing a straw hat.

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Snowbirds flying south for the winter should heed that they need a policy that differs from a traditional travel policy, one expert says. They also must inform their broker that they’ll be on an extended trip, so they can update their home and auto policy accordingly.

The main difference between snowbird travel and regular travel is that the policy specifically focuses on a wider and more detailed swathe of medical coverage, including hospitalization and treatment, emergency return to Canada, repatriation of remains and more.

Snowbird travel insurance is a type of travel policy created to meet the needs of snowbirds during their winter vacation. These policies are designed specifically for policyholders aged 55+ who are going on extended trips—typically 90 to 120 days, Matt Hands, senior business director at RateHub, tells Canadian Underwriter.

“The coverage within [snowbird insurance] is really focused on that medical side of things that someone like a [younger] traveller wouldn’t be as concerned with,” says Hands, who notes it’s particularly important for snowbirds who are travelling to the U.S., where their hospital system is privatized and more expensive than Canada’s.

However, when snowbirds are preparing to travel, they need to do more than just purchase a snowbird travel policy. They also need to inform their home insurer and their auto insurer of their extended trip.

For shorter trips, snowbirds need to ensure they have someone in place to monitor and upkeep their property, Hands says.

“You need to have a plan in place for someone to check on the property in case the pipes freeze because if that happens while you’re gone and there’s a claim, your insurance company may deny and say you didn’t do the proper upkeep and maintenance of your property.”

For extended trips, snowbirds need to take even more steps to ensure their home is winterized.

“[Have] someone monitor it regularly and make sure theft hasn’t occurred or a window doesn’t break,” Hands says. “If you don’t have a plan in place and something happens, they may deny the coverage.”

When most snowbirds talk to their brokers, the upside is that they’ll find they don’t need to purchase vacant property coverage.

“It’s not common that they would require you to do vacant property coverage, which is actually more expensive,” says Hands. “They understand that snowbird travel is pretty regular. They just need [policyholders] to have that plan in place for how the home will be monitored and maintained in your absence.”

Snowbirds also must be diligent that their vacation home is sufficiently insured, especially if they’re travelling to another country. “For example, [if you travelled to] Florida, you would need to get coverage from a Florida insurance company for that property,” says Hands.

Snowbirds also need to let their broker know whether they’ll be using their car while vacationing for an extended period.

“If they’re driving their car down and they’re going to be staying for an extended period of time, they’ll need to inform their insurance company about it, because it’s almost like changing their address,” says Hands. “They’re going to be spending the majority of their time down in Florida, they’re going to be putting a lot of kilometers on.

“If it was a one-off trip, and back, and something happens…[your insurer is] going to say, ‘okay, because policy coverage extends into the States, you’re fine,’” says Hands. However, “say your vehicle is stolen or it’s damaged in a hurricane, and you haven’t informed your insurance provider that you had been [in the States] and you’d be staying for an extended period of time, you may have issues getting a claim approved.

“It’s really just best practice to keep your insurance companies informed of anything you’re doing, especially regarding situation like this where you’re going to be gone for a long period of time, you’re not going to be at your home, and you may be taking your vehicle with you.”


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