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Aug 26, 2019

6 min. read

How to enjoy a safe, happy and relaxing retirement down south.

Sun-soaked beaches and glorious warmth lure Manitobans to the U.S. every year. "Most of our snowbirds head to Arizona, Texas and Florida," says Kate Wiggett, member services counsellor with CAA Manitoba. "It's an extended stay, typically from late fall to spring." But before you pack the RV or fly south, make sure you know the health- and home-insurance implications of your getaway.

"Start by notifying Manitoba Health if you plan to travel outside of the province for 90 days or more," Wiggett says. That way you'll be certain your insurance coverage (from Manitoba Health, plus any private insurance plans) remains uninterrupted when you're away. Manitoba residents can be away from the province for up to seven months without loss of coverage from Manitoba Health, so long as you've notified them. Without appropriate insurance coverage, though, any emergency medical bills that arise would be your responsibility.

To avoid a hefty medical bill, especially if you're travelling to the U.S., your next step should be travel medical insurance. Look for a policy that's tailored to snowbirds. Coverage is usually based on three key considerations: duration of travel, age and health conditions. "The biggest consideration is duration," Wiggett says. CAA, for instance, can insure any client for up to a year. Wiggett suggests a 30-day annual plan that can be topped up for five to six months. "It gives flexibility if you come home at Christmas, for example." The policy resets so members can travel for another period of time, plus enjoy coverage during the remainder of the year for additional trips in and outside of Canada.

Don't forget to safeguard your home too: "To prevent loss of coverage, you might be required to have someone enter your home when you're away on vacation," advises Scott Maclaren, an insurance broker with CAA Manitoba. Most insurance companies and policies require you to have someone regularly check on your property when the house is vacant for a certain length of time.

Owing to Manitoba's frigid winters, damage caused by freezing, such as a burst water pipe, may not be covered if you haven't taken the necessary precautions. In addition to having someone check on the home, you can also shut off your water supply and drain the pipes, or use a heating system connected to a temperature alarm. And make sure your home looks lived in: Set lights on a timer; have someone pick up your mail; and arrange for snow to be cleared from your driveway and sidewalks.

Of course, no two snowbirds are totally alike. Since every traveller's situation is different, there's not a one-size-fits-all insurance option. Before heading south, speak to your broker to find out what will work best for you.

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