Which type of travel medical insurance is right for you - Single-Trip vs. Multi-Trip Annual Plans?

When choosing your travel medical insurance coverage, should you get a single-trip plan or a multi-trip annual plan? Here's what you need to know...

Single-Trip vs Multi-Trip Travel Medical Insurance Coverage

When choosing the right type of travel medical insurance policy to meet your individual needs, one of the options you’ll need to consider from a price and convenience standpoint is whether you would be better off with a single-trip plan or a muti-trip annual plan.

To help you choose which plan is right for you, it’s important to understand how these plans work, how they differ and which type of traveller they are most suitable for.

In addition to the information provided below, it’s also advisable to speak with a knowledgeable travel insurance agent or broker to help analyze which plan might be better for you and why based on your unique circumstances.

What is a Single-Trip Travel Medical Insurance Plan?

As the name suggests, single-trip plans provide emergency medical coverage for a single trip with a defined start and end date - beginning on your departure date and ending on your return date. Remember, your departure date is the calendar day on which you leave your home province, regardless of the time of departure.


If you are departing on December 1 and returning on March 31 and choose single-trip coverage, you would purchase a 121-day single-trip plan (or 122 days if it’s a leap year) that would cover you for the entire period. You would not be covered for any other trips.

Extending your single-trip plan

If you decide to travel for a longer period of time, you can extend your coverage by purchasing an extension for your original single-trip policy.

Using the example above, if you wanted to add an additional 10 days of coverage to your plan, you would contact your insurer and change your 121-day single trip plan to a 131-day single-trip plan.

What is a Multi-Trip Annual Travel Medical Insurance Plan?

Multi-trip annual plans provide emergency medical coverage for an unlimited number of trips over a 12-month period.

However, multi-trip annual plans limit the number of days per trip you are allowed to travel. Once you reach your limit, you must return to your home province before travelling again to start the clock again. The limit on the number of days you can travel per trip will vary depending on your policy, but common limits range from 4 days to 60 days per trip.

Topping-up your multi-trip annual plan

If you want to spend more time away from home than your multi-trip policy allows, you can purchase what is commonly referred to as a "top-up" plan on a per trip basis that will allow you to stay away for a longer period on that trip.

For example, if you have a multi-trip annual plan that allows you to travel for 30 days per trip, but you want to be away for 50 days on a particular trip, you would purchase a 20 day top-up plan for that particular trip to cover you for the days beyond your policy’s per-trip limit.

Important notes about extensions and top-ups

  • Generally speaking, extensions and top-ups must be purchased prior to the expiration of your coverage. For single-trip plans, this means prior to the expiration date of your original policy. For multi-trip annual plans, this means prior to the date you reach your policy’s days per-trip limit for any trip.
  • Some insurers require you to purchase extensions a minimum period of time prior to when your original coverage expires (i.e. 24 or 48 hours). It is strongly advised that you do not wait until the last minute to extend your coverage.
  • If you have already made a claim or an event has occurred that will likely result in you making a claim, you may not be eligible for an extension or a top-up.
  • You will need to disclose to your insurance provider any changes to your health that occurred after you purchased your original policy and prior to your departure date – or departure dates, if you are travelling multiple times – as these changes may result in a higher premium, certain medical conditions being excluded from coverage or in some cases being ineligible for an extension or top-up.

Maximum coverage durations

In most cases, the maximum coverage duration available for single-trip and multi-trip plans – including extensions and top-ups – is equal to the maximum number of days you can spend outside your home province over a given period and still maintain your provincial health care coverage.

For example, in Ontario the maximum number of days you can spend outside your province in any 12-month period and maintain your provincial health coverage is 212 days.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but you should speak to your travel insurance provider first.

Which type of plan is right for you?

Factors like Trip Length (how long your trips are) and Trip Frequency (how often to you travel) can help you determine which type of plan is best for you in terms of coverage and price.

Single-trip plans

Single-trip plans are often the better choice for snowbirds and other travellers with the following travel habits:

  • You only plan on travelling one or two times over a 12-month period.
  • If you spend your winters away and don't plan on coming back to Canada periodically between your initial departure date and your final return date.

Multi-trip annual plans

Multi-trip annual plans provide flexibility and features that can save you time and money.

  • Allow you to lock in rates and avoid premium increases for a full year.
  • Can be less expensive that single-trip plans, depending on your travel patterns.
  • Convenience of not having to purchase a policy every time you travel.

Multi-trip annual plans are often the better choice for snowbirds and other travellers with the following travel habits:

  • You plan on travelling multiple times over a 12-month period
  • If you spend your winters away and plan on coming back to Canada periodically between your initial departure date and your final return date. (i.e. for holidays, visiting family and friends, doctors’ appointments, etc…)

One thing to keep in mind with multi-trip annual plans is that you will need to remember to contact your travel insurance provider to update your medical history if there are any changes to your health or medical conditions any time before you travel during the 12-month period your policy is in effect.

Disclaimer: The material provided in the Snowbird Advisor Insurance Learning Centre is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute insurance, legal, financial or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should speak with a qualified professional to assist you.