12/17/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST

Travel insurance: Know what you're buying to avoid a vacation disaster

Robin Ingle knows a thing or two about travel insurance — his parents opened their family travel insurance business in 1946 — and he says travellers need to be very cautious about the type of coverage they're buying before they head out of the country.

"You have to make sure that the product you buy is appropriate," says Ingle, CEO of Ingle International. 

"You have to make sure that the product you buy is appropriate," he adds. "Standard travel insurance products, for example, will not cover you for mountain climbing; will not cover you for diving … so you have to be aware that if you have a special need or you are going to a different kind of destination, participating in different activities, you have to make sure the product you have will actually service you."

He says there's often confusion and anxiety when travellers are searching for the right coverage. The industry veteran believes the travel insurance business needs to be more transparent, but he also emphasizes the need for clients and would be travellers to do their homework and make sure the policies they are purchasing actually provide the coverage needed. 

"Insurance companies and financial institutions don’t communicate well with consumers and they have to do a better job. But consumers also roll back their eyes and get a little bit dizzy when they have to look at wording within policies or contracts, and they have to be better consumers of financial products.”

The travel insurance industry is one of the highest-paying claims groups within the insurance industry, according to Ingle, with denied claims representing 2 to 3 per cent of active policies. Making sure you're covered for the type of activities you plan to do while out of the country comes down to understanding the details of your coverage plan. 

Thinking of buying travel insurance?  Have you:

- Researched what’s out there, or are you sticking to the first plan you came across?

- Spoken with your doctor, or are you guessing which conditions you are being treated for?

- Called a licensed agent, or are you rushing to complete the application before you board the plane?

- Read the fine print, or are you making assumptions about what is and isn’t covered?

- Checked out the policy glossary, or are you relying on your friend’s interpretation of a confusing term?

- Enquired about deductibles, or are you prepared to pay a lower cost now and a higher premium later?

- Asked questions, questions, and more questions, or are you concerned you’ll be a bother?

(Watch the video on travel insurance tips)

"You have to understand what you are buying," Ingle says. "You have to understand you can ask questions, that you can find a product if you need it that will provide the services you need in the places you are going - but you have to find it."