Canadians are travelling again, but travel abroad isn’t quite back to normal yet.
When it comes to international travel, “nothing is set in stone right now,” says Chris Myden, founder of Y Deals, a Canada-wide website that offers email deal alerts for unusually great airfare deals around the world. “Definitely, check restrictions continuously because things can change.”
Outside of the pandemic, approximately 200,000 passengers typically pass through Canadian airports on any given day – levels that dropped to “probably 10 per cent of that level throughout the pandemic.” However, since June, that number has been on the rise. “Right now, a lot of deals are domestic, but international travel is starting to come back.”
“It’s not exactly easy travel. There are pros and cons everywhere,” Myden says. “Hopefully, all this gets easier and easier as we come out of the pandemic and schedules become more stable.”
When travelling internationally, “the major factor you want to consider: Are there direct flights available from Canada? You want direct flights [to simplify] COVID-19 testing requirements.” For this, Mexico is at the top of Myden’s list in terms of ease. Bear in mind that if you are connecting through the U.S., you will require a negative COVID-19 test even if you are passing through.
Another destination to consider at this time would be the Dominican Republic, Myden says, as travellers who have been double jabbed for COVID-19 will not need to take a COVID-19 test before getting on a plane. While the Dominican Republic randomly tests travellers for COVID-19 on arrival, “overall, it’s still one of the easier ones because you don’t have to do a test in Canada before you go.”
“Cuba would also normally be a sure thing, but it’s going through a lot of political issues, so I would not look at Cuba right now,” Myden says.
You can also save yourself most of these requirements and stick to Canada. Most provinces allow interprovincial travel without quarantine or vaccine proof.
Wherever you’re planning to go, “things are changing rapidly, so you have to be willing to accept that there’s going to be changes (to your plans),” says Wayne Smith, professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.
“Things like quarantine rules can change at the last minute, and you have to be prepared. If something does change, you have to be able to go with the flow and you have to be aware of the rules. You can’t just book a trip and forget about it. You need to do your due diligence before you book.”
Smith urges travellers to err on the side of caution in terms of taking care of their health, “because the last thing you want is to be in another country and all of a sudden have to take a trip to the hospital. If you don’t have good insurance, that could get really expensive, really quickly.”
According to Smith, if you’re planning to travel, book directly with hotels or airlines and not through third-party aggregators like Hotels.com or Expedia.ca. “It saves the middle man, obviously. And booking directly with a hotel means you may be able to be more flexible. In cases like this (coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic), having that person on the ground would be a major advantage.” Third-party booking sites may have excellent deals but it is challenging to make changes to flights, manage disruptions or cancellations due to restrictions and high change fees. Read the very fine print if you choose to book through a third party.
If you’re planning to travel internationally, you’ll need to add COVID-19 testing into your budget (allowing time to get results) and “it’s not going to be cheap,” Smith says.
It’s also important to consider travel insurance, he adds. Many people depend on the travel insurance that comes with their credit card. “That’s probably not going to cut it in most cases, just because of all the changes (due to COVID-19). It’s one of the things you really need to think about.”