Canadians are more eager than ever to pack their bags and get back on the road. But embarking on their first ‘post’-pandemic trip abroad is without questions and a few hesitations. Now that travel restrictions due to the pandemic are slowly being lifted, there are now a new host of considerations to take into account when planning your trip.
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Choose the right destination
The first step is evaluating different destinations and their various travel restrictions and requirements. While restrictions are being lifted or lightened in many countries, there are still some that require certain precautions and procedures before you can enter their borders.
Things to consider when selecting a destination:
- What are the entry requirements for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers; What forms do I need to fill in, do they need to be on paper or on an app, do I need to get tested and, if so, what forms of test are acceptable.
- If I need to connect through another country in order to reach my destination, do the answers to the question above change and are there an additional set of rules for connecting passengers
- What vaccines are recognized by the local authorities; Are mixed vaccines acceptable; What are acceptable proofs
- If there is a Covid-19 outbreak, how quickly can I leave the country and are there many flights available; What coverage does my holiday insurance give me if I catch Covid-19 and what are the rules and conditions offered on my airline ticket, and does the insurance or airline cover these exceptions
Consider the hidden costs
There are usually hidden costs with every vacation, and the pandemic a(and resulting travel restrictions) have increased those costs.
Common hidden costs to look out for include:
- The cost of testing. Current trends are that most countries will allow travellers to enter if they are vaccinated and if they can provide a negative PCR test less than 72 hours or an antigen tests within 24 hours. However, these tests do not come cheap; the cost for a PCR test in Canada can range between $100-$200 per person. Depending on the destination, you may be required to take these tests before entry and before returning and potentially every ten days if you are staying there for a longer period of time.
- If your destination changes to be a high-risk list while you are away, you may be required to quarantine, which could have employment implications
- Extra insurance costs. Your travel insurance costs will take into account the conditions in the country you are flying to, but also the condition of any country you are passing through. For instance, connecting through a country like the United States may end up driving the cost of your insurance up and sometimes that cheap ticket may end up costing you more than you think. It’s more important than ever to understand what exactly your travel insurance covers as getting hospitalized in another country can be hugely expensive.
Understand Covid-protocols at your destination(s)
Take a close look at your destination to understand what safety restrictions and protocols are in place that might impact your trip
Common overseas safety protocols to look for include:
- Is there a curfew? Curfews can be a real downer if you enjoy late dinners and nightlife. Make sure you check the local jurisdictions to find out if a curfew has been imposed.
- Is there a limit on the number of persons allowed in restaurants, museums, gyms, tours or any other public space – and do I need reservations?
- Is there a health passport program or app? Many countries operate a testing certification app that allows admittance to public spaces, such as France’s Tous Anti Covid app that requires you to go to a designated local pharmacy and have your vaccination proof accredited and registered.
- How difficult is it to get a PCR or Rapid Antigen test at the destination and what is the timeline for obtaining results?
- Are locals vaccinated? Are hospitality employees considered essential workers and fully vaccinated? Vaccination rates still vary significantly country by country, so don’t assume that emergency workers are vaccinated, always check first.
- What is the current state of hospitals at my destination? Can they handle non-Covid related cases or are the hospitals swamped
- Are the establishments endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council or do any have other stamps of approval ensuring high health and globally standardized hygiene protocols?
Pay extra attention when booking flights/accommodations
Some things to look for when booking flights and accommodations:
- As all travel insurance policies now have Covid-related exclusions, you need to make sure that whichever airline, tour operator, or hotel you book through gives you the option to rebook those arrangements if necessary.
- Check if any of the particular airlines you are using have been cancelling flights in large amounts or imposing new flight schedules that could make you lose out. As the industry gets back on its feet, many airlines are opening new routes, only to realize that they are short-staffed and can’t operate those flights because of a shortage of qualified aircrew.
- Looks at the frequency of flights to get to and from my destination. This is important for two reasons: If you need to get back home quickly, can you? If your airline cancels your flights, can you be rebooked on any other flight and not miss out on precious holiday time or an important business meeting or even worse lose a night or two in a non-refundable hotel?
- What are my passenger rights if I travel on a Canadian carrier vs a European one or American? Treatment of passengers and level of difficulty dealing with finding solutions when things go wrong vary greatly according to which carrier and bill of rights the airline must abide by. Choosing your flights carefully can save you a lot of time, money and headaches.
- Most airlines are offering “free” changes to bookings, although it should be noted that they are only free if the price isn’t higher for the new date. It is still best to check how much notice you have to give and how long the window for rebooking will be to make sure it covers your needs. And it’s also worth noting that you normally only get a refund if the company itself cancels your flight or if the rules of the ticket allow it.
Prepare for common delays
Also, prepare for queues and delays at some airports. Currently, airports like Toronto Pearson, waiting 3-5 hours to deplane on certain days has become standard and you can expect the same level of overcrowding and delays at airports in major tourist destinations.
Try to select flights that are not in peak times and avoid the long waits until airports are fully operational again and the flow of passengers can be properly handled. Same goes for hotels where it may take longer to obtain services from staff due to shortages.
Evaluate your ‘new’ comfort zone
After being isolated and told to stay away from crowds for more than eighteen months, every traveller will need to evaluate if they feel comfortable in crowded settings again.
Is the high-density all-inclusive in Cancun a good option for your first holiday after the past 2 years, or is a socially distanced low-density destination like Costa Rica the best option for easing yourself back into travel?
Book with an expert
Booking with a trusted travel agent is more important than ever – they can share safe, low-risk destination options, any Covid-related policies/regulations to know about, help manage any flight disruptions (which are much more common now), advise on best travel insurance and so much more. They are your travel advocate during these more unpredictable times.