A “one-dose summer” — as touted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — is in the cards for Canada, with more than half the Canadian population having received at least a single shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As provinces look ahead to easing COVID-19 restrictions over the coming months, summertime travel is possible, but the demand is low, travel experts say.
“There is no panic to get anything booked for the summer,” said Richard Vanderlubbe, president of Tripcentral.ca.
A travel advisory is still in effect, with the government urging against non-essential trips. On top of that, the feds have imposed a raft of measures for anyone entering the country.
Currently, international flights are only landing at four Canadian airports — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Cruise trips in the country are banned.
So, if you are looking to travel this summer, here are some things to consider before you book that trip within Canada or overseas.
Provincial health authorities have advised against non-essential travel amid the pandemic and imposed their own set of restrictions.
As of April 19, Ontario has closed its land borders to Quebec and Manitoba — with some exemptions — but trains and flights are permitted to enter.
In Nova Scotia, you are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days, even if you’ve tested negative for COVID-19 or get the vaccine, if you have travelled from outside the province.
But Saskatchewan and Alberta don’t have any travel restrictions in place.
Prince Edward Island has said that starting June 27, the province will no longer require pre-travel approval for Atlantic Canadian travellers. Beginning Aug. 8, people travelling within Atlantic Canada who are fully or partially vaccinated will still be required to test but will not need to self-isolate.
Newfoundland and Labrador is aiming to ease border restrictions and welcome travellers from the rest of Canada as early as July 1.
Although land travel between provinces is banned in certain regions, Canadians can still hop on a plane and fly from Vancouver to Charlottetown.
“Domestically, (there is) no issue flying from one province to the other,” said Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto.
There are some limited flights from Canada to the United States, Europe, Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean, but travellers are subject to restrictions – from testing to quarantine upon arrival.
If you’re flying to the U.S., proof of a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days prior to departure is required.
Canadians can travel to several countries in Europe, but they will need a negative test and have to self‑isolate upon arrival, depending on the destination.
Starting July 2, Air Canada will begin operating COVID-19-tested flights to Rome, Italy, without the need for quarantine on arrival.
Passengers arriving in the United Kingdom must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
In all cases, travellers are advised to check the testing and quarantine protocol for the country they’re going to before they book their trips.
Then there are other layers of measures for the journey back to the country.
Under Canada’s current travel restrictions, passengers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours prior to boarding a plane.
They are also tested upon arrival and have to quarantine at a government-authorized hotel for three days while they await their test result. Travellers are then required to complete the remainder of the mandatory 14-day quarantine at home after the hotel stopover.
“There’s lots of places that people can travel if they’re willing to tolerate all that,” said Vanderlubbe.
Cancellation and refunds
As part of a deal with the federal government, Air Canada and Transat are giving refunds to travellers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Under the agreement, refunds will be available for flights scheduled on or after Feb. 1, 2020, that were cancelled by either the customer or the airline.
Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat are waiving change or cancellation fees for travellers booking flights by early summer.
Firestone said while many carriers and sun destinations are offering enriched plans with cancellation options, bookings for Airbnb, resorts and hotels can be less flexible.
Voluntary changes by customers can be subject to cancellation penalties and different rules about refunds, Vanderlubbe cautioned.
“Sometimes it’s better to pay a little bit more and have more flexibility for changes because the restrictions could change,” he told Global News.
Travel insurance generally does not cover any pre-existing conditions. And because of the level three travel advisory in place, you will not be able to claim any COVID-19-related expenses through that insurance plan, Vanderlubbe and Firestone said.
“COVID still remains a known cause and known condition, and that will be excluded from purposes of a claim,” said Firestone.
But the medical insurance you purchase will cover any other conditions and illnesses that are not pre-existing, Vanderlubbe explained.
Separately, travel insurance companies also offer COVID-19 medical coverage outside of Canada, which is sold as a different product.
According to Firestone, additional coverage for COVID-19 could range from $100 to $500 depending on the insurer.
If a traveller contracts COVID-19 while on the trip, the COVID-19 insurance will cover emergency medical and related quarantine expenses. But mandatory testing is not included. Neither are the costs incurred when quarantined back in Canada.
The Canadian government previously said it’s talking with international partners about the development of COVID-19 vaccination certificate systems for travel.
While there is no definitive answer on whether Canada will mandate COVID-19 vaccination certificates, Trudeau has said they are “naturally to be expected” as part of the pandemic.
However, the feds still have not laid out any concrete details on what the government is doing to prepare for such passports for Canadians who have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, other countries are already using vaccine passports. An EU Digital COVID Certificate is being accepted in seven European countries ahead of a full launch for all 27 member states on July 1.
The U.K. is also planning to use a mobile app that will allow its population to travel internationally this summer.
In Canada, insurance company Manulife is offering reward points to clients who receive a COVID-19 shot. And according to a Globe and Mail report, the company has also increased out-of-country medical coverage for COVID-19 for travellers who are fully vaccinated.
Going forward, your vaccination status could influence your international travel plans, both Vanderlubbe and Firestone said, as passports will likely be imposed on Canadians internationally.
“The certificate and passport will be essential for anybody planning on travelling,” Firestone said. “I think the airlines will require it, the countries you’re going to will require it.
“Now it appears the insurers will be requiring it, so that’s the future.”