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Ready to Travel Again?

Tired of being cooped up in your home? Bored with television or those endless home projects? Ready to get out in the world, or at a minimum, a restaurant? I hear you!



Since the Covid lockdowns began, trips have been cancelled, cruises a distant memory and spending fun time with friends an activity perceived to be fraught with potential danger. People, who upon retirement, waved goodbye to snow and vowed that winters would be spent in warmer climates had little choice this winter but to dig out heavy clothing and spend January and February watching snow fall and heating bills soar.

But hope lurks on the horizon and the ability to travel for pleasure again before the year is out, is now a distinct possibility. The question of when is subject to three main considerations:


1. Ability to travel outside of the province or country;

2. The spread of variants of the Covid virus; and

3. Travel limitations tied to vaccine passports.


Let’s start with the first and most obvious. In order to travel outside of the province or country, restrictions have to be lifted. The possibilities that restrictions will be lifted are dependent upon lower covid infection rates, regional immunity projections (including vaccines & perceived herd immunity), and the presence and/or growth of virus variants. As long as there is a possibility that the virus, or any mutations of the virus, are still a threat and risk, travel will be restricted.

Planning a trip around an unstable travel environment is problematic. Dan and I have had four cruises and one trip cancelled and a pub and castle tour I was putting together for May 2022, is currently in limbo. I do not want to plan a trip only to have the time and effort wasted or worse, more time and effort spent cancelling the arrangements. Trying to get airfare refunded can be a nightmare at the best of times.

Bearing in mind that the considerations numerically mentioned can and will affect travel, and there is no guarantee as to opening dates, there are projections for travel openings and there is planning you can do to mitigate possible risks.


Travel within Canada


If you feel the need to travel, consider a road trip starting in the late summer or fall. Driving allows you the flexibility to easily alter routes, start and stop times and avoid the pesky issue of flying. You will not need a vaccine passport to travel between provinces but there is talk that individual business (ie: hotels), may ask for proof of vaccination as part of employee safety precautions. At a minimum, they may still require masking.

If you do not want to drive, train travel is still an option with VIA rail offering flexible booking options wherein you can cancel your reservation at any time prior to departure. You’ll receive a full refund and incur zero service charges, regardless of when you purchased your ticket. Currently, seating is limited to promote social distancing. The downside is the train is fixed with respect to destination options and unlike private vehicle travel, you can’t control who rides with you.

Once travel opens, select destinations where covid numbers are low or zero. For example, at the current time, I would avoid Alberta even though Banff and Jasper are always attractive destinations. In the fall, when we intend on taking a road trip, we will check on the provincial health/outbreak situation(s) and plan accordingly. Flexibility is the key to a successful road trip.


Travel Outside of Canada


Years ago, I decided that three main considerations would determine my travel destination choices. The first is always money: “How much is it going to cost?” The second relates to political stability with health considerations always coming up a distant third. That order has now been reversed. Before March of 2020, health considerations were tied to viruses, bacteria or parasites. Now it is tied to Covid and variants as opposed to seasonal viruses etc. I look at my intended destinations and how they have performed re covid responses and their current covid situation. I also look at the reliability of their covid numbers. For example, I place greater credibility on the covid numbers reported by Germany than I do with those reported by India. I also look at population per capita so that a comparison of numbers can be fairly assessed. A case in point would be Belgium’s numbers as opposed to those of neighbouring France.

I promote travel, and I urge people to see the wonders of the world, but as with travel within Canada, choose your destination based on a threat and risk assessment. The general indicators is that travel outside of Canada is best planned for 2022 as opposed to the fall of 2021.


US/Canada - Trans-Border


The US may lead Canada in the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated, but it also has a large percentage of people who are vaccine hesitant. People who have not been vaccinated are the human incubators for vaccine variants. The more variants that occur, the greater the potential that a new variant might lead to vaccine resistance in the new strain. Look at destination states for vaccine percentage numbers and make your decision according to your comfort level.

A check with the Canadian government on possible border openings has resulted in the standard response of re-assessment of the border closure every 30 days. I have heard that there is a “fluid projection” of July as a possible opening date depending on whether vaccine percentages support such an action. However, based on current second dose vaccine projections, which will be a determining factor, the border opening would most likely be after labour day. All that to say that there is no fixed date and no reliable indicator as to when the border will reopen.


Cruises


Different countries have indicated different start dates for cruising. Australia’s political leaders have indicated that they anticipate late 2022 before cruise ships are allowed to visit again. That country does have a restricted Australia/New Zealand bubble for cruises so the ban applies to all cruises coming from outside that bubble. Canada has prohibited cruise ships docking in Canada until 2022 which has thrown the 2021 Alaska cruise season a curve ball. European cruises have begun on a limited basis but the conditions are too numerous to list in this article. The CDC has indicated that cruises from the US can possibly begin again in July 2021. There is a criterion related to test cruises, but the CDC has recently presented an alternative to test cruises and that is to have ships prove that 98% of the crew and 95% of passengers have been vaccinated. For more information on restrictions, go to the cruise line of your choice for a list of their covid protocols. Most have eliminated self serve buffets, the CDC has changed its stance on self organized shore excursions for vaccinated passengers, but some cruise lines still have restrictions attached to shore excursions.


Vaccine Passports


Canada has had immunization booklets for decades. As a traveller who required proof of vaccination to enter certain countries, I have such a booklet as have those in military and diplomatic service etc. For those in Ontario, the yellow provincial vaccination card is NOT acceptable outside of Canada. You can buy an immunization booklet at: CPHA Publication Sales - Travel Immunization Record / Carnet de vaccination du voyageur There is no guarantee that Canada will not develop a different vaccine passport but it strikes me as unlikely when they have one already developed and accepted world wide.

I hope we all will soon be able to travel without restrictions, but until then, we can look forward to limited travel in the fall with more travel opportunities opening up in 2022. We just need to travel smart.

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