Can you still travel during the pandemic?
There are some spots that Canadians can safely travel during the pandemic. And we found the deals. Grab your mask and your passport.
There are some spots that Canadians can safely travel during the pandemic. And we found the deals. Grab your mask and your passport.
While the government is still advising to avoid any non-essential travel, there’s no denying that many snowbirds are looking to travel responsibly and safely. And those in households with members all working from home, or retired, or even between jobs, the ability to quarantine before and after travel is much easier than you might have thought. And some might even take “work remotely” to a whole new level.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does warn that travelling does increase your chances of getting and spreading the virus for COVID-19. But it also advises considerations and safety precautions if you decide to travel during the pandemic, from not going at all if you live with someone who’s at risk for the virus, to how to best handle social distancing on a plane or bus and when stopping for gas on a road trip. The Government of Canada gives similar travel guidelines.
But its main message is to do what you’ve been (hopefully) doing already when you are in public or interacting with small groups: Wear a mask, sanitize and wash hands often, stand at least six feet apart from others, avoid touching your face and avoid anyone who is sick (from the virus or otherwise).
Also, you could consider medical travel insurance that will cover you for coronavirus-related issues. For example, the Canadian Snowbird Association is offering travel insurance that covers COVID via Medipac.
You will want to check your destination for travel advisories, too. Some tourist spots have a high number of COVID cases, and there are travel restrictions that block Canadians from some countries. Much of the Caribbean is open, but you may also want to consider staying domestic this winter.
Watch: Travel tips for all-inclusive vacations
Some destinations will require testing before entry (as we note below). You may be able to use your public health care to cover the test. But it is best to check when making your appointment. For example, Ontario has announced that it will no longer cover testing for international travellers. Private tests at pharmacies can cost $150 and up.
Who doesn’t want a good deal, especially for holiday travel? Or maybe you just need a break from COVID fatigue. That’s why we created this list of where to travel during COVID, and each one is a deal, too.
Antigua and Barbuda have mostly been isolated from the COVID-19, with fewer than 150 total cases since the pandemic started. The country recently announced a Nomad Digital Residence program where you can stay in the country for up to two years, but it comes with a cost of US$1,500 for single travellers or US$2,000 per couple. Alternatively, you could just get a standard tourist visa that’s free for Canadians, allowing you to stay in the country for 30 days.
The twin islands have ideal temperatures year-round, where you can enjoy 365 different pink- and white-sand beaches. Nelson’s Dockyard is a must since it’s the only remaining example of a Georgian fort and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Finding a vacation home is easy, although some visitors prefer to stay at one of the award-winning resorts. Birders might want to know that Barbuda is home to the largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary in the Western Hemisphere.
Barbados permits Canadians to get a COVID test before travelling with StageZero Life Sciences, which guarantees test results within 24 to 48 hours. The test costs $340 for one traveller or $590 for two, and it must be completed within 72 hours prior to departure. Once you arrive in Barbados, you need to stay in your pre-approved accommodation for four to five days (restricted movement is allowed on the property) before you take a second COVID test. With another negative result, you’re free to vacation without any restrictions.
If you’re looking for luxury experiences in Barbados, head to the West Coast where many of the top resorts are located. To the south is Oistins, an area famous for its Friday Night Fish Fry. Think of it as an outdoor community gathering where everyone enjoys live music and fresh fish. Rum is arguably the island’s most important export, so head to the source and visit St. Nicholas Abbey, a cave with buildings and planation, dating back to the mid-1600s. For a unique adventure, make your way to Harrison’s Cave where vehicles can go underground into a crystal labyrinth. Don’t worry, you won’t be doing the driving.
Belize recently won the TripSavvy Editor’s Choice Industry Leader Award for their response to COVID, and it’s not surprising. Before visitors arrive, they need to book their stay at an approved Gold Standard hotel and download the Belize Health App. Within 72 hours of departure, you must provide the results of your negative COVID test. Upon arrival, there’s another health screening where your COVID-19 results will be verified before you’re transported directly to your hotel. The app will check in with you daily, as long as you’re not showing any symptoms, you can travel freely within the tourism safe corridor.
All of these precautions are worth it, once you start exploring the seven distinct regions of the country. From scuba diving the Belize Barrier Reef to chasing waterfalls, much of the outdoors here are unspoiled. If you’re looking to connect with the locals, head south to the town of Punta Gorda which is full of markets and local cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else. Visitors are often surprised to learn that Belize City has a mix of cultures with residents that have Mayan, Creole, East Indian, Arab and Chinese roots. There’s even a healthy Canadian expat community to be found.
Even though Bermuda was recently ranked as “very low risk for COVID-19” by the CDC, the country is not taking any chances with tourists. Visitors must present negative COVID results, from a test taken within 72 hours of your departure flight. Once you land, you’ll take another COVID test at the airport. You’ll then need to isolate in your hotel room until your test results come back, about six to eight hours. Once your results are confirmed negative, you’re free to travel around the country. But you’ll need to take additional COVID-19 tests on days 3, 7, and 14 of your stay. Appointments are accepted, and test results are given immediately.
Bermuda is the perfect spot for some much-needed rest and relaxation with its coastal views, pink sand beaches, world-class golf courses and a spa inside a cave. That’s right, you can get a massage, facial or even a mani in a subterranean limestone cavern. On the east end, you’ll find the historic town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage site that features cobblestone streets and British colonial architecture. Over on the west side, the Royal Naval Dockyard has been transformed into a complex of markets, art galleries, restaurants and museums. Be sure to check out the deals and packages page for current promotions.
Mexico was one of the first destinations to open up to Canadians since the outbreak and has quickly become a popular pandemic destination. Despite the fact that there’s no requirement for a negative COVID test prior to arrival, and there’s no quarantine required, the popular tourist areas of Mexico have kept their COVID numbers relatively low. That said, masks are mandated in all public places and during travel.
Located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Los Cabos sees fewer tourists compared to Cancun, which may appeal to visitors. Just about every resort here is massive, so there’s more than enough room to physical distance. Thrill-seekers can swim with whale sharks, bungee jump and go off-roading in the desert. If you enjoy art, you’ll love the weekly San José del Cabo Art Walk where galleries (some are located in homes) open up to the public. It’s similar to a neighbourhood festival, with wine tastings, live music and more, that spans the entire gallery district.
Interprovincial travel, where allowed, may become more popular in Canada during the pandemic. If you’re flying, or even taking other forms transit like a bus or a train, you will be given a “health check” prior to boarding. Sure, the weather may not compare to the Caribbean, but why not explore more of your own backyard this winter?
The 2020/21 ski season in Whistler looks a bit different this year, but it’s all for your safety. Pass Holders will need to make reservations in advance so the hills don’t get overcrowded. You’ll also need to wear a mask on the lifts and while indoors (you can ski without a mask on). The community is now also mostly touchless, so don’t forget your debit and credit cards.
Another reason to head to Whistler this year is for all of the deals available at Whistler.com. You can get up to 40% off accommodations and up to up to 50% off lift tickets when bundled with your accommodations. When booking three-plus or five-plus nights, you’ll also get a $50 or $100 Winter Adventure Voucher that can be used for local activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, art and more. Speaking of activities, kids play free with paying adults. These deals need to be booked by December 1, 2020. Finally, B.C. residents can register for Whistler Rewards, where they can earn a $50 credit when they stay five-plus nights.
Admittedly, snowbirds won’t think of Ottawa first as an alternate destination, but the nation’s capital has plenty of ways to “warm” up. Both the National Gallery of Canada and Ottawa Art Gallery feature works from Canada’s most famous painters, the Group of Seven. Over at the Canadian Museum of Nature and Learning, you can find out how polar bears and seals keep their bodies warm in cold water. If you’ve worked enough courage to head outside, Canada’s biggest outdoor party, Winterlude will have the Rideau Canal Skateway open, with a surface area equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized ice rinks. The number of skaters will be limited, so there will be plenty of room to social distance.
Right now, Calgary International Airport is the only airport in Canada that’s offering rapid COVID testing. This voluntary test is available only to eligible international travellers arriving in Canada, but it’s one extra step the city is taking to control the spread of COVID.
If you make it to Calgary in December, don’t miss the Noel Indoor Christmas Lights Festival, which features four themed light parks. There’s also the Chinook Blast Winter Festival that runs from late January until the end of February. This festival brings the community together in a setting where you can comfortably social distance while enjoying arts and culture. Be sure to take advantage of the $50 gift card promotion available at select Calgary hotels when you book by March 31, 2021.
If you’ve got the itch to travel, you can take advantage of some of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday travel deals. Before you book, make sure you read the refund policy in case you need to cancel. Here are some of the best travel deals available now.
From Nov. 24 to Nov. 30, 2020, Marriott Bonvoy members can get up to 25% off (non-members get up to 20% off) at participating properties throughout Canada, the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. The minimum stay is just one night, and stays must be completed by January 3, 2021. Also, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, you can get 15% off e-gift cards at gifts.marriott.com. That’s an easy way to guarantee some savings.
Air Canada Vacations has its pre-Black Friday sale on now. Save up to 40% off packages to all destinations when you book by Nov. 26, 2020, with travel between Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021. It wouldn’t surprise me if Air Canada Vacations extends this deal come Black Friday weekend.
Club Med has up to 60% off select all-inclusive properties. Available destinations include Cancun, Punta Cana, Martinique, and more. You must book between Nov. 23 to Nov. 30, 2020, with travel completed by July 2, 2021. It’s worth noting that Club Med provides all guests with travel medical insurance that covers COVID-related issues.
From Nov. 26 to Nov. 30, 2020, participating Accor Hotels around the world are offering up to 40% off of room accommodations for their ALL Accor Live Limitless members. In addition, you’ll earn double the points on your stays. Joining Accor Live Limitless is free, but know that your travel dates must be between Dec. 7, 2020 and Mar. 14, 2021.
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