Since July of this year, I have travelled to both the West and East coasts of Canada (Vancouver/Banff and Halifax) and travelled to both Punta Cana and Montego Bay. I can say with certainty that the way we travel has changed but with the right preparation, it can be easy. There are a few extra steps but once in destination, it’s so worth it to be able to explore and enjoy the world again.
Travelling within Canada has not changed very much. However, it has for international travel. Here is a summary of my personal experience and what I have learned:
The key is to arrive at the Toronto Airport early. For international travel, I recommend at least 3 hours and 1.5 for national flights. The luggage drop-off area was very busy on all 4 of my trips. As I only travelled with carry-on’s it saved me at least 30-45 minutes. Security lines were long in August, but no lines in November so it really is just luck of the draw. When there was a security line, it moved quickly and when at the airport early, there is no anxiety while waiting.
There are a number of new steps that need to be followed to travel. For example, before entering security, be ready to show your vaccination certificate. Without this, you will not be permitted to go through security.
If your destination requires pre-departure forms to be completed or covid tests, have these printed and ready to show prior to boarding your plane. Being organized is key. I was told on more than one occasion, “you are so organized, I wish all passengers were like you.” So be like Clara, and BE ORGANIZED! It’s not that difficult.
Arrival in Destination
I have flown both Air Canada and WestJet and have found all flights to be well organized. Everyone onboard wore their masks and there were no issues. Passengers are permitted to remove masks when eating or drinking.
Customs upon arrival in both Punta Cana and Jamaica were relatively quick. Lots of staff working in both locations so processing did not take too much time. Those who waited for luggage also did not experience any delays. I know this may not be similar for all guests and locations but this is my experience. I know that the Cancun airport is not as quick so just need to pack patience and be prepared.
While at the Resorts
Personally, I felt very safe regarding Covid 19 exposure. All staff wore masks at all times and most guests also followed the rules as well. Temperature checks are done regularly and hand sanitizer stations were found everywhere. Staff also did a great job ensuring that guests followed the mask rules indoors – not required while dining or in outdoor spaces. Some resorts required masks outdoors when going to a bar and ordering a drink.
Staff were also constantly cleaning. I found this to be the case at the 3 resorts that I stayed at and the 3 other resorts I visited. There is visible cleaning staff everywhere on the property who were constantly cleaning commonly used surfaces like door handles and faucets etc. Many areas of the hotel also had plexiglass barriers which were also continuously cleaned.
I found that at all of the resorts there was always entertainment. Most of the shows were moved outside which is where I prefer them to be anyway. Pools were also a lot of fun and did not lack entertainment. I did not feel that covid impacted these areas of the resorts at all.
I found that social distancing was also easily attainable. The pool and beach chairs were all distanced as well as the seats in the restaurants. Buffets were no longer self-service but rather served by staff which was a welcome change.
PCR Covid Testing
Prior to returning to Canada, all travellers 5+ must complete a PCR covid test in the destination. All of the resorts that I stayed at (and most in the Caribbean), offer this test on-site. Appointments are made with the concierge and tests are scheduled within 72 hours of your departure flight. Both times the price was $90USD per person but costs do vary based on location so best to find out before booking. Test results were sent via email and both times I received negative results in less than 48 hours.
In the unlikely scenario where guests test positive for covid, insurance (if purchased prior to arrival) will cover some of the quarantine costs, return flight home and medical coverage (terms and conditions apply, so be sure you have the appropriate coverage for you and your family before travelling).
Returning to Canada
Before returning to Canada, all passengers must download the ArriveCan app and complete the prompts. The app requires uploading of each traveller’s vaccine certificates and questions about any covid symptoms. It’s an easy process that only takes a few minutes per family member.
Upon departure, the Montego Bay Airport was very organized. Checking in, security and customs were very quick and efficient. Unfortunately, the experience in the Punta Cana Airport was not as seamless. The departure hall was very busy, disorganized, and very slow. We waited in lines for over 2.5 hours until eventually they called our flight and created a second line for those who had immediate departures. Needless to say, it was stressful and now recommend that everyone arrive at the Punta Cana airport with at least 3.5 hours to ensure you don’t miss your return flight home.
When arriving at the Toronto airport, the experience in August versus the experience in November was also vastly different.
In August, I arrived at T1 in Toronto. The arrivals hall was so busy when we landed that they were only allowing 50 guests to disembark the plane at one time. We waited 45 minutes before we were able to get off the plane, then another 45 minutes to get through customs and then again to get through security. It was exactly 2 hours before we hopped in a cab and headed home. Those who had checked bags waited much longer than that.
When I returned in November, I landed in T3. I disembarked immediately, walked right through customs who asked very few questions, had carry-on only and it took less than 25 minutes before I was in a cab and headed home. This might be an all-time record for me.
This just goes to show you never know what it will be like. My recommendation is to expect at least a few hours. If you get lucky, it will be a lot less.
I often get asked if these extra steps are worth travelling and my answer is always the same – YES!! Being away, enjoying the sunshine, spending time with family, not having to cook or clean, learning about new resorts – was all worth it for me. Now that the non-essential travel advisory has been lifted and with new procedures in place, travel can be done safely.
What is most important is to remember that things have changed but these changes don’t have any lasting impact on your experience while in a destination. A few more forms, some covid tests, a little more time waiting and mask-wearing but overall, there is nothing like travelling again to forget the negativity of the past 2 years!
For more information, and to plan your next getaway, schedule your consultation at www.powertravel.ca/contact. I look forward to helping you explore the world as well.