Still planning to travel? Get ready to pay, in money and time

When you’re on the road these days, expect the unexpected

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Despite the fact that the federal government has issued a recommendation to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada, there is, strictly speaking, nothing to stop you from taking a trip abroad. Some people even see an opportunity to travel now, as there are fewer crowds.

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The decision to travel is up to you, but there are many new things to consider as the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving apart from the risk of contracting the virus. Not only will you have to navigate new rules that seem to change daily, but you’ll likely have to budget for additional costs.

The cost of testing

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Canada now requires all travelers entering the country, unless exempted, to present a negative COVID-19 molecular test. This test must be taken within 72 hours of your originally scheduled departure flight to Canada and must be taken in a country outside Canada.

Depending on the country you are traveling from, these tests can cost you between $100 and $100 per person. Remember that in many countries you will also be required to pass a negative molecular or antigen test upon entry. For reference, a molecular test in Canada will cost about $150, while antigen testing will cost you $20 to $40. If you’re traveling alone, this may not be a big deal, but if you’re traveling as a family, those costs can add up quickly.

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Constantly changing rules

In addition to testing, there is always the possibility that new rules that are introduced could have a major impact on your travel plans. For example, a country could introduce a ban restricting visitors from Canada. They may also ban travel back to Canada. That would force you to cancel your plans or find an alternative way home.

While those are extreme measures, they happened during this pandemic. A more likely scenario would be countries introducing additional testing and quarantine when you arrive. Not only can this increase your overall travel costs, but it would also shorten your vacation time.

Even if you plan to stay in Canada, you should think about possible rule changes. Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have reintroduced a quarantine requirement for travelers entering those provinces.

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Pay extra for something that is fully refundable

Pre-COVID-19, many people would opt for the lowest possible price when it comes to their vacation costs. However, going that route usually meant having the least flexible refund policy. These days, it’s probably a good idea to pay extra for something that’s fully refundable.

Vacation Packages: For example, Air Canada Vacations offers exclusive CareFlex travel protection for $69 to $99 per person. By purchasing this plan you can cancel for a full refund, change your booking or even transfer your package to someone else as long as you do so up to 21 days before your departure. You can even make changes up to three days before you leave, but then you only get travel credit.

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Hotel rooms: Hotel chains operate in a similar way. For example, most hotel brands covered by Marriott International have a fully refundable policy when you book the standard rate. That said, you usually need to cancel within two to five days of your arrival or you will be charged for one night. While this flexible rate will cost you more, you can use it to lock something up. Once you are sure that you are traveling, you can book a lower rate at the same hotel and cancel your refundable room.

Airline tickets: With airline tickets it can be a little more complicated. The fare classes that offer you full refunds are usually significantly more expensive than something that’s non-refundable. Always read the conditions before buying your tickets, so that you know what you are entitled to.

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Check your travel insurance

Canada issued a Level 3 Global Travel Advisory in December 2021. In most cases, your travel insurance should still cover you for COVID-19 related issues if you went ahead with your travel plans, as the advice is not for specific countries. That said, as every policy is different, you should read the details to find out what you are covered for.

Speaking of details, you should also pay attention to what qualifies for COVID-19 coverage. Many policies will be quite clear and state that you are covered for any COVID-19 related medical treatment. However, not every policy includes quarantine protection. Those that do usually have specific terms. For example, it can cover your hotel stay of up to 14 nights for $200 per night.

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In addition, you should ensure that your travel insurance covers the cancellation/interruption of the trip in case COVID-19 forces you to change your plans. With some credit cards, this insurance is free, so you may not need to purchase an additional policy.

Even if you have to get separate travel insurance, it’s not that expensive. A comprehensive package will cost you about $6 to $15 per day. You can also buy annual multi-trip plans that are cost effective. Manulife’s CoverMe travel insurance is one of the most popular options for Canadians traveling.

To be flexible

It doesn’t matter whether you plan to travel within Canada or go abroad, you need to be flexible as we are still living through a global pandemic. New restrictions are always possible. These new measures could increase your costs and potentially affect your experience. Ultimately, you have to decide whether the risks and extra costs of traveling are worth it.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It comes without any kind of warranty.

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