After almost a year and a half of living with the pandemic, everyone is eager to return to some sense of normalcy. For many families, this includes travelling. However, for families with children 12 and under who currently aren’t able to get COVID-19 vaccines, travel is still complicated and hesitancy looms. Here are some important things to consider before booking your next family vacation.
Federal experts who warned about the dangers of travel earlier in the pandemic now say fully vaccinated people can travel without the need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back into Canada. However, experts still advise against any nonessential travel for unvaccinated individuals. And, unfortunately, vaccines aren’t yet available for children under the age of 12. This means that while parents who are vaccinated are protected, travelling now may still put their younger children at risk.
As of August 9th, fully vaccinated Canadians will be allowed to return to Canada without the need to quarantine for 14 days. When it comes to fully vaccinated parents and guardians travelling with children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for any of the Health Canada-approved vaccines, they can breathe a small sigh of relief. Instead of forcing those families to keep their young kids in quarantine for two weeks, they can carry on as usual, provided the children stay away from locations or situations where young children congregate, like at daycares, schools or camps, for at least 14 days. The government has not provided a detailed list of locations to avoid, but parents and guardians should use common sense. The goal is to reduce the risk of transmissions in indoor group settings. Outside activities are always a safer bet.
Regardless of vaccine status or whether you are travelling with young kids, keep in mind that everyone entering Canada, whether they have been immunized against COVID-19 or not, must submit a pre-arrival PCR test (anyone over the age of 5) and a quarantine plan through the ArriveCAN app or web portal prior to entry.
Airlines will be responsible for ensuring that passengers have fully submitted their information before they board their flight. Travellers crossing by land must be organized and have their documents uploaded and saved before they make their way into the country.
This cannot be a last minute consideration. If you are planning to travel, ensure that you are sorted out before you leave.
If You Decide to Travel
Not all vacations or trips carry the same level of risk. It would be safer to travel by car to a vacation rental than to fly to a busy hotel or to spend the week at a crowded beach. What should be top of mind is thinking about the number of close contacts you’ll likely have during the course of your trip. The simple fact is: the more contacts you face, the higher the risk.
How To Lower Travel Risks
Encourage everyone in your family who is eligible, and those who you are planning to visit, to get their vaccines. Many COVID-19 infections come from household contacts.
Check the COVID-19 spread rates in the city where you plan to visit. Locations with high rates of community spread, mean a higher risk of someone in your family being exposed to COVID-19. If the intended destination has a high rate of spread, be extra cautious by practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a mask. Keep in mind that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones.
On a plane, bus, train, or other form of public transportation, make sure everyone in the family wears a mask, even those who are fully vaccinated–and keep them on at the airport or in the station.
Try to travel by car whenever possible. While the airline industry has taken amazing steps to help lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission (air exchange, HEPA air filters, electrostatic spraying), travelling by car will limit your contact with the public. During any rest stops, remember to wear masks and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Also, consider packing your own food and snacks.
If you fly, I recommend booking direct flights whenever possible. This will limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports. Keep your masks on for the entire flight, and consider opting out of meals on short flights so you don’t have to remove them. And don’t forget to bring disinfectant wipes to sanitize all the high-touch areas around you.
Along with toothbrushes, diapers and portable cribs, be sure to tote along the important pandemic essentials. Pack at least two masks per child in case one is lost or being washed after use. When packing hand sanitizer, include a travel-size dispenser that can be stored in a purse or backpack as well as a larger container for refills.
COVID-19 has affected everyone and the past year has been stressful for families. The urge to travel might be tempting, but the pandemic is not over yet and it’s important to consider the risks. As the vaccine rollout plan proceeds, your family will be able to enjoy a relaxing trip soon.
Current Requirements to Visit Some Common Destinations*
Mainland US: All travellers over the age of 2 must have proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test from within 72 hours of departure.
Hawaii: All travellers age 18 and older must register for the Safe Travels Hawaii online program before their departure. They must upload a negative COVID-19 test result from an approved lab within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii.
Mexico: All Canadians need to do is complete a risk-factor questionnaire.
When coming home to Canada: Currently ALL passengers (over age 5) must pay for a pre-flight PCR test taken within 72 hours of their return flight to Canada.
*Requirements are subject to change and reflect the status on day of print.
Great Travel Resources
Coming back to Canada:
Travel within Canada: