It is without a doubt, tricky to navigate the fluid waters of pandemic travel these days. Even the travel experts are having to work overtime to keep up with the constantly changing rules and regulations for international and domestic travel. Case in point, the newly detected Omicron variant is already affecting international travel. 

Karen Fournier, with Four Stories Travel in Cochrane, is one of those agents working seven days a week and says, “My motto right now, is what’s new today? Because it is changing every single day. It’s enough to make your head spin some days. But we’ve got our sites that we rely on that are up to date so we know that we’ve got it together, but it is a constant relearning of rules every single day, practically.”

With that kind of complexity involved with traveling, it is very important to be in the know to travel abroad or domestically. Being prepared is key to getting to where you want to go.

It is very important to know that two major changes are coming into effect this week on November 30, 2021.

First, all travellers departing from Canada, as of November 30, must be fully vaccinated in order to board a plane, a train, or a cruise. It does not matter if your destination is domestic or international, you must show proof of full vaccination.  Full vaccination must be a least 14 days prior to travel.  Plus, you must complete a federal attestation form that you need to bring with you prior to any voyage.

Second, also as of November 30, travellers who leave Canada and want to re-enter within 72 hours of leaving, will no longer have to provide the pre-entry PCR test result. Fournier says, “The main people this is going to benefit are people living in border towns who want to cross over into the states and get their gas, go shopping just for a day or two. Or business travellers who have a meeting and just need to come back quickly will be able to take advantage of not getting the pre-entry PCR test. But they have to remember they are still required to show proof of their vaccines and they need a negative antigen test to get into the United States in the first place.”

A third big change that has already come into effect is for people travelling to Hawaii. Even though the Aloha State is a part of the US, their rules differ somewhat. As of November 8, 2021, if you are flying direct to Hawaii from Canada, you now must provide proof of vaccination and a negative antigen test. It used to be a PCR test that was required. So, now it is a bit easier and cheaper to get to Hawaii.

A fourth change that was supposed to be available on November 24, was an updated vaccine QR code. It was to be available to Albertans to travel domestically and abroad. Anyone wishing to travel outside the province is expected to have the newly updated vaccine QR code which will include middle names and be in both official languages. Unfortunately, at the time this story was being written, there had been a possible privacy data breach on the AHS website and access to the new QR code for travel was not yet available.

When it comes to travelling with young kids, that too is changing with vaccinations now available for children aged 5-11. The fact that unvaccinated kids are required to quarantine for two weeks upon return home from abroad has been affecting a lot of young families’ travel plans. Fournier says, “The government still hasn’t changed their rules. It’s still 12 and over that have to provide proof of vaccine so this will be something we’ll be watching for in the next couple of months as children are getting their vaccines we’ll wait and see if the government changes the rules for the age.”

For the last 20 months, the pandemic has been a fluid situation in which everyone has been forced to adapt to constant change. Travel has been greatly impacted and will continue to be for quite some time. Fournier says the key to travel in the new world in which we live is flexibility. “Things are going to change more than ever, so you have to be ready for things to change when you book a trip right now and you have to be ready for COVID restrictions to change.”

The bottom line for travel, says Fournier, “Really, if you want to travel right now, you have to be vaccinated and be willing to do some COVID tests.” If you are willing to do those two things you can travel to just about anywhere in the world. She can speak from personal experience, “Definitely some hoops to jump through, I went to Jamaica, and it was you know extra form, this test, test coming home but despite those little hoops, man it was worth it.”