Stephen Smith, SVP of Marketing, Vision and Direct Travel recent experience as a Canadian travelling to the US and to Europe.
Trip #1: Toronto to Las Vegas
Date: Aug 7-13, 2021
Purpose: Virtuoso Travel Week (conference)
I researched the requirements for a Canadian to travel to Las Vegas by air and determined I needed a negative Antigen test within 72 hours of departure. I looked up Life Labs online and scheduled a test online. I ended up getting a PCR test because the name of the Antigen test did not match with what I read was required. However, it turned out I could have gotten an Antigen test and not a PCR test. I pre-paid for the test appointment and it was facilitated through Shopper’s Drug Mart. I got my results in plenty of time and saved the PDF to my phone for easy access.
Also, I got a notification via email from Air Canada that I had to sign an attestation form to confirm that I had indeed been tested and received a negative test. This seemed like it was simply a legal requirement.
Before I checked in at the airport, I got in a line where they were collecting the attestation form. A slight delay but nothing significant. My understanding is that some airlines have that as part of the online check-in process.
I was not able to fully check-in online because I needed to show my negative PCR test at the airport. So, when I checked-in, I was required to provide my negative test.
I ran into nothing out of the ordinary when going through US Customs and Immigration. They simply asked the purpose of my visit and where I was staying, and I was on my way.
I had heard lines were longer than usual, so I arrived 2.5 hours prior to my flight, and I ended up with more than enough time as I was at the gate about an hour before boarding. Better safe than sorry.
2 days before my return, I took a PCR test at the Bellagio. It was organized by Virtuoso; a very nice feature of the conference. I still had to pay for it, but didn’t have to leave the hotel to facilitate it. I had done my research ahead of time and I could have easily conducted a PCR test at CVS or Walgreens by booking an appointment online ahead of time.
Prior to leaving for the airport, I opened up the ArriveCAN append completed the steps in the app without a problem and got my code (which I never had to use for the record).
At the airport (I flew WestJet home), I was required to show my Vaccine Certificate and my negative PCR test when checking in (once again; I was not able to complete my check-in online because of documentation required at check-in). I was a bit unprepared to show my documentation (I had to log in to an account to retrieve my PCR test results and that took a few minutes) but ultimately it was problem free
Upon arrival back in Toronto, I went through customs (I have Nexus) and my Nexus card did not work. The Canadian Border officer was very patient, and I was able to provide my negative PCR test and Vaccination Certificate and I was off to retrieve my checked bags.
I was randomly selected to get a PCR test at Pearson (you take it right after you get your baggage) and I needed to create a Switch Health account (someone was there to help me) and then someone registered me for the test, and I proceeded to a cubicle to take the test. There was very little waiting, and it was quite straight forward. There were a few people getting tested that were annoyed at having to be there, but my advice is to smile and be friendly and those administering the test tend to be friendly back!
I got my test results within 24 hours. Las Vegas had been labeled as a hotspot, so it was quite reassuring that I got 2 negative tests within about 55 hours of each other.
Overall, it was a good first trip in 18 months and I was happy that I didn’t encounter any challenges going from A to B. Not always the case in today’s COVID world but wanted to share that if you are prepared, it can be a seamless experience.
Trip #2: Toronto to Europe
Date: Aug 19-28, 2021
Purpose: AmaWaterways River Cruise
My pre-trip research (on Sherpa) told me that since I am vaccinated, I did not need any testing prior to entry into Switzerland. However, I did need to fill out a form online prior to entering the country. I accessed the form via a link in Sherpa and was simple to complete. I was transiting via Amsterdam, but since I was not leaving the airport, there were no additional requirements.
Since this trip was a river cruise and I was visiting multiple countries, I was curious as to how the different requirements for each country would be handled. Was it my responsibility to figure it out? Would there be testing required?
After a quick read, I discovered that AmaWaterways had all that information for me, and specifically there was no testing required until I was going home; a bit of a relief!
I really appreciated that every night in my stateroom, AMA provided all information pertaining to the county we were visiting the next day. Usually, it was simply an online form (paper versions were available) that I had to fill out with basic information. Of course, this is an added layer to your vacation, but I had accepted this idea prior to leaving – I knew everywhere we went, there would be requirements/restrictions, and we would need to provide the appropriate details.
Most restaurants (and pubs) required you to show your COVID Pass to enter and/or be served, even on patios. Since I am Canadian, I could not apply for a COVID Pass, but most of the time they accepted a digital copy of my 2nd dose vaccination certificate. There was one pub in Cologne that would not allow us to enter, regardless of what we offered as proof of vaccination.
For my return trip home, I needed a PCR test and AmaWaterways coordinated a testing company to come on board 48 hours prior to our departure date and conduct a test. It was at my cost, but it was reasonably priced, and I really appreciated that I did not have to go find a testing centre off the ship once we arrived in Amsterdam. Having said that, I did notice there were testing centres in every town we visited, so it probably wouldn’t have been an issue, but AmaWaterways ensured it was stress and hassle free!
Interestingly, when I was in line to get on the plane at the airport, there was one gentleman who was arguing with the airline representative at the gate, and he had not taken a PCR test prior to departure, and he was furious that they would not let him on board although he was vaccinated. While I felt sorry for him, it just goes to show that you need to be prepared when travelling these days, as airlines are not in a position to be flexible (and I was thankful for that).
Overall, I was both nervous and excited for my trip to Europe and I was pleasantly surprised with how “normal” it all seemed. I definitely appreciated the ability to travel and see new things after 18 months of being grounded and it really gave me a jolt of adrenaline when I came home and went back to my daily life. I finally felt a bit
of the burden of a pandemic lifted.
If you have any other questions what it’s like to travel now, please contact your Vision Travel Advisor.