After a VERY long 18+ months of languishing in our homes, there is a palpable excitement to travel again. The timing couldn’t be better because with the help of vaccines, the world is finally opening up after the lengthy Covid-19 pandemic.

I think we can all agree there is a strong desire to get out and explore ANYWHERE other than our backyards. But… how can we travel safely? Here are a few lessons we learned while travelling outside of Canada this spring:

Be prepared.

Check the expiry dates on your passport and Nexus/Global Entry card, because chances are you haven’t looked at them in a really, really long time.
  • Like some of you, we didn’t bother to look at our personal travel documents until we actually needed them…oops!
  • Surprisingly, Canadian passport renewal time by mail is faster than we assumed. We were pleasantly surprised to have a new passport arrive in the mail approximately two weeks from the date we mailed-in the application; this was in January 2021 in the midst of Ontario’s lockdown when passport offices and all in-person services were suspended.
  • Nexus/Global Entry renewal is operating at bureaucratic warp speed. As of July 2021, new cards were in the mailbox within 10 days of completing the online renewal application. Bonus: in person interviews at border offices are currently suspended, but are set to return sometime this autumn. So if you have a Nexus card that’s expired or will imminently, time to renew before the rush!

Be flexible.

Please don’t have your travel dates carved in stone, because there’s a high probability airlines won’t be flying direct the day you want to travel, and you definitely ALWAYS want to fly direct whenever possible.
  • Currently, airline flight schedules and routes are still a skeleton of what they were before Covid-19.
  • Make sure you leave a window in your calendar when planning your travel dates because you may have to move your dates to accommodate the flights.
  • Budget more for your airfare. Since capacity is way down, airlines are looking to make up the difference in fares, especially if you are booking inside 30 days before departure or peak season.
  • Pack your carry-on bag with more care than usual and pay attention to the weight. If you have trouble hoisting it into the overhead bin on your own, then think about re-packing. Gone are the days when airline staff will help place your bags in the bins overhead… or even touch them for sanitation reasons.

Plan now.

While Canadians have endured on/off lockdowns, Americans and other nationalities are on the move. “Revenge Travel” is definitely a thing! Advance booking are UP, even for traditional “off season” months*:
  • Maui welcomed almost the same number of visitors in May 2021 as the island did pre-pandemic in May 2019, all while dealing with chronic staff shortages and restaurants still at partial capacity.
  • Turks & Caicos’s resort The Shore Club is reporting unprecedented numbers of bookings for July, August and September 2021 (traditionally peak hurricane season in the Caribbean).
  • Travellers are flocking back to Greece. Recent estimates for inbound flights to Greece for the weekend of July 24, 2021 were just 5% lower than for the same weekend before Covid in July 2019.
  • The top two spas in Vancouver (Willow Stream and Rosewood Senses) have zero availability for the week of August 17-25, 2021 (even for hotel guests) when attempting to book ANY service four weeks in advance.

In summary, if you want to start travelling again in the near or long term, start planning and booking soon. Email [email protected] to start the conversation and let us take care of the logistics.

Be savvy.

Every country has different requirements for entry, and these can change with little warning.
  • If you want to travel then get vaccinated!
  • Global entry requirements vary greatly depending on your vaccination status, so be sure to do your homework and be prepared to show proof of vaccination status at your destination.
  • If you are boarding an international flight, you may likely need a negative Covid test 72 hours before boarding.
  • I’ll say it again, fly direct. If that’s not possible, carefully research where you want to be in transit. For instance, Germany is Covid testing all arriving passengers, regardless of their final destination. What this means: if your Covid test is inconclusive or (heaven-forbid) positive, you will definitely miss your connecting flight, and possibly face quarantining in Germany. Regardless, your vacation is seriously compromised … if not ruined, all thanks to German bureaucratic efficiency and your choice to transit there.
  • Make sure you know the difference between PCR and Antigen tests, and plan your test dates carefully in advance!
  • GHT provides our clients with destination specific advice and guidance that makes booking a vacation (and planning Covid tests) less stressful.
  • We can definitely help you navigate the complexities around Covid-testing (more news on this particular nugget to be announced soon!)

Be patient.

Airports are not pleasant.
  • Unless you fly private, be prepared for added hassles.
  • You will have to show documentation countless times, and check-in will take longer than anticipated.
  • Even when airports are operating at 5% capacity (like Toronto’s Pearson was in May), check-in times are frustratingly long. And there’s no glass of wine waiting onboard to ease you into the flight… there will be a very small bottle of water handed out, and that’s about it.
  • For non-business class travellers, check and see if your credit card provides lounge access as a benefit. Or join Plaza Premium Lounges https://www.plazapremiumlounge.com/en-uk for access to their worldwide network of lounges regardless of the airline or class you are flying. As usual, this will help take the sting out of the airport experience.

Don’t drive!

Rental cars are rare (and cost a small fortune). Gone are the days of booking your flight, hotel or villa, and then getting around to booking a rental car as an afterthought.
  • At the beginning of the pandemic, rental car companies sold off massive amounts of their fleets. Hertz went bankrupt.
  • Result: there are very few rental cars to be had in the system; if you can manage to book one, expect to pay 5-7x what you would have paid pre-pandemic.
  • This situation will not be remedied quickly due to global supply chain issues.
  • If you have your heart set on a non-urban vacation destination that necessitates a car (pretty much anywhere in North America without mass transit, or any European countryside) be sure you understand the budget implications of renting a vehicle, and factor accordingly. This is especially applicable for villa rentals.
  • Example: for August 2021, you could easily spend more money renting an awful Fiat Punto for two days (hot tip: just don’t) then what you would pay to stay at a luxury hotel in Tuscany for a week.
  • An attractive alternative is a private car and driver when necessary, and the bonus is you will be in your own “bubble”. GHT regularly sources private transportation for our clients who appreciate the convenience and ease of being chauffeured as required.

Protect yourself.

While vaccination is the path to travel freedom, it’s not the only method to protect your travel experience.
  • Wearing a mask is mandatory for the duration of all flights and in airports around the world, so mask up and get used to it. (Photo below is an extreme example, but you get the point)
  • The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) strongly recommends all travellers have travel insurance.
  • Prior to the pandemic, approximately 30% of Ontarian’s opted to purchase travel insurance (a shockingly low statistic). 87% of GHT’s travellers did have insurance. This meant the world of difference to most of our clients in March-June 2020 when 100% of travel was cancelled.
  • While insurance is certainly not perfect – we are forever thankful for our clients’ patience and understanding while navigating the pandemic — travel insurance is still a necessary evil.
  • If you plan to travel outside of Canada please do your research and have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that protects you, your financial investment, and includes Covid-19 coverage.
  • At this time, GHT does not endorse any particular insurance company, but we suggest you start your research by familiarizing yourself with Manulife’s pandemic travel plan: https://www.coverme.com/travel-insurance/travelling-canadians/covid-19-pandemic-travel-plan.html?province=ON&agecode=0
  • Stay tuned for more information in the coming months on changes in the Canadian travel insurance industry …

Finally, we are heading to France and Italy this August to visit suppliers and get the “lay of the land”.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we highlight destination specifics and continue to provide guidance on how you can travel smarter and safely during the Covid-19 era.

In the meantime, peruse GHT’s website for inspiring ideas. We are adding new itineraries regularly. If you don’t see something on your bucket list or tickling your fancy, just let us know! GHT specializes in creating bespoke, unique travel journeys around the world and will use our 35 years of experience to custom curate one just for you.

We can’t wait to travel again and would love to hear from you.

Bon Voyage,

Kathleen Hardy 

[email protected]

About Georgia Hardy Tours

Georgia Hardy Tours is a family-owned and operated travel company based in mid-town Toronto. While still a Canadian leader in student travel, it has expanded to also offer specialty tours and bespoke, tailor-made adventures around the globe, for families, cultured travellers, museum groups and anyone looking to feed their wanderlust.

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