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.
Anita Gibeau, owner of Kaleidoscope Travel and Cruise in Strathmore, is one of those agents working seven days a week and says, "Basically it's just every day is a new day, we don't know what we're going to encounter every single day when it comes to all the changes it's just before you do anything, check, check and double-check. There have just been so many changes over the last 20 months we just have to keep going."
With that kind of complexity involved with traveling, it is very important to be in the know to travel abroad or domestically.
It is very important to know that two major changes came 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. Gibeau says, "This will benefit mostly the business traveller, or a traveller who's just going for a couple of days or even the people on the quick shopping trips, especially this time of year it's going to be helpful for the border town people also." Travellers will need 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, "Families are reaching out to us, and they're not aware of that so then at that point we always double-check to make sure what their vaccine status is, then let them know what the rules are. Some have reached out to us and have been surprised that their kids aren't able to travel or aren't able to go to school or daycare or any public facilities once they get home that is the bigger one," explained Gibeau
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. Gibeau says the key to travel in the new world in which we live is flexibility. “Be patient, be flexible, be prepared, and use a travel professional. Things are changing so quickly you just need to be able to be flexible. We're never really surprised when the new restrictions are announced that's part of us just kind of having to go with it."
With a team of different travel specialists at Kaleidoscope Travel and Cruise Gibeau said her team has come together and stayed connected constantly sharing new information which takes the pressure off on one person trying to do it alone. The bottom line she says is that for those who need their help to navigate this new way of travel they are there willing and educating themselves as all travel agents are daily to ensure travellers can enjoy themselves.