Travel to the USA from Canada and return

December 1-4, 2021

This post is to inform those planning travel to the USA from Canada and return to Canada.

We booked our trip to Seattle, USA from Victoria, BC Canada months ago to coincide with family visiting from out of province. It seemed a fun idea to plan our short trip around the Edmonton Oilers/Seattle Kraken NHL game at Climate Pledge arena on December 3, 2021. We were away from the country less than 72 hours, so adhered to rules departing to USA and re-entering Canada within 72 hours. The flights were the first direct flights from Victoria to Seattle since the border closure last year.

We’re not going to offer opinions as to whether anyone should travel or not travel. This is very personal, and everyone has to weigh the risks and their comfort level before making that decision. Understanding the changing requirements various governments have imposed allows for a more informed decision whether you personally should or want to travel. There will be additional research, potential delays and added costs associated with testing if you leave Canada, no matter where you go.

Coronavirus Variants create changes to travel policies

Countries around the world are reacting to a constant changing coronavirus situation, and in an attempt to keep us all as safe as possible, each government will set their own rules on how best to do that for their populations. They will then apply the rules to those individuals traversing in and out of the country. If you’re thinking of travelling, please check the applicable government websites before you book to ensure you understand requirements you will have to adhere to. Then check again prior to your journey to ensure you are up to date on any and all changes. Travel planning and the actual travel itself can be stressful these days even for the most experienced travellers.

Click here for details on travelling or returning to Canada, and review for specific sections applying to your own circumstances.

You will be required to complete the ArriveCan app prior to entering Canada. You can complete it up to 72 hours prior to your flight/ departure to Canada, so it’s a good idea not to leave this until the last minute.

Travelling with unvaccinated children under 12 years old

One of our travellers was under 12 years old. We had reviewed the government websites (both Canada and USA) well in advance prior to booking our trip originally, then reviewed again for changes just prior to travelling. Canada had just approved Pfizer for younger children in the days prior to our journey, and so we reviewed rules again regarding travel for unvaccinated children under the age of 12. Check the link above for further information.

Air Travel to the U.S.A.

If you’re travelling by air to USA, you must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one calendar day of travel. Click here for further details.

We got our rapid antigen tests complete at Travel Medicine and Vaccination Clinic in Victoria on November 30, 2021. There are several locations throughout British Columbia. We pre-booked appointments a few days in advance of our trip. We needed to take our passports, and have our travel itinerary with us upon checking in at the clinic. It was an easy process and we waited, masked outside, for most of the time we were there. You can either have your results emailed to you, or wait approximately 15 minutes for a printed copy. We chose to wait for the printed copy, and an electronic version followed.

Victoria International Airport does not offer antigen testing at this time, only PCR. It is quite expensive if required quickly.

Simplify your document handling

Alaska Airlines signage in Seattle
Alaska Airlines signage in Seattle

Air Travel from U.S.A. to Canada

We created a file on our iphones to more easily access documents while travelling, in the event we need to and may not have an internet connection. The file includes our electronic vaccine passports (both provincial and federal), and all negative covid tests relating to travel. We also include any other pertinent travel documents we may need to access for our trip in this file.

We weren’t required to, but we completed PCR tests in Seattle anyway. In case of flight delays when returning to Canada we knew that could cause us to be outside of the 72 hour window. It just seemed prudent do do so. There are places in Seattle where you can get a PCR test free of charge, however this will not work if you require a test quickly. We selected a walk-up location close to the Climate Pledge arena called Curative. The staff there are friendly and helpful. They instructed us on how to use the kit they provide, then they watch as you complete your kit instructions. It was easy and quick.

They ask for insurance if you have any but if you don’t, they won’t deny you the test. It took a little over 24 hours to receive the results from this test. There are also other options for testing in and around Seattle, depending on the area most convenient to you. Click here to learn more about other locations in King County.

Delays are common

If, after reviewing and researching all applicable government websites, and adding up your costs for flights and COVID testing both to get to and return from your destination, you’ve made the decision to travel, be aware that delays are common.

Arrive early for your flight. Airline staff are doing their very best to keep up on the many changes, and each airline will have their own way of double checking to ensure you have all the documentation you need prior to your flight. In the past couple months, we’ve used Westjet, Delta, Air Canada, and Alaska Air. One thing seemed common. We were better to have a printed boarding pass than an electronic one. We almost always were required to line up at the gate to have documentation checked prior to boarding, even though this may have also been completed when checking in for the flight. After you’ve made it through security, go to your gate agent to verify what they need to see. There are also attestations required when entering the U.S.A., which may need to be completed and signed prior to boarding.

Plan as much as you can, be prepared, stay safe, and enjoy your trip! Think of it as an adventure if you can. Whatever you encounter, please don’t take out your frustration on the airline or airport staff. They are also doing their best during a very difficult time.

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