COVID-19 vaccination is not as advanced in Canada compared to in the United States (or compared to the other ≈ 90 countries ahead of us in the rankings of the fully vaccinated population). So both of us Flytrippers co-founders decided to go vaccinated for free in the USA in early April because we didn’t want to wait until late September—that was literally half a pandemic timespan longer—when this option is perfectly allowed and honestly pretty simple.
We arrived in the US on a Friday night and the very next morning we were fully vaccinated. The vaccine is free and the process sure is simple… but there is a lot to consider, and this certainly isn’t for everyone.
But remember that one dose of a two-dose vaccine will not be accepted in countries that have reopened to vaccinated travelers or will do so soon, like the entire European Union. The federal committee here in Canada also recommends removing all quarantine… for those who are fully vaccinated.
A “one-dose summer” is frankly pretty useless from a young, healthy traveler from a travel perspective… and having 2 doses is obviously better for anyone, and not just for travel. And while a trip to the US is not as great as overseas… it’s obviously better than no trip.
And it gives you a nice official vaccination certificate from the CDC.
So this is a thorough guide: here’s everything you need to know about getting vaccinated in the USA as a Canadian.
Why we’re sharing this guide about getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
We shared a glimpse of our first-ever medical tourism experience last month, not to encourage anyone to do the same…
We shared it just because we have a travel website and sharing content about our trips is kind of what we do, especially now that the flight deals that Flytrippers is mostly known for aren’t very useful for most Canadians (but we still publish them on our website for those who want them).
And many of you have asked us for more details about how it all works.
You might be interested in this option based on your own personal situation and we want you to have all the information so you can consider all the implications very carefully. I’ll repeat it once again: you should absolutely not travel if you’re not going to take the required precautions, as we’ve been saying for many months.
Because even if it certainly very easy to do, it’s not for everyone.
So as the resource for Canadian travelers, we’re adding this one to our other ultimate guides:
- Canada’s international travel rules
- Entering Canada by land with no hotel quarantine
- Canada’s hotel quarantine program
- How travel restrictions work (coming next)
- How COVID-19 testing works (coming soon)
- Where Canadians can travel to (coming soon)
- Interprovincial travel rules (coming soon)
(By the way, getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA is not just for Canadians only: it’s also possible for any nationality—assuming you’re allowed to enter the USA of course.)
Overview of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
Here’s a to-the-point section first; I’ll then go through each one of those points (including the often-requested list of states where you can get vaccinated for free, of course).
Basics of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
The key points are:
- COVID-19 vaccines are free in the USA
- All US states are vaccinating all adults regardless of age
- Many US states are vaccinating non-residents & non-citizens
- Most US states let you choose the one-dose vaccine (or the desired brand) online
Logistics of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
It is fairly simple:
- Returning to Canada overland does not require a hotel quarantine
- Flying to the US has always been allowed (with proof of a negative antigen test since January)
- Short-distance one-way flights are just half the price of a roundtrip (as always)
- COVID-19 tests are free in most states for the return to Canada (and arrival tests are free in Canada)
Here is exactly what you need to do if you decide to go ahead with getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the US:
- Select a US state to get the COVID-19 vaccine in
- Book a vaccine appointment
- Book a COVID-19 test to return to Canada
- Book your trip
- Return to Canada
- Quarantine for 14 days (at home or with a hotel stay if you return by plane)
Ethical considerations of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
Everyone should decide for themselves as we always say, but we were comfortable doing this from an ethical standpoint because:
- The US has plenty of vaccines and every one of their residents who wants one can already easily get one
- If they didn’t want non-residents to get vaccinated, they wouldn’t let non-residents get vaccinated
- It can be low-risk for you by taking precautions, maintaining distancing, and staying outdoors*
- It’s factually very low-risk for others here by quarantining at home for 14 days (no risk for outbreaks)
(*But there are many other types of risks for you, we recommend you download our free checklist for pandemic travel to carefully consider all of them.)
Reasons to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
Here are reasons that many would consider good ones to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA:
- If you want to end this nightmare faster
- If you want to protect others
- If you want to leave more Canadian vaccines for other Canadians
- If you want to be fully vaccinated to travel faster
- If you are comfortable with the risks involved
- If you have travel insurance that covers COVID-19 AND other risks
- If you want to take advantage of this to spend some time where the situation is better
Reasons not to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
On the other hand, here are a few reasons not to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the US:
- Not having plans to travel internationally before getting both doses here anyway
- Not wanting to spend money on a trip in an expensive country (and instead keeping it for twice as long in a cheaper country later)
- Not willing to take precautions while in the US, despite their infection rates being lower than here
- Not being comfortable going where all restrictions have been lifted for months in many cases
- Not willing to quarantine at a hotel for the first few days (if returning by plane)
- Not willing to quarantine for 14 days at home (if returning by land or plane)
- Not trusting Canada to make it simple to recognize a US vaccination certificate (shouldn’t be an issue)
Cost of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
Just to be very clear because many did not believe us when we told them: COVID-19 vaccination is completely free in the USA (or rather: taxpayer-funded… nothing is free in life).
No payment or insurance card is required. Yes, really: in the US, home of the $50,000 hospital visits.
So the only costs are those you incur for your trip. I share our tips to minimize them in the step-by-step section below.
List of US states where Canadians can get the COVID-19 vaccine
This list is valid as of June 12th.
At this point, I doubt that states would suddenly decide to restrict eligibility (it seems to be the opposite: new ones are eliminating their residency requirements, as Florida and New York did recently) but it’s not impossible.
So double-check the official state website if you decide to go later; we’ve included convenient links.
It is just the link for the rules and there is another link to search for a vaccination appointment nationwide, it’s the same for everywhere: more details in the step-by-step section, as it requires using a VPN).
We also help you decide which state to choose in the step-by-step instructions below.
This is the list of US states where Canadians can get vaccinated regardless of age or residency (you can sort the table alphabetically with the arrows):
|Florida||details||Miami, Tampa, Orlando|
|California||details||Los Angeles, San Francisco|
|Nevada||details||Las Vegas, Reno|
|Texas||details||Dallas, Houston, Austin|
|South Carolina||details||Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head|
|New Hampshire||details||White Mountains|
|New York||details||New York City, Niagara Falls|
|South Dakota||details||Mount Rushmore|
It is worth making sure the specific country (or even provider) you choose doesn’t have extra requirements, read closely.
COVID-19 vaccine options in the USA
In the US, you have the freedom to choose the type of vaccine you prefer. This can be done very easily during the booking process for vaccine appointments, as I’ll show you in the step-by-step instructions below.
Choosing your vaccine allows you:
- To get the one-dose vaccine if you want to get it over with (which is what we did)
- To get the right one to complete your vaccination with the same one you already got
- To research effectiveness and other specific details if you want to
While Canada has approved 4 vaccines, the US has only approved only 3.
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines (the latest technology) that require 2 doses (AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD is not approved in the USA, but also requires 2 doses but is not an mRNA vaccine).
Johnson & Johnson requires only 1 dose (and is not an mRNA vaccine). This is the one we selected.
This is not a medical recommendation; we are travel experts, not medical experts.
We selected it simply because we didn’t want to have to stay there for 3 weeks and we wanted to be fully vaccinated. We personally did not take any medical element into consideration in our decision to select a type of vaccine at all because, in our own situation, COVID-19 is just factually not a really big risk for us at all based on the stats and data.
As always, consider your own situation. But for what it’s worth, experts are saying that any vaccine available is a good one, so we were okay with picking the most convenient one personally because we trust the experts.
We mostly wanted the vaccine to simplify our travels as I’ll explain below, and having just one dose of a two-dose vaccine is not considered enough by the countries that have reopened to vaccinated travelers with no restrictions (but by the way, many other countries are already open with no vaccination requirements).
And if you read all the way to this point, I assume you believe in vaccines. But I’ll still say it: some seem to be worried that the vaccine development was “rushed” but keep in mind there had never been such a critical situation that led to so many resources being invested in developing a vaccine.
USA entry rules to get the COVID-19 vaccine (and/or to travel for leisure)
Canadians have always been allowed to enter the US by plane (you cannot enter by land, although you can of course always return to Canada by land).
The only restriction the US has by plane is for those who have been in the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, China, Brazil, Iran, or South Africa in the previous 14 days.
In other words, the US has no nationality-based restriction. This is quite logical actually, so apart from focussing on getting vaccines quickly, the US has gotten at least one other thing right in terms of COVID-19 response: basing the restrictions on science and facts, AKA the infection rates where the traveler was… not where his magic booklet comes from.
(Most countries base restrictions on your passport even if you were somewhere else entirely, which makes absolutely zero sense… and then you have Canada that just restricts every nationality, even those where the infection rates are factually 10 times lower than here in Canada and even those who are fully vaccinated.)
Finally, in terms of requirements to fly to the US, not many US states have quarantine requirements; none of those on the list do.
So there is only one requirement: providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed in the 3 previous days (it is not 72 hours like Canada: it can be in the 3 calendar days before the day of the flight).
Thankfully, unlike Canada, they do not require PCR tests—the US accepts antigen tests:
- You get the results in 15 minutes
- They are cheaper
- They are not as invasive
I’ll soon have a more detailed post about COVID-19 testing, as these were my very first experiences (none of the 7 countries we visited or transited through in the summer and fall required any testing—but now most countries do).
Step-by-step instructions to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
For those who want the step-by-step guide, here it is.
- Select a US state to get the COVID-19 vaccine in
- Book a vaccine appointment
- Book a COVID-19 test to return to Canada
- Book your trip
- Return to Canada
- Quarantine for 14 days (at home… or with a hotel stay if you return by plane)
Select a US state to get the COVID-19 vaccine in
In case you want help to choose from the list above.
The factors to consider include:
- What the cost of the trip is
- Where you want to travel
- What the vaccine availability is
First, the cost.
Let’s start with flights. We are experts in finding flight deals, but they are rarely for last-minute deals (contrary to the very widespread myth). I’m assuming you would want to get vaccinated quicker rather than later or else you would just wait here. So check our flight deals page for your city, but most likely you’ll need to do search manually.
You can use Kiwi to search for your departure city and input “United States” as the destination. That will show you the cheapest cities to fly to for your dates. Of course, always add a date range with at least one or two days before and after your actual dates to find the cheapest flights, as prices vary greatly from one day to another.
If you want to return overland so you don’t have to quarantine in a hotel when returning, you’ll need to first decide where to enter Canada. I won’t get into that here at all since the ultimate guide about entering Canada by land is very thorough.
Just know that you will have to search for your 2 flights as one-ways. Don’t worry, on short-distance flights, there is no premium to pay for a one-way… it is simply half the price compared to the roundtrip price.
If you have Avios points or Aeroplan points, you can use them to pay under 10,000 points to get to the US. We paid 11,000 Avios + $68 in taxes to get to Dallas for example.
Toronto to Miami is just 8,700 points + $107 next week.
Last pro tip: tests are free at Toronto-Pearson Airport (YYZ)… so if you can build-in a long layover there for the same price (or even $100 more, the price of antigen testing is $149 in Montreal at least), it would be profitable!
A great thing about vaccination in the USA is that you can easily book your appointment online before even buying a plane ticket to make sure you don’t go there for nothing (which is what we did).
However, we paid for our plane ticket with points from a rewards program that has fixed prices (which means it offers outsized value and unlimited value). But last-minute flights paid in cash are almost always more expensive, so consider booking in advance with airlines that have free change policies if you haven’t discovered the wonderful world of travel rewards yet.
Then, where you want to travel.
If you feel like going to Miami (who can blame you; Miami is awesome), maybe you don’t mind paying $50 more for a flight. So take that into account.
If you want to keep the total cost of this trip down, check lodging prices for your dates to compare: leisure travel has rebounded 100% in the US so some places are completely sold out and very expensive, make sure to double-check before booking a flight (same for rental cars if you want one; there is currently a “rental car apocalypse” in the US).
The finally, once you’ve decided, make sure to get a vaccine appointment in that city before booking anything of course.
Book a vaccine appointment
The process is extremely simple and very easy with their online scheduling tool called Vaccine Finder (a VPN is required to spoof a US location, we use and recommend NordVPN). Vaccine Spotter is another alternative.
There were many options in Walmarts, pharmacies, clinics, and other places. You can see them all on the map, with useful filters. The tool also allows us to specifically select the type of vaccine you prefer.
You simply follow the instructions and book the appointment online in a few clicks.
Some providers require a US address to fill in the form. This does not change anything to the state’s rules regarding vaccine availability for non-residents.
Where we went in Texas, the appointment booking tool required a US address and we just put in the address of the Marriott hotel where we were staying for free with points, and it was not an issue at all to get the vaccine as allowed.
Book a COVID-19 test to return to Canada
Rapid antigen tests are NOT accepted. Only molecular tests… but that doesn’t mean you need to get a PCR test.
There is another alternative: NAAT tests. They are accepted to enter Canada. This is not very widely-known.
They are offered for free in Walgreens pharmacies across the nation, regardless of residency and citizenship (Walgreens calls them “Rapid ID NOW tests”—again make sure it is NOT an antigen test).
I got one myself yesterday. They are less invasive and you get the results within 24 hours (I got mine in just 1 hour actually).
Free PCR tests are also widely available, it all really depends on the state.
I covered booking a free PCR test in my post about returning to Canada overland and as I said, I’ll have a detailed COVID-19 testing guide soon.
Book your trip
Once everything is lined up (vaccine appointment, flight/hotel/car costs, COVID-19 test appointment, return itinerary), you can book everything.
As always, we appreciate it if you use the links in the resources tab in our top menu to book any trip, at no extra cost to you.
Return to Canada
Again, if you don’t mind the ineffective hotel quarantine scam, just flying home is very simple.
If not, I gave an extreme level of detail about how to return overland to quarantine at home for free, so check that out.
Quarantine for 14 days (at home… or with a hotel stay if you return by plane)
Pretty straightforward. Follow the rules.
Concrete example of how to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
If you want a detailed account of our own concrete example, you can read my post about exactly how we planned and booked the whole vaccination trip in April.
Ethical considerations of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
Ethically, it’s pretty straightforward for us. Here’s why.
It’s not taking vaccines away from anyone
The states in question are vaccinating all adults regardless of age because that’s how their public health officials have decided to proceed. Trust the experts, right?
It’s not like we’re taking a vaccine that was going to go to a vulnerable person there: they have a lot more vaccines than we do and vulnerable people are vaccinated already. Their vaccine supply vastly outnumbers the demand, that is a well-documented fact. Everyone who wanted one has been able to get it for weeks, if not months. They are literally giving away millions to encourage people to get vaccinated.
In short… if they didn’t want young people getting vaccinated, they simply wouldn’t allow young people to get vaccinated.
They are vaccinating everyone
They are also vaccinating non-residents because, rather logically, their experts want whoever is in their state now to be protected and to not spread COVID-19 to other people in their state. Trust the experts.
If you spend a couple of weeks in their state it’s even easier to morally justify taking their vaccine, but even if you don’t… it’s not a grey zone, it is 100% allowed.
Again… if they didn’t want non-residents getting vaccinated, they simply wouldn’t allow non-residents to get vaccinated.
It can be low-risk for you
If you maintain your physical distancing and do outdoor activities (which are allowed even here where infection rates are worse than in the USA…), traveling is factually not any riskier.
If you are not comfortable with any of the risks mentioned in our free checklist about pandemic travel, simply stay home.
It is low-risk for others
So many people really don’t seem to understand the point of a lockdown, so I made a video about it… but in short, a lockdown is to reduce contacts where there is a high level of community transmission.
If you’re going somewhere else, you are eliminating all contacts here. The lockdown here is completely irrelevant…
Because by quarantining for 14 days upon return, there is no risk for others here. Literally zero risks of causing an outbreak if you follow the rules.
Reasons to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
The fact is that Americans will surely have a normal summer, including lots of travel (they’ve already started a long time ago). Travel might not be the most important thing in the world for you, but we are a travel website after all so that’s what we talk about.
But because our federal government focussed its time, efforts, and resources on ineffective measures like the hotel quarantine to quiet the travel-shaming instead of getting vaccines quicker—literally the most important thing to save lives and return to normal—Canadians will almost surely have a harder time traveling internationally this summer than our southern neighbors (it has already started).
That was unacceptable to us, as passionate travelers who want to explore every part of our beautiful planet (and had trips planned as soon as May, and I am glad I was able to visit beautiful Uzbekistan even more safely for others than if I had not been vaccinated)
Anyway, here are a few good reasons to get vaccinated in the USA.
If you want this nightmare to end faster
We obviously believe these vaccines are safe, so if talking about our own vaccination can help, that’s great… even though we’ll never tell anyone what to do about anything (on any topic).
In short… vaccines are what will end this whole nightmare more quickly. You can seize this opportunity to get vaccinated now and accelerate the process. You’d be doing your part even more than those who wait here, because you’d be getting the vaccine quicker and at our own expense.
If you want to protect others
Again, the faster you get fully vaccinated, the faster you protect others. For most age groups, you will factually be fully vaccinated quicker if you go to the US.
If you want to leave more Canadian vaccines for other Canadians
By taking advantage of the US vaccines they are having a hard time finding arms for, you are helping the Canadian vaccination process.
There will be more vaccines for Canadians once your turn has arrived here, because you’ll already have gotten it.
If you want to be fully vaccinated to travel
It goes without saying that being vaccinated will make international travelers simpler for at least the rest of 2021 and possibly even 2022 (even though many countries won’t necessarily require it; for example, Greece announced they will be reopening soon to all nationalities regardless of vaccination status).
Whether you agree with vaccines being required or not, the fact remains that some countries will require it (like they’ve required many other vaccines for many years already).
Sadly, as of now, not all countries have removed testing or quarantine requirements for those who are vaccinated (Canada certainly has not). But we hope it’s only a matter of time for governments to follow the science on that and for Canada to follow their own committee’s recommendations.
So once again, being vaccinated will likely make traveling simpler (and cheaper) by avoiding some requirements (hopefully Canada’s 14-day quarantine will be removed for vaccinated travelers when the current rule expires on June 21st).
I personally don’t miss any of the activities that I haven’t been doing since March 2020 (I have been mostly staying home apart from my trips because again, HERE is where contacts had to be reduced), but I miss traveling and I’m ready to get back to a more normal pace with more trips and more destinations options. Maybe you are too, this has lasted long enough right?
If you are comfortable with the risks involved
It’s important, so we’ll say it again, even if we’ve said it a thousand times since last summer: don’t travel if you are not going to take any precautions.
Don’t travel if you are not comfortable with the risks involved… but don’t assume everyone is in the same situation. Many are more than comfortable with the risks involved.
If you have travel insurance that covers COVID-19 AND other risks
Medical travel insurance was a must way before COIVID-19.
It’s just frankly irresponsible to risk a $50,000 bill for a stupid accident when almost every good travel credit card offers free travel insurance in addition to giving you hundreds of dollars in free travel as a welcome bonus…
But not all of them work since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so make sure to get a cheap plan to be insured for both COVID-19 and all the other risks, as plenty of insurers have been covering COVID-19 since July 2020.
If you want to spend some time where the situation is better
More selfishly, maybe you want to take the opportunity to enjoy a trip too, of course.
Traveling in the USA is certainly not our favorite option (we always prefer the culture shock experience of traveling abroad), but it’s infinitely better than staying at home for sure (literally anywhere is…). Especially if you are like us and live in the most lockdowned place.
We’d be lying if we said that it wasn’t fun to be somewhere where the coronavirus situation is going better than here!
To be able to do something other than work inside all the time. They even let us walk outside at any time of day, something that was literally illegal in Québec a few days ago.
If you have a travel website and redesigned your life around travel
Okay, this one was just for us, but I might as well share it.
While this pandemic has obviously had many other more important repercussions, we are a travel website and we talk about travel.
And having gone on only 2 trips in the last year has not been fun as passionate travelers who have literally redesigned our entire lives around travel.
For example, Flytrippers’ other cofounder Kevin had been a digital nomad visiting countless new places full-time for about 2 years. And even I had gone on 12 international trips in 2019 alone for example. So we definitely missed traveling pretty badly.
After a way-too-long travel break since our Europe trip in November (our longest stint in Canada since launching Flytrippers 4 years ago) Kevin was ready to become a full-time digital nomad again, and I wanted to travel to Uzbekistan in May.
Most importantly, we have an epic trip to Fiji and a few other Pacific island-nations booked for August, and I wanted to be sure I’m vaccinated in case they require it (if they reopen, it seems likely that they would, given how those are very vulnerable and isolated islands that have taken a very strict approach to travel).
Reasons not to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA
On the other hand, here are a few reasons not to get vaccinated in the US.
Not having plans to travel internationally before getting both doses here anyway
If for some reason you don’t want to travel internationally this summer, you might as well just wait.
Not wanting to spend money on a trip in an expensive country (and instead keeping it for twice as long in a cheaper country later)
We are budget travelers: whether the cost is worth it to avoid the wait is what made us hesitate the most about getting vaccinated in the US.
This vaccination trip will cost a minimum of a few hundred dollars even by using travel rewards… the same budget would obviously give us 3 times more travel weeks in affordable countries (the 40 where C$30 per day is enough).
I spent way less than C$30/day in Uzbekistan, that’s the best way to travel more often obviously.
Not willing to take precautions while in the US, despite their infection rates being lower than here
Yes, most states in the USA have had lower infection rates than Canada for a while, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take any precautions.
Not being comfortable going where all restrictions have been lifted for months in many cases
It’s actually even more important to take precautions because in many US states everything has reopened with zero restrictions. Large events with tens of thousands of people even indoors, every business at 100% capacity… if that gives you any form of anxiety, you shouldn’t go.
Not willing to quarantine at a hotel for the first few days (if returning by plane)
Not willing to quarantine for 14 days at home (if returning by land or plane)
As of now, even being vaccinated does not exempt you from a 14-day quarantine. Once the rules change, we’ll be the first to rejoice. But until then, you have to follow the rules.
Not trusting Canada to make it simple to recognize a US vaccination certificate (shouldn’t be an issue)
With so many Canadians having gotten the vaccine in the USA, I think it’s safe to assume even the government will find a way to somewhat efficiently somehow recognize and certify the vaccination. I guess it depends on your view of government efficiency in general.
But it’s a province-by-province issue, and until they all present a clear plan to recognize US vaccination certifications, it’s a risk that exists and we want to make sure we’ve shared every possible risk to consider.
In Québec, the government just set up a way to make an appointment to get the US certificate recognized. I would assume other provinces will do so quickly too, if they haven’t already.
Want to get all coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the USA is actually very easy for Canadians, as long as you are willing to jump through a few hoops, spend a few dollars, take precautions, and follow the rules when returning. But it’s not for everyone and I hope this guide helped you make an informed decision.
What would you like to know about getting vaccinated in the USA? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Hollywood, Florida (photo credit: Zachary Kadolph)
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