Getting Vaccinated For Free In The USA: Our First Impressions
Getting vaccinated for free in the US is very simple

We landed in the USA Friday night, and Saturday morning we were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We are feeling pretty good about our decision given how we probably would have had to wait until September for that back home (that’s about half a pandemic timespan longer!!!) because of Canada’s embarrassing vaccine procurement failure.

You can read our ultimate guide to getting vaccinated for free in the USA for many more details (and sign up for our free newsletter to get all our coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers)…

But I wanted to share an overview of how it went for us specifically, since many of you asked for it.

 

Reminder of the basic premise

You can skip to the overview if you read our recent post about considering this trip.

That post (and my Instagram posts) have generated a lot of interest, so it seems we are not the only ones who are very frustrated by the fact that we could have had a very normal summer as Americans will surely have (including lots of travel).

(They will all be fully vaccinated by May, but because our federal government focussed its time, efforts, and resources on 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.)

That was unacceptable to us, as passionate travelers who want to explore every part of our beautiful planet.

So since:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are free in the US
  • Many US states are vaccinating all adults
  • Some US states are vaccinating non-residents
  • Most states let you choose your vaccine online

And logistically:

  • 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)
  • It’s factually low-risk by quarantining at home for 14 days (no one will be put in danger back home)

We decided to go, for all the reasons I detailed in the first post:

  • We want this nightmare to end
  • We want to protect others
  • We want to travel
  • We want to simplify our 2021 international trips
  • We want to spend some time where the situation is better

And I also won’t repeat:

So here’s how it went.

 

Booking our trip

On Thursday, we first booked a vaccine appointment online to make sure we wouldn’t go all the way there for nothing.

It was very easy with their online scheduling tool (a VPN is required to spoof a US location). There were many options in Walmarts, pharmacies, clinics, and other places. You can see them all on the map, with useful filters.

Map view (image credit: VaccineFinder)

 

The tool also allows us to specifically select the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. That’s the one that requires only one jab instead of two—way more practical for Canadians going there for less than a month.

Once that was confirmed, we booked a Montreal (YUL) – Dallas (DFW) flight for the next day: just 11,000 Avios points and $68 in taxes. That’s a great value considering the cash price was expensive at the last minute.

Avios booking.

 

We also booked one stay at a Marriott category 1 hotel: just 25,000 points for 5 nights (5,000 points per night) at the Fairfield Inn Dallas Park Central. That’s not as great as 5 nights in beautiful hotels in Bali for the same price, but we have a lot of Marriott points.

Marriott booking.

 

Strangely, the hotel wasn’t available for the weekend we got there though, but we realized that the world’s largest volleyball tournament is taking place in Dallas right now. Let’s just say it’s a completely different planet here right now, with 500 teams competing in the event.

It forced us to spend more points for the first night downtown, but at least we had a great view.

View from the rooftop terrace at the Courtyard Dallas Downtown Reunion District.

 

By the way, both of those reward currencies (Avios and Marriott points) are listed in our free cheat sheet of the essential reward programs for Canadian travelers; you should really download it.

(Welcome bonuses can give you tens of thousands of these points: Avios points can be obtained by transferring points from the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, the Platinum Card from American Express, or the American Express Gold Rewards Card for example — and Marriott points are easier than ever to get with the current highest-ever offers on both the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and the American Express Cobalt Card.)

 

Getting to Texas

In short… in Montreal, things were even worse than this summer and this fall. With the hotel quarantine required (for those arriving by plane), the airport was simply completely empty, with a ridiculously low amount of flights on the information screens.

Flight information screens at YUL.

 

It was actually quite sad to see.

Empty YUL airport.

 

We already shared posts about our experiences in airports and in airplanes, so I’ll soon update those with our more thorough impressions now that I’ve done a lot more.

Since July, as I’ve taken 25 flights and visited 20 airports in 11 countries to inform you about how it is like to travel during the pandemic. But we hadn’t been to the USA yet.

Boy… talk about a whole different planet.

After a very pleasant flight on an almost entirely empty American Airlines Airbus A319, we arrived in Dallas at a very full airport. Not surprising, since passenger numbers in the US are back to 60% of pre-pandemic numbers (in Canada it’s under 10%).

Our AA flight to DFW.

 

Flight information screens there were very different…

Flight information screens at DFW.

 

Unlike in Canada, airport lounges have all been open for a while in the US (as they were in Europe last summer too actually).

So before making our way downtown by train, we got free dinner and drinks at The Club DFW.

The Club DFW lounge.

 

Getting vaccinated

On Saturday morning, we made our way to a Tom Thumb grocery store in the Dallas suburbs.

Our vaccination grocery store.

 

We were expecting some kind of special setup, a vaccination section with somewhat of a lineup, or at least a few other people…

It was just a regular grocery store pharmacy, and there was no one and no indications whatsoever.

Pharmacy.

 

All we saw was a pile of flyers on the counter.

Vaccine flyers.

 

We got there about an hour before our scheduled appointment in hopes of avoiding any wait, but it was just not what we expected at all.

The pharmacist welcomed us and told us we were the first appointments of the day (at 11:30) and that they only had 20 per day, so he could give us our shot right away (well, after 15 minutes so he could get everything ready, which he would’ve done before our appointment).

We handed him our filled-in medical form with our Canadian address (we did put the US hotel address when booking the appointment online though). He checked and confirmed what we had verified before, which is that there is no residency requirement for the free vaccine.

Medical form.

 

We followed him into a small room and he gave us both the shot, and that was it.

We got our CDC Vaccination Record Card (which is really what we cared about the most, to make future international travel simpler).

He also gave us a 10% discount on our groceries to thank us for choosing their store for our vaccination!

CDC Vaccination Record Card.

 

He explained the possible normal side effects and kept us in the waiting room for 15 minutes to make sure we were okay. And since we were both fine, we were then on our way.

The whole process was done in barely over half an hour, and that’s really because we arrived too early (before he had time to prepare what he would have prepared before our appointment).

 

After getting vaccinated

Saturday went by and we both had no side effects.

Kevin was the most at-risk to have some, since apparently having been infected with COVID-19 makes them more likely. He did have some soreness and flu-like symptoms during the night and didn’t sleep very well, but nothing dramatic.

I do have a small headache this morning, which may or may not be related (apparently 55% experience this after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) but it is really very very minor for me.

 

Coming back to Canada

We will be staying in Texas for a while for a work retreat in the warm weather and to visit a bit (our roadtrip to Oklahoma will allow me to be just 3 states short of having visited all 50).

We’ll share more details in coming posts, including the process to return to Canada since it has changed a lot since the many new travel measures were implemented.

And we will keep being careful because it is supposed to take 2 weeks to be considered fully vaccinated, and one thing is for sure: Texas is 100% reopened.

It’s the first time since the pandemic that we visit a place where physical distancing is not always maintained since here, so many vulnerable people are vaccinated.

Visiting the Dallas Farmers Market.

 

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Summary

Here is an overview of our first impressions of our first-ever medical tourism experience. We’ll have a lot more details soon, including about how to enter Canada without having to quarantine in a hotel.

What would you like to know about getting vaccinated in the US? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: travel tips

Discover free travel: travel rewards

 

Featured image: Flytrippers cofounders getting vaccinated (photo credit: Flytrippers)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 62/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Jess

    do you know if the Abbott at-home (witnessed) rapid antigen test is accepted by all airlines pre-flight US-bound? I see United and AA stating that they accept it so it must be deemed OK by CDC, but is it up to the airlines what they accept? it’s a fraction of the cost of getting an antigen test in-person ($129 pp in Vancouver)

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      It’s my understanding that airlines don’t have their own rules regarding this; as with the rest they probably just apply the country’s requirements, so they should all accept it. But sometimes airline employees don’t even know the rules and that can be a problem so I’d double-check to be sure. Out of curiosity, how will you get the kit in Vancouver? Get it while in the US and keep it for a separate future trip?

  2. Kathy

    Thank you for this informative article. I am thinking of going to the United States for my second Pfizer shot. My only concern is that if they do end up having vaccine passports, how will I access my CDC shot electronically, to prove to the country I want to enter that in fact I have been vaccinated. This is the only thing that is holding me back, as I know I’ll be able to access my Canadian vaccine record easily. Did you ask whether and how you would be able to access your vaccine record if they move from paper proof to electronic proof? There have been some reports about people counterfeiting their paper records and so there may be a move to electronic. Many countries in Europe are doing that already. I’m trying to make this decision this week so if you could answer as soon as you could I would greatly appreciate that. Thanks again.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, no news yet on recognition and electronic proof. But with the EU opening to vaccinated Americans in a matter of weeks, I would imagine something will be in place. Although we never know…

  3. John

    Hi Andrew, I see you decided to stay in Texas for couple weeks afterwards, but is there any restriction blocking us from taking a flight back, lets see a week after vaccination? Thanks

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hey, nope no restriction at all. Ended up returning early because of all the talks of closing the QC-ON border and more restrictions and didn’t want to risk it, but nobody cares if you stay or not really.

      1. Roland

        Hi Andrew,

        How did you get back? Flew back east and rented a car to cross the border?

        Thanks for sharing.

  4. Michael

    What hotel in Dallas did you stay at? Cant seem to find that Cat 1 on Marriott.

  5. Tanya LeClair

    Thanks for this info. I am considering doing the same next month. What did you put for your address when filling out the appointment form?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      We put the hotel address just because the form required one, but in Texas at least we really double-checked and it was clearly allowed without a Texas address or anything.

  6. Angel

    Was there an option to get the vaccine right in the DFW airport? The airport map shows there is a pharmacy there.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, we didn’t check near the airport, but anyway it varies based on available types of vaccines (assuming you want the one-dose one like we did, which is not as widely available as Pfizer & Moderna).

  7. S Woods

    Are you OK if I share this post on FB?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Yes sure, no problem. You can find sharing buttons to post directly to Facebook at the end of all posts. Thanks 🙂

  8. Joe

    I’m looking to get the second Pfizer dose… is that possible in texas?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      I would imagine yes, at least when we were looking online many spots had the Pfizer one available. I don’t know if it will be an issue to have one on your Canadian “certificate” and the other on a US certificate though. You’d think this would not be too much of an issue, but who knows… we’ll look into that for our upcoming ultimate guide.

  9. Fred

    Any Info if they shoot other nationalities like Europeans? or is this only limited to Canadians, Mexicans? thank you

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Not limited to anyone at all, there is no residency or citizenship requirement. That said, you have to be allowed to enter the US with the current COVID-19 restrictions of course 🙂 So if you’re European, that might not be until mid-May (unless you are living in Canada for example, then you are allowed).

  10. Ryan

    Nice post!

    On the vaccination consent form, just wondering what you put for Medicare/SSN and the licence part, or is it possible to leave this blank? I’m Australian, so don’t have a SSN and I think the other numbers would be in a different format to the American one.

  11. Chris

    Hey Andrew, just wondering what you said to CBP when you flew? Did you tell them you were getting the vaccine? And what are you planning to say to CBSA when you come back? I’m considering a similar trip soon. Thanks!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      There is no restriction on flying to the US for tourism purposes, so that’s what we said we were doing since we are actually also here to visit. But since he didn’t ask about the vaccine I didn’t see a reason to mention it, although I would obviously have told him had he asked.
      And I doubt I’ll have much to say when returning to Canada since it’s my country and I bet they don’t really care, but I’ll let you know after haha 🙂

  12. Peter Hopper

    I had no idea vaccines are free for Canadians in the US. I love the picture of the Dallas Farmers Market versus YUL.
    Fear mongering by the media in Canada is definitely working. We have a place in FL and I was planning to fly down to escape the lockdown here in Ontario. Now I will get the vaccine as well. I just booked my flight. I have my car there so I will drive home. I see Switch Health now has STAR ALLIANCE quick Antigen testing at YYZ T3. 5 minutes. $55.85.
    Makes it so easy. Thanks Andrew.

  13. Mark

    How do you plan on flying back? Been looking at award flights using Avion points or Aeroplan miles, but there doesn’t seem to be any availability (from DFW at least).

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      I am probably going to return via the land border to avoid the hotel quarantine personally. I am surprised about Avios though, there was so much availability for the YUL-DFW flight at least. Maybe Canadians returning home have taken up all the seats the other way :S

  14. Andy

    Very informative…. Thinking about getting on that same flight to Dallas this week…

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