Saying that NO ONE should travel is extremely stupid. But saying that EVERYONE should travel is not better. There is just NO one-size-fits-all answer: It obviously depends on each traveler’s specific situation. It’s a very personal decision… and Flytrippers is here to help you make it.
First, we invite you to download our brand-new free “checklist” for pandemic travel. It was just updated, based on the new reality… with pretty much everything you need to consider.
But since the arrival of the omicron variant, many have been asking us “should I travel now?” verbatim… and want our expert advice.
So let’s look at the 6 major risks to consider… but there are some really important basics we must to mention first.
Why we can’t give you a straightforward answer
Many people seem to want to be told a clear “yes” or “no”, but that’s impossible to do, unfortunately. It would be a disservice to you to pretend otherwise. Every traveler is different.
For me, there is a 0% chance that I will cancel my trip to Miami in January. Actually, the more I see what’s going on in my home province, the more I want to go. But that’s me… all travelers are in a different situation.
We can’t make decisions for you, we can only give you the tools and information to consider everything carefully on your own. You can never be better served than by yourself. Especially in the world of travel.
(And it has nothing to do with the pandemic. We couldn’t tell you which destination among the ≈ 200 countries in the world to choose or which credit card that gives you $500 to choose… without knowing what kind of traveler you are or knowing more about your own reality.)
That’s why for years, our mission at Flytrippers has been to help you be self-sufficient and become a better traveler by planning everything yourself because it’s so much more enjoyable, rewarding, and affordable.
That’s why we’ll never recommend all-inclusive packages and vacations in artificial resorts, by the way. We prefer that you learn to travel in a more authentic way by doing it yourself, it will be more useful in the long run to become a real traveler as much as possible.
In short, we’d rather teach you to fish… than give you a fish.
Otherwise, you would still be back to square 1 for all your many future trips. I assume you like traveling enough to want to keep doing it all your life, so you can thank us later for helping you save thousands of dollars by teaching you to take care of your travels yourself.
So the same thing applies to pandemic travel.
The reality is that with the governments’ responses to this pandemic, the travel rules are going to stay in place for a while. Sad, but true.
That means you need to take the time to understand it all. It’s worth it for those who say they enjoy traveling.
So here’s how to make the decision to travel or not for yourself as a responsible adult, in the current context of the omicron variant specifically.
4 basic premises you really need to understand about traveling now
There are 4 things that you really need to read first to make a good decision:
- Traveling is 100% allowed, what the government issued is just a recommendation not to do it
- It may make sense to cancel, but it doesn’t make sense to cancel just because of the recommendation
- Canceling in advance makes no sense and can only hurt, even if you are sure you want to cancel
- It is very feasible to travel safely and responsibly, but that doesn’t mean there are no risks
Traveling is 100% allowed
Just to be clear, this is not like a rule that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in Québec. That’s a rule.
What the federal government has issued is just a recommendation not to travel (a travel advisory).
Like there was from March 2020 to October 2021. It doesn’t stop you from traveling, it’s not a law, not a rule, not an order, not a directive, not a ban. It’s a recommendation.
You can follow the recommendation or not. The recommendation does not even exist to protect people here in Canada, that’s what Canada’s entry requirements do.
The recommendation is to protect you abroad, that’s factually what a travel advisory is (we’ll do a more detailed article on the subject since nobody seems to understand what travel advisories are for).
Good reasons to cancel
Let me be very clear: For some people, it certainly makes sense to cancel a trip or not to travel.
But it doesn’t make sense to cancel just because the government tells you to. Zero sense, sorry.
You are still allowed to think for yourself, it’s not illegal (not yet anyway).
The government made the recommendation because there are risks, so assess THOSE RISKS based on your situation.
Cancel if you think those risks are a good reason to cancel.
Not just because you want to blindly follow what the government recommends. I insist on this because traveling is supposed to precisely help you develop a more open mind and the capacity to make your own decisions.
One last time: The travel advisory is not a law or a rule, it’s just a recommendation. If they wanted everyone to follow it regardless of their situation, they would have made it a rule instead of a recommendation. A simple concept.
Cancel in advance
First of all, the longer you wait, the more information and data you’re going to have to make the right decision to cancel or not.
Things change very quickly, so the closer to your departure you wait, the better you can assess the chances that one of the risks will materialize or not.
Reacting impulsively, irrationally, and emotionally is always obviously a bad idea in everything, and unfortunately during this pandemic we saw that many people really don’t understand that.
But the fact is that for airlines, change policies are often the same whether you cancel your flight a month in advance or a day in advance (check your airline’s policy of course).
So even if you absolutely want to cancel, it doesn’t do you any good at all to cancel in advance in almost all cases.
In fact, it’s better to you wait until the end. That way you have a better chance that the airline will change the flight schedule, and then since there was a change on THEIR part, you are entitled to a full cash refund. This is obviously not the case if you cancel too early for nothing.
As for the accommodation, it varies a lot more depending on the provider. Check the cancellation policy and decide the timing of your decision based on that.
And canceling too early also harms the travelers who have trips in the next few days and who are trying to reach customer service… and who need to talk to them much more urgently than you if your trip is in a month!
As we’ve been saying since our first trip in July 2020 (and throughout our many trips since), including in our ultimate guide to travel during the pandemic…
It is absolutely possible to travel safely and responsibly. Of course!
But that doesn’t mean there are no risks. Obviously, there are.
Just like there are risks here. And just like there were risks for travel before the pandemic. Now there are more. So you have to look at them even more carefully.
The 6 main risks surrounding travel right now
Well, sorry for the introduction, but it’s really very important to just understand the basics and know that no one should decide for you.
Here are the 6 biggest travel risks to consider, in subjective order of probability:
- Risk that your destination’s rules will change before you leave
- Risk of getting stuck abroad due to suspended flights
- Risk of Canada imposing a quarantine on your return
- Risk of being stuck abroad because of a positive test
- Risk of not having a pleasant experience there
- Risk of catching COVID-19 and getting sick
We will help you determine if each of these 6 risks is too high for you, depending on your personal situation.
The 6 main facets of your personal situation that should influence your decision are:
- Your destination
- Your departure date
- Your tolerance to uncertainty
- Your financial capacity
- Your work situation
- Your health situation
Risk that your destination’s rules will change before you leave
Travel rules are constantly changing, I hope you already know that after 650 days of the pandemic.
Some people have absolutely no ability to adapt to change and to accept uncertainty in life in general. That doesn’t mean they can’t travel, but it does make choosing the right destination even more important.
Some countries’ rules change constantly… but others don’t change often at all. If you’re worried about this, spend some time researching the history of your destination’s rules (with Google mostly).
It varies greatly depending on the country, and also on your departure date. New travel restrictions for omicron have been quite rare for about a week now (excluding Canada, of course) but that can change if you are leaving in mid-January, that’s still an extremely long time away.
In my case, I’m traveling to the USA. I know they’ve been awfully slow to change anything about their travel rules.
Most importantly, they have never required a quarantine during the entire pandemic and they already require a test done the day of the flight or the day before (NOT “within 24 hours” as the media falsely states).
There is about a 0% chance they will tighten up rules more than that. And there is precisely 0% chance that the state I’m going to will add anything.
Verdict: The risk of the rules changing is high for many countries, but the risk of the change being really problematic is very low.
Worst case scenario, it’s going to be the addition of a test requirement if you go to one of the 61 countries where you don’t need one right now. Or it’s going to be a change from the cheap antigen test to the slightly more expensive PCR test (you can read the introduction to COVID-19 tests for travel).
Nothing dramatic. Just keep an eye on the situation.
But there are exceptions, for example, Thailand is talking about reinstating its 14-day quarantine (except for the Phuket sandbox). This is extremely rare, that’s why 151 countries are open without quarantine.
But you have to check of course… and be comfortable with the fact that everything can change.
Risk of getting stuck abroad due to suspended flights
Between this one and the next, it’s really very subjective to say which is more likely. The government wanted to close the border to foreigners, we know that factually. So that could indirectly cause flights to be suspended, but it depends on the destination.
The provincial premiers disagreed with the federal government’s desire to close the border (and Trudeau ruled it out again yesterday), so perhaps a return to quarantine is more likely.
But let’s focus on the risk of getting stuck first.
Just to be clear, because a LOT of people have a very hard time sorting out all the concepts, but especially this one: Canada can never stop you from entering Canada. If the border “closes”, it obviously closes just for foreigners. Never for Canadians, never.
However, if foreigners aren’t allowed in, it can definitely cause airlines to suspend certain flights (we don’t think it’s likely that the government will ban flights itself, but it’s not completely impossible either).
But airlines could very well keep operating the flights too. As they have for many destinations all through the pandemic.
If not, for the vast majority of destinations, it mostly means that it might just cost you a little more than you expected to buy a new flight. That’s more likely than actually getting stuck for a long time.
The worst of the new omicron travel bans really seems to be behind us, at least internationally. But still, it’s not impossible.
For me in the US, the #1 destination for Canadian travelers according to the data… there is literally a 0% chance of getting stuck.
Even if the flights between the 2 countries were suspended (which will almost certainly not happen), I can always simply return by land. Zero risk.
Verdict: The risk of flights being suspended exists for most countries, but the risk of really getting stuck abroad is low thanks to the options of flying via other countries. The risk is mostly financial.
The further you go, the more likely you are to get stuck in general. We saw this with South Africa earlier this month.
However, if you go to Europe… flights have never stopped between Canada and Europe, even in the worst of the crisis when Canadians couldn’t enter Europe and Europeans couldn’t enter Canada (the flights that are available and the right to enter are obviously two completely separate things).
But more importantly, the more air links the country has with the US, the less likely you are to get stuck. Because you can always return from your destination via the USA, or almost.
It’s been a long time since the USA stopped demonizing travel (there are over 100 million Americans who will be traveling during the holidays!!!) so flights between the US and everywhere will almost certainly not be suspended (unless it’s decided by the other country, like Morocco which has banned all flights).
So check the air routes between your destination and the USA to assess the risk, but also to be prepared if there is a flight suspension. The flight alternatives will sell out fast, so if you already know that there is an option via Miami on American Airlines for example, you will be able to get ahead of everyone and also save money.
The vast majority of people are ill-prepared and have not planned anything, that’s always the case (there’s a reason so many people believe in the myth that travel is expensive or the myth that travel is complicated). So you can beat them to the punch easily as a savvy traveler.
Risk of Canada imposing a quarantine on your return
This is the risk that many people fear most. As of July, Canada no longer requires a 14-day quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers.
That could change, of course. It was precisely during the holiday season last year that all the travel-shaming really started, even though the data from Public Health Canada continually showed that it was irrational.
Could the government add a 14-day quarantine for all those returning? That would be completely unnecessary, given that the variant is obviously already very well established here in Canada and that almost all cases are due to community transmission.
But the fact that something is useless has never stopped this government in terms of travel rules. It’s all about the political science. It has to look like it is punishing evil travelers, so it may come back.
It would please the vast majority of the population who want more and more restrictions on travelers (although it seems the sentiment has finally a bit changed), so sure, it’s certainly possible.
But is it likely? Not at this point. But it’s exceedingly difficult to predict anything when the criteria on which decisions are based are not objective and not based on fact. Impossible really.
Based on the fact that only 0.14% of vaccinated travelers test positive upon arrival according to the most recent data, it would not make any sense…
I’m going to travel because I can work from anywhere and my girlfriend is working from home, so we really don’t care if the quarantine is reinstated (I’ve already done 5 quarantines anyway)… but that’s obviously not the case for everyone.
Verdict: The risk of the 14-day quarantine being reinstated is relatively low at this point, but it is not zero considering how governments seem to be reacting to the situation in Canada.
Actually, this is the only one of the 6 Flytrippers’ other co-founder Kevin and I disagreed on. He thinks it really won’t happen, but I have even less trust in this government so… I would rank it as low in terms of risk, but a bit higher than him haha.
We also say low because if the government imposes it, considering how slow they are with everything, it could give you like weeks to come back before it goes into effect too.
So the likelihood of this risk depends on your confidence in the government and how the situation evolves in the next few days of course.
But if you absolutely cannot afford to lose 2 weeks of income if the quarantine is ever reinstated, it’s obviously impossible to say for sure that it won’t happen with the current case increases…
Finally, the quarantine hotel should not come back, since the panel of scientific experts assembled by the government itself made a report that analyzed the situation and said that it was completely useless, as we had been telling you since day 1 as travel experts (and as anyone who knew the slightest thing about what they were talking about was obviously saying too).
But then again, this same expert panel has been saying to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for over 6 months… so the return of the hotel quarantine is very very very very unlikely, but not impossible. You could still at least avoid it by returning via the USA and entering by land if it ever comes back, as I did twice myself to save $1,000.
Also, maybe to encourage people to get boosted, the definition of fully vaccinated will change to be able to be exempted from quarantine… but since Canada seems to be as slow on the distribution of boosters as it was at the start of the distribution of vaccines, it shouldn’t be anytime soon…
Risk of being stuck abroad because of a positive test
This one is even more dependent on the destination. You can use these tips to see the infection rate data everywhere, but keep in mind that Canada is where the transmission of the virus is high right now; many countries have lower infection rates.
It also depends on the precautions that you’re going to take there, obviously. It also depends on what measures are in place where you’re going.
Let’s say that in Miami, where I didn’t have to put a mask on even once during my week there at the beginning of the month, I was less careful than when I was in countries where there were many precautions earlier in the pandemic.
But I was outside most of the time too. That’s the key with this virus, according to most experts. So if you’re going to spend all your time indoors, the risk of testing positive is obviously higher.
Verdict: The risk of testing positive abroad is low if you choose a destination with a low infection rate and/or if you take basic precautions.
Many travel insurance providers cover the cost of quarantine abroad if you test positive (we’ll have a detailed article on travel insurance for COVID-19 shortly), so at least you don’t have to pay for accommodation or meals.
That’s why I don’t care at all. And spending 2 more weeks somewhere other than here for free really doesn’t sound so bad.
However, quarantine insurance obviously doesn’t cover loss of income if there is any, so it’s kind of the same thought process as for the previous risk that depends on your financial/work situation.
Risk of not having a pleasant experience there
For me, even the worst trip will always be better than not traveling (and the worst international trip is better than any trip within Canada). Always.
But anyway, my 8 trips since the pandemic started have all been great. But I’m not picky or whiny.
Maybe you are different. I don’t go to bars, so I couldn’t care less about them being open. Maybe if some types of businesses are closed or you have to put on a mask the whole time, you won’t like it.
And it works both ways too.
When I talked about my week in Miami without a mask at all, as much as some people said they would love a destination where life is back to normal…
Some people said they weren’t comfortable with no one being masked (and likely not vaccinated, there’s obviously no vaccine passport anywhere in Florida).
Verdict: The risk of the experience not being pleasant is zero if you do your due diligence in advance as you obviously should. Unless the rules change while you’re there, in which case look back to risk #1 above.
In short, look at what the local measures are (wearing masks, closed shops, etc.) and decide if it’s a good fit or not for you.
I’ll save that for a separate post, but with all the restrictions here and my personal health situation (that’s the last and next item)… I’m looking forward to being in Miami instead of here. Really looking forward to normal life.
My risk is rather not wanting to come back to endless lockdowns and restrictions here.
That’s me. Decide for yourself.
We’ve been saying to follow the rules since the beginning. But there are places where you can go where there are no rules to follow, if that’s where you’re at at this point of the 21-month pandemic. And there are places with plenty of rules if that’s what you want.
Risk of catching COVID-19 and getting sick
We’ve already talked about the risk of getting COVID-19, but more specifically it’s important to look at your risk of actually getting sick.
In my case, I am relatively young and healthy. I don’t have any comorbidities whatsoever. I am not obese. I am fully vaccinated.
Factually, my chances of getting very sick are exceedingly low. Based on all the data that governments have been accumulating for almost 2 years. You have to trust the science and the facts.
Omicron seems to be even less severe as well, even if it is preliminary data.
So it’s absolutely certain that for me, the risk of getting sick is really the least of my worries in my decision to travel.
If your health situation is different, it’s up to you to adjust your decision accordingly.
COVID-19 is definitely very dangerous for some people. Look at the data and analyze it seriously.
If you do get sick, many countries don’t have an easily-overwhelmed healthcare system like Canada’s (ranked 25th out of 26th in the OECD for ICU capacity and 26th out of 28th for doctors per capita), one that is clearly failing us very badly because of horrible design (and despite the best efforts of the competent and hard-working health professionals who can only do what they can in such a mess).
So since you will not leave uninsured (we don’t like telling responsible adults what to do, but I’ll make an exception: Don’t ever travel without medical travel insurance, pandemic or not), you should get treatment easily.
But that’s certainly something else to look into as well, if this is a risk you are worried about.
Verdict: The risk of getting sick really depends on your situation, even more than the other risks.
Of course, the USA is much less alarmist about all of this (Tuesday, President Biden said not to panic, that lockdowns are out of the question, that trips and holiday plans shouldn’t be canceled, and that this is not March 2020)…
But for what it’s worth, the US CDC (their public health agency) still recommends traveling if you are fully vaccinated.
Nothing is just black or white in life!
Other risks (and nonexistent risks)
Look, this is obviously not an absolutely exhaustive list of all the risks, but these are the top 6.
We can’t cover them all because everyone always says to make shorter guides.
But we hope that all of them help you to take seriously the decision to travel or not.
And just a reminder that our brand-new free “checklist” for pandemic travel is another useful tool.
Otherwise, to close this out, let’s mention a few risks to ignore.
The risk of not having insurance: Many travel insurers cover COVID-19. Since July 2020. This is not an issue. Detailed article to come, as mentioned.
The risk on an airplane: The air quality in an airplane is factually better than in any building on the ground, contrary to common myth. There are HEPA filters. Not an issue at all.
The risk of being a victim of travel-shaming: Many of you have told us that you are afraid of the judgment of others. I may have missed my calling by starting a travel website instead of a personal development website, but living your life with the slightest regard for what others think is just a terrible, terrible idea. So make your own decision 🙂
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Every traveler is different so the decision to travel or not depends on your specific situation. This information — and especially the 6 main risks to consider carefully — should help you make a well-informed decision… if you’re leaving soon (if not, WAIT).
What would you like to know about pandemic travel? Tell us in the comments below.
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