The new rules in Canada

  • Travellers returning to Canada will only require a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours before their departure flight.
  • You can still show a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of your flight.
  • Random COVID-19 tests are still being issued upon arrival in Canada, but you don’t need to isolate while awaiting your results.
  • Children under the age of 12 who are not fully vaccinated, but travelled with fully vaccinated adults, can return to school or daycare immediately. There is no more 14-day wait.

If you’re unvaccinated, the old rules still apply. You’ll be tested on arrival and the eighth day you’re back. In addition, you need to quarantine for 14 days.

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Testing changes could save you big

The most significant barrier to travel for many people was the molecular or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test required to visit many countries.

It was also needed on the way home. In Canada, a PCR test could run you $150 to $200. While these tests are often much cheaper abroad, sometimes free, they could still cost you up to $100 each. In comparison, a rapid antigen test is only $20 to $40.

For example, before the announcement, a family of four could have easily spent $1,000 on COVID-19 testing. After Feb. 28, they might pay only $240. That’s a difference of $760. In addition, getting a rapid antigen is much easier than a PCR test, so it’s one less thing to stress about.

And it’s not just Canada that’s switching to rapid antigen testing. Many countries have already adopted a similar policy.

Flights will probably go up in price

The cost of airfare has always been dynamic. As in, when there’s more demand, prices increase. When there’s less demand, prices decrease. So it would not be a surprise if airfare started to go up in price.

In addition, fuel prices have hit record highs, and airlines will pass that cost on to consumers.

That said, there are still some ways to save. Off-peak travel will always be cheaper than spring break or the summer. You could also try booking something as soon as possible, before everyone else starts searching.

Swoop, an ultra-low fare airline, has been adding destinations at incredibly low prices. Plus, Lynx Air, Canada’s newest low-cost airline, starts flying in April to select Canadian destinations.

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Hotels are where you can save big

Even though accommodations are also priced dynamically, there’s significantly more supply. It’s much easier to find something in your price range when there are hundreds of options to choose from. The key thing is to be flexible.

If you’re looking to save money, you could skip the luxury hotel and just find a budget one that’s near transit. It might take you some extra time to get around your destination, but all that money you save can be used for other things during your travels, such as a nice meal or attractions.

You’ll also want to think about the type of hotel you’re staying at. Independent hotels are often less expensive than chain hotels. That said, many popular hotel brands also have budget options within their portfolio.

The size of your group will also affect some of your decisions. For example, a family of four might be better off renting an Airbnb for the extra space. There are also hotel brands designed for families, such as Staybridge Suites, Residence Inn, and TownePlace Suites.

Look for the deals

Even though demand for travel is expected to pick up, plenty of deals are still to be had for now.

Some of the best offers come from the cruise industry, including recognizable brands such as Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Uniworld, and Celebrity. Some offer discounts on departures, while others give away onboard credits, room upgrades, free drinks, and more.

Many resorts also have sales that are worth keeping an eye on. For example, Hard Rock Hotels has a 50th-anniversary sale that applies to the all-inclusives in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. You’ll get perks such as 50% off your stay, two complementary antigen tests, a price of US$20 per night for kids, and more. The booking window lasts until Dec. 17, 2022, with travel until Dec. 15, 2023.

There’s also Air Canada Vacations, which has a section on its website dedicated to deals. That includes flash sales, last-minute deals, book-early-and-save deals, and limited-time promotions.

Don’t skip out on travel insurance

Although COVID-19 cases are dropping, you shouldn’t let your guard down. Purchasing travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical comes highly recommended. In fact, it’s a must for some countries.

You’ll also want to get extended travel insurance that covers trip cancellation, trip interruption, and hotel quarantine. These types of insurance aren’t typically covered by your work or credit card insurance, so it’s an extra cost to factor in.

Before you depart, research any other local restrictions that may affect your travel plans. There’s no denying that many people will be excited to travel again, but always keep yourself informed; these days, your plans may need to change quickly.

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Barry Choi Moneywise Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

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