Options for Snowbirds to Get Back to Canada During COVID Travel Restrictions

 

Options for Canadians to Travel Back to Canada During COVID

As the winter season draws towards a close, snowbirds are faced with new rules and restrictions they must follow when returning to Canada, with different requirements in place depending on whether you are returning by air or driving across the land border by car/RV.

Both options have pros and cons and the right option for you will depend on your individual situation and preference.

To assist snowbirds with making their plans for returning home, we have provided a guide to all options that comply with current Government of Canada travel restrictions and requirements.

You can click on shortcuts to each travel option here:

From the U.S.:

From International Destinations:

Of course, these rules and restrictions could change quickly, which may affect how and when you decide to return to Canada, and we will do our best to provide updates about any important changes.

However, we also encourage all returning snowbirds to check the following Government of Canada websites in the days and weeks prior to your return to Canada for any policy changes:

Returning to Canada from the U.S.

Flying to Canada

If you flew to your winter home in the U.S. last fall or winter, then you will most likely be flying home this spring. But you will find a lot has changed since you flew south.

Currently, you can only fly into 4 airports in Canada from the U.S. - Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Many Canadian airlines have cut back capacity and cut back on routes, so your choices to fly home on a Canadian airline are significantly reduced. For example, Air Canada is only flying to one city in Florida at the moment – Ft. Lauderdale.

Of course, you can also fly to Canada on a U.S. airline, but usually this will involve a connecting flight through one of the U.S. hub cities, depending on your original departure point. Connecting flights can be problematic if they are delayed or you have missed connections. And of course, they mean more time on planes and in airports.

If you are returning by air, you must do the following prior to your arrival in Canada:

  • Have a valid, negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of your flight departure time. If you do not present this at check in, you will be denied boarding. If you test positive, you must remain in the U.S. for 14 days and then you can fly home by providing proof that you tested positive and your test is more than 14 days old.
  • the ArriveCAN app and website, explaining your quarantine plans and other details.
  • Call to book and pay for your quarantine hotel near the airport where you will be arriving. This hotel stay is mandatory for ALL travellers arriving by air.

You can book your quarantine hotel by phone by calling the following numbers:

1-800-294-8253 (toll-free within North America)

1-613-830-2992 (collect outside of North America)

You can also book directly with some quarantine hotels either by phone or online.

You will also be required to do the following upon your arrival in Canada:

  • Take another COVID test before leaving the airport
  • Go directly from the airport to your designated quarantine hotel using your own vehicle (if it is parked at the airport), a hotel shuttle or a taxi/limo.

Once you get your test results at the hotel, and provided they are negative, you can then go to your home or take your connecting flight home and quarantine there for the remainder of your 14 -day quarantine.

You will also need to take a self-administered COVID test on Day-10 of your quarantine.

You can find a government checklist for travellers flying to Canada here.

Driving to Canada

One advantage of driving back to Canada is that the Canadian government does NOT require mandatory hotel quarantines for individuals entering Canada by land, which has led many snowbirds who would otherwise fly home to consider driving back to Canada instead.

However, snowbirds intending to drive back to Canada face other challenges, as individuals entering the country at a land border are now required to have a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arriving at the border. 

Meeting this requirement can be a big problem for many snowbirds driving back from their winter homes in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, and elsewhere, as the drive often takes more than 72 hours for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to drive too many hours in a day and delays due to poor weather or traffic accidents.  

Timing your test can be tricky and you may end up having to spend hours or days in a U.S. border city if you arrive at the border and your test results aren’t ready yet or if you need to take another test because your original test was taken more than 72 hours ago.

Various states do have interstate travel restrictions requiring you to isolate or quarantine. However, they often do not apply if you are just driving through and not spending more than 24 hours. These rules vary by state and can change without notice, so it is prudent to check the rules in states you plan on driving through before you begin your trip home.

Some snowbirds are thinking of driving their U.S. plated car back to Canada.  Be sure to check with both the U.S. and Canada border authorities about whether or not this is permitted and how long you can keep a U.S. plated car in Canada.

And if you plan on renting a car in your winter destination and driving it home to Canada, make sure you check with the rental company in advance to see if you are allowed to drive your car across the border and drop your rental car off in Canada, and if there are any additional fees or charges for doing this. It is recommended you check directly with the rental car location you plan on using – as opposed to the national call centre – as their policies may differ.

Snowbirds must also register on the ArriveCAN app or website prior to arriving at the border to explaining your quarantine plans and provide other information.

When you cross the border by car or RV, you will be tested again at most border crossings. The federal government has already set up testing sites at some of the main border crossings and is in the process of setting up testing sites at others, but they likely won’t be available at all border crossings.

Once you take your test at the border, you can then continue to your home where you must quarantine for 14 days. You may not stop for groceries, at restaurants or anywhere else along your route.

You will also need to take a self-administered COVID test on Day-10 of your quarantine.

You can find a government checklist for travellers entering Canada via a land border here.

Flying to a U.S. border city and driving across the border

Snowbirds who prefer to avoid the mandatory hotel quarantine for airline passengers also have the option to fly to a U.S. border city and then cross by rental car, airport shuttle service, limo, taxi or on foot.  

This reduces the risk that you won’t make it to the border within 72 hours.

However, it’s important to be aware that not all car rental companies will allow you to drop your rental car off in Canada (or may charge you a premium to drop off the car in Canada) and some may not even allow you to drive it across the border. Be sure to check with rental companies in advance to see what their policies and prices are for cross-border travel. It is recommended you check directly with the rental car location near border that you plan on using – as opposed to the national call centre – as their policies may differ.

Before returning home this way, you must register on the ArriveCAN app or website, explaining your quarantine plans and providing other information.

When you cross the border you will be tested again, depending where you cross. The federal government has already set up testing sites at some of the main border crossings and is in the process of setting up testing sites at others, but they likely won’t be available at all border crossings

Once you take your test at the border, you can then continue to your home where you must quarantine for 14 days. You may not stop for groceries, at restaurants or anywhere else along your route.

You will also need to take a self-administered COVID test on Day-10 of your quarantine.

Returning to Canada from Non-U.S. International Destinations

Flying to Canada

Currently, you can only fly into 4 airports in Canada from any international destination - Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Your flight options will be drastically reduced, as Canadian airlines have halted flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America until the end of April and have significantly reduced flights from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.

We recommend you seek out the services of a travel agent who will have access to systems that can determine what your options are, depending on when you want to travel home. 

You must do the following prior to your arrival in Canada:

  • Have a valid, negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of your flight departure time. If you do not present this at check in, you will be denied boarding. If you test positive, you must remain where you are for 14 days and then you can fly home by providing proof that you tested positive and your test is more than 14 days old.
  • Register on the ArriveCAN app and website, explaining your quarantine plans and other details.
  • Call to book and pay for your quarantine hotel near the airport where you will be arriving. This hotel stay is mandatory for ALL travellers arriving by air.

You can book your quarantine hotel by phone by calling the following numbers:

1-800-294-8253 (toll-free within North America)

1-613-830-2992 (collect outside of North America)

You can also book directly with some quarantine hotels either by phone or online.

You will also be required to do the following upon your arrival in Canada:

  • Take another COVID test before leaving the airport
  • Go directly from the airport to your designated quarantine hotel using your own vehicle (if it is parked at the airport), a hotel shuttle or a taxi/limo.

Once you get your test results at the hotel, and provided they are negative, you can then go to your home or take your connecting flight home and quarantine there for the remainder of your 14 -day quarantine.

You will also need to take a self-administered COVID test on Day-10 of your quarantine.

Fly to the U.S. and driving across the border

Snowbirds who want to avoid the hotel quarantine may choose to fly to a U.S. border city - rather than fly into one of the four designated international airports in Canada - you can then cross the land border by rental car, airport shuttle company or by taxi or limo.

However, it’s important to be aware that not all car rental companies will allow you to drop your rental car off in Canada (or may charge you a premium to drop off the car in Canada) and some may not even allow you to drive it across the border. Be sure to check with rental companies in advance to see what their policies and prices are for cross-border travel.

Before returning home this way, you must:

  • Have a valid, negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of your flight departure time. If you do not present this at check in, you will be denied boarding. If you test positive, you must remain in the U.S. for 14 days and then you can fly home by providing proof that you tested positive and your test is more than 14 days old.
  • Important: If you are driving across the border your negative PCR test must be performed in the United States, so travellers from international destinations will have to spend a few days in the U.S. to take their test and receive their results before driving across the border to Canada.
  • Register on the ArriveCAN app or website, explaining your quarantine plans and providing other information.

When you cross the border you will be tested again. The federal government has already set up testing sites at some of the main border crossings and is in the process of setting up testing sites at others, but they likely won’t be available at all border crossings

Once you take your test at the border, you can then continue to your home where you must quarantine for 14 days. You may not stop for groceries, at restaurants or anywhere else along your route.

You will also need to take a self-administered COVID test on Day-10 of your quarantine.

Disclaimer: The material provided on the SnowbirdAdvisor.ca website is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, real estate, medical or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should retain a qualified professional to advise you.