Elizabeth Forsythe wasted no time booking a trip to Florida after travel restrictions were lifted on the Canada-U.S. border.
The 69-year-old from Sussex, N.B., will be heading to Orlando with a group of girlfriends for some shopping and fun in the sun in mid-May.
“We have rented a car and a house and plan to do a lot of shopping, eating, sitting around the pool and take some day excursions,” says Ms. Forsythe. She is used to going south at least once a year to visit her brother in South Carolina and enjoy a sun-destination getaway, plus some quick jaunts across the border.
“We are [close] to the border and I go shopping with friends in Bangor several times a year. With the pandemic, this all came to a screaming halt.”
Like many Canadians who plan to take advantage of their retirement years by travelling, Ms. Forsythe is very pleased restrictions have ended.
“I do love to travel often – and sometimes it is not super far from home. This year I have stayed in my home much, much more than usual, so I am especially excited to get on the road,” she says.
For those who feel comfortable travelling – and many do – the federal government’s decision to drop COVID-19 tests for entering or re-entering Canada as of April 1 opened the floodgates, says Claire Newell, founder and president of Metro Vancouver-based Travel Best Bets.
“There was a huge rush for those trips that were leaving imminently because the sun season runs from November through the end of April,” Ms. Newell says. “We were just kind of we’re coming to the end of that so a lot of people wanted the Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, Southern California trips on the books as soon as they possibly could.”
People are booking trips through this year and into next and there are some good deals to be had, she says.
In addition to sales on package vacations, many destinations offer flexible terms and conditions to give travellers a level of comfort that, should the situation change, their travel plans can as well, she says. Many have also drastically dropped deposits to encourage bookings.
Airlines are still ramping up flight schedules, so a limited number of airline seats are available, Ms. Newell says. It will take some time for flight schedules to return to normal, so many agents are booking those great deals for vacation packages or all-inclusive getaways without air included for now, knowing flights will become available in the weeks and months ahead, she says.
“We’re recommending that they take advantage of the rates, the flexible terms and conditions of the existing deals that are in the marketplace, as well as some of the low deposits, especially if they want to go over peak dates – long weekends, holidays, any time kids are out of school,” she says. “Even if the packages don’t include air, in many cases, it’s worth securing the space if the terms are flexible.”
Before the pandemic, many travellers preferred cheaper flights or cruises, even if it meant less flexibility. That’s changed.
“Now, given that COVID isn’t gone and we don’t know what’s going to lie ahead of us, when you’re planning your trip, that’s one of the things that you may want to look at closely,” Ms. Newell says.
It may be a difference of as little as 5 per cent of the overall cost to book a trip that is completely flexible, versus a non-refundable trip with air or hotel or car rentals that can’t be changed, she says.
Multi-generational family trips are proving popular, with grandparents travelling with children and grandchildren to family friendly destinations like Disneyland, more exotic destinations like Machu Picchu, or destination weddings that are finally taking place.
“A lot of time has passed, a lot of years have gone by, and so a lot of families, especially if they don’t all live in the same area, are choosing to go away [together],” she says.
Demand is high for many of the same destinations popular before the pandemic: Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, southern California, New York and western Europe. And since the U.S. Centres for Disease Control lifted its travel risk warning for cruise ships at the end of March, cruise vacations are gaining ground.
Jessica Pong, founder and owner of Toronto-based Wanderlust Concierge, calls it a travel boom after two years of next-to-no travel.
Many of her clients, who tend to be 55-plus, are looking for longer, special trips to sate pent-up demand. Europe is a top destination, as well as Costa Rica and some of the lesser-known Caribbean islands such as Antigua, Grenada and St. Lucia, she says.
“Instead of just flying down to Cancun for a week to lie on the beach and fly home, now people want more experiences,” Ms. Pong says. “I’ve heard it from so many of my clients, ‘Money is burning a hole in my pocket. I’ve been sitting here watching movies and TV and all I want to do is travel.”
People have been stuck at home, saving money and dreaming about a special voyage, she says.
“And what’s more amazing and special than a trip to Antarctica or a month-long adventure through Australia?” she says. “It’s these bucket-list trips people are eager to experience now that they can.”
Ms. Pong says there are ways to get one of the many good travel deals available. She suggests signing up for one or more websites that offer deal alerts or engaging a travel agent.
Older travellers often have flexibility with when they travel, which can translate into major savings.
“If you’re flexible to go to Greece any time of summer, then we can find you an absolutely amazing hotel rate, versus if you can only travel during these two weeks in the heart of summer,” she says.
Ms. Pong reminds travellers that travel insurance is more important than ever given the global pandemic and says it’s up to the traveller to stay up-to-date travel advisories and vaccine or testing requirements. She suggests the website joinsherpa.com is a great resource for global updates and check the government of Canada travel advisory website and government websites in your destination country.
Ms. Newell also suggests all travellers take a few minutes to register at travel.gc.ca “so that the Canadian government knows where you are if something goes completely sideways, and given the situation in the world, we never know what can happen.”