As travel restrictions loosen in many parts of Canada and people begin to travel again, travelers are experiencing familiar and less familiar things during their journey. In this post, we share information about what to expect when traveling domestically within Canada right now.
If you have not been to an airport in a while, you may experience some culture shock.
- Crowds: Either the airport will be very quiet or super busy. In some cases, the airport may look as crowded as pre-pandemic times. Airlines are adjusting their flight schedules and that means peaks are intense with so many flights departing at the same time to maximize connections and aircraft utilization. In some cases, airlines are using one baggage carousel for numerous flights and so the baggage carousel area can get crowded.
- Screening: In some airports, Nexus/Trusted Traveler lines are not operating and so you need to join the queue and wait longer. At some airports, there is also a temperature check now for passengers done using a camera or a non-contact thermometer.
- Lounges: If you were excited to visit a lounge during your stay at the airport, you might be in for disappointment. Many lounges are still closed, some have very reduced hours, and capacity is greatly reduced. During peak times, some lounges have long waits; some are equipped with wait lists but many are not and are first-come-first-serve (even if you paid $ for a business class ticket).
- Airport Facilities: In addition, many restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops have not re-opened and so it is best to pack some snacks and all your essentials because you may not be able to find what you are looking for at the airport. We have also noticed that the hours listed online are inaccurate at times which is frustrating to say the least. Thankfully, most airports are now allowing water bottle refills but water fountains are still not in use; pack a water bottle!
If you have not taken in a flight in a while, you may experience some culture shock.
- Seats: Since last summer, Canadian airlines have not been blocking off middle seats; solo travelers will not get an entire aisle to themselves unless the flight is empty. It is also common to be seated away from others traveling with you, especially when you booked basic economy and decide not to pay in advance for seat selection.
- Cancellations/Delays: Flight cancellations and delays are still occurring and with less flights, it can make connections stressful and lead to being stranded for longer if you miss one. It seems to be getting better but some airlines are cancelling flights to consolidate them; you may end up on a different flight or even have to connect despite booking a non-stop flight.
- Service: In-flight service has been returning slowly. WestJet currently only offers water and a small bag of pretzels in economy. Air Canada has resumed Air Canada Bistro on some economy flights. Air Canada business class is still only offering one entrée meals with appetizer, salad, bread, and dessert. Reduced in-flight service is to get passengers to keep their masks on for the flight.
- Cleaning: Airplanes do appear to be cleaner but airlines are giving passengers tools to sanitize their seats. WestJet offers a wipe on boarding and Air Canada is still offering their Clean Care kits with mask, wipe and sanitizer.
Here are a few things to consider when travelling.
- Rental Cars: Rental car agencies sold many of their vehicles at the start of the pandemic and so some places have rental car shortages. Rental car prices have also increased drastically due to demand in some destinations and at certain times and some rental car agencies have refused to honor bookings. In some places, rental car agencies have not re-opened and have no plans to re-open.
- Housekeeping: Housekeeping is still limited in some hotels due to staffing shortages and safety protocols. Rooms are not always serviced daily and it is common to call or go to the front desk to get items you need, i.e. toiletries, towels, bedding, coffee..
- Hotels: Some hotels are still not offering amenities to staffing, costs, and safety protocols. Some pools, gyms and lounges have not yet re-opened. Some hotels go even further and have removed hair dryers and coffee makers from rooms.
- Dining: Many restaurants, cafes, and places to grab a drink are still very short-staffed and operating at reduced capacity. It is common to wait longer and for menus to be somewhat limited.
- Attractions: Some attractions have re-opened without any restriction but some still require pre-booking in advance. Do your research well in advance.
- Mask Mandates: Mask mandates vary across Canada; some places still have mandatory mask mandates and some are personal choice.
- Vaccination Status: Some places in Canada still have quarantine requirements for un-vaccinated travelers; make sure to do your research in advance and to have your documentation in electronic and paper format.
It is nice to see travel rebounding in Canada this summer; people can reunite with family, enjoy vacations and even attend special events like weddings! Things should get easier as time goes on but if you decide to travel, be patient, do your research, stay positive and realize everyone has a different comfort level. We wish anyone who is traveling a nice trip and pleasant journey with minimal inconveniences!
Are you planning a trip within Canada this summer? Any other tips and experiences to share?