Desire to travel ? Prepare to pay more for things like insurance and COVID testing

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A summer poll by Sunwing travel agency found that 58 percent of Canadians plan to travel within the next 12 months.

Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

With the opening of travel agencies that advertise great deals and the opening of sunny destinations, many Canadians are hoping to book a getaway soon. But a pandemic-era trip may have a few more items on your budget than the carefree, cheaper trips of the past.

Travel is showing signs of recovery. A summer poll by Sunwing travel agency found that 58 percent of Canadians plan to travel within the next 12 months.

What they may know now is that traveling now comes with additional costs, ranging from additional insurance to COVID testing and small items like N-95 masks – which, if they don’t. traveled for two years, may come with a bit of sticker shock.

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Montreal animation producer Melanie Schaffer is a Canadian who recently left the country for vacation.

A seasoned traveler who writes about her travels on her BRB Travel blog, the 30-something had observed post-COVID travel trends and expected additional expenses when she and her husband booked their August trip to Florida to visit to their families.

In addition to their more expensive than usual plane tickets and hotels, Schaffer saw how other costs began to add up. For example, although she decided they had sufficient travel health insurance coverage through her employer and her credit card, they purchased additional cancellation insurance for around $ 100 from the company. Aerial.

They also set aside $ 150 per night for hotel costs and $ 50 per day for food in their budget to cover a possible two-week hotel quarantine at their destination, and budgeted for additional masks in the plane and for COVID testing required at the airport on departure and arrival.

“What surprised me was the cost of PCR tests – these are expensive,” she says. They paid $ 200 each upon departure and US $ 200 (approximately $ 250) each upon return to Canada.

With continued uncertainty around COVID fares and airline schedules, Richard Vanderlubbe, President of TripCentral.ca, has seen a slight increase in changes in travel plans, as well as cancellations, both by travel agencies and customers. As a result, where pre-pandemic travelers focused exclusively on low prices, this shifted to an increased focus on terms and conditions, as people already affected by pandemic-related issues were forced to navigate a process. confusing cancellations, credits and refunds.

For many, that means buying extras with their basic plane ticket or travel package. One option people are considering is traditional cancellation insurance coverage, he says, given the number of potential disruptive events that still occur. These plans cover the cost of your trip against a number of unforeseen risks, such as the appearance of a non-pre-existing health problem for yourself or your traveling companions, jury duty or involuntary loss of employment. .

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For a seven-night all-inclusive package that costs $ 2,000 per person, for example, basic cancellation coverage can cost just over $ 130 per traveler, up to almost $ 200 for a more comprehensive plan that also covers trip interruption and theft to destination. . The addition of a “cancellation for any reason” benefit – which would allow a traveler to cancel their plans for any reason and get 75% of their money back up to 15 days before departure, said Mr Vanderlubbe – will cost 25% more. percent, in addition to the overall plan.

Stacey Aarssen, president of travel broker Better Travel Insurance, suggests travelers read trip cancellation policies carefully to find out what is covered and what is not. Most vendors, she says, don’t offer a “trip cancellation for any reason” policy, and those who do often only allow it to be purchased in a short window after paying a fee. non-refundable deposit.

In addition to purchasing a cancellation policy, which would cover a list of reasons that would allow people to get their money back, Mr Vanderlubbe says travelers should consider optional cancellation waivers offered by travel agencies which may be purchased at the time of booking. These usually allow customers to change their travel plans for a later date.

“A lot of them aren’t expensive – it can cost $ 50 and it gives a whole lot of flexibility and the difference between completely losing your money within, say, 21 days of going out, and actually having a loan that you could reuse within a year, ”he said.

An example of a supplemental protection plan, according to Toronto-based travel expert Barry Choi, is Air Canada Vacations Carefree and Careflex Plus plans, which have been available for a number of years. These plans, he says, allow travelers to purchase optional coverage at the time of booking for as little as $ 59 to change, cancel with travel credit and a partial or full refund up to 25 days before. departure.

Before COVID, it might have been something you would never have considered, but now it looks like a good investment, he says.

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Travel insurance is another cost that was significant before the pandemic, Choi says, but it’s arguably something many are paying more attention to, post-COVID.

Now that COVID is a “known risk,” many travel plans do not cover it, Vanderlubbe said. One option is to purchase an additional plan to cover the impact of the virus – although he says he has seen less demand for this add-on now that many travelers are vaccinated.

Many insurers offer optional coverage or an additional policy that would cover medical and other costs associated with capturing COVID overseas, such as quarantining and changing your plans, Vanderlubbe said. “It’s always a risk that can be covered.”

Additional considerations

In the air: As he found out on a recent trip to Vancouver, many airlines, Mr Choi says, only provide prepackaged in-flight snacks, like chips or pretzels, so be sure to buy and bring your own food. You can also budget to stock up on additional masks and disinfectant for the trip.

On the ground: As Ms. Schaffer explains, if you are traveling to an area hard hit by COVID, consider whether you would rather take private rather than public transportation during your trip, and budget accordingly. Some tours may also have reduced the size of their groups and increased prices accordingly.

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