This week it was my turn to travel – my first trip off Maui since July 2019. I flew to Canada to visit family and briefly experience fall weather (rain and cooler weather)! At this time to enter the US you need to show proof of a negative pre-travel test regardless of vaccination status. This will be changing come November (see below).
DISCLAIMER: this worked at my time of travel (September 2021). THINGS CHANGE REGULARLY so please double check the official government websites so there are no bad surprises.
Travel to Canada
I booked my pre-travel test to enter into Canada. There are a number of options on Maui, but the cheapest (and for me easiest) option was at the Clinical Labs of Hawaii at Kihei Wailea Medical Center (in the Safeway shopping center). I made my appointment in advance. You have to specify the test is for international travel (not the free community test). The cost of my travel test was $120US. I arrived at the lab, paid the fee and filled out a form. They took my nasal swab and I had an email announcing that my results were ready in under 24 hours. I set up an account to access my results, downloaded them to my phone and printed them as a backup.
The next step was to download the ArriveCan app. It won’t let you enter your info more than 72 hours prior to your flight. I entered all my travel info – flight and destination info, test result status (no upload required), stated my quarantine plan (should I test positive while in Canada). I uploaded a copy of my vaccine card. It was pretty straightforward. When you finish, the app sends you a receipt with a confirmation number.
I wasn’t able to complete my online check with Westjet. At the counter they checked that I had an ArriveCan confirmation number and also verified my negative test results.
On arrival in Vancouver, the customs agent verified that I had the ArriveCan confirmation and test results.
Travel to Hawaii
To travel to Hawaii I set up an account with Safe Travels Hawaii. There is no app. Once set up, I registered my trip. Please see the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website for very specific information.
Since I was entering the United States, I had to complete a pre-travel test 72 hours prior to my flight to Hawaii, despite being vaccinated. There are very specific approved ‘trusted testing and travel partner’ labs and at this time they are located only in BC, Alberta and Ontario. Hopefully that will be expanded soon. In BC Westjet partners with Lifelabs. I went onto their site, pre-purchased my test ($200Cdn+tax), then requested an appointment online. Within an hour Lifelabs contacted me to schedule the appointment. I had to bring my lab slip and passport to the lab, they took the swab. I received my results in just under 24 hours. Please check very closely that you get the specific Hawaii approved Covid test from the specific trusted travel and testing partner. If you take the wrong test, your trip will be very complicated (10 day quarantine anyone?).
Then I logged into my Safe Travels account. I clicked the ‘request testing exemption’. Unfortunately I uploaded the wrong form first, then the correct form (with the Hawaii State seal), and received an ‘identity mismatch’ error. I called the Safe Travels helpdesk person (hours are 10AM – 10PM Hawaii time). They had me email my test results and other info and within an hour I had an email that it was corrected on their end. Phew.
24 hours prior to my trip I logged in and completed the health questionnaire. The website then emailed me a QR code. I have both the code and my negative test results printed. Just in case.
What I experienced at the airport
The check-in line at YVR was short but took forever. Westjet agents looked specifically for the QR code and double-checked the test results sheet. A number of travelers didn’t have their QR code. The Westjet gate agent admitted she had not flown to Hawaii and gone through the process herself. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the Safe Travels program. You can phone Safe Travels – they are very helpful.
At the gate we had to show our QR code, test results and passport again. Then on arrival, we were routed to a screening location (at another gate), showed our QR code and passport again. The QR code was checked, we were then directed to take a photo of our ID with a laminated confirmation sheet. I then had to show that photo to another person before exiting the terminal.
All in all, if you have read up on what to do AND if you have followed the official government website instructions correctly, it’s pretty straightforward. More complicated than pre-Covid, but doable.
November 2021 changes
Last week the US government announced changes to the current travel policies. Currently Canadians need to pre-travel test to enter the US by air. Land borders are still closed to non-US resident travel. Many international travelers are currently not allowed to enter the US, such as travelers from England and the European Union.
In ‘early November’ the US will be changing its policy, opening up to more international travelers. The US will be requiring all foreign travelers (including Canadians from what we can tell) to show proof of full Covid vaccination in addition to a pre-travel test.
The US CDC (Center for Disease Control) will have the final word on which vaccines will be accepted.
“The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated with any FDA-authorized or approved vaccines and any vaccines that (the World Health Organization) has authorized,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund. That list could change pending additions by either agency, she said.Reuters
Canada has a high vaccination rate, so for many the new rule in itself will not be a problem. However, per CBC News it is currently unclear if the US will be allowing people with mixed vaccinations to enter the US.
We are waiting for the US to announce the exact new rules. If you are planning a trip to the US and have received mixed vaccines, please keep an eye on this for further developments.