TORONTO — About one million Canadian snowbirds spend the winter months in the southern United States each year, but last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic about 70 per cent of them stayed home.
However, as more people get vaccinated and travel restrictions are lifted, the vast majority of snowbirds are now hoping to go south this winter.
“Most of them are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and they want to check out their properties in Florida and Arizona,” said Evan Rachkovsky with the Canadian Snowbirds Association. “We are anticipating up to 90 per cent of snowbirds with properties in the U.S. will go south this year.”
The land border to the U.S. remains closed and while it’s likely it will be re-opened soon, it’s added stress for snowbirds who travel south as about 70 per cent of them drive so they’ll have their vehicles during their stay.
Many Canadians who winter in the U.S. are also waiting to see exactly what the policy will be when it comes to vaccinations, vaccination passports and crossing the border.
“The question remains if the (U.S. President) Biden administration does make (vaccines) a necessary requirement for entry, what’s going to happen to the individuals who have the AstraZeneca vaccine or mixed doses of the mRNA vaccines?” said Rachkovsky.
While travel health insurance is always recommended for travel outside of Canada, that is especially true this year with the pandemic and when it comes to policies there can be huge differences.
“Some will provide protection based on whether you are vaccinated or not. Some will have higher limits if you are vaccinated or not,” said Will McAleer, executive director with the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada. “Some might charge an extra premium if you’re not vaccinated, because if you’re not vaccinated it will account for the higher risk,” he explained.
McAleer said the type of vaccination you have received should not be a factor in getting travel health insurance.
“So if you’ve got a different vaccine first dose versus second dose, it should not impact your insurance coverage. The key there will be what happens at your destination,” said McAleer.
The Canadian Snowbird Association said what’s most important is knowing how much COVID-19 coverage you have as each policy differs.
“Even though the policy may have an overall benefit of 1 to 5 million dollars, (some polices) are capping COVID-19 related coverages at $100,000 to $200,000,” said Rachkovsky.
The association advises snowbirds to only take a policy that provides at least 1 million dollars in COVID-19 related coverages.
Most snowbirds travel south starting in November and the other huge migration is after New Year’s Day.
There is still lots of time for planning, but all Canadians are advised to follow the situation carefully when it comes to travel as like most issues related to COVID-19, things can change on a day-to-day basis.