Store Locator

Five key considerations for travelling in 2021.

CAA Travel Insurance January 25, 2021
Young couple relaxing on a couch, surfing for travel destinations on a tablet.
It’s a new year, and new vaccines and new-found hope are all on the horizon. For many, there is optimism that travel may become a possibility in the not-too-distant future. With the cold winter weather and pandemic fatigue setting in, it’s tempting to want to escape to sunnier climates. However, at the moment, governments across Canada continue to strongly advise against travel outside of our borders.  At the same time, many parts of the country are under varying degrees of lockdown and the land border crossings with the United States remain closed. Those who choose to travel under these conditions do so by putting their own health and safety at risk.

To ensure our Members’ safety, CAA supports the Government of Canada’s recommendation to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada at this time. However, if you must travel now or are starting to plan for future travel, here are five key considerations to help you make an informed decision before leaving Canada:

1. What happens if I contract COVID-19 while away?

With COVID-19 cases hitting record highs in many areas of the world, including Canada, the potential of contracting the virus is real. But this is not the only concern:

  • There may not be space or care available within local hospitals/clinics at your destination due to already high caseloads and overburdened facilities and staff.
  • Air Ambulance companies are expressing concerns transporting active COVID-19 cases back to their home province.
  • There is an increased challenge repatriating travellers back to a Canadian hospital – particularly as ICU facilities at home are increasingly strained.  
  • Some of the COVID-19 travel insurance coverage options being promoted as available in the market to Canadians may be insufficient, potentially leaving travellers on the hook to absorb any expenses above the coverage maximums. If you are relying on the supplier or country COVID-19 medical insurance, you will have to pay all medical bills upfront if you get sick or hospitalized with COVID-19.
  • You may not be able to recover or quarantine in the accommodations at your destination. Some hotels or facilities may have restrictions or simply do not have availability, leaving you scrambling.

2. If I need medical care for something non-COVID-19 related while away, will the hospital or emergency clinic at my destination be able to support me?

As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in many destinations, it is increasingly difficult for Canadians to secure access to any necessary medical care. If a destination experiences a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, local governments can prioritize citizens over tourists, should health services become strained.  This could leave Canadian travellers without the necessary support in a time of need regardless of one’s insurance coverage.

3. What if I decide to return home early if I feel unsafe at my destination?

The Canadian government has already advised that there will be no further repatriation flights should a traveller wish to return or they are no longer safe at their destination. In addition, due to the pandemic, many Canadian consular services are limited globally. As a result, Canadians’ ability to reach embassy staff should an issue arise may be limited.

Other potential complications include:

  • Many countries and their governments have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines.
  • Airlines have cancelled flights, and may impose new restrictions with little warning. In Canada, only select airports are allowed to have incoming international flights, so you may need connecting flights depending on where you are going or coming home.
  • Since the travel advisory is in place for COVID-19, it is considered a known issue. If you must return home early, you will have to pay the associated costs, as it will not be covered under travel insurance.
  • As of January 7, 2021, all air passengers over the age of five, including Canadians, will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours prior to boarding their scheduled departure to Canada. This means you will have to wait at your destination until your test results come in and turnaround times may vary by location.
  • Anyone travelling from a country where a COVID-19 test is not available will be required to report to a designated federal quarantine facility maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada and may have to self-quarantine for a 14-day period at the facility.

Don’t forget that for any travel outside of Canada, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days immediately upon your return even if your COVID-19 test was negative. You must have a quarantine plan for your return, and you may be asked about this plan by customs. 

4. Should I book a trip now for later in 2021 or 2022?

While there has been significant progress made in the development and initial rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, the virus continues to spread in many parts of the world, and the broader benefits of the vaccine are still many months away. 

However, if you are looking to book a future trip, consider the following:

  • Once I book, am I able to get a refund should I need to cancel the booking in the future? Are there fees or penalties associated with making changes to my booking?
  • Am I willing to accept a future travel credit instead of a refund based on what suppliers are currently offering?
  • Is free cancellation being offered?  
  • Am I willing to accept an alternate date to travel if my supplier decides not to operate at the planned time of departure?  
  • Do I understand the impacts of my travel insurance coverage if there is still a travel advisory in place when the payment is due?

Our expert CAA Travel Consultants can answer all your questions and help you navigate your options as you start future trip planning.

5. Can I still purchase travel medical insurance and/or trip cancellation and interruption coverage for future planned trips?

We recognize that some travel is essential while others may be looking to take advantage of the many incentives available for future trips, hoping the advisories will lift before their departure date. 
COVID-19 itself (or any pandemic) is not an exclusion in any CAA Travel Insurance policy; however, there are limitations related to Level 3 (avoid non-essential travel) and Level 4 (avoid all travel) travel advisories. 

  • CAA Travel Insurance1 does cover COVID-19 related illnesses when Canadian travel advisories are active at Level 1 (exercise normal security precautions) or Level 2 (exercise a high degree of caution), on the date of departure.
  • When travel advisories are set at Level 3 or Level 4 on the date of departure, COVID-19 related illnesses would not be eligible. If travel advisories are lowered to Level 1 or Level 2 after departure, claims related to COVID-19 still would not be eligible, because the Level 3 or Level 4 advisories were in place at the time of departure.
  • When travel advisories are active at Level 3 or Level 4 at time of purchase, cancellation claims related to the COVID-19 travel advisories would not be eligible.
  • When travel advisories are set at Levels 3 or Level 4 on the date of departure, interruption claims related to the COVID-19 travel advisories would not be eligible.
  • For those who still want to travel during a Level 3 or Level 4 advisory, illnesses unrelated to the travel advisories (i.e. in this case, COVID-19) are eligible.

A few travel insurance and travel providers offer COVID-19 coverage at this time, but it may be insufficient, and travellers should be prepared to absorb any expenses above the coverage maximums.

This is an evolving situation and your safety continues to be of utmost importance to us. For more travel information related to COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 information page.

For more Frequently Asked Questions related to travel insurance, visit our COVID-19 travel insurance information page