Fully vaccinated and ready for a winter getaway? It may cost more than you think
The added cost of COVID-19 tests, airfare and car rental could make the trip unaffordable
Now that restrictions have eased for fully vaccinated travellers, Canadians are starting to think about travelling abroad over the holidays.
But that winter getaway may be more costly than you think. Both airfare and car rental prices are on the rise, and the added fee for one or more mandatory COVID-19 tests could make the trip cost-prohibitive.
Here's what to consider before you start dreaming about your week at the beach.
Added cost of COVID-19 tests
Depending on where you're travelling to, you may have to shell out for two COVID-19 tests, which can add hundreds of dollars to your travel costs.
However, many others, including Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and the United States, require that international air passengers show proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular COVID-19 test. (Land travellers will be exempt from the test requirement when the U.S. land border reopens to fully vaccinated travellers Nov. 8)
Travellers can typically get a rapid antigen test in Canada for under $50.
But Canadians must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to return home, and Canada will only accept a molecular test — such as a PCR test — which can range in price from $150 to $300.
The cost of the return test was a deal breaker for Ian Wilson of Peterborough, Ont., who had planned to take his family on a trip to Las Vegas last month.
His family hadn't travelled together in several years, and Wilson and his wife, Becky Paradis, were prepared to foot the bill for their three adult children.
However, the family decided to nix their plans after Wilson did some research and concluded he'd have to spend at least $1,000 total to pay for five PCR tests to return to Canada.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "I'm not opposed to getting the test … but it's the cost. It was just adding too much onto the trip for our family to afford."
The federal government said on Friday it's reviewing the pre-arrival test requirement but that it's staying in place for now as a precaution.
Because Wilson had already booked the time off, he and his wife visited Halifax instead last month — a trip which involved no test requirement.
"Travelling in Canada seemed to be the more economical thing to do," he said.
Airfares going up
Back in the spring when COVID-19 cases were still surging, airlines offered discounted airfares and other perks to encourage Canadians to start making travel plans.
But due to growing demand, those deals are fast disappearing, said Adit Damodaran, an economist with Hopper, a Montreal-based travel booking app.
"A lot of travellers are eager to kind of get back out there and start exploring the world."
Damodaran said airfares to the U.S. and Caribbean dropped by between 18 and 30 per cent during the height of the pandemic, but now they're making a comeback.
"Airfares to both the U.S. and the Caribbean have actually been really strong," he said. "They're trending pretty close to what they were doing in 2019."
Damodaran predicts that, heading into the holiday season, airfares will increase further: by about 15 per cent to the U.S. and by around 20 per cent to the Caribbean.
To avoid a further price increase, he recommends travellers book their Christmas vacations soon.
Car rental woes
Car rental expert Jonathan Weinberg says car rental fees in the U.S. are also on the rise — even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
"Prices are spiking up," said Weinberg, CEO of AutoSlash.com, a U.S.-based discount car rental booking site.
He says the average car rental price in the U.S. is currently around $50 to $75 US per day, about a 50 per cent increase compared to 2019.
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Weinberg blames the price increase on a combination of factors.
He said when people stopped travelling during the pandemic, car rental companies sold off some of their fleet to generate revenue.
But when demand surged, Weinberg said, companies faced difficulties building back up their fleets due to a current shortage of vehicles on the market.
"Companies just simply couldn't buy back the cars they needed to replenish their fleets," said Weinberg. "That [problem] continues to this day."
To get the best possible price, he recommends booking your car rental well in advance.
"Anybody who waits to book for a holiday rental ... is really going to be in for a sticker shock."
What about insurance costs?
Last year, many insurance providers reinstated COVID-19 medical coverage for travellers.
Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said fully vaccinated travellers shouldn't have to pay any extra fees to get the coverage.
However, he said travellers could wind up with a much bigger bill for their trip if they test positive for COVID-19 and are forced to quarantine for an extra 14 days at their destination.
Travellers can purchase trip interruption insurance, but Firestone said those plans typically won't cover travellers for all their added costs if they're stuck in quarantine and can't return home as planned.
"You could be staying at a $1,000-a-day hotel, that does not mean they're going to cover your costs at the hotel for 14 days," he said. "All that any of these products could do would be to offset some of your costs."