Cross Country Checkup

Daunting or doable? What you need to know about summer travel

After years of pandemic restrictions and limited flights, people are finally ready to go on vacation again. But experts are warning that if you plan to travel this summer, it’s best to manage your expectations and prepare for challenges.

If you’re going to the airport this summer, expect delays and come prepared, says travel agent

For those planning summer vacations this year, two travel experts recommending planning for delays to happen, especially at airports. Here, passengers arriving in Toronto faced long lines after arriving. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

After years of pandemic restrictions and limited flights, people are finally ready to go on vacation again. But experts are warning that if you plan to travel this summer, it's best to manage your expectations and prepare for challenges. 

"I think people are really eager to travel, especially now that it's becoming, we feel at least, that it's becoming safer to travel," said Frédéric Dimanche, a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. 

"I wouldn't tell people don't travel. I would say be ready for those delays, make sure you have your paperwork ready so that there is no additional delay because of you."

At airports such as Toronto's Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport, passengers have faced long lines and wait times.

It's something Shalene Dudley has experienced firsthand. She is the owner of Latitude Concierge Travels and flew to the Dominican Republic out of Pearson International Airport earlier this month. 

"I went in three-and-a-half hours early and as soon as I walked in, I saw this line going across almost the whole terminal. But you have to determine if that is your line. You can't automatically assume," said Dudley.

Dudley says the long lines aren't because of COVID-19 tests or social distancing, but because there isn't enough staff at the airport, and many employees there are newer and still learning the job.

Travel agent Shalene Dudley says travellers should expect delays on both the departure and arrival side of air travel. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

In an email to CBC News, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority said it's making every effort to address the issue of long lines, but it can't find enough workers to replace those laid off during the pandemic. 

And Dudley says the problems aren't limited to departures — when her plane landed in Toronto on her return home, she was met with more delays.

"There were planes on planes waiting for spaces and not enough feet on the ground.... There's just not enough people. So you have to wait," said Dudley.

But she says not every trip to the airport is fraught with delays. She's travelled a few times over the last couple of months and has only had problems once. 

"It's not all the time. It's random times in the day, it's different times of the week and it depends on the destination," said Dudley. 

Be prepared

Like Dimanche, Dudley isn't suggesting people hold off on international travel. She just recommends passengers manage their expectations, be prepared, and be patient.

"I've asked my clients to have their carry-ons ready in case they do have to be in the airport for a long time," she said. Travellers should put necessary medications, a change of clothes, and something to keep them entertained in their carry-ons.

Dudley says this is especially important if you're travelling with children or someone with mobility issues. 

Dudley says staffing shortages are adding to wait times at major Canadian airports. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

She is also strongly recommending her clients have travel insurance and has even turned away travellers who refused to purchase it. She says this is key for people travelling to parts of Europe, who may have to deal with the turmoil caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

COVID-19 restrictions

While many countries have opened up and restrictions are minimal, COVID-19 still looms over many travel plans. Dimanche says COVID-19 shouldn't be too much of a concern, as long as you do your research first. 

"I think the situation seems to be under control in most countries around the world," said Dimanche. 

"Be looking before you go to the destination that you intend to go to. Look at the health situation there, look at the COVID infection rate and look at what the country is requiring you to do."

Dimanche said a lot of people are still caught not realizing they need a COVID-19 test to enter some countries, so it's important to check ahead of a trip, especially as rules change. 

Passengers should arrive at airports early and expect delays, say travel experts. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Dudley acknowledges people have different levels of comfort, but she's personally avoiding parts of Florida, and during a layover in Miami, she kept her mask on. She's also had clients come back from Las Vegas with the virus. 

She's also not recommending anyone take cruises yet. 

"I still think we have to be a little precautious or at least understand what the risks are if you're going to destinations that are overly populated and there's no way to social distance," said Dudley.

She said travellers should especially be cautious in the days before a trip to avoid getting COVID-19 and then having to cancel a trip.

Summer road trips

A good old-fashioned summer road trip can be an option for some Canadians who are looking for a vacation but worry about airports and COVID-19. 

And while a road trip can avoid some of those challenges, Dimanche says that it won't be much easier on your wallet. 

"The prices of gas have gone up dramatically, so people who are on a budget may have to calculate and pay attention. You know, the price of travelling in Canada is not cheap," said Dimanche.

Tourism expert Frédéric Dimanche says road trips in Canada may avoid some travel issues, but may not be any cheaper than travelling abroad. (KieferPix/Shutterstock)

"If people are concerned about the budget they may find that it's not going to be more expensive to travel abroad than it would be to stay in Canada."

With summer just around the corner, Dimanche recommends deal-hungry travellers not base their trips on last-minute deals. 

"I would certainly encourage you to book soon now because, you know, it's very possible that those prices will keep will keep going up," said Dimanche.

Written by Philip Drost. Produced by Steve Howard.

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