Canadian travelers, particularly retirees headed to U.S. sunspots, flocked to the U.S. land border on Monday to drive across for the first time in 20 months, although testing requirements could dampen short-stay travel.
The United States first imposed a travel ban in early 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, barring access to most non-U.S. citizens traveling from 33 countries — including China, India and much of Europe — and restricting overland entry from Mexico and Canada.
On Monday, packed intercontinental flights touched down, while the U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada also saw families reunite.
“This whole half of my life has been missing for almost two years,” said Janet Simoni, who lives in London, Ontario and whose husband lives on the other side of the U.S.-Canada border near Detroit, Michigan.
Normally they see each other on weekends and vacation together but for almost two years they were separated. The two missed major milestones including a graduation and funeral, she said.
The news of the border’s reopening unleashed “tremendous pent-up demand,” said Marty Firestone, whose travel insurance agency saw business up 25% last month compared to October 2019 – much of it from snowbirds.
“When the announcement came out (that the U.S. border was opening) they were like, ‘I’m out of here.'”
Most travelers are required to show proof of vaccination in both directions. Some U.S. states also require a negative COVID-19 test. Canada requires a negative PCR test.
The PCR test requirement is deterring some short journeys, such as cross-border day-trippers looking for Black Friday deals, said Firestone.
On Friday Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the testing requirement was “actively being looked at.” The Public Health Agency of Canada did not immediately respond to questions about what might influence such a decision.
According to Statistics Canada, three-quarters of Canadian trips to the United States in 2019 were by car. That year Canadians made 21.5 million same-day car trips across the border.