After 562 long days, I finally made the trip back ‘home’ to my happy place.
Here’s how I travelled from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.
Before I start telling you about my journey, I need to be very clear that this was MY EXPERIENCE. I will provide the links I used to investigate my options, but it’s important that you also do your own research. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that things can change quickly! I only hope that my experience can help provide you some guidance and reassurance that it is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.
My trip dates were August 8, 2021 to September 4, 2021 and I was flying with WestJet from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando, Florida. The land border was still closed at this time and driving was not an option.
Before leaving Canada you must have negative covid test to enter the United States. The airlines are responsible for validating that passengers have met the criteria before letting you board the plane. The most up to date requirements can be found on the CDC website.
For my trip the requirements were:
Get a viral test no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
Notice that it says 3 days? I stressed about the hours vs days and under the frequently asked questions they detail why –
The 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 3-day timeframe instead of 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the traveler. By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered.
They even have examples of the days of the week to help you calculate your “3 days” if you need.
Here’s where I got paranoid – What types of tests are acceptable?
Here’s what it says on the CDC website:
Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Examples of available NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 include but are not restricted to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA), nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR), and helicase-dependent amplification (HDA).
Since I failed science in school – this was major anxiety for me. I read it so many times it started to look like a different language to me. What if I got the wrong test?
I decided (after reading it 32 more times) that the Shoppers Drug Mart $40 test was what I needed. What made me nervous was that they call it “Rapid Antigen Screening” and not TEST – the CDC says “antigen test”.
I got tested on the Thursday night after work before my Sunday flight. The requirements for the test results:
A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:
- Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
- Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
- Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.
- Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
- Test Result
I got my test result and validated it all before leaving the drug store.
I was still stressing over the difference between “test” and “screening”, so I tweeted WestJet to confirm. At first they directed me to the CDC site – but I had to clarify.
The other thing that is a little hidden on the CDC site that you should have:
“Air passengers will also be required to confirm that the information they present is true in the form of an attestation.”
You can find the attestation here on the CDC site. It says that this would be submitted to the airline.
On the Sunday of my flight, my arrival at the airport was the same as always, with the added benefit of some MASSIVE anxiety. I was nervous about it all, what if I got the wrong covid test? What if they said I couldn’t go? What if I caught covid in the airport? Honestly, 18 months in my house had brought back every ounce of anxiety I ever had.
The energy at the airport was a bit chaotic. At the check-in machines, the WestJet representative that was helping me get my luggage tags said “Ok, you have everything? Your passport, boarding pass and negative covid test?” I replied that I did and I was on my way.
It is possible for Canadians to get back to Walt Disney World.
I dropped off my luggage and headed toward security. The Nexus line wasn’t open that morning. With Nexus you don’t have to take your laptop out of the bag or your shoes off – so I forgot my laptops. After a full screening of my bag and the contents I was on my way to customs.
At customs I had a lovely lady who asked the purpose of my trip. I told her mostly pleasure and a little business doing social media. She asked for my passport and I was fumbling everything. Our conversation:
Customs: Relax, take your time, there’s no rush
Me: I’m so anxious you would think I’ve never travelled before in my life
Customs: Don’t worry – EVERYONE feels that way right now
That conversation was so reassuring to me for some reason. It was nice to know everyone was feeling the same way.
After customs I headed to the gate. There were many families with children and solo travellers – quite a mixture of people.
When boarding began the gate agent checked my passport and asked me to lower my mask to see my face. Her only question was “Oh, your hair is longer – covid hair?” We had a giggle about covid pounds and she told me to have a nice flight.
As I was getting on the plane they handed me a disinfecting towel to wipe down my seat.
Masks were on always at the airport and on the plane unless you were eating or drinking. I didn’t notice anyone without their mask for my entire journey from the curb to the plane.
The other thing that didn’t happen? Not one person asked to see my negative covid test! Not customs, not the gate agent – no one!! Now that is not the norm. My friends were all asked at the gate and a few were asked a couple of times, but I wasn’t asked at all. It’s funny how much I stressed and never had to show it. My friends all got the same test as I did so I am confident it was the right one.
Once on the plane, the lady behind me said to her daughter who was afraid of flying “It’s mind over matter” – that’s what my Mum used to always tell me and it gave me such an odd sense of comfort.
When the plane took off I got teary. I was FINALLY headed home to Walt Disney World! After 562 long days in my house, this Canadian Disney fanatic was finally on her way. I would never take it for granted again that I could hop on a plane and get to Disney whenever I wanted.
Arrival in Orlando was so familiar. When I saw that carpet I got a little teary again. That carpet at the Orlando Airport is iconic!
Hopefully my journey gave you some insight (and dare I say hope) for travelling from Toronto to Orlando during Covid.
For your research – I found the best resources were:
- Your airline – make sure you understand the requirements specific to the airline including testing. When they say arrive early – do it. The lines are LONG with all of the extra questions they are asking.
- The CDC – use this site for all requirements to the United States.
- The Government of Canada website to ensure you have met the requirements for travelling. You should always read all of the advisories before you travel
Traveling at this time is not for everyone, I’m not going to encourage or discourage anyone. This should be a personal decision based on your own comfort level.
If you do decide to travel, make sure you do your research, be well prepared, have realistic expectations and have FUN!
On podcast episode 110 I shared my adventures as well – if you’d like to have a listen, you can find it here.
I have the full report on my return to Canada from Orlando HERE.
What questions do you have about travelling to Orlando from Canada?