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Last week we travelled to Las Vegas for the first time since January 2020 and, although there are a few more hoops and hurdles to jump through, the experience felt very safe and we had a great time! We planned and prepared well in advance and now we want to give you our tips (and some tricks) to successfully travel to the USA for the first time.
Disclaimer: Our notes and experiences reflect the reality as of August 2021 and as everyone knows by now, rules, restrictions and processes are changing on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis. It is VERY important to always check with your trusted travel advisor prior to travelling to make sure you are up to speed on all the latest information on your destination's requirements and return to Canada protocols.
You must have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure
Currently, it is necessary to get a negative COVID-19 Antigen test within 72 hours of your departure to the USA. These tests are readily available at multiple Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies and cost $40. We tested out a few locations – some are walk-in with a first come, first serve system and others will allow you to make an appointment in advance. We recommend locating a pharmacy close to you and calling them to confirm:
One item to note: you are not required to be fully vaccinated (nor show proof of vaccination) to enter the USA however you must show this negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.
KEEP your negative COVID-19 antigen results with you when you check in!
It’s really important to have your results handy when you check-in. You will be asked to show the documented negative antigen test to the airline. If you are not checking baggage you will need to do this at the gate.
USA Passenger Disclosure and Attestation Document
In addition to your negative antigen test, you MUST also complete a USA Passenger Disclosure and Attestation Document. We flew with WestJet and this was already incorporated into our online check-in but we saw multiple people there scrambling to download and sign these forms prior to departure. Make it easy and stress-free – print a copy, sign it and bring it with you to the airport:
Departing from Pearson Airport
We have heard various reports from fellow travellers and advisors about long waits at the airport We were pleasantly surprised and we breezed through security, however, we were not checking any luggage and we were departing early in the morning. Take the advice of the airline and your travel advisor – arrive 3 hours early just to be certain!
At Toronto Pearson Airport
Once we were in the airport we felt crowds were manageable and everyone was masked. Social distancing markers were evident and seating was spaced out in the waiting areas. Not all restaurants and stores were open so be prepared for some lines or bring your own food onboard.
Is Las Vegas Back To Normal?
Las Vegas currently has a mask mandate which requires that masks be worn in all indoor locations, including casinos, bars and restaurants except when you are eating and drinking. We felt very safe with these protocols and there were disposable masks at almost every casino entrance. There were definitely fewer visitors in Las Vegas but the city still felt vibrant and definitely back in business.
We stayed at the beautiful Cosmopolitan Hotel, our favourite on the strip, and all amenities, restaurants and public spaces were back open. The pools were open and but not as busy as usual (it was over 40 degrees every day).
Yes, it is harder to walk through a casino with a drink in your hand and a mask but you definitely get used to it.
Many shows have returned - find out which ones are open here
To Return To Canada You Must Have Proof of a Negative Molecular (PCR) Test
Unfortunately one of the realities of travelling while still in the midst of COVID-19 is the requirement to get a negative COVID test within 72 hours of your return flight home to Canada. Unlike the testing requirements to enter the USA, Canada does not accept the antigen test and you will need to obtain a molecular test (PCR is the most popular.) There are other accepted types of molecular tests that can be found here.
At the moment you CAN book a PCR test right at the Cosmopolitan hotel but we found availability limited. Find out more information by contacting the Reviv clinic located right in the hotel. https://revivplus.com/diagnostic-testing/
Because we were unable to find a date and time that worked best with our return date we made an appointment off the strip with Phamtech in Las Vegas. This was a 10 minute Uber ride from our hotel and they had appointments every 5 minutes. (They are located at 3650 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 300, Las Vegas).
We were able to pay for the test in advance ($120 USD per person) and we received immediate confirmation with all the details for our appointment. The test was very quick and we received our results within 24 hours. You will receive an electronic receipt which you will want to save to upload to the ArriveCan app and show to Canadian Border control upon arrival.
Make your appointment with Phamtech here: https://www.phamatechlasvegas.com/
Enter your details into the ArriveCan App within 72 hours
Note: you cannot fill out your details until you are within 72 hours of departure
Once you are within your 72-hour window, open the app and you will be asked for details about your flight (including flight number). We recommend having all your flight details at your finger tips to make it as easy as possible. You will also be asked to take a photo of your passport (or Nexus card). During this process you will also be asked about your vaccination status and then asked to upload your vaccine certificates (both doses).
The ArriveCan app will also request that you answer questions regarding a potential arantine plan and, if you are not considered fully vaccinated, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days (although the mandatory hotel quarantine is no longer required).
You will get a receipt which you should screenshot for easy access, to show border officials as you go through customs upon your return to Canada.
Here's an example of the receipt:
Just as you did when you were departing for the USA, you will need to show the airline proof of your negative PCR test prior to boarding. You can do this when you check your bags or at the gate prior to boarding.
How To Get Your Vaccine Certificates / Receipts
If you don’t have a copy of your vaccine receipts you can easily download them from your provincial authority. In Ontario go to https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/ and use your health card to download your information.
Hint: save your receipts as photos on your phone and in a favourites folder since you will be using these receipts often over the next few months!
Arriving back to Canada
Once you arrive in Canada you will go through the standard entry process you are familiar with, however you will now be asked to show the receipt from your ArriveCan App AND your negative PCR test (again). Make sure to have both pieces of information available on your phone for quick access. (To prevent issues with wi-fi when you return, take a screenshot of this information and save it in your photos).
You will receive a sticker on your passport (if you are vaccinated) and allowed to exit. However, if you are unvaccinated, you will be required to either take an arrival COVID test right there or receive a home test kit. There is a secondary test required on day 8 of your mandatory quarantine.
For current information on Canadian arrival requirements check out: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid
It is SAFE to travel again – with a few extra steps
If you plan your vacation properly and follow the health and safety protocols, there is no reason why you can’t travel in 2021. Of course, this is a personal decision everyone must make based on their health and life circumstances.
If you DO decide to travel over the next few months, here are our final tips:
Right now we have a special promotion with Air Canada Vacations at select hotels and dates through 2021. Prices are per person and include your flight! Contact us ASAP to book into these promotions:
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