For Canadian Travellers: US Travel Future is Upbeat, But Do Your Homework

With the US economy booming, thanks to a surging stock market, record low unemployment, rising wages, and sharply lowered personal and corporate taxes, consumers are showing a growing confidence about spending more of their family budgets on travel.

According to the most recent report by international business consulting firm Deloitte: of the six major segments that comprise the US travel industry (airlines, lodging, car rentals, cruises, rail, and travel packaging), a strong five per cent growth is forecast for 2018, setting the USA travel industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end.

For Canadian travellers, who make about 25 million overnight trips to the US annually (that doesn’t count day trippers crossing over for a few hours), that means an expanding choice of locations and activity interests at all price levels; competitive (cheaper) airline fares; more hospitality and dining options—in short, more bang for your buck. All you have to do is pray for an avoidance of last year’s weather catastrophes.

With February “Family Day” holidays, spring breaks, and ultimately another summer vacation season on the horizon (distant, but enticing), there are a few markers you need to pay attention to when planning out-of-country trips—even those to your closest neighbour, the US.


Border crossings

Make sure you keep track of your days spent in the US—even short shopping or sports events and trips of less than one day. They all count, and the new shared cross-border technologies are allowing all those days to be counted.


Keep passports up to date—for US domestic travel too

Canadians have a pretty good record for maintaining and renewing passports. Approximately 66 per cent of Canadian citizens have them compared to only 40 per cent of Americans. Part of that differential is caused by the proximity Americans have to vacation locations. Whether it’s skiing, camping in a desert, hiking in the mountains, exploring urban high-life, or sunning on a beach, Americans can do it all without leaving home. However, that is changing, as more demands on personal identification are being put in place, and this might affect Canadians too—if you do not have an up-to-date passport.

As of January 22, 2018, in nine US states you will not be allowed to a board a plane—any plane, going to any domestic or international location—without showing a valid passport. State-issued IDs such as driver’s licences will not be accepted. For Canadians, nothing less than a passport will do. Those states are Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington. And you can be sure that more will follow. Keep up to date if you’re planning any trips to visit friends, or if you’re following your favorite hockey or baseball teams to some of their out-of-town games. Passports are becoming necessary carry-ons.


Travel insurance updates

Proof of travel insurance—not only the wallet card—is essential. America’s inability to rationalize its health care system only allows costs to soar, year after year. I often see hospital bills in the six figures for a four- or five-day admission. It happens, and it’s always unexpected.

To help the hospital admission or emergency personnel connect immediately with your insurer, carry your full policy package with you—all of your documents. Be prepared to show them to admitting staff. You may be asked for a deposit. Having recognized travel insurance documents may help you avoid such payments.

And read and know your policy—not only its benefits (that’s the easy part) but the exclusions, the definitions, and your own responsibilities and obligations.  This is a contract—that means it’s a two-way agreement. Give it as much care and examination as you would when making any other major purchase. You don’t need a lawyer. But you may need the help of your doctor if you have some medical conditions that require monitoring or chronic care.

You’re not just risking the $500 or $1,000 or $26 in premiums you have paid. You could be risking your life savings.  Make sure you know your policy. And buy it early enough that you can do your homework.


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