Flocks of snowbirds heading south this winter

Eric from Lindsay, Ontario waits in Sarnia at the Walmart plaza for the Blue Water Bridge to open to vaccinated Canadian travellers. November 7, 2021 Photo by Melanie Irwin.

The Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that 90 per cent of snowbirds are planning to travel south this winter.

In an interview with Sarnia News Today, Director of Research and Communications Evan Rachkovsky admits the percentage is significantly higher than in 2020.

“Last year we had approximately 30 per cent of snowbirds that ended up traveling to the U.S.,” said Rachkovsky. “So, with the border reopening, with the effective COVID-19 vaccinations now out, and most snowbirds of course are inoculated against COVID-19, we are anticipating a 60 per cent jump in travel to the U.S. this year.”

Rachkovsky said the membership has really welcomed the easing of land border restrictions.

“Approximately 70 per cent of Canadian snowbirds travel to the U.S. using their Canadian vehicles and based on those statistics, it’s very important for that land border to be open in order for them to be able to drive their vehicles to their winter destinations.”

He said the association’s number one tip is to purchase travel insurance before you leave and read the policy carefully.

“What we’re noticing is there are certain travel medical insurance providers out there that are capping or placing limits on the amount of money that they’re going to reimburse for COVID-19 related emergencies.”

Rachkovsky said the policy could have an overall health benefit of one million dollars and stipulate that anything COVID-19 related, might be limited to a $100,000 payout.

“If you do see anything like that, if you do see a cap, you should step away from that policy and find one that does not place those kinds of caps. People should be travelling with at least a million dollars of coverage, and that coverage does need to cover anything COVID-19 related as well.”

As for the remaining ten per cent not ready to pack their bags, Rachkovsky said it’s not uncommon.

“There are people every year, not just in a pandemic year, that decide not to travel anymore. We get that annually. People, due to age, or due to health reasons, decide not to travel. There are of course some individuals now who are going to decide not to travel, because they’re not comfortable even with the vaccines and even with the health and safety protocols.”

Eric from Lindsay, Ontario was one of many snowbirds waiting in Sarnia’s Walmart parking Sunday night, counting down the minutes to cross the Blue Water Bridge at midnight.

“We have put our life on hold for 19 months,” he told Sarnia News Today. “We were supposed to go last year. We had to cancel everything, and we just stayed in Ontario for the winter. We sold our home and retired the day the border closed, that’s why I say, we had to cancel everything. We had planned to go down to Myrtle Beach, Florida, Texas, California, back up the coast into B.C. [British Columbia] and back home.”