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What It’s Like to Travel to Canada as a Fully Vaccinated American with Unvaccinated Kids

travel to canada for vaccinated americans

Are you thinking of traveling to Canada? Not sure what is required when crossing the border to Canada from the United States? The Canadian Border is now open to Americans for non-essential travel and Americans who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to quarantine when they travel to Canada. When I heard the good news, my husband and I immediately started to plan a trip to Canada to visit family in Toronto. We decided to bring our kids with us to Canada (my son is unvaccinated and my daughter is fully vaccinated). Below I’m sharing with you my experience on what it’s like to travel to Canada as a fully Vaccinated American with unvaccinated kids.

Traveling to Canada from the US with an Unvaccinated Child

My kids have not seen their grandparents since 2019, so when the Canadian government announced they are opening their borders to Americans for non-essential travel, we immediately started planning our family reunion! Since my son is unvaccinated, we decided the safest way for us to travel to Canada is to drive. We drove from New York to Toronto.

Two Things to Do Before Traveling to Canada

As a fully vaccinated person traveling into Canada, there are two things that you need to do before you travel to Canada: 1.) You need to get a Covid-19 test and 2.) You need to upload your Covid-19 proof of vaccination to ArriveCan.

1. Get a Covid-19 Test Before Traveling to Canada

Before you can enter Canada, all travelers age 5 years or older must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. There is no exemption for fully vaccinated travelers. That means everyone (whether you are fully vaccinated or unvaccinated) must provide a negative Covid-19 test result when entering Canada. The COVID-19 test must be taken within 72 hours prior to your scheduled flight to Canada or 72 hours prior to entry to Canada if you are driving. Make sure you select the correct Covid-19 test in order to enter Canada. Antigen tests are not accepted for entry to Canada. PCR and NAAT tests are acceptable Covid-19 tests for entry into Canada. Please check their website for a complete list of acceptable Covid-19 test before traveling to Canada.

I made appointments to get our Covid-19 test at our local CVS. It was easy to schedule a Covid-19 test online. Just make sure to select PCR/NAAT test and not Antigen test when you make your Covid-19 test appointment at CVS. You will receive results within 1-2 days for the PCR/NAAT test at CVS. The Covid-19 test results will be uploaded to MyChart which you should print out to bring to the border for entry to Canada. CVS is not always good in notifying you when your test results are ready, so I suggest you log into MyChart frequently to manually check for your Covid-19 test results.

Make sure you have the following information on your Covid-19 test results print out.

  • Name and date of birth
  • Name and address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
  • The date on which the test was conducted
  • The type of test conducted
  • The test result

2. Upload Your Proof of Covid-19 Vaccination to ArriveCan

ArriveCan is an app that you need to download prior to traveling to Canada. You will be able to register and log in prior to your arrival date to Canada. If you are traveling as a family, have one family member register everyone in ArriveCan. You will be prompted to upload proof of Covid-19 vaccination into ArriveCan. It was a simple process uploading the Covid vaccine cards. All Covid-19 vaccines administered in the US (Pfizer, Moderna and J&J) are accepted for travel to Canada. There is a list of Covid-19 vaccines that are not accepted for travel to Canada. One thing to note is although fully vaccinated travelers are not required to quarantine upon arrival in Canada, you will still need to give a quarantine plan in case any member of your family has to quarantine in Canada. In our case, we have relatives in Canada so we said we will quarantine in one of my relative’s vacant home if the need to quarantine arises (that family member has agreed to vacate their home to let us quarantine).

Can You Travel to Canada with Unvaccinated Children?

You can travel to Canada with unvaccinated children. My son is too young to be vaccinated so we were worried that we had to quarantine him in Canada. It would have been a hassle to have to quarantine my son when everyone else in the family were fully vaccinated and did not have to quarantine. Fortunately, when you travel to Canada with an unvaccinated child who is less than 12 years old, the child does not need to quarantine if accompanied by fully vaccinated travelers. Note that if you are traveling with an unvaccinated youth ages 12-17 years old, they are not exempt from quarantine (that means they need to be quarantined!) Fortunately, my teen daughter is fully vaccinated so she does not have to quarantine in Canada. Since we are all fully vaccinated, my son is exempt from the quarantine requirements in Canada. The only thing that he needs to do because he is unvaccinated is he is required to do the arrival Covid-19 test and the Day 8 Covid-19 test. Before traveling to Canada, make sure to check the latest guidance for traveling to Canada with an unvaccinated child under 12 years old.

Canada Border Crossing Experience: Entering Canada from the US

I was anticipating long lines at the border crossing to Canada. When we reached the Canadian border, I was pleasantly surprised to see only 3 cars ahead of us! We entered Canada from the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. I was also expecting an extra lengthy border crossing Q&A but the Canadian border officer asked standard questions like who we are visiting, for how long are we staying in Canada and when was the last time we visited Canada. Then he examined our passports and the print-outs of our negative Covid-19 test results. He didn’t even ask to see the actual Covid vaccine card. Perhaps because we already uploaded it on ArriveCan. He then gave us two Covid-19 testing kits. The Covid-19 test kits were for my unvaccinated son since he was not exempt from the testing requirements. The first Covid-19 test kit was for the arrival testing and the second Covid-19 test kit was for the Day 8 testing.

Pro tip: You can check real time border traffic conditions of all the bridges to Canada.

Covid-19 Arrival Testing in Canada

Since my son was unvaccinated, he was required to go through Covid-19 testing in Canada- a Covid-19 arrival test and a Covid-19 Day 8 test. For the Covid-19 arrival test, we had the choice to do the test at the testing facility near the Canadian border or to do the Covid-19 test at home within 24 hours upon entry to Canada. We decided to do the test at the testing facility near the Canadian border. The Covid-19 testing facility in Ontario is located a few exits away from the Peace Bridge. It is a drive-thru Covid-19 test so you don’t need to get out of your car. When we arrived at the Covid-19 testing facility, a greeter asked me to register my son in the Switch Health website (Switch Health is the company administering the Covid-19 test). After completing the online registration, I drove up to the Covid-19 testing tent and a nurse walked us through the test. My son did the swab himself while the nurse counted. Then the nurse walked me through the labeling and how to put the swab into the test tube. He then collected the test tube and told me to log into Switch Health website to view my son’s test results a few days later. Overall, it was an easy process.

Travel to Canada with Unvaccinated Kids

Covid-19 Day 8 Testing in Canada

Unvaccinated travelers to Canada must get a Covid-19 test on Day 8. Few days prior to Day 8, I received several text reminders for my son to do his Covid-19 Day 8 testing. The Day 8 testing is a telehealth visit with a nurse who will walk you through the Covid-19 testing. I was assigned a 1pm to log in appointment for my son’s Covid-19 test. Even though they assign you an appointment time, you can log in early. I logged in early at 10am and I was able to talk to a nurse after being placed in a waiting room for a few minutes. When I logged in, there were 38 people in front of me in the waiting room but it took less than 10 minutes before it was my turn. Similar to our experience at the testing facility near the Canadian border, my son did the swab himself and the nurse counted with him. Then the nurse walked me through the labeling, putting the swab in the test tube, sealing the box and putting the box in the addressed envelope. I had the option of scheduling a pickup or to drop off the package at a drop off location. I opted to schedule a pickup. It was easy and seamless. I received my son’s Covid-19 Day 8 test results 2 days later.

Additional Information for Vaccinated Americans Traveling to Canada

Are Vaccinated Travelers to Canada Exempt from Covid-19 Testing?

Fully vaccinated travelers to Canada are exempt from the Covid-19 Arrival testing and the Covid-19 Day 8 testing. However, fully vaccinated travelers are not exempt from the pre-entry Covid-19 testing. Everyone over the age of 5 regardless of vaccination status need to present a proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to entering Canada. The Covid-19 test must be administered within 72 hours of entry to Canada.

Are Vaccinated Americans Required to Quarantine in Canada?

Fully vaccinated Americans traveling to Canada are not required to quarantine in Canada. Unvaccinated children under 12 years old accompanied by fully vaccinated travelers are also not required to quarantine in Canada.

Family Friendly Hotels in Toronto

Looking for family friendly hotels in Toronto. Below you will find family friendly hotels in Toronto that we love.

hotel x toronto
Rooftop Pool at Hotel X Toronto
Photo Credit: Hotel X Toronto

Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection

If you are looking for a family friendly hotel in Toronto with a lot of outdoor kid friendly activities, then you will enjoy staying at Hotel X Toronto. Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection is a waterfront hotel overlooking Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto. Your kids will love swimming at the hotel’s rooftop pool. It’s also steps away from Ontario Place, a waterfront park where you can rent canoes and kayaks or just run around the park with the kids. When the pandemic is over, come back and use their family friendly hotel amenities such as their 3000 square feet Kids Play Centre, Movie Theater and Athletic Facilities. Hotel X Toronto is also centrally located in downtown Toronto, near family friendly tourist attractions like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and Hockey Hall of Fame. Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection is located at 111 Princes’ Blvd, Toronto, ON.

Chelsea Hotel Toronto

Chelsea Hotel is a family friendly hotel in Toronto. Your kids will love going down the largest waterslide in downtown Toronto. Chelsea Hotel’s corkscrew waterslide is 130 feet long that loops around the hotel into the hotel’s indoor family pool (there is a separate adult-only pool for grownups). Chelsea Hotel Toronto is also within walking distance to many popular Toronto attractions such as the Royal Ontario Museum and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. Chelsea Hotel Toronto is located at 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto, Ontario. 

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