Travel has changed in the time before, during, and “after” the pandemic. I noticed many differences in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Here’s what I jotted down during my trips in the hopes you and I may find it useful in the future:
- Masks: last year everyone wore masks during travel, save for when they ate. There were a few idiots who resisted, but mostly people stayed masked. Not now. In 2023, a few people wore masks, but not many. They are no longer mandatory anywhere going to Canada to the US. I think I would have been comfortable wearing a mask in 2023, but I did not.
- Testing: in the middle of the pandemic you had to get tested before you departed and when you returned. You had to upload that information as well as your vaccine status into various travel apps if you were using them. So far this year you don’t have to do any of that.
- Bags: baggage continues to be a problem. Expect to pay for all non carry on luggage. Once you could use the kiosk to get your luggage tag. Now some if not all airlines insist you go to a staffer who will weigh your bag and may charge you regardless of its weight. (Remember when lighter bags were free?) As a result people have these smaller roller bags that fit overhead. But now there are more of these bags than there are spaces for them, airlines are making some travellers check their bags (for free for now) at the gate. (This can be a problem if you have only a short time to get to your connecting flight.) Small carry on bags continue to be free for now but you want to insure they fit under the seat: you may get to your seat to find you cannot squeeze it in over you.
- Boarding passes: you can print your boarding pass at home, but consider doing it at the airport. My printer wasn’t good enough to print the code on it: luckily you can download a QR code in some apps and use that. I did. (Consider taking a screen grab of that QR code: you can show that picture to get through, which is less trouble than displaying it via the app.)
- Fees/services: Airlines continue to ever slice and dice their service and charge you for everything. (See my bag comment above. Also you can pay to change your seat, get a bigger seat, etc.) The levels of service are ridiculous also. Once you just had first class and economy. Then business class. Now there can be five or more classes. Very classy! 🙂 Pretty soon you might pay by the square footage you take up. As for food, I was surprised how little was available even on 2 hour flights. Consider bringing food onboard: you can’t be certain you’ll get much more than almonds and water.
- Variability: on my recent trip I was on four different types of planes while travelling to the US. One flight had wide seats that had entertainment (TV, music, movies, games) on them (bring headphones and something to charge your phone). Others had tiny seats I could barely fit into and no entertainment. Other variations: the airline moved me from one seat to another. They kept me in an aisle, but I was surprised to see I moved in the time I had printed my boarding pass. So keep an eye out for that. Of course check for gate changes too.
- Apps: one thing that is getting better are the airline apps. Get the airline app for the airline you will be travelling on. They will have lots of helpful info in it, including your boarding pass, where your plane is (is it at the gate or on the way), your seat and gate, etc.
- Security: security seems better…maybe because there are more agents than the worst of the pandemic. Try and have empty pockets before you get to the bins to dump your stuff. Take out your computer and put it in a separate bin with your electronics. Take off all your coats and sweaters, even boots and belts and watches and anything with a hint of metal. I like to have no liquids on me whatsoever, and take an empty bottle to get water later.
- Canadian customs: still not great but better. In 2022 it was very slow. In 2023 it was very fast. They got rid of the desks the staff sat at and had many of them prepared to deal with you quickly. Not sure that will continue, but it was good to experience this time.
- Declarations: For people who haven’t travelled in awhile, you no longer have to fill out a declaration card in Toronto. Instead you go to this goofy machine in the custom area, insert your passport, wait for it to take a bad photo of you, and then gets you to declare, upon which it spits out a declaration sheet you give to Canadian customs. (If the machine isn’t automatically reading your passport just go to another one quickly. I’ve had a few bad machines.) As of now the amount you are allowed for under a week but more than a day or two is $800. I still remember the days it was $200.
- US customs: if you go to the US regularly, get a Nexus card. It makes a huge difference. Otherwise after you get through security, you will need to go through the slow process of going through US customs. Before you get to an agent, know where you are going, why you are going there (business, vacation), the address of where you are staying and how you know the people you are staying with. One women ahead of me did not know this and kept changing her answer and this got her into a lot of trouble. Be brief, polite and consistent.
(I said “after” the pandemic because it feels like we are through the pandemic in February 2023, even though our problems from COVID-19 are not done.)
P.S. BlogTO recently did a piece on what it’s like to fly on the new planes from Porter Airlines, and the service described was similar to what I experienced for several of the planes, down to this:
Ok, some of the planes had more room than this (thank god), but airlines need to back off a bit. Anyway you can see why I try to get an aisle seat. 🙂