What’s new in snowbird travel?
Presenting trends, studies, news, advice and factoids for southbound Canadians
Crossing the border: know the rules
If you are a snowbird, an apple a day can result in … a big fat fine.
U.S. customs officials have been known to take their responsibility to police the entry of foods into their country seriously. Snowbird journalist Milan Korcok, writing online, advises, “ Never, ever, ever, try to enter the U.S. without declaring any and all foods you have. There are heavy fines if you are caught.
“I personally know of Canadian travellers who were hit with a $300 fine for not declaring an apple they left forgotten in the trunk, and then had their car inspected with all sorts of devices to see if they had any other ‘contraband’ on board. You must declare everything.
I personally make it a habit of never crossing the border into the U.S. or Canada with any food on board and being able to declare so honestly. It’s just not worth the trouble and time loss to me.”
For information on permitted foods, visit the U.S. customs and border patrol website at cbp.gov.
That site also offers advice on such topics as border wait times and taking a pleasure boat or private plane over the border.
New 10-year ePassport on the way
Canadian Snowbird Association president Bob Slack has reported on lobbying efforts to keep the cost of the new 10-year electronic passports to a minimum.
In May, Slack and CSA executive director Michael Mackenzie testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa on plans to introduce new, electronic, security-enhanced passports. Until now, Canada has offered only five-year passports with a renewal cost of $87.
“While we appreciate the recent efforts that Passport Canada has made to increase customer service, getting a passport is not exactly the most pleasant thing that people could do with their day and it remains particularly challenging for many seniors in small communities,” Slack wrote in the summer edition of the CSA News.
Comparisons were made to the $233 that Australia charges for a 10-year ePassport; the $135 cost of a U.S. ePassport; and the U.K.’s charge of $122. In the end, Passport Canada has proposed a cost of $160 for the new 10-year ePassport, and $120 for a new five-year document.
Slack reports that the transition to the new passports will begin before the end of 2012 and starting in the spring of 2013, all new Canadian passports will be electronic.
Florida, California are 1, 2 for snowbirds
Statistics compiled by Statistics Canada last year indicate how much Florida dominates travel by Canadians to southern states.
Florida, with over three-million visitors by Canadians, is more than twice as popular as next-best California.
The figures also illustrate that snowbirds tends to spend weeks on their vacations to Florida and Arizona but use Nevada, with its gambling opportunities in Las Vegas, for quick pleasure hops.
A Conference Board of Canada survey from June 2012 indicates that 29 per cent of Canadians intend to visit the United States on their longest winter vacation trip, an increase from the 28 per cent in the June 2011 survey. Canadians made 7.6-million trips to the U.S. between Nov.1, 2011 and April 30, 2012. Leisure trips to the U.S. during winter 2012/13 are forecast to increase 7.4 per cent.
Estimates for 2011 from Visit Florida show a 3.0-per-cent increase in domestic visitors to Florida, a 5.7-per-cent increase in Canadian visitors and a 16.1-per-cent increase in overseas visitors.
The information below is for 2010.
• Florida, 3,102,000 overnight visits by Canadians, 17.4 nights per visit
• California, 1,451,000 visits, 9.4 nights per visit
• Nevada, 1,366,000 visits, 4.5 nights per visit
• Arizona, 650,000 visits by Canadians, 17.4 nights per visit
• Virginia, 573,000 visits, 3.4 nights per visit.
Mexico vies for more Canadians
The Canadian travel website OpenJaw reported on Sept. 7 that Mexico is making a push to double the number of Canadian visitors within five years.
Speaking on a cross-country road show, Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, COO of the Mexico Tourism Board, said the Mexican tourist plan is to emphasize cultural experiences away from the beach.
Reports OpenJaw, “Canada is Mexico’s second-largest source of tourists, with 1.6-million Canadians representing 17.5 per cent of total visitors to the country. “Worldwide, about a third of travellers say they are seeking cultural experiences in their journeys. For Mexico, however, just 19 per cent cite cultural reasons for their visit.
“The average per stay spend by Canadians in Mexico is $2,000 and the MTB wants to see that figure rise along with an increase in Canadian visitors.”
Lopez-Negrete says the MTB will encourage travel agents to work to counter negative stereotypes and present facts to prove that Mexico is not a dangerous destination in relative terms.
Lopez-Negrete says he would like to see four-million Canadian visitors to Mexico within five years.
Bikers head to Daytona Biketoberfest
Attention motorbikers: Biketoberfest, Oct. 18-21, is an international event that attracts motorcycle enthusiasts from throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe to the Daytona Beach area. Festivities include motorcycle races, charity rides, street festivals and expos. The event takes place at various locations throughout the Daytona Beach area. Biketoberfest has been designated a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event. biketoberfest.org.
Median age of Florida visitors rises
The typical traveller to Florida has aged in the past five years, according to statistics compiled by D.K. Shifflet and Associates for Visit Florida.
The median age of the domestic visitor to the state was 43.0 in 2006 but by 2010 the media age was a full two years older.
Travel insurance an absolute must
Torstar’s insurance website insurancehotline.com offers compelling arguments for purchasing travel insurance before departing on a trip south of the border.
While most provinces have an agreement to provide medical care to residents of other provinces while visiting, there is no such agreement outside Canada’s borders. Travel health insurance is the only way to ensure you won’t be stuck with a large medical bill if you get sick or are in an accident. It will also help pay for additional costs associated with a medical emergency in another country, such as lodging for family members and more.
While many people feel that paying for a travel insurance plan is a cost they don’t want to add to their travel budget, consider the cost of not having this coverage instead. Hospitalization in another country can quickly add up to thousands of dollars out of pocket, and that’s just the hospital. There is also the cost of ambulance services, lodging for family members who might stay longer than intended while you are cared for, or the cost of travel expenses to fly you back home for continued treatment.
And it doesn’t take a medical emergency to cost you a lot of money. If you are forced to cancel a trip for any reason, you could lose the money spent on a flight as well as any non-refundable hotel fees. This could add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Many people assume that the airline will be responsible for lost baggage costs or hotel charges required when a flight is cancelled but that’s not always the case. You could be out several hundred dollars if you have to pay for a hotel and food while stuck somewhere due to bad weather – and as for the cost of your luggage, it’s easy to see how that can add up fast, advises insurancehotline.com.