A Year Later and the Land Border Remains Closed to Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians eagerly awaiting the green flag to start their exodus across the U.S./Canadian border still don’t know when they will be allowed to travel south

As with Robert Frost’s two paths diverging in the woods, the COVID pandemic has hit a fork in the road for Canadian snowbirds.

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in Arizona. Pictured above is Canyon Vista RV Resort in Gold Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed tremendously since our last winter in the U.S. Sunbelt which seems like so long ago. If you had told me that the land border to the United States would be closed for not just one winter but for two, I would have told you that was a bad joke. As it turns out…NOT!

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens have been able to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes for more than a month now. But the American side of the border remains closed to Canadians wanting to enter the U.S.

Though the closure has been ongoing for 18 months—since March 2020—the ban doesn’t apply to air travel. Absolute frustration is what it is. The biggest problem for snowbirds is why are you allowed to fly with 300 other people in a plane but you can’t drive in your own vehicle?

Many Canadian snowbirds winter on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Pictured above is Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bull Head City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

News of the land border restrictions for Canadians being extended came on the same day that the White House announced its plans to begin opening air travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. Since more than one million Canadians make the trek down south every year and 70 percent of snowbirds travel to the U.S. with their vehicles, the majority of Canadian Snowbirds are impacted. For some reason, Canadians with an RV are in a different situation; they usually spend about $20,000 when they winter in the U.S.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Coachella Valley (California). Pictured above is Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it still isn’t clear if, or when, Canadian citizens will be allowed to travel across the border. The prohibition on non-essential travel from Canada has been extended until at least October 21. The bottom line is those who want to leave prior to this day are not going anywhere and they must wait for another 30 days and see what happens then. Snowbirds had held off booking winter reservations in Canada (mostly the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island) in hopes that the U.S. would finally ease border restrictions that have been in place since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020. But with the White House announcing that restrictions at the land border on non-essential travel by Canadians will be extended another month, snowbirds are concerned that it will not open in time to drive south.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter along the Texas Coastal Bend. Pictured above is Sea Breeze RV Resort in Portland (near Corpus Christi) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waiting another month or two to see whether the land border will open means dealing with winter driving conditions, or at worst, spending winter on the frigid prairies or snow-bound Ontario.

My confusion, and that of most other snowbirds, is trying to understand why I can fly, but not drive. And that is still my frustration! Driving seems to be much safer than going in and out of busy airports.

I’ll soon be basking in the sunshine (not likely) as we prep ourselves for a second winter in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We’ll spend the winter in a campground at Fort Langley, less than 50 miles east of Vancouver.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Pictured above is Bentsen Palm Village in Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping has been running a winter program for a decade but last winter they had a bunch of new people come from the Prairies and as far east as Ontario and Quebec who would normally drive their RV to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The Lower Mainland of British Columbia may not be the best place for old people. For weeks on end, it was cloudy and rained incessantly. Decades ago research in Holland found a strong relationship between hours of sunlight in winter and the mortality rate among seniors: The more sunlight, the lower the death rate, and vice versa.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it has two meritorious features: The campground sits on an island in the Fraser River with numerous walking paths and hiking trails both inside the campground and on the outer reaches of the island on the Tavistock Trail. And the campground is within easy walking distance of the Village (Fort Langley) with its unique shops, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. I welcome the variety of choices.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”