With children between five and 11 becoming eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19, some families are looking toward their first spring vacation in two years.
Of Sharon Stepaniuk's three children, Callum, 9, is the only one who remains unvaccinated. Stepaniuk is hoping that can change as soon as possible.
"We will be able to see family, feel more comfort and a little less worry," she said. "This is huge. So, yeah, I'm really excited that the vaccine is approved for kids."
Her focus is on having more of a normal Christmas, but she can't help but think about the possibility of her family going on a spring break vacation in March.
"I know that's not the most important thing in the world," Stepaniuk said. "There's lots of other privileges, but we are really excited to be able to finally potentially be able to go away and do that as a family."
Travel agencies in Edmonton have seen a rise in inquiries about booking out-of-country trips in March.
"It's another level that makes people feel a little more confident and comfortable with travel," said Rhonda Sveahun, leisure manager at Paull Travel. "So that has definitely been a really great, positive step in that direction. But there are still some hurdles to think about for families and travel."
One issue is the required COVID-19 tests for travellers returning to Canada.
Fully vaccinated travellers outside of the country for more than 72 hours are required to have a molecular test prior to returning to Canada, as well as taking an arrival test if selected.
"It's the extra cost coming back that they have to look at, depending on the size of the family and also the potential risk of maybe testing positive before coming back to Canada," Sveahun said.
There are currently provisions for children under 12 who are not fully vaccinated but are travelling with a vaccinated parent or guardian. They have additional testing requirements and restrictions for 14 days after they've arrived in the country.
At the Edmonton International Airport, traffic remains slow. Based on EIA's latest passenger statistics, this year 1.7 million travellers had passed through the terminal to the end of October.
In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 8.1 million passengers.
Travel agents expect more direct flights to sunny destinations south of the border will be added in 2022.
Nikola Berube, director of sales for AMA Travel, recommends families book early, check cancellation details and consider paying for travel insurance.
"What are your insurance coverage options?" she said. "And how can you be sure to protect your family, especially if something happens related to COVID, such as you might test positive and not be able to board your flight home?
"Really understand what insurance coverage you have in a situation like that," she said.