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The US and Canada have limited "non-essential" travel. What does that mean, practically? Is it possible for a vaccinated Canadian citizen with a valid passport to travel by air to the US and return? (Or the other way around.) If so, what exactly should they bring and do to ensure smooth travel?

The CDC appears to say that all you need is negative test within three-days, and a rapid antigen test is okay. COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada seems very vague, but they specifically disallow rapid antigen testing. Then there's apparently necessary ArriveCan; is there a US equivalent? Is there a specific, detailed list of measures in place, in addition to the regular travel checklist, specifically for Covid-19, that says exactly what is permitted and what is necessary?

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    Welcome to Travel! There are probably too many sub-questions in your question to make for a single definitive answer here, so I would recommend editing your question to focus on one part of it (either travel requirements or how to get tested) and ask the other part as a separate question. Oct 8 at 1:53
  • Also, I would recommend asking the local COVID-19 clinic whether their test is a rapid antigen test or a PCR test. They are more likely to have a definitive answer than anyone here. Oct 8 at 1:54
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Info is subject to change, but as the writing of my answer, here's a summary:

  • You can enter by air to the US even for non-essential travel. A COVID rapid test is enough to enter the US.
  • The non-essential ban to enter the US applies to land crossings only.
  • There is no equivalent of ArriveCan to enter the US.
  • To go back to Canada, you must get a test accepted by Canada (PCR/NAAT) no more than 72 hours before your arrival. Rapid tests are not accepted to enter Canada. Most free tests in the US are either PCR or NAAT and have a turnaround of less than 72 hours, so in principle this can be done free of charge.

Other criteria for travel must be met (e.g. not having visited certain countries, a reasonable reason to travel, etc). But for the most part as a Canadian you should be good to travel by air.

Government websites are sometimes dense, but the rules are constantly evolving, so they remain your best source.

Many airlines also have wizards to help you navigate requirements like this one from American Airlines.

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  • This is very clear and concise, exactly what I was looking for. Assume "accepted to enter the US" should be Canada?
    – Neil
    Oct 8 at 23:08
  • @Neil that's correct, I fixed that. I also amended about how old the test needs to be -- no more than 72 hours. On the other hand, I removed the note this test needs to be done in the USA -- for very short trips it's fine to get tested in Canada beforehands.
    – chx
    Oct 9 at 19:05
  • Expanded the answer by mentioning that NAAT tests are accepted as well and that you can use free US tests for this purpose.
    – JonathanReez
    Oct 9 at 20:59

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