Local snowbirds Greg Freeman and Jeff Papiez are preparing to travel to their Florida abode to escape winter’s chill.

In a normal year, they said they probably would have left already. But the pandemic has delayed their usual schedule and left them with challenging choices on how safe it is to travel.

The pair decided to make the trip and fly – citing the safety precautions of their gated community. But other snowbirds are choosing to roost in Haliburton for the winter.

“We’ve given it an awful lot of thought,” Freeman said. “Each snowbird is going to address whether they are going to travel based on a variety of factors.”

The pandemic has impacted travel for snowbirds, with the U.S. border only traversable by air. Those that are making the trip are faced with extra planning to account for different circumstances.

Freeman said they had a lot to consider, including whether the U.S. election result would cause any civil unrest.

“Different planning than what would be the norm in previous years,” Freeman said. “There’s a lot more thought in the whole process of the travel, and concerns for what the impact is of COVID when you are travelling.”

Ilsemaire Tarte is another local snowbird, but she decided she would not make her usual trip to Arizona.

“With all the cases rising there, and also here, we decided it might be safer to stay put for the winter,” Tarte said, adding it was not an easy decision. “We hope next year will be better and let’s hope we have a good winter. Have to stay positive.”

Locals Ray and Norma Isaacs also decided to avoid their usual trip to Mexico due to the pandemic. But Norma Isaacs said staying is also “daunting because we’re getting older.” She added Haliburton’s winter conditions can also be hazardous for seniors such as them. “Walking even on the sidewalk is a challenge.”

Transat Travel Haliburton agent Linda Coneybeare said she is seeing significantly fewer snowbirds preparing to make the trip. She said she does not advise travelling south and it is better to stick within the country if looking to escape. But she said airlines have worked to make flights safer. She added a travel agent can help people navigate the new protocols.

“It’s a very frightening time in the world, this COVID disease,” Coneybeare said. “But I am optimistic we will travel again.

Freeman said they weighed many factors in their decision – including their relatively younger age and the need to take care of their Florida home. Papiez added they do not feel like there is any more risk than in Haliburton, given their U.S. home is also away from major centres. They also expect to be doing a lot less socializing, with people staying apart in their homes.

“The expectation is not going to be the same at all. It is not business as usual,” Freeman said.

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