Advice Needed on Travel from Ontario to See Elderly Mother in Missouri
October 18, 2020 8:13 PM   Subscribe

How can I safely travel from Ontario to Missouri this winter to help my 83-year old mother? The Air Canada flight I booked for December to February has been cancelled, leaving me unsure of my options.

I am a dual Canadian and American citizen who hasn't seen her mother since early March due to fears about the safety of traveling and the closed land border. My mother and I talk almost every day on the phone, but she is struggling with the isolation she’s experiencing as she shelters in place at home. Even though she’s in good physical health and can care for herself, the loneliness and boredom have been extremely hard on her, and I am very concerned.
Anticipating the increased difficulty of the coming winter months for my mother, I booked an Air Canada flight to Missouri in mid-December and a return flight near the end of February, using up the last two units of a 10-flight pass. Unfortunately, I received notice of the cancellation of this flight last week, “due to the impacts of COVID-19, government travel advisories and/or health and safety concerns.”
I’m still very determined to spend two months of the winter in Missouri, but I’m in a quandary about how to proceed. My cancelled flight went directly to Kansas City from Toronto, but booking with another airline would require two flights with a layover in Chicago. I want to spend as little time as possible sitting around in airports, so I’m wondering if I should book a flight with Porter to Chicago and just rent a car and drive the rest of the way (about an 8-hour trip). Or should I hold out hope that Air Canada will schedule more flights in December? Alternatively, should I rent a car in Ontario and drive to Missouri (a 16-hour trip), hoping that I’ll be allowed across the border as a U.S. citizen travelling to see an immediate family member? If so, what kind of documentation would I need to prove I’m not visiting the States for a vacation?
Added to the travel dilemma is uncertainty over what the pandemic will look like two months from now, all of which has created a lot of stress. I welcome any advice from Ask MetaFilter members on how to safely travel from Canada to the States this winter.
posted by prairiecatherine to Travel & Transportation around United States (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I posted this question a few weeks ago about trying to book a flight from Canada to the U.S. -- maybe some of the answers there can be useful to you.

Regarding crossing the land border: If you are a U.S. citizen you will be allowed to enter the U.S., regardless of your reason for traveling.
posted by mekily at 8:17 PM on October 18, 2020

Hi! I am a dual Canadian/American citizen who crossed from Canada into the US a few weeks ago. As an American citizen, you can cross the border for any reason. The border guard absolutely did not care why I was crossing (though honestly he seemed surprised I would leave Canada), I got basically the usual border-crossing questions.

Personally, I would drive. Chicago is chock-full of COVID, and 16 hours isn't that bad. You'll be exposed to WAY fewer people on the road than flying. (I am currently contemplating a 30-hour drive for the winter though, so ymmv.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:19 PM on October 18, 2020

OH -- one challenge point is the one-way car rental (if that's your plan). That is also what I did, and it was expensive (close to $400 CAD for 2 days), and I had to call around to find a place that would rent to me. My only option was a local (non-airport) Avis/Budget, AND I had to return the car to a major airport. (Kansas City would probably be fine? But you'll have to ask.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:22 PM on October 18, 2020

I think a flight with a layover in Chicago is your best bet. Stick with airlines that are practicing social distancing, and a quick-ish layover, and the layover won't matter that much. It will get you where you need to go fastest.

It means you don't have to worry about driving in the snow or trying to find a rental car agency that will let you cross the border.
posted by hydra77 at 10:32 PM on October 18, 2020

I would drive.

With a little planning ahead, driving requires crossing paths with fewer people in total, as well spending less time around each person. Both of these are good things in a pandemic. (Personally, I would feel the need to quarantine after a flight and before interacting with an elderly relative.)

I think 4 (short-ish) days in the car is worth it for 2 months in Missouri.
posted by Metasyntactic at 3:20 AM on October 19, 2020

Response by poster: goodbyewaffles, thank you! This may be a silly question, but do you mind if I ask if you travelled on your U.S. or Canadian passport?
posted by prairiecatherine at 5:29 AM on October 19, 2020

Not to take this too far off topic — but my family and I love road trips, and have held off since the pandemic, out of concern for risking infection in public bathrooms and hotels. I’m very interested in people’s POV and experience on road trips, and the steps they took to remediate potential for infection. Obviously masks, hand sanitizer, gloves. But is that enough?
posted by nandaro at 5:38 AM on October 19, 2020

Air Canada lists their projected flight offerings through December & January, and Kansas City is not on it. So you're probably out of luck for a non-stop flight from YYZ. It's conceivable that Delta could start offering non-stop YYZ–MSP service at some point in the next few months, which would cut down on your driving time a bit, but I wouldn't hold my breath for anything closer.

That said, you might consider flying Delta via DTW rather than American or United via Chicago. This is because Delta has committed to not selling middle seats through December 6, which might mean that your outbound leg, at least, will be more socially distanced; and Delta's terminal at Detroit is huge and cavernous compared to O'Hare, making it easier for you to spread out from other travellers.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:15 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would drive from Ontario too. Maybe drive as far south as you can the first day (leaving early) and then stay overnight at a campsite (with your own tent/supplies you brought).

I am a dual citizen and I have always used the passport of the country I am entering.
posted by saucysault at 6:29 AM on October 19, 2020

I’m wondering if I should book a flight with Porter to Chicago

Porter isn't operating right now. Currently operations are suspended until mid-December, but I doubt they'll operate for a while yet.
posted by TORunner at 6:30 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sure! I entered the US with my US passport (I think you have to?)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2020

O'Hare is a petri dish in normal times. You can do a road trip with minimal exposure (in fact, we did one thru Missouri in the spring) by taking your bathroom breaks at Lowe's or Home Depot rather than gas stations or restaurants. If you're worried about the long drive, you could pre-book a hotel or motel at a halfway point. Many hotels are doing a lot toward minimizing exposure/sanitizing, as well.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 6:51 AM on October 19, 2020

I think you are more flexible with driving in the winter. You can always leave a couple days later if you’re hit with a blizzard vs trying to rebook a flight with dozens of other people.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

My experience driving in the states this year (east coast) is nobody wants to linger, so they wear a mask and get in and out of the rest stop ASAP. We've had zero issues while logging 24 nights out in our camper since June. And my wife is high risk - we are far more conservative than average for avoiding Covid-19 exposure opportunities.
posted by COD at 3:16 PM on October 19, 2020

« Older How can I celebrate Halloween while camping?   |   Fun YouTube channels in French? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments