Vacations remain a dream: March Break travellers cancel destination vacations in wake of COVID-19

Community COVID-19 Election

White sand beaches, ice cubes clinking in a glass filled with a tropical beverage, aquamarine crystal clear water… Sound idyllic?

That’s what many people look forward to every year on March Break. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many Pictou County resident have had to alter their vacation plans, or outright cancel them. Or even worse, throw caution to the wind and travel anyway…

Susan Cameron of New Glasgow was going to have her first-ever vacation in Walt Disney World.

She and her husband were going to take their eight-year-old son and her step-daughters, ages 13 and 18, to the popular Florida vacation spot. This would have been everyone’s first trip there.

Their vacation was booked back in October. “We surprised our kids with it as their Christmas present.”

The trip was scheduled to happen in May. Now, she’s 99 per cent sure it won’t happen.

They had trip cancellation insurance which, she says, wasn’t even a question for them when they booked the family vacation.

But instead of catching a plane to fly south of the border, visiting Mickey Mouse and Pluto and enjoying a ride in the giant teacups at Disney World, the family will drive to Halifax to pick their 18-year-old who is a student at Mount St. Vincent University. She will be spending the rest of the school year studying online from home as that university has cancelled classes.

“It’s just so sad,” Cameron said of the cancelled vacation.

Now it’s March Break and most of the planned activities and workshops happening locally have been cancelled. But she is optimistic about the coming week. “I’m lucky, I took this week off. We’re not going to leave the house, except to pick up my step-daughter from university on the weekend. We’re going to hang out, watch movies, play games… And for the two weeks after March Break I’m lucky to have family to step in to help.”

Chris MacNeil, also of New Glasgow, will most likely be missing a late-winter vacation with his wife and four-year-old daughter. They were also going to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

When contacted by phone on Monday morning, MacNeil said he wasn’t 100 per cent sure the trip would be cancelled, since it is scheduled for the week of April 22. “We’ll see what happens.”

His young daughter is a huge Disney Princesses fan and this would be the first trip for her to see the stars. “She thinks they all live together in the castle at the Magic Kingdom,” he chuckled.

“How do you explain the climate of the world to a four-year-old?” he asked.

Maxine Gammon-Heighton will take her planned vacation to Mexico another time; the River John resident was planning to fly there in mid-April with family and friends from across Nova Scotia.

“I have a disabled husband at home and I didn’t want to take any chances, plus I didn’t want to be locked on a resort somewhere worrying about not being able to get back home.”

Nelly Koops Smees was scheduled to travel to Florida with about a dozen friends and family members to visit friends who are vacationing there.

“We decided to cancel our trip even before it was declared a pandemic,” she said of the recent situation with COVID-19.

“We were supposed to leave on April 4. We always book our trips away through Norma at Maritime Travel and she is looking after all our cancellations. At times like this we are thankful for her instead of us having to be on hold on the phone for hours at a time. Shout out to all the travel agents who are working 24-7 for their clients,” she lauded.

The Truro Road resident is a seasoned traveller, but she has not travelled for the past several years due to ill health. This would mark her first trip in five years.

“For those considering travelling anyway, despite what’s going on, I just can’t fathom it.”

She said the friends she was going to visit in Florida are also from Pictou County and they are concerned. “They’re really stressed” out and are looking for flights to come home.

“It’s a scary world out there. I take my hat off to all of those on the front line — police officers, paramedics, healthcare workers, retail workers — they are all at risk.”