Wanna get away? Now that more than 100 million Americans have received at least one shot of the COVID vaccine, airports are starting to fill up, hotel reservations are on the upswing and it's only a matter of time before cruising resumes.
While it will be many months until vacation itineraries return to their pre-pandemic levels, it's clear that the public is thirsting to break free from our long months of being shut-ins. Staycations go only so far.
As you start to plan your summer or fall vacation getaway for this year or 2022, be aware that travel will look different than it did before. Proof of vaccination may be required in some quarters. Crossing borders now comes with new complications. What was routine 18 months ago may no longer hold true.
Here, then, is a safe travel checklist to consult as we all navigate our way toward a return to normalcy.
Check the state of play at your destination
While the cruise lines await word from health officials before resuming voyages, many vacationers are turning to air + land getaways. (For instance, see this wide-ranging list of specials, updated every week, at popular hotels and resorts.)
Before you lock in your vacation plans, make sure the destination you're eyeing is accepting visitors — and that you meet all the requirements. For instance, the Bahamas, one of our favorite island escapes, requires a Health Travel Visa before visitors are allowed into the country. The travel visa requires a negative test for COVID-19 within five days prior to arrival. Hawaii has similar testing requirements.
The Washington Post advises:
Review restriction information by looking up your destination’s local government websites. Other resources are available for conducting that research, including the State Department and CDC websites or the travel-organizing app TripIt, which allows users to learn about coronavirus infection rates, entry and exit rules, and other guidelines.
Prepare your documents
Time was when you could just carry your driver's license (for domestic travel) or passport (for international travel) and you were good to go. In the post-COVID age, that may no longer be enough.
Rules around so-called vaccine passports (proof of vaccination) vary from state to state, but don't be surprised if at some point a hotel desk clerk or tour guide or customs officer asks to see your vaccine card. (You've had your shots or are planning to, right?)
Make sure you protect your vaccine card, carry it in a safe place and make digital copies with your smartphone. In some cases, you'll be able to offer proof of vaccination with an app on your phone. An app in development by the International Air Transport Association, the IATA Travel Pass, is scheduled to be available for Apple users in mid-April and will be available to Android users by the end of this month.
Think about getting tested
If you decline to receive the vaccine, the next best thing to offer the authoriites is proof that you've tested negative for the virus (best) or that you've had it and are not contagious (an iffy proposition with all the coronavirus variants on the loose). There are a lot of shady testing sites out there, so make sure your test is conducted by a government-certified lab.
Be aware there are two main kinds of COVID tests: PCR tests, which generally require a back-of-the-throat or nasal swab that's sent to a lab for analysis, and at-home antigen tests, which are not as reliable. Most destinations that require testing are looking for results of a PCR test. You can get a test done at your health care provider or with an at-home test kit where you overnight the sample to a testing lab.
Even if you were vaccinated, taking the test before you leave is a smart move that removes all doubt. (PCR tests are 99.9% accurate.) And international travelers should know that if you’re returning to the United States from abroad, you'll need to provide a negative test result or documentation of recovery regardless of your vaccination or antibody status.
Consider trip insurance
I’ll be honest. I rarely shell out for trip insurance. Once I commit to a cruise, I’m all in. But the pandemic is forcing me to rethink that approach, at least for the short term. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned is how unpredictable this virus is. Even those who've been vaccinated are susceptible to catching a virus before or during plane or ship travel, so it makes sense to pony up for a a policy that covers emergency medical expense coverage as well as coverage for nonrefundable costs of the trip if it’s interrupted.
Pack your masks
Nobody likes wearing masks, and you won't need to wear them during most of your vacation. Still, there will be times when masks may be required — say, on your flight or during a group tour. Buck up and just do it as a gesture of goodwill to those around you. Be aware that defying local regulations — which may involve mask-wearing — can result in a hit to your wallet. Some jurisdictions may fine those who flout the rules, and in some cases you risk arrest if you refuse to wear one.
We hope these five tips will help you navigate the new travel landscape. There's no shame in putting off your grand getaway until months from now or even next year. But if you do decide to go, safe travels!
Contact a Cruiseable travel consultant
Want to get away to a safe destination? Contact a Cruiseable travel consultant. We're up on the latest rules and restrictions no matter where you'd like to vacation. Phone 1-877-322-3773 or email us at [email protected] so we can help you plan smarter and save you money.