In the year of COVID, most Americans withdrew from many elements of their lives, from social gatherings to school events, from dining in restaurants to going to concerts.
One of the biggest changes for many has been the lack of travel. Countless summer vacation plans went missing in 2020, and with the possibility of a summer vacation coming up in 2021, we all wonder what is possible.
Over in the Atlantic, Joe Pinsker spoke to a number of health professionals and came up with a likely timetable for life to return to normal. This will inevitably change when the vaccine is introduced and when individual states and countries change their travel restrictions. However, this gives us the foundation to look ahead to what travel will look like in the early stages of mass vaccination after COVID.
to plan a journey
The main concern when traveling in the early days after the spread of vaccinations and the approach to herd immunity is to understand that you are going through a field of very different regulations and requirements in different locations, depending largely on the spread of the virus in the area. Some areas may be partially closed with strict mask requirements, while others may be approaching normality before COVID. A good rule of thumb here is to go with the flow and if you’re not sure, wait a little longer before traveling.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from recommendations and restrictions from various companies.
Currently, the CDC travel advice is focused on COVID as an ongoing pandemic, without predicting what things will be like when mass vaccination brings us close to herd immunity. As travel restrictions wear off, the things that are likely to stay the longest are the things that don’t prevent us from traveling but reduce the risk when we do.
In other words, traveling during the summer can still involve masks in indoor public places and taking small steps like spaces in lines to maximize social distance.
Top tip: You will still want to pack a lot of masks! They’ll likely still be needed in many places, depending on the amount, especially at times when not everyone is fully vaccinated. Wearing a mask makes many things more convenient and you will likely save a few dollars by not having to buy one.
If you plan to travel by air, expect most airlines to continue in-flight masking and other restrictions as long as COVID is recognized as a pandemic that is expected to continue into the summer months. Many airport social distancing efforts continue. In general, the tips on safe air travel offered by the Mayo Clinic will continue for the time being. So keep a mask in your hand luggage.
Some airlines may require proof of vaccination, especially when flying to certain destinations that require it or when quarantine on arrival must be avoided.
Top tip: If you are flying, it is a good idea to find out about the vaccination guidelines for your flights, which vary by location. Bring your vaccination card to be sure.
Foreign Ministry recommendations
The State Department has a long list of recommendations when it comes to international travel. In short, even in the summer and fall, you should expect that some international destinations may have very different restrictions than your home country.
Some nations may not allow travel from the US at all, while others may require proof of vaccination or quarantine on arrival. Don’t assume that things are the same in one country because they are “normal” in another.
Top tip: If you are considering flying internationally during this vaccine release period, you should carefully follow the restrictions and guidelines in your destination country. Do you allow travelers from your country? If so, what are your requirements? Do you need to quarantine? Do you need proof of vaccination?
Once you get to your destination, it is worth figuring out the exact limitations in this area. You should be prepared for general restrictions like wearing masks, social distancing, and other things even if these restrictions do not exist at home.
Another important point to keep in mind, especially if you are traveling internationally, is that conditions can change during your stay and may affect your ability to return. If a sudden outbreak occurs at your destination, there may be restrictions on your return journey.
Top tip: Expect the restrictions at your destination to be slightly different from those at home, and prepare for common restrictions. Bring comfortable masks just in case.
Travel insurance remains a good idea for most trips, especially international ones. As COVID is slowly declining around the world, the chances of your travel being disrupted by the pandemic are decreasing. However, the usual reasons for travel insurance – such as last minute cancellations, non-COVID medical emergencies, and other minor mishaps – remain.
Top tip: Get a good travel insurance package well in advance of your trip and make sure you understand the policy for cancellations due to local pandemic restrictions.
More travel and coronavirus considerations
This could be the perfect time in your life to consider a “job”. With so many people continuing to work remotely throughout the pandemic and beyond, some people and even families may see this as the right time to live in another part of the world for a while. If you are a remote worker, consider turning a short break after COVID into a longer stay in a new part of the world.
Stay close to home
Another good option to consider in this late stage of COVID is to focus on traveling closer to home for the time being and wait a little longer for longer trips or international travel. According to the Safe Travel Barometer, most domestic hotel chains have done an excellent job with cleanliness and COVID logs, and most hotel policies are pretty nondescript. The Washington Post compared the logs of Marriott, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn Express and found that they all did a good job of keeping it safe and unobtrusive, especially the budget Holiday Inn Express.
Even if you’ve been cautious financially for a while, there are still many practical frugality steps you can take when traveling. If possible, a quick stop at a grocery store to buy some groceries can save a ton of money by making a small lunch or simple breakfast cheap, and getting on and off very quickly. Staying local enough that you can travel by car will reduce travel costs and minimize exposure to COVID. These steps can keep your vacation incredible while keeping your costs down at the same time.
Credit card rewards
One last tip: Use your credit card wisely. You should make travel bookings through your credit card for bonus points and cancellation protection. However, you should know the details of using credit cards for coronavirus-related cancellations. Speaking of bonuses, you may be able to fund part of your trip with credit card bonuses accumulated over the past year. Using a reward credit card while traveling is a good idea for good bonuses, especially if you intend to cash out with the balance in full after your trip.
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