Published: July 28, 2021
While 2020 and 2021 have proven to be an incredibly challenging year so far, many airlines across the board are happy to report a major increase in leisure travel! While the recovery is still far from over, we agents are seeing a strong uptick in bookings as people prepare to get back to their favorite pastime – travel!
But what does it mean to travel during a pandemic? Many agents have seen many of the same valid questions… Is it safe to travel? How do I know what the most current rules are for my destination? What happens if I test positive while traveling? While each of these answers will depend on the specific traveler and destination involved, there is still much to discuss!
Let’s start with the basics! Flexibility is the most valuable tool for travelers at the moment. This means that while “basic economy” and “light” fares may be extremely attractive, given their price, they may end up being the most costly option in the long run. While many airlines have opened up flexibility for basic economy/light fares, many of them are also looking to end those programs. Delta yesterday extended the flexibility through the end of 2021, but had previously ended the program back in April. One could elect to take the risk, but it should be understood that there is a significant risk being taken as we continue to forge into the recovery period. Basic economy/Light fares normally cannot be changed, even for a fee. That means if a traveler must switch, they essentially forfeit the original ticket paid. Ultimately the decision will be up to the traveler, but it is highly advised to NOT purchase “basic economy” or “light” fares at this stage of the pandemic.
Domestic Travel within the USA:
Let’s start within the United States. As of today – July 28, 2021 – it appears that all 50 states are open for travel. Only a few states/territories require pre-arrival testing, vaccine, and/or quarantine. Hawaii and Rhode Island still officially request that unvaccinated travelers (Hawaii being famously strict as well, requiring a pre-arrival form and often a check on arrival). Washington D.C. also requests pre-arrival testing for unvaccinated travelers. New Hampshire has removed requirements for domestic travelers, but still is asking for testing and quarantine from international travelers visiting from “high-risk” areas. Puerto Rico also still requires a vaccine or recent negative test as well. Otherwise, in general, travelling domestically within the United States of American is allowed.
International travel is where things start to get extremely complicated. Most of the world is still closed to foreign visitors, however in recent weeks (and continuing over the next several weeks) much of the most popular countries are loosening their entry restrictions and permitting travelers once again. Just announced today, for example, the United Kingdom will begin allowing vaccinated EU and US travelers to skip quarantine beginning on Monday, August 2, 2021. Although it should also be noted that pre-arrival testing is still required for many countries, despite being vaccinated.
It’s extremely important to monitor the local news of the intended countries of stay. Although the recovery appears to be accelerating rapidly, things could still change and reverse back to the old ways at any moment.
As of July 2021, it would appear that much of the options for US-residents are limited to Mexico, The Caribbean, and Europe. Please note however, that MOST of them require either proof of vaccine, a recent negative test, or in several cases both. By this stage, much of Europe is now open – if the traveler from the USA can meet the specific country requirements – although there are a few holdouts remaining. Not to mention, the CDC has now recommended AGAINST travel to Spain and Portugal recently as well, given their increase in cases caused by the delta variant. Several other countries outside of Europe remain open as well, and most will require a negative test at a minimum.
Most importantly, be sure to continuously monitor the government websites of the countries you intend on visiting. While it’s easy to do a quick internet search, the best recommendation would be to ensure that you verify requirements with the local government itself. News agencies are always at risk of out-dated information or even may sometimes post incorrect information – given the often rapid changes.
Testing Positive While Abroad:
The main concern for most travelers has of course been, “what happens if I test positive while traveling?” Unfortunately there is really no good answer here. It’s easier to travel domestically given much of the lack of required testing, but some people (myself included) are really eager to get back to international travel!
But, given that many countries require a pre-test, and the USA requires a test before returning… What happens if you’re traveling and you happen to test positive? The short answer is that you will likely be forced to isolate by the local government (even domestically within the USA). That can come with significant costs for most people. Some travelers may not be able to work remotely, or have a cheap place where they can isolate during the quarantine period. That already discourages many travelers from leaving the country. If it’s your pre-trip test for the arrival destination, then that’s lucky. One would just cancel the trip and reschedule it at a time convenient to them. But if you test positive before your return, that could be much worse.
Several resorts around the world however have understood this concern, and some have tried to address it in a way that puts travelers minds at ease. First, trying to find a test to take before you fly back to the USA is already challenging. Some countries have inadequate testing, while other locations cannot turn it around fast enough. But the bottom line is that a pretest is still required before entering the USA (even citizens and lawful permanent residents). However, many vacation spots have worked to improve offerings and lessen concerns. While certainly not standard, there are some resorts out there that will guarantee your stay to include quarantine, should you test positive while staying there. Other resorts may also include complimentary COVID-19 testing that helps provide guests an easy option before their return. It’s important to consider these offerings when booking your travels. Unfortunately we have not yet returned to a normal environment, and we likely won’t for quite some time.
Having been dealing with difficulties and restrictions now for nearly 17 months, we are starting to see the increased ability to travel again. While vaccine rates have continued to grow however, many restrictions still remain in place. Traveling will require significant pre-planning for the foreseeable future. Many travelers may find that using a professional travel advisor is of great assistance during this time. Restrictions and requirements continue to change rapidly, and at a minimum travelers should be prepared to continuously check for updates to the rules and regulations.