The Bird’s Word Blog
What Do I Need to Know About Travel and Coronavirus COVID-19?
Updated April 12, 2021
Constantly fluctuating conditions have made it hard to know how to plan for travel since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020. Now, although new virus variants are spiking fears around the world, greater distribution of COVID-19 vaccines suggests hope that travel will become easier in the foreseeable future. Countries have begun to collaborate on standardized “vaccine passports,” commonly accepted documentation of vaccination. So, when can we make plans to experience the planet? And what do you need to know about travel and the coronavirus?
At Journeys International we are certainly not medical experts. We are, however, travel experts, and we are committed to providing information and insight to help you make travel decisions. Here are some FAQs regarding travel and coronavirus/COVID-19 to help you plan your upcoming adventures.
Should I currently avoid ALL travel because of the coronavirus?
Whether to travel is a complex and personal decision and must account for individual risk factors as well as conditions in your origin and your specific destination. As of this update in April 2021, some countries have loosened border restrictions, and travel along many routes is possible. The US State Department has dropped the general global travel advisory it had put in place last year, announcing that it now believes geo-specific advisories are more helpful. Rigorous studies reveal that the air you breathe inside a plane is likely cleaner than the air in many other public places. However, infection rates around the world are increasing, and many areas are reintroducing movement restrictions for locals as well as visitors.
The most significant consideration right now may be the US requirement that every traveler entering the country – including all Americans, travelers returning home from vacations, and those who are fully vaccinated – must present evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken immediately before your return trip to the United States. If you do plan to travel, ensure that you have a plan in place to obtain this test. In addition, however unlikely you think it may be that you will contract Covid while traveling, put a plan in place for where you will quarantine for two weeks or more if your pre-travel test comes back positive. Of course, you should also know where you will obtain medical care if it becomes necessary.
Domestically, although most states have re-opened most commerce, some tourist sites remain closed. In addition, public health experts are concerned that a new peak in coronavirus cases in the United States may be imminent if not transpiring, which could trigger new closures. It may become difficult to truly experience a destination to its fullest at this time. Furthermore, many public health experts discourage any travel at this time in the service of limiting the spread of the virus among contagious but non-symptomatic individuals.
Your own vaccination status is likely a significant factor in your own consideration of whether to travel. The Centers for Disease Control have issued official guidance that vaccinated individuals may travel domestically while masking and distancing. We will monitor updates to that recommendation closely. If you do wish to travel, we recommend that you research specific potential destinations carefully to be aware of current outbreaks and any closed borders or specific travel restrictions.
When will it get easier to travel?
Travel will become easier as more individuals become vaccinated and as the documentation of vaccination becomes more universally recognized and less easily forged. Progress is heading in a positive direction on all dimensions. Seeing a Covid-19 vaccine become widely available around the world will also make a big difference. Although the timeline seems longer for this outcome, we believe American travelers can confidently plan to travel with proper precautions and documentation in fall 2021 and beyond.
Rest assured that if you do make plans that turn out to be too soon, we are happy to postpone your arrangements with no penalty.
Where can I think about traveling now?
Different countries’ borders are opening and closing each day. We have published an active border report to keep you informed of what countries are open and accepting American visitors. Each country has different requirements for travelers and tourists. An increasing number of countries are likely to open as vaccines are distributed. For now, travel to Asia and Europe remain widely restricted.
Again, keep in mind that every traveler entering the United States, including travelers returning home from vacations, must present evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken immediately before your return trip to the US. If you do plan to travel abroad, ensure that you have a plan in place to obtain this test. In addition, however unlikely you think it may be that you will contract Covid while traveling, put a plan in place for where you will quarantine for two weeks or more if your pre-travel test comes back positive.
Because of the United States testing requirements, travel within domestic borders may remain the least uncertain option in the next several months.
What are the safest and most sanitary trips available?
Some types of trips particularly lend themselves to social distancing and controlled sanitation. For instance, an African safari allows only a limited number of people to ride together in a vehicle, with windows always open (and often roofs!). Furthermore, we can reserve private lodging and dining services to decrease the risk of exposure, and the safari takes place in wide-open spaces, with other tourists staying at a distance in and around their own private vehicle(s).
Other trips exploring the great outdoors are also good options. By spending time outside in nature, there is enough space to stay distanced from other travelers and the fresh air reduces risk of exposure and illness. Most of our outdoor-oriented trips can be customized and provided completely privately. It’s a safer way to see more of this magnificent earth!
What safeguards ensure my health and safety while traveling?
First and foremost, given the increasing availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, it is our point of view that at this time everyone aged 16 and older should delay all travel until they are able to receive a full course of vaccination.
Other precautions are still important. Most countries have health requirements for entry, including many that require travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. Check whether your airline has resources to facilitate this testing – these services are increasingly common. Large medical centers will also recognize upcoming travel as an approved reason for testing, but depending on current local infection rates, it may be difficult to get fast enough turnaround on test results to satisfy the timeline requirements for your destination. Many areas now also have rapid testing locations, but always check whether the type of test offered at a testing site will satisfy the conditions of your travel destination and your own standards of certainty.
The travel industry is implementing COVID-19 safety protocols widely. We work with dozens of ground partners around the world, and we are impressed by the care that each is showing in updating their destination-specific guidelines. For instance, Ecoventura in the Galapagos Islands, has published this sanitation protocol, just one representative example of the level of standards that our suppliers follow. In other places countries are releasing nationwide sanitation and hospitality requirements to ensure tourists and visitors feel safe and welcomed, such as Tunisia’s recent sanitation protocol. We review the health protocols for each departure to ensure that proper plans are in place for the specific itinerary, group, and point in time.
Your own practices are the most critical in protecting your health. You can participate in your own and others’ protection by getting vaccinated, by wearing a face mask in enclosed places and in proximity to others, by washing your hands and sanitizing them frequently, by maintaining a safe distance greater than 6 feet from people outside your travel party. Stay masked while in airports and on airplanes, including while sleeping. Choose water bottles with unexposed mouthpieces and spend as little time as possible indoors in the company of people outside your travel party.
What happens if I can’t make the trip I have planned?
Everyone in the travel industry is on your team in wanting to give you a positive and healthy experience. So far we have seen airlines, hotels, and tour companies all demonstrate flexibility in working with travelers to rearrange their plans in the face of this pandemic. Because Journeys works with so many different suppliers in so many different destinations, we must consider each situation on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is to reschedule your travel for a future date with as little price increase as possible.
I have heard that travel insurance didn’t cover people who had to cancel trips because of the pandemic. Should I still buy travel insurance?
We do still recommend purchasing travel protection policies, and we suggest considering a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy that has fewer restrictions on the covered reasons for trip cancelation. Each policy is different, so it is important to read the language of a policy before purchasing to know what types of emergencies it covers. Each insurer is prepared to answer specific questions. Generally, a travel insurance policy will cover the immediate treatment of a condition contracted while traveling, lost baggage replacement, and service provider bankruptcy, among other things. But, more often than not, trip cancelation related to the coronavirus will not be covered. More specifically, a cancelation due to fear of conditions, new travel advisories, or even sites becoming inaccessible because of closure or quarantine will usually not be covered. The exception may be if you purchased a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy, available from some insurers, making it possible to cancel at your own discretion with advance notice, and recoup some portion of your expenses. Make sure to thoroughly discuss your travel insurance plan with the plan provider if you have questions.
Most US health insurance providers do not extend coverage outside of the United States. It is important to check with your individual health insurance provider as you navigate what travel insurance policy will work best for you.
What can I do if I’m still not ready to travel?
Dream and plan! Though travel is currently very limited, it won’t be forever, and we’d love to join you in thinking about more expansive days ahead. Believe it or not, accommodations in some destinations are already filling up for 2022, and we suggest you save your spot now!
We also want to encourage everyone to maintain a mindset of adventure and exploration, even in your home environs. Reflecting on previous travel experiences can help you embrace the values of connecting with people who see the world differently, spending time in nature, and stepping outside your comfort zone. At Journeys, we know that adventure is not solely about the places you go, but also the wonder and discovery you encounter wherever you happen to be. We would love to hear about your alternative adventures, and insights, during this very alternative time.
Check out these resources:
- Kayak interactive map of border restrictions by country
- CDC travel advice
- Daily Situation Reports from the WHO updating numbers and details around the world
- Travel + Leisure Coronavirus Travel Overview
You can also contact us about questions specific to Journeys International at any time.