As travel reopens, what you can do now
Everywhere you look, you see signs of a reopening of the travel world. Airlines are ramping up schedules, and destinations are actively seeking customers.
Unfortunately, however, the major stakeholders — airlines, destinations and governments — have not put together coherent and unified policies and procedures for reopening. If you want to start thinking about spring or summer travel, you still have to navigate a minefield of confusion and uncertainty.
What medical evidence I can see suggests not even thinking about extended travel, anywhere, until after you have received a vaccine. Unfortunately, many U.S. residents won’t get vaccinated until summer — maybe even late summer.
If you can’t wait that long, a domestic road trip is probably your best bet, but even that might face some limitations.
Quarantines and shutdowns
The various states in our union are not even on the same chapter, let alone the same page, on policies about cross-border travel, either for residents or visitors.
Currently, at least half of the 50 states still impose some form of quarantine on travelers entering from at least some other states.
Most rules ease limits for travelers with COVID-19 tests, but only three so far specifically account for vaccinated travelers. You still need to check for requirements for any out-of-state trip, even a road trip.
Fortunately, enforcement is feeble everywhere, and more than half of U.S. states assess no penalties for quarantine violations.
AARP’s continuously updated website is a good place to keep up with current rules: bit.ly/quarantineAARP.
Except for Mexico and North Macedonia, international travel is still difficult right now. As with domestic travel, rules everywhere are inconsistent, but no matter where you go, CDC currently requires a COVID-19 test for returning travelers on any international flight.
IATA (the International Air Transport Association) posts an updated interactive world map detailing restrictions at iatatravelcentre.com/world.php.
Vaccination and testing
Just about everyone in the travel business expects that immigration services and airlines will soon start to rely on some form of uniform health “passport” that travelers can carry to verify vaccination and test status. It will most likely be implemented as a digital app, but maybe also a card or paper certificate, as well.
IATA has developed a digital “International Travel Pass,” but to date only a few airlines and no governments have signed up for a trial [See “International travel pass in development” in the February Beacon].
American Airlines has launched VeriFly. Other proposals floating around call for linking health data electronically to passports.
There’s no scarcity of ideas, but “soon” is a pretty nebulous estimate of the time frame for a system that authorities around the world will accept.
Fares and rates
As with the pandemic, the rate outlook remains cloudy. Industry mavens predict leisure travel will rebound faster than business travel.
On the one hand, you will see lots of enticing offers; on the other, airlines and hotels need to stop hemorrhaging cash. Thus, I see some great airfare deals to Europe, but Allegiant’s latest domestic “promotion” features fares that are higher than they were before COVID.
More than ever, that means you need to sign up for a few of the dozens of programs that notify you about deals. Some let you name specific routes or destinations; others show you everything and let you sort out what you want.
Although the names of the deal websites focus on airfares, most also search hotels as well. And most work through apps as well as online. Here are some good ones:
—Metasearch systems sweep hundreds of sources to locate deals; you buy direct or through an online agency. Most provide for notification, including AirfareWatchdog.com, FareCompare.com, Google.com/travel/flights, and Skyscanner.com.
—The big online travel agencies (OTA), such as Expedia.com and Priceline.com, also provide similar services.
As I’ve been saying all along, plan as much as you want, but avoid nonrefundable prepayments. Domestic travel is likely to open up by summer; Europe and Asia maybe by fall.
Email Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his rail travel website at rail-guru.com.
© 2021 Ed Perkins. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.