When Will Safe Travel Resume?
The pandemic is showing signs of slowing since the vaccine rollout began at the end of 2020. Daily vaccine administrations continue to trend upward, daily cases are down, and the United States now has three vaccines that are approved for emergency use. A natural question for those of us absolutely fed up with the Zoom calls, home-cooked meals, and Netflix is, “Is it safe to plan travel now?” This article is meant to address that question from a number of different scenarios: travel in the immediate future (this month), in the near future (this summer), and in the long term (toward the end of this year and into 2022).
Table of Contents
- Planning Travel in the Immediate Future
- Planning Travel in the Near Future
- Planning Travel in the Long Term
I’ll be the first to note that travel increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19 as well as spreading it. The CDC currently recommends staying home and avoiding non-essential travel. Despite that recommendation, people have been traveling throughout the pandemic, particularly to states that are more “open” than others, like Florida. Travel has certainly been frowned upon since the pandemic began, but everyone’s personal situation is different, and my goal is to give the best recommendations to people that do choose to travel, paint an accurate picture of what to expect while traveling, and save them money.
The very best thing to do if you are planning to travel in the immediate future is to get fully vaccinated (if possible), continue to wear a mask, and minimize person-to-person contact.
With all that being said, the CDC is a government organization with the main goal of stopping this pandemic. They won’t issue an “all clear” for vaccinated travelers for quite some time, in my opinion, though they do agree now that fully vaccinated people can visit indoors without masks. The CDC recommending travel at this time is problematic since an “all clear” for vaccinated travelers would clearly lead to more non-vaccinated travelers and thus spread the virus more.
If you still choose to travel domestically right now, consider a trip closer to home. Driving destinations have become incredibly popular during the pandemic, including national and state parks (we have lots of rental car deals). You’ll notice at hotels that you can reduce your person-to-person contact a lot more with mobile check-in. At your chosen destination, you may find some changes. One big change is cashless transactions (quick tip: get a rewards credit card). Another is differing mask policies. When in doubt, wear your mask! Finally, hours for your favorite attraction may be reduced. For example, I visited Walt Disney World last July, and the park hours have been significantly reduced compared to before the pandemic.
If you’re considering travel for the near term, such as this summer, things are beginning to look much more positive. Even Dr. Fauci thinks that small gatherings will be safe for folks by the 4th of July. One big problem during the pandemic has been trip postponements and the hesitation to plan something that might not happen.
I don’t see new lockdowns or destination shutdowns happening at this point for domestic destinations. Businesses related to travel have been some of the hardest hit in the pandemic, and another shutdown would only decimate them further. Another shutdown would also not be well-received by the public. Even the most shut-down destinations, such as California, are reopening (Disneyland is reopening April 30th, for example).
For international travel, note that the CDC still recommends not traveling internationally if it’s not essential. That hasn’t stopped travelers, who have continued to stream into Cancun and other open destinations to escape lockdowns and enjoy some sun. In addition, you’ll have to get a negative PCR or Antigen (aka rapid) test 72 hours or less before you fly home to the United States.
The coronavirus situation is completely different country to country. Unfortunately, other countries do not have the same successful vaccine rollout that the United States does. Countries like Mexico and islands in the Caribbean are very reliant on tourism for their economies and thus are compelled to stay open for tourists in the future. Just note that at a moment’s notice, a country can decide to lock down again.
Airlines, hotels, and attractions are much more flexible than they were pre-pandemic, including the elimination of many airline change fees. Check your airline partner’s policies before planning and traveling.
If you are considering traveling this summer, we have some excellent travel deals from Travelzoo on Brad’s Deals for both domestic and international travel.
If you’re planning a post-pandemic trip once the pandemic is officially over, hopefully later in 2021, that’s great! You’re following government guidance, making sure you stay safe, and protecting others around you.
The same advice I give above for travel applies. Domestic travel is still going to be your safest option, though international travel should become more realistic. More destinations should continue to open up for vaccinated travelers (Thailand, for example, is signaling October 1st for a partial reopening). My rule of thumb is if you plan a trip for a destination that is already open during the pandemic to travelers, it’ll likely still be open later this year.
For what travel actually will be like now, in the near term, and in the future, look for our next blog post!