COVID still affects travel. Don’t fool with the coronavirus. Respect it.
As a travel agent and someone who loves to travel, it’s been great to see COVID restrictions loosening on travel worldwide. But COVID still affects travel even if the virus is weaker.
Loosened restrictions are not the same as no restrictions. However, travelers excited to get back on the road increasingly seem oblivious to that fact. It was stunning to see how quickly mask usage waned after a recent judicial finding.
These days anything written about COVID rules and regulations can be outdated within a day of writing it. It seems that domestic rules and regulations that once seemed sacrosanct are today ignored. International rules are stricter and better enforced.
Use the Sherpa website to find travel restrictions and COVID rules.
The Sherpa website, used by airlines, is updated daily and should be used by ALL travelers before going abroad. It is ongoing proof that COVID still affects travel even if the virus is weaker.
A long-time client heading to Europe next week emailed me just to double-check. “So I don’t need to test anymore to get back in the United States, right?” Uh, wrong, at least as of the time of writing.
Other clients have heard about countries no longer requiring COVID testing before departure and on arrival and have extrapolated that to mean “no restrictions of any kind.” Also, again, wrong.
Most of the world wants proof of vaccination for incoming travelers.
Some countries want passenger locator forms filled out so they can reach you while you are visiting. Many countries demand proof of vaccination but also have guidelines about vaccination timing.
If you got a vaccine last year but haven’t been boosted, that could be a problem. A client figured she was fine to head to the Netherlands. But (as of time of writing) the Dutch consider anyone vaccinated more than 270 days ago to be unvaccinated. A mad dash for booster shots saved that trip.
In addition, many countries require travel insurance.
Medical travel insurance covers the costs if you get sick. This may require a stay and quarantine. In some cases, the insurance requirement is very specific. Chile in particular is quite strict, as is Sri Lanka.
Ensure you have the mandatory one month COVID 19 insurace to cover US$75,000 required for all travelers (whether fully vaccinated or not vaccinated). Pay through (https://portal.pionline.lk/covidinsurance/ ).
Yes, quarantine can happen.
I had clients on a university alumni-sponsored trip to Ireland in March, their first trip abroad in three years. More than half the group got COVID and ended up quarantining in a Belfast hotel. The hotel apparently was quite nice, but as one of my clients said, “When you know the room service menu by heart…” (In this case, it was a deluxe trip and the university picked up the costs… but that’s unusual.)
A delay returning to the USA means more than only the isolation expense.
Another thing travelers need to realize is that, with the current rules, a positive test abroad doesn’t just mean extra travel costs. It can mean extra costs for house or pet sitters at home, along with missing work.
Even if the US eliminates the test-before-returning rule, there’s also the issue of flying with suspected COVID. One client, who is traveling, but carefully, just told me an appalling story of a vaccinated acquaintance who has COVID. This acquaintance has a much-anticipated vacation in Europe scheduled late this same week. She planned to depart exactly five days after diagnosis, which she told him was the legal minimum with British Airways. She is not going to test again the day before departure because she doesn’t want to have to cancel.
In a more conscientious vein, a vaccinated client who tested positive earlier this year before traveling to Hawaii postponed his flight. He sent his wife and children (who tested negative) ahead. He pointed out to me that because he was vaccinated, he would have been able to sneak into the US, as his symptoms were mild after the first two days. But he could afford the more expensive flight, and decided it would have been very bad karma to try to cheat and risk his fellow passengers.
Sometimes, coronavirus delays are not limited to just international travel.
Several clients attended a retreat recently where a number of attendees became ill. A few tested positive without symptoms. Another client had warned everyone attending a four-day San Diego event they will be tested on the day of arrival and before departure. Anyone who tests positive at the end will either be accommodated at a local hotel or, if possible, will need to rent a car and drive home to quarantine.
Now, of course, millions of people are traveling safely. International travelers are not being infected with COVID. In the United States, many infected with asymptomatic COVID are not being tested but have proved harmless. And things are much less scary than they were.
But, as much as the travel industry wants to be done with COVID, the virus isn’t done with travel.
Janice Hough is a California-based travel agent a travel blogger and a part-time comedy writer. A frequent flier herself, she’s been doing battle with airlines, hotels, and other travel companies for over three decades. Besides writing for Travelers United, Janice has a humor blog at Leftcoastsportsbabe.com (Warning, the political and sports humor therein does not represent the views of anyone but herself.)