Normally I plan our travel adventures 6 to 12 months out. Some folks think that’s way too far ahead because plans could change. But for us, our vacation is something we look forward to, so we won’t let anything get in the way of our plans. Once we say we’re going somewhere, we’re going. And then COVID hit.
International travel has been for the most part shut down for more than a year. Domestic air travel screeched to a halt but has been steadily increasing over the last several months, especially as more people feel safer after getting fully vaccinated.
Ground travel hasn’t changed much as far as transportation. After all, you can jump in your car and drive anywhere you want.
Despite back-to-normal travel seemingly opening up again, there are some COVID travel tips and logistics to be prepared for as you put together your vacation plans.
Airlines have limited flights.
We all stopped flying when we went into COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020. To cut back on expenses, airlines sliced flights from their schedules so they wouldn’t lose money flying people around on nearly empty planes. Flights are slowly being added back to the schedule, but the last time I searched, I still did not see the number of pre-COVID flights nor the same number of non-stop offerings. When I clicked on choices for flight times that I thought were ideal, there were often red warning messages stating, “Only 2 seats left!” Book your flights early and also be prepared to be flexible as some airlines are still canceling flights and rebooking passengers at the last minute in order to have fuller capacity on flights.
Be aware of local restrictions or mandates.
A client of mine flew to Florida to meet up with friends to celebrate a special occasion. They were all disappointed to discover that there was a curfew in one of the cities they went to, so they couldn’t go out as planned. Check the current restrictions at your destination to be sure you’re willing to choose and schedule your activities based on those rules if they don’t get lifted before you arrive.
Travel-related businesses have limited spaces.
Companies in the hospitality business are in a bind. They can’t wait to have full capacity so they can make up for all the lost revenue of the past 15 months, but in many cases their hands are tied due to local mandates, insurance requirements and legal liability advice from their counsel. Many of them are still operating with fewer employees, and it will take time to interview, hire and train new employees to meet this new boost in business. This equates to decreased allowed capacity, which means less space for guests. There are many places from amusement parks to national parks that are booked up through the end of July already. I heard a pet sitter interviewed, and she was booked through November. As soon as you get the inkling that you want to travel, get your plans together so you can make your reservations before everything fills up.
Check on cancellation policies.
During the height of the pandemic, airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses relaxed their cancellation policies, offered changes without fees, or fully refunded pre-paid packages. Many of these policies are in flux, so be sure to familiarize yourself with a company’s policies before booking, then grab a screenshot or printout of their policies when you make your booking.
Proof of your COVID status?
COVID tests – If an airline, cruise ship or other entity requires a negative COVID test within three days of departure, be advised that these tests must be completed through an approved testing facility – and not just one that is convenient for you. Check the website of the company you’re using because they should have a link to their approved vendors if they’re requiring you to arrive with test results. Also check your options in your departure city for your return journey home so that you don’t have to worry about researching this while you’re on vacation.
Vaccination proof – If an airline, cruise ship, hotel, tour agency or any other organization you’ll deal with during your travels will require proof of full vaccination, verify what type of proof they’ll require. Can you use a photo on your phone of your vaccination card? Do you have to enroll in their portal prior to boarding, departure or check in? Do you have to show your original vaccine card? Can you use a copy of your COVID vaccine card? Be advised that lamination can destroy ink from hand-written documents so do not laminate your original vaccination card. Instead, if you must carry your original vaccine card, slip it into a baggie with a strip of cardboard (like from the back of a notepad) or store it in a plastic document protector. If vaccine proof isn’t required anywhere you’re going, but you want to play it safe just in case the rules change after you leave home, have a photo of your card on your phone or carry a photocopy of your card.
At the time of this writing, we’re 48 hours into the CDC lifting COVID mask mandates for those who are fully vaccinated. This has been followed by a wave of confusion – what should businesses require or not require in order to still meet their industry, insurance and legal mandates? The rules continue to change daily, so check with your travel companies now, the week before you leave, and the day before you leave. In short, be ready for anything – and have fun!
For tips on how to prepare to leave home and work behind – with or without a pandemic – be sure to check out The Great Escape: A Vacation Planner for Busy People Who Want to Take a Real Break from Work & Life.