With vaccinations on the rise in the U.S., people who’ve been cooped up for more than a year are ready to scratch that travel itch.
For many, “revenge travel” dreams involve booking an epic vacation that’s been on the bucket list for years. As more countries open up to international travelers, particularly those who are fully vaccinated, visiting a dream destination abroad is feeling possible.
But choosing to travel outside the U.S. right now carries serious ethical and logistical considerations. Below, health and travel experts share six questions that people should ask themselves before booking an international trip.
Am I fully vaccinated?
“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before booking any international travel,” said Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of the travel app Tripscout. “That’s the best way to make sure you are traveling ethically and responsibly, without putting locals and fellow travelers at risk.”
Many countries are only allowing international visitors who are fully vaccinated, so your vaccine status may affect your ability to even take that trip abroad. It’s also important to consider whether you will be returning home to anyone who is unvaccinated and at high risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19.
“Being vaccinated and taking precautions can reduce but not eliminate risk of contracting COVID with travel,” said Dr. Sachin Nagrani, a physician and medical director for the telemedicine and house call provider Heal. “Consider the necessity for travel and alternative trips before making plans, and have a safe and pleasant summer.”
What are the local entry requirements?
“Every country has their own travel rules and restrictions,” said budget travel expert Lindsay Myers. “You need to be educated before you travel. You do not want to be stranded at the airport because they will not let you past immigration.”
Some destinations require international visitors to be vaccinated, so you’ll want to make sure you have what’s necessary to prove your status. Don’t lose that vaccine card.
“COVID passports have become a political issue in the U.S., but in many countries they are simply accepted as a sensible means by which to get the industry moving again,” said Alan Fyall, the interim chair for the tourism, events and attractions department at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. And vaccine passports aren’t the whole story.
“Some countries may require a negative COVID-19 test before entry, including returning to the U.S.,” said Dr. Andrés Henao, an internal medicine physician, infectious disease specialist, and director of the UCHealth Travel Clinic. “Visit a travel clinic before international travel for more comprehensive prevention recommendations.”
Stay up to date with the requirements for visiting your preferred destination by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travelers’ health page. The rules are always subject to change, so the site is frequently adjusted with the latest information for each country. The proof of a negative test requirement may come with specifications about time windows, types of tests and providers.
“I think the first thing people should do when booking a trip abroad is to research the relevant COVID statistics of wherever they’re thinking about going.”
Can I visit the attractions I want to see?
“You want to know if attractions that you’re most interested in are open and when,” said Erika Richter, senior director of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors. “Many have adjusted hours and capacities, including restaurants. Booking ahead and pre-planning is required rather than an afterthought.”
Richter urged travelers to work with a professional travel adviser, who may be able to leverage their relationships as reservation options in popular destinations become scarce. The availability of attractions also may indicate when it’s best to wait before booking that trip.
“Just because precautions are loosening in the U.S. does not mean that this is the case in other countries, in fact far from it,” Fyall said, noting that the reopening process in many destinations is quite slow and methodical.
“It is essential that travelers check out the local conditions very carefully, what are the COVID guidelines, what can they actually do when visiting, what is open, what constraints are there on gathering in groups, are the primary tourist attractions actually open,” Fyall added. “Travelers should always ask many questions before traveling but in 2021, questions on all aspects of the trip are more important than ever otherwise you may find yourself at a destination that is ‘open’ but in essence not open for tourists!”
What’s the current COVID situation at my destination?
“I think the first thing people should do when booking a trip abroad is to research the relevant COVID statistics of wherever they’re thinking about going,” said Randall Kaplan, founder of the travel startup Sandee and author of “Bliss: Beaches.” “What are the number of current COVID infections there, are the number of COVID cases decreasing, what are their vaccination rates?”
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the health care infrastructure. If the COVID situation is not under control and hospitals are overwhelmed, it seems irresponsible to travel to that country and risk needing to use one of the scarce hospital beds. Many things can happen during travel other than COVID-19 that require hospitalization abroad. Do your research and stay up to date as the coronavirus conditions evolve at your destination.
Where will I get a COVID test?
The U.S. still requires all air passengers, including fully vaccinated citizens, to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken three days before returning to the country.
“If you travel internationally from the U.S., you need to get a COVID test no more than three days before you return, and you’re required to show a negative COVID test before boarding a flight there ― all of which means you have some non-vacation things to do while you’re away,” Kaplan noted.
Be sure to research how you will get your COVID test in your destination before your return flight. It’s possible they’re offered at your accommodations.
“Many resorts in Mexico are offering on-site COVID tests complimentary to their guests to make it simpler for Americans to come, take a vacation and then go back to the U.S. without having to figure out the Mexican health care system on their own and find a test,” said Scott Keyes, author of “Take More Vacations” and founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Can I quarantine after returning?
Per CDC guidelines, vaccinated travelers returning are no longer required to self-quarantine in the U.S., but those who are unvaccinated must stay home and isolate for at least a week. Additionally, both groups are urged to take a test three to five days after traveling.
Beyond CDC recommendations, you may face requirements from workplaces or schools. This is particularly true for children who are not yet vaccinated.
“If you have children, whether or not they travel with you, you also need to consider whether their schools allow them to attend classes if you or anybody in your family has traveled outside the U.S.,” Kaplan said.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.