In November, six countries including the United States and India reopened to fully vaccinated foreign travelers, just in time for holiday travel. For the first time in 18 months, parents can reunite with their adult children, and grandparents can finally hold the grandchildren theyve only met on Zoom. Whether you’re an American citizen dreaming of traveling to Europe, or an international traveler planning a long-awaited trip to the U.S., these reopenings are definitely something to get excited about.
However, it would be unrealistic to assume that international travel will return to normal immediately. And as we’ve seen in recent days, new Covid variants like Omicron still threaten our ability to travel with peace of mind. Heres a look at what the border reopenings and restrictions mean for your international holiday travel, along with tips for navigating your travels safely.
Have Realistic Expectations
Much of the travel infrastructure, from visa agencies to car rentals, has been put on pause for the last 18 months. When countries reopen to fully vaccinated international travelers in November, it will put a sudden strain on the entire travel ecosystem. Were already seeing signs of this as people race to book their international flights. Travelers can expect long lines, flight delays, overbookings, lack of lodging availability, even food shortages as airports attempt to accommodate the sudden influx of hungry international travelers.
As a general rule, travel plans wont always go as youd expect. This will be particularly true this year. There is so much that travelers cant control, so the best thing to do is focus on what you can control: your mindset. Know that even though there might be a few more bumps in the road this year, you can still have an amazing trip.
Ensure that Passports, Visas & other Travel Documentation Are up to Date
During the year and a half break from international travel, you probably werent thinking about whether your passport or visa had expired. Now is the time to start thinking about those things. As a general rule, your passport should expire no earlier than six months after you return home from your trip. For some countries, this is a requirement.
If youre traveling to India on a visa, youll want to make sure its still valid. All tourist visas for India issued before October 6th, 2021 are suspended. Check with your destination country and official agencies to ensure that all your travel documents are up to date and meet the specified entry requirements.
Follow the COVID-19 status of your Destination Country
Even though foreign travelers are required to be fully vaccinated, they should still be aware of their destinations Covid status and follow all safety protocols related to the virus. This includes wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and being prepared to show proof of vaccine to gain entry to pubs, bars, theatres and other venues. In the U.S., for instance, there isnt a national vaccine passport requirement, but certain cities like New York City and San Francisco do require proof of vaccination to enter many public places. As vaccination rates lag, the instances of Covid breakthrough cases (instances of fully vaccinated people contracting the virus) have increased. While these instances are still statistically rare, its best to adhere to strict Covid safety rules while traveling abroad.
Check Your Destination Countrys Entry Requirements
In the last few days, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has prompted many countries to again close their borders to international visitors. That’s why it’s crucial to keep up to date with the latest Covid-related entry requirements. Find out how Omicron is impacting international travel and what you can do about it.
Along with requiring international travelers 16 and older to be fully vaccinated, there will be other entry requirements to heed. Some requirements will be related to Covid restrictions, such as mask mandates on public transit, or producing a negative Covid test result from a sample taken within one day of your departure. Other requirements, like possessing a valid tourist visa, may not be. Its worth noting that many countries require foreign visitors to buy travel insurance, either through their own country, as is the case with Aruba, or meeting specific coverage requirements, as is the case with Costa Rica.
Check your destination countrys entry requirements and give yourself ample time to satisfy them. For instance, if you arent fully vaccinated already, be sure to give yourself time to get the required vaccine dosage and add two extra weeks after the last dose is administered. Youre not considered fully vaccinated unless its been at least two weeks after your last shot.
Keep Your Trip Plans Flexible with CFAR Coverage
If waiting in long lines and racing around to get your travel documents in order isnt worth the hassle, or perhaps youre unsure of the dates you want to travel, trip insurance with Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage can help. With CFAR, you can cancel your trip plans for literally any reason and still recoup some prepaid travel expenses, like hotel and rental deposits, or even unused event tickets. CFAR can minimize the financial loss if you decide that traveling now, amidst the sudden onslaught of fellow international travelers isn’t right for you. Keep in mind, though, that trip and travel insurance isnt something you can buy at the last minute. Youll want to buy a policy at the same time you book your hotel and schedule your flight.
Find Ways to Manage Your Travel Anxiety
Whether you fear flying or struggle in large crowds, there are a number of tricks you can use to manage your travel anxiety. From guided meditation to breathing exercises, theres a lot you can do to manage your emotions. Trip and travel insurance are your secret weapons when it comes to de-stressing. Paying a small amount up front can give you peace of mind that can last through your whole trip.
While trip insurance safeguards you financially from travel-related mishaps like flight delays, cancellations, missed connections, delayed or lost baggage, travel insurance ensures that you get necessary medical care while traveling abroad. Travel insurance is one of the most practical things you can buy to put your mind at ease.
Pack Carefully & Plan Ahead
Memorable international trips begin with careful planning. This will be especially true this year, as the travel infrastructure strains to meet the sudden surge in demand. Pack methodically. Start with the essentials- the travel documents, IDs and prescriptions, First Aid Kit, COVID-19 safety accessories like hand sanitizer and extra masks- and from there consider packing clothing for every kind of weather you can expect. Give yourself more time than you usually would for tasks like document updating, pre-boarding, driving to the airport, getting to your terminal.
With careful planning and the right mindset, your international trips can be both stress-free and amazing, which brings us to the most important travel tip of all: Have a wonderful time!