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Ed Perkins on Travel: Reopening Travel: Where we stand and what you can do
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Ed Perkins on Travel: Reopening Travel: Where we stand and what you can do

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Ed Perkins on Travel: Reopening Travel: Where we stand and what you can do

Stack of international passports with Inscription COVID-19 on wooden background.

Everywhere you look, you see signs of a reopening of the travel world. Airlines are ramping up schedules and destinations are actively seeking customers. Unfortunately, however, the combined major stakeholders — airlines, destinations, and governments — have not put together coherent and unified policies and procedures for reopening. If you want to start thinking about spring or summer travel, you still have to navigate a minefield of confusion and uncertainty.

Travel Anywhere

What medical evidence I can see suggests not even thinking about extended travel, anywhere, until after you have received a vaccine. Unfortunately, many of you won't get vaccinated until summer — maybe even late summer. If you can't wait that long, a domestic road trip is probably your best bet, but even that might face some limitations.

Quarantines and Shut-Downs

The various states in our union are not even on the same chapter, let alone same page, on policies about cross-border travel, either for residents or visitors. Currently, at least half of the 50 states still impose some form of quarantine on travelers entering from at least some other states. Most rules ease limits for travelers with COVID-19 tests, but only three so far specifically account for vaccinated travelers. You still need to check for Covid requirements for any out-of-state trip, even a road trip. Fortunately, enforcement is feeble everywhere and more than half of the states assess no penalties for quarantine violations. AARP's continuously updated website is a good place to keep up with current rules, at https://www.aarp.org/travel/travel-tips/safety/info-2020/state-quarantine-guide.html

Except for Mexico and North Macedonia, international travel is still difficult right now. As with domestic travel, rules everywhere are inconsistent, but no matter where you go, CDC currently requires a COVID-19 test for returning travelers on any international flight. IATA (the International Air Transport Association) posts an updated interactive world map detailing Covid restrictions at https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/world.php.

Vaccination and Test Verification

Just about everyone in the travel business expects that immigration services and airlines will soon start to rely on some form of uniform health "passport" that travelers can carry to verify vaccination and test status. It will most likely be implemented as a digital app, but maybe also a card or paper certificate, as well. IATA has developed a digital "International Travel Pass," but to date only a few airlines and no governments have signed up for a trial. American Airlines has launched VeriFly. Other proposals floating around call for linking health data electronically to passports. There's no scarcity of ideas, but "soon" is a pretty nebulous estimate of the time frame for a system that authorities around the world will accept.

Fares and Rates

As with COVID, the rate outlook remains cloudy. Industry mavens predict leisure travel will rebound faster than business travel. On the one hand, you will see lots of enticing offers; on the other, airlines and hotels need to stop hemorrhaging cash. Thus, I see some great airfare deals to Europe — where I can't really go — but Allegiant's latest domestic "promotion" features fares higher than they were before COVID.

More than ever, that means you need to sign up for a few of the dozens of programs that notify you about deals. Some let you name specific routes or destinations; others show you everything and let you sort out what you want. Although names focus on airfares, most also search hotels as well. And most work through apps as well as online:

-- Metasearch systems sweep hundreds of sources to locate deals; you buy direct or through an online agency. Most provide for notification, including AirfareWatchdog.com, FareCompare.com, Google.com/travel/flights, and Skyscanner.com.

-- The big online travel agencies (OTA) such as Expedia.com and Priceline.com also provide similar services.

Dealing with It

As I've been saying all along, plan as much as you want but avoid nonrefundable prepayments. Domestic travel is likely to open up by summer, Europe and Asia maybe by fall.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)

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