Post-pandemic planning checklist for vaccinated travelers
When the CDC gave the green light to fully vaccinated travelers to begin hitting the road and flying again, the announcement generated numerous questions about travel preparation, planning and COVID protection. This checklist for vaccinated travelers is how to start planning your next trip.
With more people getting fully vaccinated against coronavirus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that vaccinated people can travel again, the doors to the world are beginning to crack open. It’s been more than a year, and finally, finally, it seems travelers are to be let out of lockdowns and isolation, albeit with continued care and precautions.
Now this doesn’t mean travel will be the same as it was before March 2020 … or that it will ever been the same again. And that’s not such a bad thing. As our country and the world begins to open back up, travelers will still need to follow coronavirus precautions. And travelers will need to be prepared to face an entirely new set of complications for entry and exit into other countries, some of which are changing by the day.
To help prepare for upcoming travels in a post-pandemic world, we’ve put together this checklist for vaccinated travelers to guide travel planning.
The travel planning checklist for vaccinated travelers
Research your destination to know what you can and can’t do
Before you book your plane or train tickets, or make your hotel reservations, make very sure where you want to travel will be open to travelers — even fully vaccinated ones. There is no doubt that cities, states and countries want to open up to travelers as quickly as possible but know and understand what you must do prior to departure and the reality of a destination experience once you have arrived.
Attractions, restaurants and businesses may have all adopted new protocols requiring advanced reservations and limited capacity numbers. Some may not be open at all, or under reduced hours.
You also need to know what rules are in place regarding entry and exit into a state or country, and what rules you will be required to follow. Be sure you also know what vaccines and visas will be needed before your departure – sure, everyone’s talking about COVID, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to carry that World Health Organization yellow vaccination card with you as well showing you’ve received the necessary inoculations to enter a country. The tips in our ultimate travel planner for international trips will help guide you.
Local tourist offices in your planned destination will be excellent sources of information, as will the CDC website and the State Department website. Another excellent source of COVID updates in the United States and globally can be found at Global Rescue by signing up for its Coronavirus Daily Updates. This is also another reason to consider a membership in Global Rescue as its detailed destination reports and event alerts have become a vital part of our travel planning.
You will need travel insurance
Because the status of the global pandemic continues to fluctuate dramatically – and sometimes quite suddenly — on a state, country and global level, it is essential you purchase travel insurance to cover potential trip cancellation for any reason. Additionally, consider evacuation coverage that will get you home in case of a medical or other emergency. These days, “better safe than sorry” is the mantra.
If you are traveling with an outfitter, cruise or other organized trip, there may be an option to buy insurance through the group – be sure the travel insurance you are being offered provides a “cancel for any reason” option. We work closely with Global Rescue and rely on it for our travel insurance and evacuation needs. Global Rescue’s travel insurance partner, IMG Signature Travel Insurance, offers both “cancel for any reason” and “interrupt for any reason” options, which is why we rely on them. You can learn much more about travel insurance in general on our Travel Insurance 101 page.
Be sure to pack your CDC vaccine card
For the near future, there is not a digital alternative that is universally accepted for proving you have been fully vaccinated for protection against COVID or have a required negative COVID test. So, pack your CDC vaccine card – and, for safekeeping, do a scan or photo of it and file it someplace handy on your smartphone. You may need to show your proof of vaccination when boarding a plane, going through customs, and … well… you never know these days!
In sum: Be sure you have a photographed copy of your CDC vaccine card stored on your phone AND you have another copy of your card at home (this piece of paper is gold). You can laminate the copy you carry with you, but experts do not recommend laminating your original card because you may need to add a booster shot down the road.
Digital vaccine passports via apps may be coming in the future and when they do, they will be important for travelers as they will contain the digital keys to open up travel globally. The idea is that an official digital vaccine passport will contain coronavirus test results, proof of coronavirus vaccination, plus any officially provided health waivers you may have. With your smartphone app, you’ll be able to quickly show the proof you need to enter international destinations, board planes, ships and trains, and enter public entertainment spaces.
A number of organizations and businesses are currently developing vaccine passport apps which include CommonPass, IATA Travel Pass, Verifly, and Clear. It is still to be seen which one or ones will establish themselves as THE ones to have.
Organize and travel with all your essential documents
Along with your CDC vaccine card, you may also need to show proof of health insurance (be sure your health insurance will cover you internationally), proof of travel insurance, proof of medical evacuation services, proof of coronavirus test results, your passport and another photo ID, such as your driver’s license.
Be absolutely sure you have digital copies made of each of the above and have them stored on your phone, safely, as well as in a secure cloud-based service, such as DropBox. Additionally, make paper copies of all your essential documents and keep those stored at home, where a family member or close friend can get access to them.
Have a plan to get tested before and during your travels
While CDC guidance has indicated fully vaccinated travelers (meaning your final shot was at least two weeks prior to travel) do not need to get a coronavirus test before or after travel or quarantine as long as all travel is within the United States.
However, if you are returning to the United States from an international trip, you will have to show proof of a negative covid test (within three days of the flight, but check the timing since it could change) or medical documentation of recovery from infection even if you have been vaccinated or carry antibodies. Many countries still require proof of a negative test before you depart from the United States to foreign shores too – and that timing can vary from 2-3 days so triple-check especially as a trip gets closer since, as we can’t say enough, things are changing constantly.
Check with the State Department to find where you can get tested when overseas. Also, many hotels and airports are offering rapid testing, and check with the airline you are flying, too. Be prepared to pay for your tests when overseas … they likely won’t be free as they have been in the United States, although they are in some countries. TestForTravel.com is another resource you can use to find testing locations internationally – all crowdsourced.
Travel with pandemic essentials to protect yourself and others
Even those who are vaccinated need to continue to travel with patience, empathy, respect and understanding. It may still be possible for vaccinated people to spread the coronavirus, and we do know that it is still possible, though far less likely, to get sick from coronavirus even if vaccinated. This is not a time to let down your guard, even though the gates to the world are starting to open.
Wearing your mask and packing hand sanitizer are just a few of the essential things to pack anywhere you travel. There are additional things to think about to ensure you are able to stay safe and healthy when booking a hotel. There are certainly some hotels we’ve stayed in, even recently, that are not exactly checking the boxes when it comes to cleanliness and sanitizing – including an actual breakfast buffet in one recently that make our chins drop. We grabbed and ran. If you can avoid “sharing indoor air,” it may still be wise to do so since we have not reached “herd immunity” and since some are not choosing to get vaccinated the question is if we will.
And while flying is necessary for international travel, many of us will be hitting the road this next year which means knowing the safety essentials for road trip travel. As of spring 2021, many museums, visitor centers and restaurants remained closed, so check ahead on available services and consider packing along what you will need for food and supplies.
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