Keeping track of what countries are open to Americans, along with any entrance rules, including negative COVID-19 tests and quarantine requirements upon arrival, can be more stressful than being wedged in a middle seat in economy on a long-haul flight.
So here are six things to keep in mind before you go down a planning rabbit hole for an international trip during a pandemic.
1. The U.S. State Department on Thursday lifted the global advisory against international travel it issued in March when the pandemic heated up, but it still has “do not travel” alerts for several individual countries and “reconsider travel” alerts for many others. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still rates much of the globe as high risk for coronavirus and recommends against nonessential travel, which includes vacations. Also, check travel.state.gov for specific country recommendations related to coronavirus, including notes of any rise in cases that warrant extra caution because of reduced emergency care availability. The Dominican Republic issued such a warning this weekend.
2. Make sure you’re on top of the destination’s health and safety protocols, including any pre-trip requirements for a negative COVID-19 test, health screening forms and other documentation. You don’t want to arrive and be refused entry to the country or be told to quarantine for the length of your stay. In some places, beware of restrictions on leaving the hotel or resort except for approved attractions via approved transportation.
3. Restrictions and requirements can change rapidly, especially as COVID-19 cases spike in the U.S. and international destinations. Jamaica, Aruba and the Bahamas have each tightened entry requirements since reopening. Check airline, tourism board, hotel and travel websites for the latest information. Travel search site Kayak keeps an updated list of travel restrictions by country, and you can sign up for alerts about changes.
4. Don’t expect everything to be open for business. As in recently reopened U.S. destinations like Las Vegas, not all hotels, restaurants, bars and attractions are open because of capacity limits and uncertain demand. Beaches may be closed or have other restrictions, including reduced hours and social distancing. Research is key before booking any flights or vacation packages.
5. Take note of airline, hotel and vacation rental cancellation and refund policies in case you need to change or cancel the trip, whatever the reason, and weigh any financial risks. Airlines, for example, generally won’t give you a cash refund on a nonrefundable ticket simply because the destination you were planning to visit is closing to Americans again.
6. Check for any quarantines your state might have when you return home, if you’ve traveled to destinations with rising COVID-19 cases. The list of destinations is currently limited mostly to places within the United States, but New York just added Puerto Rico to its quarantine list and Chicago will, too, effective Aug. 7.
BY DAWN GILBERTSON