If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. The pandemic has forced us all to adapt to profound change and hit the reset button across so many aspects of our life – including travel. As borders cautiously re-open and international travel restrictions begin to lift, there are new guidelines, procedures and regulations to consider. Armed with information and an adjustment in our expectations will help prepare us to take on this new world. So, whether you’re planning to travel this year or looking ahead to next, here’s what to expect on your next trip.
Know Before You Go. Boundaries and borders remain in flux so stay current with local, regional and international guidelines after you book your trip. Browse the latest information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and State Department websites to stay informed on where you can go and what you have to do to get there. Check out the country’s entry requirements as many mandate a negative COVID-19 test result within five days of departure, online health screening, a travel authorization form before flying, masks at the airport or travel risk questionnaire upon arrival and departure.
Invest in Peace of Mind. No one wants to imagine something going wrong during a trip, yet we all know it’s a possibility. Safeguard with trip insurance that provides cancellation and interruption, travel delay and medical protection for COVID-19. If you didn’t purchase it at the time of booking or first deposit, many plans let you buy coverage up until the day before you leave.
Timing is Everything. Parking facilities are more crowded than in the past as some airports have closed long-term lots or more people are driving their own cars to reduce the risks of ride share and public transportation services. Reserve and pay for your own airport parking in advance or be prepared to pay a bit more for a car service.
Exercise Caution, but No Bubble Wrap Required. While airports are not nearly as crowded as the last time you traveled, you should still anticipate longer wait times to check-in, check luggage and get through new TSA and security procedures. It’s best (though not required) to wear a mask and keep your distance from those outside your household. Hand-sanitize frequently and especially at security checkpoints where bins are quickly repurposed. And, where you can, limit luggage to carry-on. This slows plane boarding and disembarking, but reduces the number touching your bags and congregating around the baggage carousel.
Airport Show and Tell. Airports are doing their part with protective screens, hand sanitizer stations, social distancing reminders and ultraviolet cleaning robots in frequently used areas throughout the airport. It’s best to print your boarding pass in advance or use mobile apps for check-in as TSA officials no longer handle the boarding pass. Have it along with your passport, travel insurance with medical coverage and proof of a negative COVID-19 test (within 5 days of travel). At security, place personal items (wallets, keys, cell phone, extra masks and up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer) in your carry-on bag or in clear plastic bags rather than directly in the screening bins.
Safety in the Air. Not every airline spaces passengers throughout the plane, but the safety factor is even greater on airlines that promise to keep middle seats open on flights into the fall (e.g., JetBlue, Delta and Southwest). If social distancing is difficult, employ the same precautions you do at home. Bring alcohol wipes and swab the area where you’re sitting (including armrests, seat belt, light and call buttons, window shades and touch screen) as some airlines are limiting cleaning practices to only tray tables and common areas. Plan to wear your mask throughout the flight as some carriers have established no-fly lists for those refusing to do so. And, some airlines have eliminated or reduced food and drink service or require contactless payment on board, so check in advance to know how best to prepare before your flight.
Breathe Easier. For confidence while in flight, it’s important to know that airlines have been purifying the air on flights since the late 1990’s - well before the pandemic. These high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) filters are the same used in hospitals to create sterile rooms for surgeries and control infectious diseases. These capture 99.97% of airborne microbes by circulating the cabin air once every 2 to 4 minutes. Cabin air is filtered from the top down, so be sure to open the overhead vent on your next flight.
Come in for a Landing. Once you land at the airport, anticipate temperature checks, screenings and wearing masks in public spaces. You may also have to take a COVID-19 test. This is not to dissuade you from traveling but an important precaution to protect you, your loved ones and travel mates.
Privacy Matters. Arrange private transfers to and from the airport from local destination management companies (DMC), like Amstar, who have invested in advanced cleaning and safety protocols to keep visitors safe en route to their accommodations.
Your travel journey may take a slightly different route than before, but that amazing feeling travel invokes will remain the same! Take comfort in knowing what to expect when you travel and being prepared in the wake of COVID-19. Always prioritize your health and maintain that insatiable appetite for travel.