Traveling has been extremely difficult—and even downright impossible—during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet as vaccinations become more widespread and travel-related restrictions have loosened, vacations that take you beyond your backyard are once again doable. Some countries are still closed to visitors, but according to John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, there are plenty of far-flung destinations that are safe to visit.
“If you know everything that’s expected from the time you leave to the time you get back, there’s no reason you can’t have a very safe and meaningful vacation experience,” Lovell tells Men’s Journal.
Still, the logistics of planning a vacation during a pandemic—from figuring out vaccine and testing rules to working out quarantine requirements—can be daunting. If you have a trip coming up, or you’re planning one, don’t panic. We talked with Lovell and his colleague Dave Hershberger, the owner of Prestige Travel, to learn more about how you can make traveling during the pandemic as painless as possible. Here are the travel tips you need to know.
Do Your Research
Taking a big trip has always required quite a bit of planning, but that’s truer than ever during the pandemic, when many airlines and countries require proof of a negative COVID-19 test—often a specific type of test—proof of vaccination, use of specific apps, and more in order to travel. Do your research and start early. Hershberger suggests keeping an eye on official government travel websites and using Sherpa, an online travel tool that allows you to enter your itinerary and find relevant travel and health restrictions.
“It’s vitally important now that you know what kind of test is required, what type of mask is needed, what type of apps you need to use,” he says. “You can’t just wing it like you used to—at least for the foreseeable future. You really need to do your research and study up on what’s required—even domestically, and especially internationally.”
Check for Updates
Doing your research ahead of a vacation is a significant task, and you might be inclined to kick back and relax once you feel like you’ve figured everything out. Lovell advises against that. The preparations you make might suddenly become insufficient if COVID rules change at your destination, so it’s worth checking up on things frequently—right up to 72 hours ahead of your departure.
“Do your research early, make your booking as early as you can, and if you have the facts at that particular moment, great, you’re making the best decision you can at that moment,” Lovell explains. “But 14 days prior to your trip, you want to go back, and you want to do more research to see if anything’s changed—have testing requirements, quarantining requirements, those things changed? And then seven days before your departure, make sure you check again, and then 72 hours or even 48 hours before you leave on your trip, make sure you check again, because it is so fluid.”
Even the most thoroughly prepared and experienced travelers can be caught unawares. When a positive test result can derail an entire vacation, the risk of upended plans is higher than ever. According to Hershberger, one of the best ways to prepare for these kinds of shake-ups is to purchase third-party travel insurance—meaning insurance that is sold by an external party rather than your airline, tour operator, or cruise line. He recommends looking into Allianz, AIG Travel Guard, Travel Insured International, and Chubb Travel Protection.
“It’s always been our policy to advise some kind of third-party insurance—especially when traveling abroad,” Hershberger says.
In fact, he notes that some countries are now requiring that visitors have third-party insurance policies, including health insurance, evacuation insurance, or trip interruption insurance. Lovell adds that saving up a little extra money to use in case of any unexpected changes to your itinerary is also a good idea.
“Always make sure you have that rainy day fund,” he says.
Consult a Travel Advisor
Travel prep overwhelming you already? Both Lovell and Hershberger recommend enlisting the services of a travel advisor to help you hack through all the red tape and paperwork required for a pandemic getaway.
“You always want somebody to have your back,” Lovell says. “If you’re in a destination and, God forbid, something happens, the last thing you want to worry about is getting the flights changed.”
If you test positive for COVID, for example, a travel agent can ensure that your family gets home safely while you quarantine—and that you’ll have a flight home once you test negative.
“It’s a changing environment,” Hershberger says. “You really need to have somebody that deals with this stuff on a regular basis.”
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