As the Delta variant continues its march across the planet, it’s no longer a given that things will return to ‘travel normal’ and despite increasing vaccinations, there are doubts about whether travel is a good idea during fall, or indeed winter, 2021.
This doesn’t mean that people aren’t currently traveling. Bloomberg reported that U.S. travelers are currently spending a lot of time in Mexico (plane seats are up 30% for the week of 16 Aug, compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels), Greece (up 29% on the same metrics) and Croatia (where volumes have tripled). These three countries are some of the few which are currently wide open to U.S. tourists–but many aren’t.
What’s more, being vaccinated isn’t the golden ticket it was once thought to be–people can still catch Covid-19 even though the symptoms are reportedly milder. As reported by CNN Travel, “we’re at quite a junction now with the Delta variant, because what’s become apparent in the past few weeks is even vaccinated people, at a low frequency, are starting to get infected,” says Dr. David Freedman, an emeritus infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham whose COVID-19 research has focused on travel. “People don’t want to go away and get sick, especially somewhere they can’t get good medical care.”
If you are planning to book a trip, these golden rules might be a life saver:
1) The immunocompromised and unvaccinated shouldn’t head overseas
The CDC recommends that international travel should not be attempted if people are not vaccinated and even vaccinated people should not travel to Level 4 countries. As of 26 August, level 4 countries included France, Iceland, Ireland, the Bahamas, Israel, Greece, Spain and the U.K.
The situation improves if more people get vaccinated but immunocompromised people, even vaccinated ones, should not be thinking about traveling overseas right now, on the advice of health and travel specialists.
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The New York Times reported that travel agents are seeing more people push trips back into 2022 and simply waiting for a safer window of opportunity.
2) U.S. travelers could stick to Mexico and the Caribbean as Europe changeable
With Africa and Asia currently off the table for U.S. travelers, Europe is possible but ever changing. Whilst many EU countries are currently open to Americans (and other nationalities), the rules are being constantly reviewed at an EU-wide level and countries can pull the “emergency brake” and close to non-EU travelers again if the situation worsens. Even Greece, one of the most open EU countries, brought back mask mandates and curfews on some islands during August. As reported by CNN Traveler, Americans might be wise to stick to holiday destinations closer to home for fall and winter plans. The EU is reportedly currently preparing to remove the U.S. from its safe list of countries.
3) Any booking needs to be fully refundable and travel insurance policies must be solid
According to FlightAware, 33% of U.S. flights were delayed in July and with constantly evolving Covid-19 travel restrictions, travel insurance and fully-refundable bookings are a must.
Rajeev Shrivastava of VisitorsCoverage.com suggests that people traveling within the U.S. should consider trip insurance from a third party rather than the airline or their credit card so that non-refundable costs including hotel/short-term rental and entertainment can be recouped if travel plans are interrupted.
Additionally, Shrivastava says that everyone should add Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage to a trip insurance policy–so that the trips can be cancelled for any reason including a sudden spike in Delta cases.
Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay agrees, stating that travel insurance needs to cover cancellations, lost baggage, medical emergencies, trip interruptions and delays and to buy the insurance at least 15 days before departure to read through all the small print to ensure coverage.
Dittakavi says “the uncertainty of each country’s travel restrictions changing has left travellers looking for travel insurance options now more than ever. It’s no surprise that (internet) searches for “is travel insurance worth it” has increased by 233% and searches for “cancel for any reason travel insurance worth it” has increased by 200%.