With all of the coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines that we have endured over the past year, there is now a ray of hope that we are on the road to recovery with the arrival of several COVID vaccines. And one major ray of hope for millions of us is the potential to get out of our homes and to travel again this summer.
As the number of positive COVID cases declines and as more people are being vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise us to practice COVID health protocols when venturing outside of our homes. This means wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, and using sanitary wipes and sprays on frequently touched objects and surfaces, especially when visiting public spaces. But, before you get out the suitcases and make your travel arrangements, there are still several personal safety and financial precautions to consider before hitting the road.
• Health Insurance: Before traveling outside of your local area be sure to review your health insurance policy to know if you will be covered in all the locations where you will be traveling. If you have a Medigap coverage plan, your benefits remain standard in all states but Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Those three states have different policy plans for Medigap coverage.
• Minimizing Health Risks: It is recommended that you check with your personal health provider for clearance before going on a trip if you or someone you are planning to travel with have health conditions or are at higher risk for infections. For some of us, this may not be a good time to travel far from our home base or our personal physicians.
• Medications: Make sure that you have all your prescriptions in their original bottles and enough of any required medical supplies to last for the entire trip.
• Health Supplies and Protocols: Bring plenty of hand-sanitizers and disinfecting sprays to clean any public areas that you will touch. Always wear a face mask when interacting with strangers both indoors and outside. Wash your hands frequently. Remember to practice social distancing even in close quarters as on an airplane, train, or bus.
• COVID Medical Records: Unless you are traveling in your own vehicle, you may be asked for proof that you have had a negative COVID test before using public transportation, staying in a hotel, going on a cruise, or using a rental property. The time allowance for a negative test is generally 72 hours before traveling or using hospitality services, but some airlines have made rapid COVID testing available at the airport. If you have had the COVID vaccines, you may still need to show the vaccine record. When making your reservations, ask what medical records will be required.
• Travel Destinations: Where you plan to travel to and how you plan to travel will determine the level of health and safety precautions you need to observe.
International Travel: Before booking a flight to another country check to see if there are any entry or exit restrictions. The list of foreign countries with COVID restrictions is always being updated. Some countries have banned visitors from the United States while other countries allow American visitors but impose a mandatory period of quarantine upon arrival in their countries even if you have proof of a negative COVID test or a vaccine record. Ask your travel agent about known travel restrictions in the countries you plan to visit. Another situation you may face when you come back from an overseas trip is that the foreign country may require you to show proof of a negative COVID test before flying out of the country plus the need to self-quarantine once you have returned to the United States. Be sure to stay informed on the latest entry and exit restrictions.
Domestic Travel: When traveling in your own vehicle, you need to know what COVID restrictions are in place at both your destination and in all the states along your route. No one wants to have their vacation interrupted by unexpected delays. Currently, most states have no travel restrictions but there are other states with strict entry and drive-through regulations that can significantly alter your travel time. Some states are not allowing out-of-state visitors, some require self-quarantine upon arrival in the state, some require proof of negative COVID testing or COVID vaccine records. You can check the current list of restrictions by going to each state’s website or you can search the internet for a listing of state-by-state travel restrictions.
No matter where your plans will take you this summer, there will be COVID controls in many locations, both within the country and across borders. Here are some financial tips when scheduling your time and your money.
• Cancellation and Change Fees: Because COVID hotspots are constantly changing, one location may be open to visitors today and closed tomorrow. When you book a flight, a cruise, or a vacation location be sure to ask about any fees related to canceled, delayed, or changed plans. Most airlines are waiving their fees during the pandemic but be sure to ask.
• Quarantine Costs: Depending on your destination, the state or country may require that you self-quarantine at that location for a specified number of days before you can visit their area. When this happens, you will be responsible for the cost of your quarantine. This can be a large unexpected, added expense if you encounter this type of situation.
If the travel bug has bitten you and you are comfortable being out in public while practicing all of the recommended safety protocols, take the extra time to ensure you know the rules of the road between your home and your final destination. Once you are fully informed your summer travel will bring you lots of enjoyment and memories to last a lifetime.