Ever since Covid-19 changed our reality, travel has been a particularly delicate thing to do. With varied vaccination numbers across both the United States and the rest of the world, booking a trip has become a highly individual decision that requires an equal amount of thought towards safety precautions and emergency plans. Though there was a brief reprieve from Covid-related worries early this summer, those concerns were quickly replaced when the Delta variant emerged and vaccination numbers slowed.
As the weather cools off and people begin spending more time indoors together, it is time to reevaluate your fall and even winter travel ideas. Advice for travel has begun to shift and the destinations that are accessible are rapidly changing too. With the right precautions, it is still possible to travel. However, those who do should be prepared for just about anything—including accepting healthcare abroad.
Currently, vaccinated travelers by far have the most options for travel. The CDC doesn’t recommend travel for the unvaccinated, and their primary suggestion for vaccinated travelers is to avoid level four destinations such as Spain, Greece and the United Kingdom, among other countries. However, if travel is absolutely necessary to these destinations, only the vaccinated who take precautions such as masking up are at the lowest risk. Even those who are vaccinated but have a high-risk condition or are immunocompromised should avoid travel abroad.
Travelers who are fully vaccinated will find many more doors open to them. Countries such as France are only allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the country and soon proof of vaccination will be necessary to eat indoors there too. If numbers continue to rise over the winter, people can likely expect more destinations to enact similar protocols in addition to curfews.
A large portion of the decision to travel should be determined by each travelers’ health condition and vaccination status. But even then, anyone who goes abroad should research their destination’s healthcare system. If the worst were to happen while away, travelers should be prepared to submit to the local healthcare system. It also might be necessary to quarantine in the country, which is another expense to be prepared for just in case.
Because travel is based on many highly individual factors, for the time being, staying relatively closer to home is still a safe option. Travel could also quickly change based on each country’s status of the ever-evolving virus and the local response. That’s why traveling within the United States or other nearby destinations such as Mexico might be a better option for the moment.
Travelers within the United States can more easily return home should something happen. But there are also good options that diminish the possibility of encountering Covid for those at a higher risk. It is entirely possible to drive to many amazing destinations in the United States. If you must fly, keeping the flight time minimized will also keep the risk of exposure lower. The shorter the flight, the safer it is.
With the uncertainty of how Covid-19 and the Delta variant will play out over the coming months, many travelers have already opted to push their travel plans to 2022. For those who simply cannot wait another moment, it is important to keep travel plans as fluid as possible. To make that happen, travelers should try to only book fully refundable reservations. From flights to hotels, this fall is not the time to gamble on a non-refundable package or deal no matter how low the price.
Something else to consider is travel insurance. Those who choose to buy travel insurance will need to carefully read the conditions under which the policy will repay customers. Many travel insurance policies will simply cover cancellation due to a missed flight or an emergency. But to ensure that the trip is fully covered, travelers should look for Covid-specific coverage. Even policies that include Covid-related reasons should be inspected so the customer is fully aware of the conditions.
No matter where you hope to roam this fall and winter, keep safety for yourself and others in mind. With the proper planning and tools, it is possible to travel safely. But it never hurts to be prepared for the very worst.
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist. You can often find her on the highway somewhere between Florida and North Carolina or taking life slow in Europe.