By Mark Jackson
on January 22, 2021
It’s 2021, and we’re still deep in the pandemic caused by COVID-19. All industries have been affected, but arguably none more so than the travel industry. With a new administration in charge in the US, policies for travelers that were in place in 2020 may be changing. If you’re like many other Americans wondering when it will be safe to travel again and what the travel requirements may be in 2021, this post is for you!
- How To Travel Safely in 2021
- Wear a Mask
- Check Travel Restrictions
- Travel Safely While At Your Destination
- Be Flexible
- Vaccine Addendum
If we are able to travel again in 2021, there are some tips to do so safely. With all of the safety protocols put in place today, you are much better off doing your research and learning the safety measures at both your departing airport and your destination. You don’t want to miss your flight or have your trip ruined because you were not well-informed of all safety protocols.
Up until January 20th, wearing a mask for interstate travel was only “recommended” by the federal government, with companies like American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Southwest Airlines requiring them to travel on their planes. By executive order, masks are now required for all interstate travel, including airlines, trains, ferries, and bus travel. This is a great step forward to keep everyone safe during travel and reduce the difficulty in enforcing the official policy for airline workers, who have seen an uptick in aggressive passengers during the pandemic.
If you’re traveling domestically or internationally, your destination may have restrictions or entry requirements for travelers. For example, many cities and states around the US have mandatory quarantine requirements for out of state travelers visiting or returning to their state. AARP has published a nice guide detailing state-by-state the requirements.
For leisure travelers domestically, it’s important to note that Alaska and Hawaii are requiring a negative COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours or less before travel (and some islands in Hawaii featuring even more strict entry requirements, like required “resort bubble” quarantines).
If you’re traveling internationally, know that starting January 26th, 2021, a negative COVID test (PCR or antigen) will be required to board a plane back to the US. President Biden also mentioned a required quarantine upon returning from international travel, but details aren’t known at this time.
Your international travel destination may also have special entry requirements that require special consideration. Some countries, like Mexico, Turkey, and the Dominican Republic, are not currently requiring a negative COVID test for entry. Most others still open for travel do. Other countries, like Japan, are still closed to tourism. Check the U.S. State Department‘s website for your specific country’s requirements.
Once you arrive at your destination, familiarize yourself with the new laws and requirements due to COVID-19. If you’re traveling to a place like Walt Disney World, you’ll be required to wear a mask when not eating or drinking for your entire day in the parks. Hotel chains have also required masks in public areas in all their hotels. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and wear a mask and maintain social distancing from other guests or visitors. Choose activities that are safe during a pandemic (outdoor sports like golf are a great option). Avoid crowded situations like indoor dining, if that is still allowed at your destination.
With new vaccines, new variants, and a new administration, requirements can change for travel in an instant. It’s important to be flexible with your travel plans, and even being willing to cancel your trip outright, if new changes to policies affect your trip. Luckily, airlines and hotels have eliminated change fees, made cancellations easier, and understand the situation all of us are in. Refer closely to any cancellation policy for your specific reservation.
It’s too early to say how the world will deal with the vaccine once it’s rolled out more broadly. Questions like if masks will still be required, if testing will still go on, and if border restrictions for your country of interest will be lifted will remain unanswered for many more weeks (or months). If you have access to the vaccine at this time, make sure to keep your immunization cards in a safe place, as they’ll be required for either proof of vaccination in the future (much like yellow fever is treated now by some countries) or for a digital “vaccine passport” that is now being proposed by the Biden Administration.
As always, things may change. We’ll update our post with new and up to date information as needed.