How well do you know your neighborhood right now? Better than you did a year ago? Ready for a change of scenery? You're not alone. After being cooped up in and around our homes for far too long, many Americans are mapping out long-awaited travel plans as restrictions ease and vaccination rates soar. But what exactly will that experience look like? How many hygiene measures are still in place? And are there different rules for those who are vaccinated and others who aren't? Kulkea has the answers to these questions and more in a preview of what to expect on your summer travels.
Domestic and International Flights
Air traffic is busier now than it's been since the start of the pandemic as pent-up travelers take their first big steps out into the wider world. Yet, there remains a lot of confusion about what is and isn't required to get on a plane. Fully vaccinated travelers, for example, no longer need to get tested before or after domestic travel unless their destination requires it, nor do they need to self-quarantine, according to the CDC. Federal regulations do state, however, that you must wear a mask at all times – both at the airport and on the plane – when not drinking or eating.
International flights remain much more complicated at the moment given the ever-changing nature of global travel restrictions. Be sure to check ahead about local requirements in your destination for testing, proof of vaccine or quarantine upon arrival. The CDC has a helpful list of travel recommendations by destination that's a good starting point. Be sure, too, to check with your carrier on what documentation is required for your trip.
Seek out local news sources for the latest intel if you plan to travel within a foreign country. Many nations still have evening curfews and restrictions between regions that may require additional permits. Most carriers remain flexible with their change-fee policies, allowing you to alter your dates as needed due to any unforeseen issues that may pop up between booking and departure.
Note that the CDC still recommends delaying international travel until you're fully vaccinated, as well as monitoring the risk posed by regional coronavirus variants. Also keep in mind that all travelers – even those who are fully vaccinated – must present a negative Covid-19 test no more than 3 days before returning to the US. It's also recommended to get tested again 3 to 5 days after international travel.
No matter where you go, longstanding recommendations like washing your hands and maintaining 6 feet from others remain in place. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also offers a helpful rundown of frequently asked questions that should ease concerns about screenings and security checkpoints at airports.
Buses and Trains
Like plane travel, masks are also required on all buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States. They are also mandatory at all transportation hubs and stations. The CDC recommends that you look for physical distancing instructions offered by transit authorities, avoid touching surfaces as much as possible and consider traveling during non-peak hours when there are likely to be fewer people. It also suggests looking up a location's Covid-19 infection rates before booking.
Amtrak – which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – has equipped its trains with onboard filtration systems that refresh the air every 5 minutes. In addition to offering private rooms for those who want extra space, it shows real-time seat availability at booking so you can select the least crowded train. Bus companies such as Greyhound have similarly enhanced their air filtration systems, increased the cleaning of high-touch surfaces and altered their policies to allow for fee-free changes and cancellations. Megabus goes one step further, promising an empty seat next to each customer.
The CDC has updated its guidance on masks saying that most people do not need to wear them outdoors when walking, hiking, running, cycling or otherwise enjoying nature. That's good news for anyone gearing up for an adventure this summer. Check the CDCs specific recommendations for visiting parks, camping, swimming and playing sports for more details.
Participating in group trips still poses some additional challenges. The Adventure Travel Trade Association partnered with Cleveland Clinic to develop Covid-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for everything from multi-day cycling excursions to whitewater rafting. While meant for tour operators, these recommendations serve as a good primer on what to expect – or demand – when booking an adventure. Above all, make sure to book activities with flexible cancellation policies and use operators who display a strong commitment to your health and safety.
No matter where you plan to go this summer – or what you plan to do when you're there – it's best to build in some flexibility to prepare for the unexpected. Things in the US sure look a lot more normal than they did one year ago, but in this time of transition, it's still best to venture away from home with a bit of (optimistic) caution so that, by this time next year, all of these guidelines and recommendations are just a fading memory.