Early last year we thought we had seen the worst of the virus that would change the way we travel. New strains have developed so we have had to adjust to those changes. Since that time, I have been on a few domestic and international flights, train journeys here and abroad and a cruise to Mexico. There were challenges and a different set of protocols associated with each one. Was it worth it? Absolutely! If you think you are ready to travel again I’d like to offer some suggestions to help you navigate the global changes of air, sea and rail travel with as little stress as possible.
First, if you haven’t traveled for the last couple of years dust off your passport. Passport maintenance might be in order so check the expiration date. Most international destinations require that the passport presented be valid for at least six months following the date of your anticipated return. You should also have at least two unstamped visa pages remaining. If you need extra pages or your passport has expired or will soon, don’t wait until the last minute to update. Passport offices are having the same problem as other businesses with staffing, and the desire to travel again is strong so delays are the rule rather than the exception.
Secondly, keep current on the latest COVID testing or vaccinations requirements for each destination on your itinerary. Know if and what kind of test will be accepted and make arrangements for those tests in advance. While many countries no longer require a test for entry, as of this writing the United States does. Ask the testing facility to provide you with both written and electronic results. Take a picture of the written results and your vaccination card.
Be prepared with more than one fresh mask. Carry hand-cleaner towelettes in your pocket and use them often. Currently masks are no longer required on domestic flights, but many airlines flying internationally do. The mask mandates in each destination seem to be changing constantly. One Sunday my train journey from Paris to Dijon required a mask. If I had traveled the following day, however, I would not have had to wear one.
Pack patience and expect delays and/or slow and reduced services. Scan technology, in use for everything from ordering food to checking in to your hotel, reduces the need for staff, but also increases frustration if you don’t know how it works. Airport self-service kiosks for passengers are meant to decrease wait time at counters, but if you are traveling internationally you may still have to present travel documents to airline personnel. Arrive early. If you believe that you will be traveling frequently, the investment in the Global Entry Program, TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR is highly recommended.
Finally, read the fine print regarding refunds associated with cancellations, delays or rebooking. Travel insurance is a good investment, but because of the losses experienced during the past two years, it can be confusing to understand when and what justifies a claim.
- Plan early and know the cancellation, change or delay clause of each component of your trip.
- Stay up to date on restrictions and requirements of each destination. Conditions continue to be fluid.
- Use or learn travel-related technology to reduce reliance on reduced staff.
- Invest in CLEAR, Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check if you are a frequent traveler.
- Food and beverage service is starting to slowly return on planes and trains, and electronic payments through the airline you are traveling on is the only form of payment accepted.
- Take advantage of travel deals as vendors attempt to recapture our love of travel.