Yes, You CAN Still Travel During COVID! Here's what you can expect....
Let's face it, we all have different comfort levels when it comes to travel - period....but even more so these days thanks to COVID-19. It's smart to be cautious! But add to that confusion stemming from individual guidelines and restrictions varying based on location, and many people are choosing to throw in the towel on 2020 travel altogether, opting instead to postpone their trips and hoping for the best in 2021.
Now here's the deal - I can tell you about the incredible trips my clients are moving forward with for later this year, or about clients who have traveled recently and reported that they actually felt safer at their resorts than they do at home (My resort partners are not playing when it comes to sanitation! - so fresh and so clean, clean!), but ultimately, you are the only person who can decide whether or not it makes sense for you to travel this year.
If you do decide you're ready to hit the road, it's only fair we give you the scoop on what you can expect. With travel looking different for both domestic and international trips, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as your interest level starts to peak.
What does Domestic Travel look like during COVID-19?:
Traveling within the U.S. has been increasing in popularity, and makes for a convenient option for those of you that are getting antsy for an adventure. But as individual states begin to reopen, it's important to remember they all have different sets of rules and regulations that you must follow.
It probably goes without saying that the main requirement is wearing a mask while in public areas or while entering different hotels, restaurants, malls, etc. But what many don't realize is some states require you to quarantine upon arrival! For example, if you are traveling to New York from certain states (31 on the list), Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, you are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Please believe this is not something they're taking lightly either - they do popup calls and visits to make sure you’re at the place you said you’d be at while under quarantine.
Much like international resorts, domestic hotels must go through extensive training and prove their compliance with COVID-19 protocols before they're given the green light to reopen. Many hotels are even sealing each room after it's been cleaned, and then allowing the traveler to break the seal upon entering the room after arrival.
Keep in mind that room service, or other hotel amenities you may typically look forward to might not be available right now, so if there's something you absolutely have to have, double-check with your travel agent or the hotel ahead of time. Even hanging by the pool will be different than what you're used to - protocols include occupancy limits in pools at any given time along with required intermittent closing for cleaning and sanitation.
If you're thinking staying in an AirBnB might be less restrictive on your overall experience, guess again! AirBnB has created guidelines for both hosts & guests based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and the CDC including sanitation protocols and occupancy limits. Trust me when I tell you the last thing you want to do is book a private rental and then find out it hasn’t been deemed certified for people to stay. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have gone through the proper procedures to operate and if they have the documentation to back up their claims.
Pro Tip: You don't want to get to your destination and learn you have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival! Check quarantine requirements BEFORE you book your flight. If you're unsure where to start, your travel agent should be able to get you the info you need or point you in the right direction.
Proper Identification for Domestic Travel:
For all domestic flights, you can travel with state issued identification, passport card or passport book. One common question from my clients is "What if my state ID is expired and I'm leaving before I get the new one?" With the transition into the new Real-ID guidelines, your license renewal now gets mailed to you which takes about 14 days (versus the good ol' days of leaving the license bureau with it in hand!) When you go for your renewal, the DMV should give you your expired ID as well as a piece of paper that serves as a temporary ID while you wait for yours in the mail. This part is very important! You must carry both the expired id and temporary paper renewal if you are traveling before the new ID comes in the mail.
So, yes you can travel with an expired license as long as you have the paper one to go with it. Don't be that person who shows up with only the paper copy - you'll have to go through additional TSA screening and that's no fun!
The Real-ID Requirements fully go into effect October 1, 2021, at which point domestic air travel will require your full compliance, complete with a visible STAR on your state identification. Learn more about the Real-ID Act here.
Plan to complete your license renewal, including a 14-day window for your updated ID to come in the mail, before you leave for your trip when you can. You'll want to have the following documents in hand when you get to the DMV:
Current license or state identification cards
Birth certificate (Passport can be used if you can’t find Birth Certificate)
Social Security Card
Paper Bill or Bank Statement with current address
Pro Tip: The Real-ID is only for Domestic Travel ONLY!! If you plan to travel internationally, you will still need to apply for a Passport Book.
What does International Travel look like during COVID-19?:
International Travel was hit hard as COVID-19 put a halt to everyone’s travel plans for Spring and early Summer 2020. Much like the states that are reopening their borders, international destinations have had to adapt to new travel norms as well.
Great news for those looking to get away in Fall or Winter of 2020! On August 6, 2020, the US State Department lifted the Global Do Not Travel Advisory, returning to country-specific travel advice due to the improving health and safety conditions in certain countries. It's important to understand that each country has very different requirements that must be met before your arrival, so it's critical that you do your homework (or consult with your travel agent!). The best sources for accurate and up-to-date information on your destination country are Travel Advisors and Tourism Boards for your destination.
A few things to keep in mind if you're considering an international trip right now:
All accommodations - including resorts and private rentals - must be deemed COVID Certified before they're allowed to reopen. Additionally, they must go through extensive training to make sure protocols are followed.
Resorts are only operating at 30% occupancy. (Helloooo privacy! And space!)
Self-serve buffets have been eliminated.
Limited excursions are available to practice social distancing.
Pro Tip: Always purchase travel insurance! I cannot stress this enough! Travel Insurance is extremely important and should be purchased for EVERY trip, even if you are only traveling within the US. Costs associated with travel insurance are low, and the reassurance of knowing you're covered in case of an emergency is well worth the price and helps ease your mind.
Here is a brief overview of the requirements of a few of my favorite reopened destinations:
Mexico Requirements: International Flights resumed June 8, 2020
Mexico does not require COVID-19 tests before or after arriving.
Travelers must have valid Travel Insurance that covers COVID-19 for the duration of their trip.
Cancun recently made a new law and is now issuing fines for those that refuse to wear a face covering.
Jamaica Requirements: International Flights resumed June 15, 2020
ALL travelers traveling from ANY STATE will be required to upload a valid negative PCR Test taken within 10 days prior to arrival date. Test results must be uploaded to the Non Resident Online Application before traveling.
Children 11 years of age or younger will not be required to upload a negative test.
Approval to travel to Jamaica will be dependent on the upload of the test and may take up to 48 hrs.
You will not be allowed to board your flight without being approved first.
Dominican Republic Requirements: International Flights resumed July 1, 2020
Beginning on Sept 15th, travelers will no longer be required to show proof of a negative COVID test (previously required)
Mass testing, which was being performed at the airport upon arrival, has ceased. However, testing will still be done at random.
As part of immigration and customs forms provided by the airlines or by Dominican authorities,passengers will be required to fill out and submit a Traveler’s Health Affidavit.
Costa Rica Requirements: International Flights resume September 1, 2020
Americans will need to have their driver’s license or state identification on hand to prove that they’re a resident of an approved state.
ALL travelers will be required to provide proof of a Negative PCR test 48hrs ahead of departure.
ALL travelers must also have insurance. The policy needs to cover up to $50,000 in medical costs should a traveler become sick while on their trip
When COVID-19 hit, that put a stop to Passport Processing regardless of whether you were filing for a new passport or applying for a renewal. At the time of this article, passport processing has been restored but the turnaround time has increased and it could be several months before your new passport shows up in the mail. Expedited services have not resumed unless in emergency cases (which must be proved - so no funny business!) There is a three-part process for passport agencies to restore to typical operations, with only 6 agencies entering Phase 2 while 13 agencies enter Phase 1.
Pro Tip: If you do not already have a Passport Book, DO NOT book an international vacation for 2020. If you have an international vacation planned for Spring 2021, I highly recommend that you start the process of getting your passport NOW.
Remember, at the end of the day, you're the only person who can decide whether or not you're comfortable traveling, BUT it's important you have enough information to actually make that decision. Do your homework or consult with a professional - there are actually some great benefits to traveling both domestically and internationally right now! Please also know that there are a lot of caring people working really hard in the hospitality industry to bring some light to these dark times.
Social Butterfly Express specializes in 100% custom travel experiences including destination weddings, honeymoons, bachelor/bachelorette parties, anniversary trips, and more! Get your custom quote here, and let us help make your travel dreams a reality!