Since the start of the pandemic, everything about our way of life has changed. We’ve had to make plenty of adjustments, which includes things like social distancing and wearing a mask.
Those changes are even more apparent in the travel industry. There have been heaps of travel restrictions and sometimes drastic modifications to policies across all facets of the travel world.
There’s so much going on its often hard to keep track of everything you need to know about traveling during a pandemic.
Trust me. I know how overwhelming it can be to pull information about rules and restrictions from multiple sources to plan your next trip.
So, in the spirit of saving you time and a headache, here’s a comprehensive guide to EVERYTHING you need to know about traveling during a pandemic.
According to the CDC, it is difficult for most viruses and other germs to spread on flights due to how the air circulates on airplanes. However, social distancing at least six feet apart is challenging to do on a plane, thus putting you at risk to contract COVID-19.
Airlines are trying to address those concerns by making their in-flight procedures virus-proof. The guidelines are wide-ranging between the spectrum of airlines. Some are taking extra precautions by flying with empty middle seats to maintain social distancing, flying additional planes to have less crowded flights, and taking temperatures before boarding. In comparison, others aren’t requiring more than a face mask.
It's worth noting that many airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees if flights are filling up and passengers are concerned about flying in close proximity to others. One airline, Emirates, is even offering to cover costs of COVID-19 medical expenses and quarantine costs for passengers that decide to fly.
For an overall view of precautions taken by airlines, here’s a chart from Business Insider summarizing the policies for major US carriers:
For a summary of US and international cancellations and change policies, check out this comprehensive list.
Similar to airlines, your major bus and train services, like Amtrak and Greyhound, require you to wear masks to protect yourself and others. Many have adopted a sanitization policy as well.
The popular train service has put in place a protocol to require masks and limit bookings in favor of less crowded trains to adhere to social distance guidelines. Also, there are enhanced cleaning procedures to ensure the train and kiosks areas are disinfected. And if you’re looking to change or cancel a reservation, you can do so without charge for any booking made by August 31, 2020. For more details on Amtrak’s policy, click here.
Similar to Amtrak, Greyhound has enhanced their cleaning policies and require masks for all rides. They are also offering e-vouchers or one-time complimentary reissues. Check out the Greyhound website for more information.
Many of the hotels have adopted similar policies. Most of the procedures include contactless check-in and check-out, takeaway food in place of dine-in at hotel restaurants, sanitized rooms, flexibility in changing or canceling reservations, and requirement of face masks in public areas.
Some hotels have partnered with medical facilities to develop protocols to ensure maximum protection for guests and staff. For instance, Hilton has partnered with the Mayo Clinic, and The Four Seasons has teamed up with John Hopkins.
And regarding cancellations or changes, most of the hotels have changed their policy from 48 hours to 24-hour advance notice of reservation changes. Click the links below for access to the change or cancellation procedures of the major hotel brands.
Click here for the policy of Hilton brand hotels.
IHG (InterContinental Hotels & Resorts)
The IHG properties include The Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn. To check out their procedures for guest safety and cancellation/change policy, check out this link.
Marriott International/Starwoods Properties
The Marriott properties include the Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Le Meridien. Check out the policy for all of these hotels here.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Check out the policy for the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts here.
Similar to hotels, home rentals have put in place pandemic-proof policies.
There are requirements of guests and hosts to wear masks and instructions for hosts to provide enhanced sanitization services.
For home rental juggernauts like AirBnB, select reservations are eligible for cancellation, depending on the booking date. See AirBnB’s cancellation page for more details.
Another major home rental service, VRBO, has a similar policy. Check it out here.
Traveling within the United States has its own set of challenges for citizens. Many states have their own set of rules. You can read about each state’s requirements here.
But here’s what you need to know overall, many states are requiring proof of negative COVID-19 tests results upon entering. And if you’re from one of the dozens of states experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19, some states are requiring you to quarantine. A few states have tied the requirements of quarantine to fines or jail time if not followed.
If you’re one of the states experiencing the coronavirus surge, you’ll need to be vigilant about checking requirements before visiting other states, which you can find here.
Traveling abroad now has significant limitations for Americans. What once used to be #passportprivilege is now a thing of the recent past. Since COVID-19 cases have surged in the United States, the window to international travel has seemed to dwindle.
Countries open to US citizens:
- Dominican Republic
- North Macedonia
- Antigua and Barbuda
Countries open to US citizens with restrictions:
- Dominica (opens August 7)
- French Polynesia
- Vincent and Grenadines
- Turks and Caicos
- United Arab Emirates (Only Dubai)
- United Kingdom
That’s a small window compared to the north of 180 countries we accessed through our US passport. And as mentioned above, admittance into 19 of the countries listed hinges on specific requirements.
For instance, Cambodia requires a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival to the country along with a $3,000 deposit. Many other countries on the list require negative test results within a small window, as well. Some even require a fee. For a full list of those requirements, check out this link.
Expectations upon returning to the United States from abroad are that you quarantine for 14 days, monitor yourself for symptoms, and take your temperature using a thermometer twice a day.
How To Handle Pandemic Travel With Ease
Now that was a lot of information. And there’s no way you’ll want to remember it all.
Here are some ways you can keep track of all the laws and regulations concerning travel.
Utilize Travel Apps
Apps like App In The Air help you navigate restrictions and requirements of pandemic travel by country and by airline. Just enter your desired destination within the app, and all the guidelines and rules you need to know will populate.
Use TripIt’s Travel Resource Center
This website not only serves as a database for pandemic related travel information, but it provides you with information on how your points and miles are affected through your loyalty programs. Check it out here.
Bookmark or Pin This Article
This article contains information from a variety of sources. I spent loads of time to pull this all together for you, so you’ll have all you need in one place.
Save this article to your browser or pin it to your Pinterest board to refer back to when you have questions about traveling domestic or abroad.
And I’ll be updating this article periodically to ensure you have the most recent information available to prepare for your trips.
Disclaimer: At this time, the CDC is only recommending travel in essential cases. Therefore, proceed with the utmost caution when traveling during the pandemic.