[This is a slightly different version of a story we wrote for NBC News]
International travel is back on the agenda this summer for millions of Americans who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination regime.
But with some countries fully open to U.S. travelers – and many still not – the challenge now is figuring out when and where it is possible to go. And what restrictions may be in place when you arrive and when you head back home.
“For the summer, the countries that have already posted their border openings are the most likely bets.” says Misty Belles, Managing Director at luxury travel network Virtuoso. “Many vacationers are already able to visit Mexico and many parts of the Caribbean,” as well as Greece, Iceland, Croatia, Turkey, and some other countries.
On May 16, Italy began welcoming passengers arriving on government-approved “COVID-tested” flights from several countries, including the United States. Travel requirements for these flights include a negative COVID-19 test before departure, at boarding, and on arrival in Italy.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines are already offering some COVID-tested flights to Rome and Milan from several U.S. cities. More flights and cities will be added to the schedule later this summer.
Other countries have announced various ‘opening dates’ for when travelers from the United States will be welcome as well.
Spain was going to open its borders to all vaccinated tourists – including Americans – on June 7. But that date has been pushed back to at least June 30th.
More countries will be joining that list. “But it’s going to be a hodgepodge this summer,” says Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights, “For most countries, you’ll need to either bring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.”
Lending encouragement is the fact that this week seven of the 27 countries in the European Union –Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland – began using the EU Digital COVID certificate, known as the Digital Green Certificate, a month ahead of schedule. Other countries will adopt the program that securely verifies the COVID-19 status of EU citizens in the next few weeks and “these countries will be able to decide if they will allow U.S. travelers to participate,” says Keyes.
What about travel to Canada, Japan, the UK, and other countries?
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says it is safe for vaccinated Americans to travel internationally, keeping in mind the COVID-19 travel destination advisories on this regularly updated list.
Non-essential travel, which includes tourism, is still restricted between the United States and Canada. Ahead of the summer Olympics, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning against travel to Japan.
In mid-May, the United Kingdom rolled out a “traffic light system” for international travel. This puts countries on red, amber, and green lists. The lists are set to be reviewed next at the end of June, but for now, the United States is categorized as “amber.” That means anyone arriving from the United States must fill out a passenger locator form, provide notification of a negative test result prior to travel, quarantine for 10 days on arrival, and take a COVID test on day 2 and day 8 after arrival.
Keeping track, making plans
While countries may be constantly changing their entry requirements in response to COVID-19 cases and conditions, “generally speaking, the one-way ratchet is towards more reopening,” says Keyes. He recommends checking the US State Department website for updates, as well as individual government and embassy websites before making any bookings.
Flexibility and generous cancellation polities are still the mantras when booking hotel stays, airline tickets and cruises, or buying passes to theme parks, museums, and attractions.
But don’t worry if you are not ready to hit the ‘buy’ button right now.
“Demand is strong, causing availability to be limited in some places while also driving up rates,” says Virtuoso’s Belles. “While Europe is slowly opening this summer, fall is when people will likely feel more confident about setting their travel plans,” and when rates may settle down.