International Travel

Ready for International travel? Check the “where” and “when.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris c. 1870, courtesy Ace Architects

[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.  

When can you fly to the UK?

Tower Bridge at night

Note: I was compensated by Project Screen by Prenetics for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thinking of traveling internationally?

Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, and Iceland are among the countries already opening their borders to vaccinated travelers. And on Friday, the EU is expected to finalize details on how all member countries will move forward to welcome vaccinated Americans.   

But what if you want to travel to the UK from the US?

The UK is using a traffic light system for people traveling to England from outside the UK, with countries categorized on the green, amber, or red lists.

Each color has an accompanying list of rules regarding testing and quarantining.

Courtesy Project Screen by Prenetics

The US is on the Amber List – For Now

The status may change depending on a wide variety of factors, including the spread of coronavirus variants, but as of May 28, the United States is on the amber list.

Here’s what that means:

Whether or not you have been vaccinated, if you want to travel from the United States or have been in an amber country or territory in the 10 days before you arrive in England you must:

Once you arrive in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

You may be able to end quarantine early (after 5 days) if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

You must follow these rules even if you have been vaccinated. And while in England, you must follow the current coronavirus restrictions.

Once the United States moves to green in the UK’s traffic light system for international travel the rules will ease up, but not lift entirely.

Travelers will still have to take a COVID-19 test, book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England and complete a passenger locator form before traveling to England.

On arrival in England, travelers will need to take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after arrival.

No quarantine will be required if the COVID-19 test is negative.

Getting a COVID-19 test in England

Many companies offer the required COVID-19 testing in the U.K. One example is Project Screen, a Prenetics owned company that provides private PCR testing via at-home test kits and via walkup testing pods, with results returned securely online within 24 hours of the lab receiving the swab.

Costs can vary, with some airlines and travel agents offer discounts on tests. And there has been an effort to have the VAT tax removed from testing to help lower the costs.

Are you hoping to travel the England sometime soon? Let us know what your experience is with the traffic light system.

EU may soon welcome back US Travelers + Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center to reopen

Sick of being stuck at home? Eyeing Europe for that first post-pandemic trip?

You may be in luck. A New York Times story on Sunday evening offers real hope that you may be able to head that way. Perhaps as early as this summer.

According to the NYT, the EU is Set to Let Vaccinated U.S. Tourists Visit This Summer.

Nonessential travel into EU countries from the US has been shut down for more than a year. But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the New York Times that the union’s 27 members will accept people who are vaccinated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (E.M.A.). The agency gives the OK to the three vaccines being used in the United States: Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” von der Leyen said. “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.”

No exact timeline for easing the travel restrictions is set. And discussions are still underway on how to create a safe and technologically reliable way for travelers to show a vaccine certificate. But on Monday Greece plans to begin opening its borders to travelers who show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

More information will likely come out this week. But, yay!? Are you ready to go?

Until the EU is open, how about a trip to space?

Mercury MR-3, “Freedom 7” and Apollo 11 Command Module, “Columbia. ” Smithsonian Photo by Mark Avino

While the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. remains closed for now, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, near Washington Dulles International Airport, announces it will reopen on Wednesday, May 5.

Free, timed entry passes are available. And masks, of courses, are required of all visitors. But this is good news for avgeeks and space fans alike.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic spaceflight on May 5, 1961, the Mercury capsule Freedom 7 is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. That capsule sits next to command module Columbia, which took the Apollo 11 astronauts to the Moon and back in 1969. (Above)

This Blue Angels F-18 Hornet is new to the collection and is now on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar.

The Blue Angel McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet in the Boeing Aviation Hangar. Smithsonian Photo

Can’t get to the museum just yet? Check out the Air & Space Museum’s online artifact database (including some 3D images), the podcast, and other resources.

Travel Tidbits: Testing, Festivals, and More

COVID-19 testing required for international travel – and maybe domestic travel too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now requires that all travelers flying to the United States from abroad show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.

The new rule went into effect on January 26. And in addition to the pre-flight test, CDC is also recommending that anyone arriving in the U.S. be tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home to self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Or self-quarantine for 10 days if they don’t get a test.

Airlines, hotels, and airports are rushing to help travelers comply with this new travel requirement.

United Airlines, for example, rolled out is “Travel-Ready Center.” This digital site lets passengers review COVID-19 entry requirements, find local testing sites, and upload required testing and vaccination records for both international and domestic travel.

The new ruling is quite rigorous for international travel. And on Tuesday it was reported that the Biden administration is “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to travelers on U.S. domestic flights.

We’ll see if that extra layer of testing become reality. But in the meantime, if you do plan to travel soon it will be good to brush up on the current rulings.

Another airline bans emotional support animals

Southwest Airlines announced that as of March 1, 2021 emotional support animals will be banned from flights.

Starting that day, Southwest will only accept dogs that are trained service animals. The airline will still allow pets to fly in the cabin, but only if they are vaccinated domestic cats or dogs in an appropriate pet carrier. And if they have a ticket. Fares are $95 each way per pet carrier.

Southwest joins all other major airlines in making this ruling. Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines have already put their “no emotional support animals” policy in force.

Festivals rebooked for real

Dare we hope?

While many annual events around the country and the world are being postponed or canceled for yet another year, some are going forward.

In New Orleans, the Jazz & Heritage Festival that was canceled last spring is now scheduled for October 8-17. And the French Quarter Festival is now planned to take place September 30-October 3.

Greetings from Vancouver International Airport

BEAR

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is one of the world’s top notch airports, with amenities that range from the in-airport Vancouver Fairmont Hotel (which has a fish butler), to spas, a dentist, a medical clinic, a liquor store and a 7-Eleven.

There are also, of course, plenty of shops offering everything from maple syrup to high-end handbags.

maple

But, with a four-hour layover in the international terminal I discovered one basic travel amenity that was missing.

Not one shop in the International Terminal sells pantyhose.

I tried leaving the international transit area to go the pre-security side so I could pick up a pair at the 7-Eleven, but no dice.

“Once you’re in the transit area, you cannot leave,” the staff person at the Information Desk told me. “But there are several stores that sell woolen socks.”

I tweeted my frustration while walking in and out of every single shop. And I received no outpouring of empathy and support.

Just this Tweet:

ScreenHunter_56 Mar. 24 06.56