Update 8/6/2020: Please note that this article was written on 21 May 2020. The travel situation has changed since that date. For example, on 6 August 2020, the Department of State lifted the Level 4 international travel advisory (while still retaining information on travel during COVID on their official site, travel.state.gov). I am leaving this article posted because it offers a snapshot of the travel landscape in late May 2020, and because it provides readers some insight on some of the data points I monitor at as a professional travel advisor.
Staying at home has lost some of its charm by now. Zoom meetings, distance learning, snacking, Netflix, spring cleaning, neighborhood walks, more snacking...we have become accustomed to these new realities of life, but I think we can agree that the shine is off the penny. While the pandemic lifestyle isn’t over, many of us are antsy to plan for the future, to include longed-for travel.
If only all of my stay-at-home snacks were this healthy...
So when will we be traveling internationally again?
The short answer is that I do not know. Much as I would love to declare a specific future date as an “all-clear” for all international journeys, we need to wait and see. Different regions of the world will also be on different timelines.
Here are some of the data points that are on my radar screen as we look towards the future:
The Department of State’s (DoS) travel guidance. DoS still has the world at a Level 4 “do not travel” global health advisory. State Department officials will no doubt downgrade this advisory on a country by country case in the future, and those changes will serve as one of the most important guideposts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. As of this writing, the CDC’s Level 3 warning to “avoid international travel” is still in effect. Again, country by country downgrades of this level will signal that the global situation is changing.
International border openings and travel limitations. Obviously, you can’t travel to a country whose borders are closed to international arrivals. As we begin to see countries opening back up, they may limit entry only to citizens or residents of certain countries, while restricting entry from locations considered epicenters or hotspots. Also, while countries themselves may reopen, particular states or municipalities within those countries may remain closed longer (we may see this dichotomy in Mexico soon, for example).
I expect to see the creation of more “travel bubbles,” such as one that's been talked about for Australia and New Zealand or the Baltic countries in Europe, where residents of these nations would be allowed to travel between the particular countries, but other countries’ residents would not be permitted entry. As containment of the virus advances, travel bubbles will presumably become larger and be a harbinger of greater opening.
Cruise, resort, and hotel reopenings; airline schedules. Important factors for future travel are the dates when ships plan to sail internationally again and when international properties are slated to resume more or less complete operations. Resorts and ships will almost certainly experience diminished occupancies at the beginning - from a social distancing perspective, this is not a bad thing. I’m also looking for greater stabilization of airline schedules.
In short, I am keeping close tabs on U.S. government advisories, international entrance requirements, cruise resumptions, hotel / resort reopening plans, and signs of transportation stabilization as indicators of when the world will be open again for us to travel. I’m also especially monitoring the stepped up cleaning protocols and other innovations that will increase our confidence in a healthy travel environment.
I want to leave you with something positive: while traveling internationally is on hold just now, we can already plan for future travel, as long as those plans are made with a good degree of flexibility. Now is the time to dream and plan for future travel, so we’re ready to live life to the fullest when the world is ready. After all, anticipation is half the joy of travel.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and connect, whether you’re ready to start planning future travel or just want to talk about travel ideas. You can send me a message right here.
Happy Future Travels,
Visiting a vanilla bean greenhouse on the island of Moorea, Tahiti last year. I miss traveling!
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Photos: Photo of healthy snacks by Juliet Furst on Unsplash; photo of Christina with guide in Tahiti copyright Christina Schlegel 2019, all rights reserved.