It seems like we are headed in a good direction in terms of quarantine due to COVID-19, and just like the quarantine restrictions are going to be rolled out in phases, traveling for a vacation outside of the U.S. is going to be a baby-step approach, too.
If you’re wondering when you are going to be able to go on vacation after COVID-19, I’m outlining the baby steps that we will need to get through before that can happen. If you’re wondering if you can be planning and booking a vacation now or in the near future despite the restrictions currently in place, I’ve got my take on that too.
If you prefer video, I chatted about this topic on my Facebook page, too.
The 4 Steps Until We Can Travel Abroad Again
Step #1: U.S. reduces the Global Travel Advisory
Since March 31, we have been under a Level 4 – Do Not Travel Global Health Travel Advisory. The U.S. Department of State is highly advising against international travel to any country due to the global impacts the COVID-19 outbreak has caused. You’re not breaking the law if you travel abroad while this Level 4 advisory is in place, but it’s the government’s way of saying that if you choose to travel abroad and are unable to get home, due to additional border closures or disrupted flight operations, they may not be able to assist you in getting home. Basically, if you choose to travel, you may be stuck abroad for an indefinite period of time.
As of the time that I’m writing this post (in mid-April), it would be very difficult to travel abroad for non-essential travel at this moment due to the small amount of flights in operation and large quantity of countries with border restrictions in place; however, the reduction of this advisory by the Department of State is an important first step that I believe will cause a ripple effect to the rest of the tourism industry.
Most likely what will happen is that the Department of State will first reduce the travel advisory to a Level 3 – Reconsider Travel as a first baby step, before removing the Global Health Advisory altogether. Keep an eye out for any movement – progress with the travel advisory is a good sign.
Step #2: Countries re-open their borders to non-essential travel and foreigners.
This is kind of a big one, considering the world is basically closed right now. As much as I would love to believe that there could be one big organized “Re-open the World Day” with celebrations on airplanes and festivals in the major cities, the important thing to remember about border closures and travel restrictions is that they will vary by country and it will be a baby-step approach across the world.
Both the timing of when borders will re-open, as well as who will be allowed to enter, will vary by country, though similar to when border restrictions were put in place, we will likely see some similarities by region. Right now, some countries have completely closed their borders and aren’t even letting their citizens back in, some are only letting their citizens back in, and some borders are partially still open for essential travel. In the U.S., the lifting of the non-essential travel restrictions across the country will be a good sign that movement is happening internationally.
If you have a particular destination that you are hoping to travel to this year, go to that country’s state or tourism website and search for the current border closures or travel restrictions.
Step #3: Airlines resume non-essential operations.
I view steps #1 and #2 as the tipping points for creating the wider ripple effect to the rest of the tourism industry. As soon as borders start reopening, airlines will start increasing their operations to meet the new demand.
However, the airline industry has been severely affected by COVID-19, so there is some uncertainty that some airlines will be able to come back and fully operate. There’s some speculation that even when borders are open again, there may be reduced fleets, which means limited flight options for consumers, and there might be some bankruptcies or mergers of airlines along the way.
If you’re wondering whether it’s going to be more expensive or cheaper to fly after the quarantine, I’ve seen articles on both ends of the spectrum on this topic. There’s a chance that because the airlines will be operating with smaller fleets with limited options, the price of a ticket will be more expensive than usual. On the other hand, airlines may offer reduced fares in an effort to persuade travelers to buy them, since a big chunk of the population isn’t going to feel comfortable getting on an airplane for a while. I don’t have a crystal ball on this, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Another thing to note is that the experience flying with a certain airline may be different than it was before. If the airlines are operating with a limited staff, the experience could be subpar to what you had previously experienced, but I’m encouraging you to be as patient and understanding as possible if you fly within the next year, and remember that airlines are run by people who have been affected by this situation. On the other hand, the experience could be more exciting and , with the airlines happy to get back to doing their job.
Step #4: Tourism industry becomes fully operational.
Hotels and resorts, restaurants and bars, and tourist attractions will have to open back up again before you go on vacation, since enjoying yourself while you’re on vacation is the whole point. Similar to flight operations, the re-start for the tourism industry in various locations will be a quick ripple effect as a result of the travel warnings being reduced, borders re-opening, and flights happening again.
To recap, keep an eye on the Department of State’s travel advisory, and get excited when you see it change from Level 4 to Level 3. Keep up-to-date on the border closures and travel restrictions in both the U.S. and in whatever country you want to travel to if you’re considering a vacation in the near future. Start scoping out flights as soon as you see some movement in steps 1 and 2, so you can get an idea of how the flight options are looking, and which airlines are bouncing back. As a last check, make sure that everything you want to see and do on your vacation are indeed and open and operational before deciding to make the trip.
Can I plan a vacation right now?
Don’t misunderstand me and think that you can’t even think about a vacation until we get through these 4 steps, because that is not the case. You simply don’t want to (or in many cases aren’t able to) physically be on vacation until we get through these 4 steps.
However, I would highly encourage you to be planning your vacation right now while we are still in wait-and-see mode. Specifically, I would recommend that you do two things to get ahead and be planning in the meantime:
1. Choose where you want to go on vacation (and choose a couple of options as a backup, since the “when” is unknown right now)
2. Figure out the things you want to do and see on your vacation to each of these destinations
This is actually one that I’m working with my clients right now. With my custom itinerary service, I’m taking a deep dive to make sure that we go ahead and sort out exactly what they want to do, and see and eat on their vacation, which is actually a really positive thing. We are able to start the planning with the fun stuff, which is the entire point of a vacation, and once we have that nailed, we can start scoping out lodging options that would be in an ideal location based on the itinerary.
Then we wait and watch for movement on these 4 steps. The wonderful thing about my custom itinerary service in a time like this when the world is closed, is that it’s basically timeless. I don’t do any booking as part of this service – it’s strictly designing and planning the things to do. If their desired date of travel were to pass by, they would still have an itinerary organized and ready to use for whatever dates in the future that they are able to travel. So we’re still making progress on their vacation plans without risking any type of booking right now.
Can I book a vacation right now?
Yes, you can certainly still book a vacation right now. The tourism industry is still selling well into the future, and in many cases, they are slashing their prices to entice you to buy. For myself personally and for my clients, I’m taking a more conservative approach for the time being, and not advising that we actually book anything (at least not for 2020) until we see some progress happening in the above-mentioned 4 steps, and have a little better idea of when things will be back to normal.
I’m using a few rules of thumbs as my way of approaching bookings for a vacation during this uncertain time:
Does the booking offer a free cancellation? Sure, we can book it since there’s a low risk of losing out on a refund.
Is the booking a great deal for travel in 2021 with no free cancellation? Let’s highly considering booking it since it’s so far in advance, and a great deal.
Is the booking for 2020 with no free cancellation? Let’s wait for some progress and movement on these 4 steps before booking.
Plan your itinerary now, and book later
Let’s be honest, planning and anticipating the vacation is just as good as going on the vacation. I know you probably could use a little boost in spirits right now, so planning for your future vacation can do exactly that for you. Because the fun parts of a vacation are the things you get to see, do, eat, and drink (not the flight!), choosing my 1-on-1 custom itinerary service will let you get ahead of your vacation plans while the world is closed, so that you can be ready to book and keep your vacation inspirations high, even while you’re stuck at home.
The best part about working with me is that everything I do is custom. I take a deep dive on the unique travel style of every member of the group to make sure that the itinerary I’m planning is a match for the interests, preferred pace, amenities, and comfort level of the group.