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Ah, the good old days—of June when the world was our oyster. Freshly vaxxed and passport in hand, we planned long-awaited trips to newly opened destinations.
Then Delta set in. Now every plan we made in the spring, as well as any going forward, has a question that needs to be answered before you go. However, it may not be the question you’re asking.
The most frequently asked question we get is “where can I go?” We have it set out in detail for you, but in general you can go most places you could in the spring provided you have proof of vaccination. The number of hoops you have to jump varies widely, but the standard is about the same.
However, that’s not what you should be asking. What you actually need to know is:
What Happens If I Can’t Come Home?
I’m not specifically talking about what happens if you get sick. What I’m talking about is much more common: The chances of you coming up with a positive Covid test result even if you are asymptomatic.
The U.S., with no ifs, ands or buts requires possession of a negative Covid test or declaration of recovery dated no more than 3 days before your return flight.
Statistics are fluid, but a recent study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health determined that there is a 0.23 percent chance of getting a breakthrough infection if you are vaccinated. That’s about 1 in 400 people. Sounds pretty good, right?
Now consider that in May this year, over 95,000 people entered the U.S. through Washington Dulles (IAD) airport. That means that over 200 vaccinated people in May likely wanted to come home but couldn’t due to a breakthrough infection. Or over 800 families because one member tested positive. From one airport. In one month.
The Travel Checklist You Actually Need
Once you have determined you can get into your destination, you should ask yourself the following questions before you board that plane:
Do I know where to find a Covid-19 test at my destination?
Not every place you visit will have a handy stand with Covid-19 tests and lab techs to read them at the ready. You’ll need a plan of where exactly you need to go and how long results will take to get back to you. I’ve heard way too many reports of people getting their test result emails on the way to the airport.
Do I have travel insurance that covers positive test delays or a quarantine?
You may think that because you are vaccinated and no longer likely to get seriously ill from Covid the need for travel insurance would go down. Not necessarily. A good Covid travel insurance policy will not only cover medical expenses, but also those of a quarantine. Be sure to read the fine print so that you know what’s covered.
Am I comfortable with the medical care I would receive if I get sick?
When my kids were younger I had a checklist of things I needed to see in a destination before we would visit. Access to western healthcare was top of the list. From kidney stones in Gran Canaria to tonsillitis in Vietnam, this access (and the health insurance I purchased along with it) came through in spades. It’s even more important now.
How would I pay for a quarantine?
If you decide to skip the insurance, you should have a reserve of hotel points or an emergency fund that will cover your lodging while you are in limbo.
Is my schedule flexible enough to manage a possible quarantine?
If you are a software engineer who can work remotely, then an extra ten days in paradise might not seem like a bad thing. However, if you’re a mechanic, the calculus changes greatly as you can only do your job when you are actually present.
Same goes for your kids. If you are taking a winter break, what happens to their schooling if you get stuck? Do you have a Zoom school option?
I get it. We’re all desperate for normal travel to return and you’ve finally got that dream trip re-booked. But make sure you’ve thought about not only the trip but the return trip home. You may love Paris, but after an extra ten days stuck in an airport hotel even those french pastries will start to get stale.