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 we started learning the letters of the Greek Alphabet: first Delta, now Omicron. Now every plan we have made, 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 about International travel is “where can I go?” 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. Every variant brings up the specter of breakthrough infection and Omicron is no exception.
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 if you are vaccinated, and one day if you are not. However, when you leave the country it’s not just the United States’ policies you need to watch. Every country you touch, even just to change planes, becomes a possible pain point. Before you pull out your passport, make sure you have the answers to the questions below.
The Travel Questions You Need to Ask
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 a layover in a third country?
Many flights, especially in Europe, may require you to change planes in a country that is neither your destination or the U.S. That country may have different requirements than the others. England, for example, has very specific criteria for an acceptable test. Be sure your test matches what the third country requires if you have a layover.
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.