Ask a Travel Nerd: I’m Vaccinated — Can I Finally Go Abroad?

The return of international travel is imminent, but you'll have to book soon and be flexible with your plans.
Jun 16, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

After a near-eternity spent hidden away in their burrows, they’re about to crawl out, take to the skies and make a loud nuisance. Yes, vaccinated American tourists are ready to emerge.

According to a survey from Deloitte, 27% of American summer travelers are planning to leave the country. If you count yourself among the vaccinated swarm, you might have some questions. “Where can I travel? When? How about my kids? And hey, did you just liken me to a cicada?”

I’ll address most of these questions in this article, but here’s the gist:

  • Travel to many countries, including those in the European Union, should open for vaccinated Americans soon.

  • Airfare prices are going up quickly.

  • Your vaccine card might be all you need to prove your status.

Where can I travel this summer?

Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about summer travel and dashed cold water on the idea of traveling internationally. A lot has changed in a hurry. For one thing, infection rates and restrictions are dropping quickly stateside. For another, popular international destinations are scrambling to open their doors to ravenous American travelers before summer ends, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance shows just how effective it considers the vaccines to be.

Italy has already opened to U.S. travelers, with some testing restrictions. France plans to follow suit by the end of June, and most members of the EU have voted to allow vaccinated Americans in “ahead of the summer tourist season,” according to Reuters. Many Caribbean and Central American beach destinations are already open.

But remember: Much of the world lags behind the United States’ vaccination rate. So even though other countries are loosening restrictions, another rise in infection rates could bring them back without warning.

On the one hand, you can keep expecting the unexpected with international travel. On the other, it looks like things are finally moving toward consistent reopening.

Isn’t summer, like, now?

All these vague promises about reopening “in time for summer” might have you scratching your head. By the time anything is set in stone, it seems like summer will be halfway over. Plus, airfare is already starting to creep back to pre-pandemic levels, and buying last-minute airfare is usually an expensive proposition.

Data from NerdWallet’s points valuations analysis shows that booking airfare within 15 days of departure is considerably more expensive than six months out. And this cost is likely to balloon during the summer, when demand really starts to pick up.

This means you have a few options:

  • Book soon, before prices increase further.

  • Book later, and risk paying out the gills.

  • Defer travel until the fall.

For most people, the last option might offer the most peace of mind. But for families who must travel during the summer or not at all, I’d recommend booking now and, if you’re planning to travel internationally, doing research to ensure your destination will let you in when you arrive.

Speaking of kids, although American adults will have to prove their vaccination status in order to travel freely to many international destinations, children probably will not.

How will I verify my vaccine status?

You might have seen an article or angry tweet about “vaccine passports” and have questions about what they are and whether you need to get one before your next trip.

The answer is both complicated and simple. Nobody really knows which countries are going to require vaccine passports for travel to or within the countries, and it seems unlikely that a standard process will emerge this summer (or anytime soon).

What does this mean for you? Your just-larger-than-wallet-sized vaccine card should suffice in most cases. The airline or country you’re visiting might use some kind of digital verification process on your card to determine it’s not fake, but you won’t need anything more than the card itself.

I’ve heard from a lot of people who are wringing their hands over the confusing mess of vaccine passports. Thankfully, it’s such a mess that we don’t have to worry about it yet.

Is it real this time?

Honestly, it feels like I’ve written roughly 1 million articles in the last year about travel coming back soon. Yet whenever COVID-19 risk dropped enough to make international travel seem feasible, some new wave or restriction would come crashing down on our collective hopes.

But this time feels different. Countries are letting us back in, and the CDC is telling us it’s not a terrible idea to travel.

The scariest part about traveling to a cosmopolitan destination might now be figuring out what to wear. After a year spent in my burrow, I’m about as hard on the eyes as a half-molted cicada.

Have a question about travel? How to use points and miles? Why is it that cicada life cycles are always prime numbers? Send your questions to [email protected]

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.