COVID Safety Rules May Limit Your Trip — Even If You’re Vaccinated

A vaccine won't unlock international travel right away, and travelers will still have to contend with barriers.
Sally FrenchApr 14, 2021

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You’ve finally gotten your vaccine and are ready to roar into 2021. You might hug Grandma for the first time in a year, and you’re finally set to jet off to hike Machu Picchu. Even newly issued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees that travel is low-risk for vaccinated people.

Not so fast.

A vaccination plus the CDC’s low-risk designation don't add up to the key to unlocking your dream vacation. Given ongoing international quarantine rules, capacity limits, complicated testing requirements and more, avoid setting your heart on a dream vacation just yet.

Here are several factors that may curb your trip, even if you’re vaccinated.

While vaccine rollouts might feel painfully slow (especially if you’re low in the pecking order), the . With vaccinations going slowly, many countries are still undergoing lockdown measures similar to the ones you experienced in 2020.

Indoor dining bans and nighttime curfews might be painful reminders of the past year. In many countries, those restrictions are still active.

Morocco imposes a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., set to run through at least April 20. In Italy, curfews are in force through at least April 30, running from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. In some Italian regions, even stricter restrictions mean restaurants and ice cream parlors are open only from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. That won’t work when you’re jet-lagged and want a 2 a.m. gelato fix — let alone a 7 p.m. dinner.

Temper your expectations for activities, too. In Paris, the Musée du Louvre and the Musée National Eugène Delacroix are closed due to government restrictions. If your post-vaccine dream trip involves travel in France, maybe hold off until you can see Mona Lisa's famous smile.

These are just a few examples from around the world, and it’s impossible to say how long lockdown measures like these will go on. But even as the U.S. eases some coronavirus-related restrictions, some countries are going in the opposite direction, reimplementing various lockdown rules and closures.

Even if restrictions roll back, capacity limits in both the U.S. and abroad could make planning a challenge.

For example, Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort requires you to book the specific theme park you want to visit in advance, and due to lower-than-normal attendance caps, it can be tough to snag your preferred reservation. As of early April, the Magic Kingdom — largely considered the centerpiece of the resort — is already booked out on most days through the month.

To visit Walt Disney World, you’ll need a reservation to enter any of the four theme parks. As of April 1, there wasn't a single day in the month when all four parks were still available.

Ask yourself: Will your trip be worth it if you can’t get into the main attraction at your destination? If not, consider putting it off a little longer.

Capacity limits and closures aside, some countries aren’t even open to tourists, vaccinated or not. For example, Vietnam's borders are still closed to all foreign nationals with few exceptions, and many European countries won't allow U.S. visitors yet.

Thailand began a phased reopening this month, but most tourists, even if vaccinated, can visit only certain provinces after quarantining for 10 days. Come July 1, you can skip the quarantine if you’re vaccinated, but only in Phuket. Phuket is nice, but visiting this summer means you’ll miss out on the country’s other treasures. As of now, Thailand's government has said it doesn’t anticipate being fully reopened to vaccinated tourists until Jan. 1, 2022.

Other countries may follow suit.

Entry requirements change by day and by country, so don’t assume you’ll be able to eat your weight in crispy lumpia on Boracay now that you’re vaccinated. The Philippines has among the strictest travel restrictions, as leisure hotel operations have been suspended.

Even if you’re visiting a country with no travel restrictions, there’s a roadblock to getting back home: In January, the CDC issued an order that all travelers entering the U.S. must show proof of a negative test taken within three days of boarding the return flight.

Do you really want to spend your last days on vacation tracking down a testing facility? Instead of sitting at the pool bar, you could be sitting in a doctor’s office.

It’s not clear when this restriction will be lifted.

If you do test positive, you’ll need to rebook your flight last-minute and find lodging to quarantine — probably not the ending to the vacation you were hoping for.

If you want to cut down on potential headaches and roadblocks, it might behoove you to hold off on bucket-list or international travel a bit longer. This summer, consider a trip that's relatively easy to change or cancel, and think about domestic rather than international travel.

If you’re committed to an international trip or another grand vacation, take these steps to ensure it can be canceled with as close to a full refund as possible.

Carefully read the cancellation policy on all paid reservations — and consider booking only with companies that have flexible policies.

Many offer trip cancellation and interruption coverage benefits, where you may be reimbursed for eligible expenses on disrupted trips paid for with that card. Just know that what’s eligible for a refund is somewhat limited.

For example, a disinclination to travel because you read about a spike in cases isn't a covered reason. However, getting sick (whether from coronavirus or another illness) is typically covered.

You can take your insurance coverage even further by purchasing a separate policy that includes "" coverage.

That’ll cover nonrefundable reservations no matter why you cancel, but there are a few trade-offs. It’s generally pricier than standard policies and usually refunds only 50%-75% of the trip cost.

It’s tempting to finally book your dream trip once that needle jabs your arm. But while you may feel ready to sit in every theater in London's West End or jump aboard a cruise ship out of Vancouver, those places aren't necessarily ready for you.

Even if you feel like a vaccine is your ticket to freedom, be realistic that most trips in 2021 will look vastly different than they did before the pandemic. If it’s a seamless, restriction-free vacation you’re after, hold off a bit longer.

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