Here we are living in a new world during weird times. We just completed our first International trip in over two and a half years, the longest since I began traveling. I received a lot of messages from followers on Instagram asking for the ins and outs of International Travel During A Pandemicc so here is everything I have learned the past three months of planning this trip. The biggest tip I will just throw out right away, have a back-up PLAN!
I would be lying if I did not admit that getting sick was on the back of my mind while planning this trip as well as the first week there. We were working, I had staff with us, and I just did not want anyone to a) get sick and/or b) get stuck. I knew of people who this was happening too and the unknown is definitely a bit nerve-racking. I researched the hell out of the what ifs and it is still a deep dark area, and hard to find reliable information.
Plan! Plan! Plan! And next, Relax! Relax! Relax! Really, it will all work out and the stress of flying is enough. It is time for you to learn to let things slide. We are freaks about getting Covid so we are still masking up at the airport as well as on the planes, and will continue to do so until we are comfortable. If you are fine with flying as free as a bird, go for it. No judgement here. That being said, I have seen some pretty disturbing things on planes recently. Such as the girl who used her mask to blow her nose and then put it back on. She was a grown-up, legal enough to throwback a few bottles of wine and she was hacking all-over the plane, and then blew her nose in the mask she never wore 90% of the flight. My thoughts, I definitely do not want Covid and I definitely do not want whatever she has. Mask or no Mask? You have to make that call.
When booking an International flight now, there are a lot of questions about Covid. First, before booking your International flight, make sure what the requirements are for entering that country. You may or may not need to be vaccinated and boosted. Spain did require this, and I was stopped at immigration and they asked for my “vaccine papers”. This is still a very gray area, and as of today, I believe most countries in the EU want you to be vaccinated. I used the European Union for Disease to research Spain as well as an upcoming trip to Italy. As well I get updates through Afar Online Travel Newsletter. All of my experience to date has only been for traveling to the EU. Other countries have different rules, such as Asia who requires you to quarantine upon arrival.
I am not sure about other airlines as we fly British Airways overseas but they have a great Covid Travel Hub where you can check the restrictions for where you are going. This was very helpful as it is still hard to find information in the deep dark Covid world. Type in your dates of travel as well as where you are going and it brings up the restrictions as well information on being vaccinated and what documents you need. I booked our flights in January, and received updates any time there was a change with requirements.
US Citizens did not need to do a Covid test to get into Spain which is where we recently flew into. I used their site, Spain Travel Health Site to keep up on requirements. Be proactive, and double check with your airline as well the country where you are going before you book your flights, as well as at least a week before flying. Things could change, and every country is different. For instance to get into Spain we had to download an app (Spth) where we uploaded our flight information as well as vaccination papers. Then 24 hours before we flew we had to upload the QR code the Spth gave us into the British Air site along with our vaccination papers, and waited for approval. We were not approved, which meant our check-in at the airport, in person, was three hours before the flight. This is where you need to practice patience and relax, relax, relax.
Okay, so you have made it through check-in, covid paperwork, and are ready to fly but have some time to kill at the airport. I use to be the person who skated through check-in and boarded the flight as my row was being called; not any longer. We invested in a lounge membership when we began traveling for work last year. It is nice to glide through check-in, TSA security and then not have to sit in an overly populated, people coughing and touching everything waiting-area to wait for our flight to board. Now we sit in an area that is cleaned more frequently, have a coffee and maybe a bite to eat and relax before a long flight.
You have had the time of your life, it feels great to have been away, and now your trip is coming to an end, and it is time to think about heading back to the USA. You have to have a negative Covid test to come back into the States, and as of right now, there is no-way around it. I have heard horror stories from traveling friends who spent endless time trying to find testing spots, and then it was very expensive or worse you are waiting in these small confined areas waiting to be tested. A friend was waiting to test at a port city, and the room was full of people who just got off a cruise ship and they all just tested positive. Needless to say, she hauled herself out of there in record time as she was just exposed! YIKES!
We purchased our own kits through eMed, and took them with us. This process is super easy! Download the Navica appwhich is part of Abbott who also makes the testing kits, before you leave the states. You will need wifi when testing – we did the tests from our hotel room, 24 hours before flying. Launch the app, click I have a test and it will walk you through the simple process. The total time was about 18 minutes. After you finish they will email you a QR code which you will have to upload to the airline using VeriFLY. If you are negative, you can sigh a sign of relief and enjoy your last day feeling like you have been granted this weird super-power.
I tested POSITIVE (in theory – really didn’t)!!! If you test positive, this is where the fun begins. Luckily we have not had this happen, but I researched the heck out of this as I had staff with us and did not want anyone to get stuck without being somewhat “comfortable”. As well, I know people who have been stuck and they gave me some great advice. The number one thing is to have a PLAN! You will not be allowed to fly with Covid back into the USA. I have heard of people testing positive anywhere from 5 – 30 days after the first test required to head back into the states. The CDC recommends 10 days of isolation. So have a PLAN!
Our plan was that if one of us tested positive was to say our good-byes, and the other would fly home. Why risk the other person getting sick while in quarantine. Of course this will not work if you have children. Some countries allow you to find a place to stay, while others do not. I found information on the US Embassy site – you have to search within the site. Spain was a country that would allow us to find a place. We also decided that if one of us had to stay behind, it made more sense to find an apartment that would take us as it would be more comfortable than a hotel room which most likely would only have a bed. Unless you can afford a suite at a hotel, then go for it. As well, some hotels will offer you a discounted rate, such as in Spain. If you tested positive, reach out to your current accommodations and see if they can help you. If not, I would contact the US Embassy for assistance. I searched for “covid hotels and apartments”, and nothing came up.
Call the airline and find out how to change your flights. I would do this immediately after finding a place to stay, and not wait. I am not sure if they will charge you penalties or differences in airfare, it really depends on the airlines. I can say, what I have learned the past two years of having to change reservations all the time, “kill them with kindness”. I have been lucky enough to get tickets extended into 2023. This is not the time to rage all our anger about getting Covid towards an airline agent, after all, it wasn’t their fault. Be nice!
Once you figure out your current situation you can ask either the hotel or the AirBnb host about how to get necessities such as food, etc… Rest up, take care of yourself and watch a lot of TV! Depending on what the country you are leaving tells you you might be able to test again in 3 days or may have to wait for 10 days. All of this is still so new and it being figured out as it happens. If you have waited 10 days, feel great but still are testing positive, you will be able to get back to the US at least from the EU (again, this is the only area I have researched). The CDC has a list of what will be required for you to try to start getting home, and it has a lot of useful information. Patience! Patience! Patience!
UPDATE: An employee with The Points Guy tested positive recently after being on a cruise, she has a great post about how it unfolded. We are looking into the insurance policy for our upcoming trip to Italy – stay tuned. The Italian government just lifted the Green Light pass so anyone can travel into the country now – vaccinated or not – we are anticipating it to be even more crowded which means a higher risk.
Resources I used for planning our trip to Spain and an upcoming one to Italy:
eMed – ORDER TESTS!!!! I purchased Covid tests and used for testing from hotel to come home
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC
List of US Embassies in Different Countries
US Department of State Travel Affairs – information for an emergency
Your Europe – part of the EU to find restrictions
Guidance for Releasing Isolated People from Quarantine – a PDF
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – have not used just learned about it while at a conference
Covid testing Requirements for International Travel – has a great tool for information on boarding a flight back to the US
Tele Med Doctors – a friend recommended this company which I have not used but they found it to be a helpful resource.
Apps we Needed on our Phone
Your Airline – not necessary but very helpful to have
Navica – need to use this app for testing at the hotel with eMed staff
Spain Travel Health – only if you are flying into Spain
VeriFLY – you will upload your information from Covid test and supply to the airlines using this app (at least with American and British Air)