The State Department said yesterday that about 80% of countries will be added to the “Do Not Travel” list. This move is the result of “unprecedented risk to travelers” from the Covid 19 pandemic. The State Department stated that this “reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on existing epidemiological assessments” and does not imply a reassessment of current health situations in some countries.
The CDC and the US Department of State are two different entities and each can issue travel alerts. The travel alerts issued by the CDC are going to be health specific whereas the Department of State may have alerts for health or other reasons (terrorism, violence, etc).
Department of State Travel Alert Levels
- Exercise normal precautions
- Exercise increased caution
- Reconsider travel
- Do not travel
Based on the statements from the State Department, it sounds like they’re now giving more weight to epidemiological assessments than they did previously when determining the alert level of any given country.
We’re definitely not out of the woods here in the US, but we seem to be moving in the right direction. With vaccinations becoming more and more easily accessible to Americans, it’s easy to forget that other parts of the world aren’t so fortunate. In some countries, cases are still spiking. In other countries, the pandemic isn’t necessarily getting worse, but they aren’t seeing a significant drop in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths like we are.
The CDC’s official guidance is that fully vaccinated individuals can now travel domestically. They also state that you can travel internationally without having to quarantine, but they do recommend that you pay close attention to the situation at the international destination before you decide whether or not to go.
So what does this mean for international travel?
It doesn’t really change anything as far as where you can travel. These are recommendations, but Americans are free to travel anywhere that is open. It does give me a little pause for booking certain trips in the near future, though.
More countries have either already opened or have announced plans to open soon to Americans who are vaccinated. Back in March, we started hearing rumors and seeing reports that the Biden administration was considering re-opening the US to EU citizens as early as May. This matters because when the EU periodically updates its list of which countries can enter, reciprocity is a factor they consider. The sooner we announce plans to open to EU, the sooner they’re more likely to open to Americans.
Greece and a few other EU countries are actually starting to open (but may require proof of vaccine and/or a negative Covid test), and I still think the rest of EU will open by late summer or early fall, but it does make me wonder if the US is actually going to start lifting restrictions anytime soon.
Keep in mind that the US still requires a negative Covid test prior to departure from a foreign country. We’re hoping the US eventually accepts proof of vaccination in lieu of a Covid test, but this news doesn’t really jive with that.
Another important consideration is that in the event you need it, some travel insurance policies may not process a claim if you travel to a “Do Not Travel” country.
For the most part, Ryan and I now feel safe traveling both domestically and internationally as far as the pandemic. We’ve both had Covid and we’re both fully vaccinated. We realize there’s still a little risk, but it’s low enough that we’re comfortable with it. We’re also willing to follow any safety protocols such as mask wearing to reduce the risk of spreading Covid. This is a personal choice and I would just encourage everyone to do some research on your destination before making any decisions.
This news doesn’t really change how I feel about international travel, because my bigger concern about booking international travel right now has to do with logistics.
The uncertainty about what is and isn’t open and the ever changing policies about transit restrictions and border closings make certain places a little risky to book right now. Obviously if you’re going to Mexico or anywhere that may not require transit through another country this isn’t as much of an issue.
For example, my brother and future sister in law have their honeymoon booked to Greece. Originally, it was supposed to be Greece and Italy so their return flight to the US was from Italy. We realized that even if they could book a flight from Athens to Rome to catch the flight we had booked, it’s unclear whether or not they would have been allowed to transit through Italy if it is still not open to Americans when they go.
It worked out fine because we were able to change their flight and now the return flight leaves from Greece, but they got lucky because that flight just happened to be available and only required slightly more miles than the original flights they had. Even with most airlines waiving change fees, you may still be required to pay the difference in cash or miles if you need to make a change. On award flights you run the risk of not finding any availability if you need to change.
I’ll either keep this post updated or I’ll post a new one as we receive more information about international travel in the near future.
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