With the arrival of Coronavirus - the travel industry has completely changed in 2020. Some of these new guidelines may seem daunting - but I'm here to advise and make the process easier for you! The restrictions, guidelines and advisories are changing daily; but these are the most up to date as of July 9, 2020. 🙂
Keep in mind travel also went through a major transformation after 9/11. Remember when we could meet friends at the airport gate and didn't have to take our shoes off going though security?!
I'm optimistic these new changes will become normal. One thing that won't differ - we all still need to pack our patience when traveling. 🙂
A couple additions we are seeing in almost all sectors of travel are health questionnaires and temperature checks becoming mandatory. Some areas/companies are also requiring negative Covid test results before being allowed to travel. I suggest you find a doctor/clinic in your area that has rapid tests - as the results may be needed within 72 hours of departure.
Domestic Travel/Road Trips
Since most of the tourism industry was closed for a good part of this year, the trend in travel is staying closer to home in 2020. States are in various stages of reopening so before planning your trip I suggest you check the state and county websites of the areas you're visiting. You'll find the most current information on quarantine restrictions, mask rules, what local businesses are open and if negative Covid tests are required to enter (as is now for Alaska and starting August 1 for arrivals in Hawaii).
Car Rentals/Train Travel
Amtrak and major car rental agencies are increasing their cleaning standards with new checklists and enhancements. Cars may also be "quarantined" between renters if necessary. A safer alternative on Amtrak is to purchase a sleeper car ticket to have your own space. As with airline travel - I recommend you wipe down all the surfaces in your area.
Currently Europe and many other destinations are closed to travelers from the U.S. Here are two good sites to keep updated about current travel advisories and up to date information from the CDC.
There have been quite a few changes at airports - click here for a comprehensive list of the changes with TSA. I also recommend checking the websites of the airports you'll be traveling through for more specific information. One important detail to note is you're now allowed to bring 12 ounces of hand sanitizer through security.
United and American have just announced they'll now be flying at full passenger capacity. Some airlines like Southwest won't be selling their middle seats at least through the end of September. If this is concern to you - make sure you check your airline as you book your ticket.
One of the most frequently asked questions is about the details when an airline cancels your flight. In short - you're due a refund(not credit/voucher) if the airline cancels your flight (or makes a significant schedule change). You can read the DOT details here.
Many hotels are rolling out enhanced cleaning protocols. For example; Hilton is partnering with the Mayo clinic and RB (owner of Lysol) for their new "CleanStay" certification of their rooms. Changes you'll notice are the elimination of room service deliveries, buffet breakfasts, and attendants in your room.
One of the hardest hit sectors in travel is the cruise industry. Currently - cruise line departures are suspended from U.S. ports through September 30. There are quite a few changes I think you'll see in future cruising. With mega ships being the trend the past few years - smaller ships may be become more popular. Buffets and large dining rooms (and packed show venues) will most likely become a thing of the past. There may also be limited capacity on the large ships, mask requirements and social distancing enforced. Cruise ships already had one of the strictest cleaning regimens but this too will be amped up.
River cruising has been increasingly popular the past few years and this trend is predicted to continue. Their small vessels and ability to visit less populated areas will make them a sought after vacation by many (the booking window for river cruises has always been long and I see that becoming even more so).
Group tours will likely be smaller in size for the foreseeable future. As with airlines - every seat in vans and motor coaches may not be filled. Some tour companies will have "health/well-being" escorts also traveling with their groups - along with with their tour guides and drivers. I also anticipate a focus on less visited destinations/less crowded destinations.
It's extra important to know the details of your travel vendor's change/cancellation policies. Most of the vendors I work with have been allowing more changes and cancellations during these crazy circumstances, but refunds are taking many months to process. I'm hopeful in the future we'll see more lenient policies - especially with flights, cruises and tours.
In my opinion - travel insurance has always been a must have for the majority of trips (cancellation penalties in the travel industry are notoriously high). It's now more important than ever to know the details of your policy (pandemics are not covered by most types of policies). "Cancel for any reason" may become more requested - it's normally about 40% more expensive with a limited percentage of trip cancellation coverage.
As always - feel free to reach out with your questions. We'll weather these changes together and be back to experiencing our beautiful world again soon.
You may also find this article I wrote earlier this year helpful - "Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling".
Until the next adventure - bon voyage!