Now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing for vaccinated tourists in Europe and elsewhere, you might have your sights set on some international summer travel. But it won’t be business as usual.
Depending on where you’re going, expect wildly fluctuating prices, new testing and vaccination rules and even varying mask specs. (Sorry,
doesn’t want your pretty homemade face covering.)
“You’re going to have another item on your pre-check checklist. But the reward is being able to visit some of those most iconic tourist destinations with a fraction of the summer crowds,” said
author of “Take More Vacations” and founder of the price-tracking website Scott’s Cheap Flights. He says international travel is down 60% overall compared with 2019, though some spots are starting to see an uptick in tourism.
To navigate pandemic-era travel, here are some apps and websites that can help streamline the process.
Check the CDC’s Covid-19 advisory for your destination. Before you fly, it’s a good idea to heed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s per-country guidance for travel. Currently, the CDC recommends international travel only for people who are fully vaccinated—those for whom two weeks have elapsed since their last vaccine dose.
Look up entry requirements. Google Travel links to official government websites detailing entry requirements. (Go to google.com/travel and search for the destination country.) The travel website Sherpa has a tool that displays entry requirements and restrictions, based on your origin country, connections, final destination and vaccination status. Each detail includes a link to an official source.
Delta Air Lines
’ website has a Discover Map that details the airline’s entry requirements for specific countries, and a Travel Planning Center listing all international destinations currently open for travel.
Create digital scans. For many destinations, you’ll need a paper copy of your vaccine card as proof of vaccination to enter the region. My upcoming flight to Germany from California, via
accepts the printed card or a digital copy of it. Either way, it’s a good idea to store a digital backup.
If you have an iPhone, you can use the Notes app’s built-in document scanner. Create a new note, tap the camera icon and select Scan Documents. Name the note “Covid-19 Vaccine Card” so it’s easy to search for. You can also pin the note to stay on top of the screen by tapping the three dots in the right corner.
Microsoft Lens, free on both iOS and Android, is a scanning app that can digitize printed or handwritten text.
patients can access a copy of their vaccine records on the company’s website. If you were vaccinated at
or Sam’s Club, you can download Health Pass by Clear (free, iOS and Android) to access your digital records. You will have to agree to share your vaccination history with the app from Walmart’s website. If you lose your card, contact your state’s immunization information system (IIS). The CDC lists links to each state’s IIS on its website.
Search Google, then book direct. “The open secret in the travel world is that there’s no single search site that’s going to have the cheapest fares,” said Mr. Keyes. “Pick whichever has the user experience that most jives with you.”
He uses Google Flights to search, because it’s the “simplest and quickest.” The site also gives you a pre-filled link to book directly with the airline, which is a best practice, he says. If something goes awry with your flight, it’s easier to deal with the airline instead of a middleman.
Before you check out, double check to see if you have an outstanding flight voucher with the airline, from a delayed pandemic trip. Many of those credits will expire this year. Mr. Keyes says many airlines will grant you an extension if you call the customer-service number and say you’re not yet comfortable with traveling.
Look for flexible bookings. The move to eliminate international change fees is one of the silver linings of pandemic-era air travel. Delta,
are removing the fees for good, except with Basic Economy fares.
App in the Air (free, iOS and Android) has new “health filters” that let you see search results from airlines that offer flexible fares, enforce face masks or block middle seats.
Hopper (free, iOS and Android), a price-tracking and booking app, can be a better option than direct booking for those who need more flexibility—and are willing to pay for it. The app’s Flexible Dates option, which adds between 5% and 10% to the cost of the booking, allows you to apply your ticket value—even if it’s a Basic Economy ticket—to a new airport, date, time or a different airline, up to 24 hours before departure. In case you’re held up at customs or experience delays, the Missed Connection Rebooking option (on average, $25 per passenger) will put you on the next plane to your destination, regardless of airline, if you miss the original flight.
And for hotels, Google Travel’s hotel finder and
have filters for lodging with free cancellation. But beware: Some bookings may charge more for a refundable rate.
Get expedited check-in. Check whether your airline has an online verification process. VeriFly is a health passport app used by American Airlines, Aer Lingus,
Travelers can upload necessary documents to the app, such as negative Covid-19 test results or vaccination records. An American Airlines spokeswoman says customers who get preapproved using the app don’t need to interact with an agent before boarding the plane.
United’s mobile app has a new section, called the Travel-Ready Center, where fliers can upload vaccine or test records. The documents are verified through the app, and travelers are immediately cleared for check-in.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What travel apps do you use? Join the conversation below.
Find vaccination sites for re-entry. The U.S. currently requires all incoming travelers on international flights, 2 years of age or older, to present a negative Covid-19 test, even if vaccinated. Google Maps lists official testing centers in many metropolitan areas; search “Covid-19 testing near me” to see results. Delta is selling Ellume Covid-19 at-home antigen tests ($50) on its website that can report results to a paired smartphone, and are compliant with U.S. reporting requirements. A spokesman said that the kit can be purchased ahead of time, so fliers don’t need to locate a testing facility abroad.
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