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How Travel Has Changed During the Pandemic 

Much has changed since March 2020. Our tips will let you know what to expect as you journey back into the (glorious!) world of travel. 

How travel has changed during the pandemic

As travel starts to open up, certain COVID-19 restrictions – like face masks – are still in place.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Travel analysts expect 2022 to be a busy year: Domestic leisure travel should surpass pre-pandemic levels, with business travel rebounding strongly as well, according to the U.S. Travel Association 

“We’re really expecting demand for travel to peak next year,” said Chelsea San Martino, director of travel marketing at AAA Northeast. “People are craving the personal connections and amazing experiences that only travel can provide.” 

Some regulations and practices may have been adjusted since you last set foot in an airport or a hotel, however. So we’ve put together this guide to how travel has changed during the pandemic, and what you should expect while setting back out into the world.  

Bon voyage! 

Where Can You Travel? 

First matter of business: Just where can you travel? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people not to travel (domestically or internationally) unless fully vaccinated.  

Domestic 

In the U.S., most states do not have testing or quarantine requirements in place. But municipalities may have certain guidelines: In New York City, for example, patrons must show proof of vaccination before dining inside a restaurant or visiting an indoor entertainment or performance venue. Check local public health organizations for requirements. You can also research a state’s COVID-19 levels before you travel. 

The U.S. also recently opened its borders to most vaccinated international visitors. As for our neighbors to the north and south, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens can travel to both Canada and Mexico. 

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International 

Most European countries are open to U.S. vaccinated travelers, but some require testing and/or proof of vaccination. For country-specific requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. Check the CDC website for travel recommendations based on countries’ COVID-19 levels. 

Some countries open to U.S. travelers include Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, St. Lucia, Switzerland, Thailand, Turks and Caicos, and the United Kingdom. 

Due to surges in the delta variant, some requirements will surely change. Austria, for example, just entered another lockdown, while Germany’s leaders are suggesting tightening regulations in response to an increase in cases.

Your best bet? Before traveling, it might be worth seeking out the advice of a travel advisor. 

“A trained travel advisor will know all the rules and regulations,” said San Martino. “They’ll take all the guesswork out of planning by giving you up-to-date information, answering all of your questions and taking any unplanned surprises out of the equation. That way, you can travel confidently.” 

Air Travel 

You should allow a little extra time to get to the airport before a flight. As a general rule, allow two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight to deal with any staffing shortages or changes. The Transportation Security Agency’s MyTSA app shows estimated wait times by airport. Check your airline for any additional regulations.   

Masks are required on all forms of public transportation traveling into, throughout and out of the U.S., including on flights, trains, buses and in transportation hubs like airports, and train, bus, subway and ferry stations. All American citizens flying into the United States age 2 and older must show proof of a negative coronavirus test no more than three days old to enter the country.  

Buses and Trains 

Masks are required on all buses and trains, and bus and train stations, within the U.S.  

What To Expect at Your Destination 

Hotels  

Like most airlines, cruise lines and indoor establishments, most hotels have strengthened their cleaning and social-distancing requirements. Some in-hotel restaurants, breakfast buffets and gyms are closed, while others are starting to reopen. When it comes to wearing masks, many hotels are deferring to local and state requirements. It’s best to check with your hotel to see what its policy is.   

AAA has enhanced its hotel inspections with ATP surface testing, which is used to verify cleanliness in the health care and food service industries. Inspectors measure eight random services in guest rooms and bathrooms. Those that pass receive an “Inspected Clean” certification. Find an Inspected Clean hotel near you. 

Attractions 

Many indoor performance and entertainment spaces, and museums and attractions, require masks. Some also require proof of vaccination, like in New York City. Again, it’s best to check for specific requirements before you visit. 

Restaurants 

Like most other businesses, restaurants were hard-hit by the pandemic. Many are short-staffed and often bustling, and mask and vaccine requirements may vary; check before you visit to learn about requirements and whether you need reservations. 

Cruises 

Cruising is a little more complicated: Rules vary from line to line and from port to port. (You can learn more above in the AAA Travel Tips with Anne! video.) But in general, many cruise lines – including Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean – require proof of vaccination. Many also require negative COVID-19 tests prior to boarding. You can find the CDC’s cruising recommendations here. 

Need some travel inspo? Visit AAA Travel for the latest deals, trends and up-to-the minute travel guidance.

* This story was first published in November 2021 and will be updated periodically. 

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