Americans will not be allowed to travel to EU countries when the bloc opens up to international visitors July 1.
Not everyone is staying home this summer. Some travelers are shrugging off the resurgence of COVID-19 infections and ignoring the shutdowns – and they’re taking a vacation anyway.
Half of Americans plan to stay put this summer, according to a new survey by LuggageHero. But 31% have taken a domestic trip since lockdown restrictions were eased, and a remarkable 19% have traveled internationally. That’s a shocking number of travelers who refuse to heed the travel bans.
Why? Some of the reasons, like traveling to see a loved one or family member, may be legit. Others, maybe not. The reader who bristled at my recommendation to cancel his summer vacation last week comes to mind. He wrote to “thank” me sarcastically for urging Americans to reconsider their trips.
“It will be nice to experience travel with normal people and not have to put up with ninnies like you baying at the moon about masks and quarantines,” he ranted.
Either way, the prospect of summer travel crowds raises an important question: Is travel really necessary at a time like this?
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People are taking a vacation for love
One of the top reasons people defy the travel bans is love.
“Restrictions be damned,” says Nicholas Wolaver, who plans to travel to Europe this summer. He hasn’t seen his girlfriend in more than three months.
Croatia, unlike most of the European Union, is allowing Americans in, which makes it a perfect meeting-up point for Wolaver, who is based in Atlanta, and his girlfriend, who lives in Moscow. He just has to show a negative COVID-19 test result when he arrives, and he’s in. He added they will both wear masks and respect social distancing, except perhaps when alone with each other.
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“We’re researching flight and hotel options for August,” says Wolaver, a communications consultant.
There’s a movement to waive travel bans for unmarried couples. Already, Austria, Denmark, and Norway have loosened some of their travel restrictions to allow bi-national unmarried couples and family members to reunite. And the #LoveisNotTourism and #LoveisEssential hashtags are trending on social media.
“The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on those with loved ones abroad,” says Maury Chasteau-Simien, a British expatriate who lives in the U.S. and supports the Love is Essential campaign. “Couples and families are kept apart by government-controlled restrictions such as the current EU travel ban in the U.S. and the 14-day quarantine in the U.K. There’s a scary indefinite blank space around when they’ll be allowed to see their loved ones again.”
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Traveling for family fun
Other travelers are planning trips to see family. Consider Marco Sison’s situation. He and his girlfriend are currently in the Philippines, but they want to travel to Austria for a family baptism. Europe is also a great place to spend a few weeks during the summer. His girlfriend is Austrian, and Sison has dual U.S. and Philippine citizenship.
“To navigate the travel ban, we are looking to travel from the Philippines to Turkey,” says Sison, who writes a retirement blog. “Turkey is currently letting in U.S. citizens with no quarantine.”
Then it gets a little complicated. From Turkey, it’s on to Serbia, then to Montenegro, and after a 14-day quarantine, Germany and finally, Austria.
And if they don’t get through? “Turkey is a good compromise,” he says. “We can both apply for temporary visas that last up to one year.”
Well, that’s one way to do it.
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Defying the travel ban because they can
Others have told me that they’re finished with the lockdowns and that they’re going anyway. It doesn’t matter to them that there’s a proven link between travel and the spread of coronavirus, or that the lockdowns are there for everyone’s protection.
“The quarantines are mostly on the honor system,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of travel-booking site Qtrip. “So it’s not surprising that some folks are ignoring mandates and treating them more like suggestions.”
People like Laurel Barton are trying to be responsible about it. She’d already canceled two trips during the pandemic and wanted to get out of the house this summer while still respecting the health guidelines.
So Barton, a travel guidebook author who lives in Lincoln City, Oregon, stayed close to home. Last week, she took a quick road trip to the Oregon coast, trekking south to Bandon-by-the-Sea instead of flying to Europe. And in fairness, she planned her vacation long before the tsunami of new COVID cases and left for the coast just as the case numbers started to climb.
“Outdoor activities, keeping to ourselves, and eating something we didn’t have to cook ourselves were on the agenda,” she says.
Others – and you know who you are – are not being as responsible. When I said “cancel your summer vacation” last week, you thought I was talking to someone else. You’re not wearing masks, you’re defying recommended quarantines, and you’re acting as if the summer of 2020 is like any other. Come on.
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Look, this is a difficult summer for everyone. When I hear about people who thumb their noses at the travel bans and take a vacation anyway, I wonder: Even though you can, should you? Is traveling the right decision for you and anyone else you come into contact with? Or am I just being a ninny?
I’ll say it again: It’s time to cancel your summer vacation. I mean it.
If you take a vacation anyway, follow these rules
Know before you go. If you decide to take a vacation anyway, find out about the latest COVID trends before you leave. “If you decide to travel, you will need to know what mandates are in place, such as mandatory face masks,” says Lisa Lindsay, executive director with Private Risk Management Association, a nonprofit organization. To get the most current information, she recommends checking the travel advisory sections on the CDC and State Department websites (check the embassy in the country you plan to visit for specifics).
Bring your tool kit. Government restrictions change quickly and with little advance notice. Be prepared for new requirements, says Michael McGarrity, vice president of global risk services at Global Guardian. “Bring face masks and hand sanitizer,” he says.
Make sure you can get out. If you’re on vacation and there’s a lockdown, be sure you can get home. “You may get in, but you run the risk of not being able to get back out if a quarantine is put back into place,” explains John Gobbels, chief operation officer for the air medical transport and travel security company Medjet. “Many people found out in the first wave that lockdown meant lockdown. Even if planes were leaving destinations, and returning to the U.S. during the first few days of the global alert, no more were being allowed into those destinations, so exit flights virtually stopped.”
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