As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout speeds up, all eyes are on the travel industry, which was one of the hardest hit in 2021 when the pandemic swept the nation. Leaders are preparing for a positive rebound and a boost in travel after a dismal past year. Late last year and in the early months of 2021, many steep discounts were offered to try to entice people to travel and spend. Airline prices were at almost all-time lows, with prices to go from New York to Florida, for example, hovering around $20.
But, even with those measures, providers have had to reduce capacity and adhere to safety restrictions, which has eaten up a chunk of a normal year’s budget. Now, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with more and more people getting vaccinated. Many of these same people have a pent-up demand to travel and see more of the country as they have had to limit their world and spend a lot of time at home for the past 12 months.
If you are planning to hit the road or the skies in the coming months, or are just interested to learn about the state of travel this year, read on.
Air Travel this Year: What does it look like?
Some affluent individuals have already splurged on upcoming luxury holidays. For the average traveler, agents have found that trips are being booked much closer than usual to travel dates. A good chunk of would-be travelers are waiting until at least 2022 to book their trips, due to rising case numbers, variants and other factors, such as feeling safer once the virus is more under control. Not to mention, airplanes are cramped and air is not fresh, which could lead to more hesitation.
Despite all of this, flights for this summer are neither cheap nor easy to find. While business travel’s comeback is uncertain, the casual traveler wants to get back out there.
In response, some airlines are buying new planes and training more staff to anticipate the large demand once the sunny months arrive.
If you will be getting on a plane soon, be prepared to wear masks, have your temperature taken, socially distance and sanitize at the airport. Food and entertainment options may vary from what was offered before. In the case of many airlines, masks need to be warn at all times except when actively eating or drinking.
Airlines and different countries are looking into the idea of a vaccine passport, or travel pass, so they know who is and is not vaccinated. Whether or not they will eventually become a requirement remains to be seen, especially as borders open and access to international countries is allowed to Americans and others worldwide once again.
Road Travel: What is the same, and what has changed?
Much of what was in place last summer remains. A majority of U.S. states still have COVID regulations in place. Efforts to maintain social distancing, mask wearing, testing and sanitation have largely improved and been boosted as the months progress. You may see road signs reminding visitors of the state’s policies. If you need to take any actions before or while visiting, as a requirement of the state, do so.
As for access, some roads may be closed to keep cars coming in and out to a minimum. Restroom and indoor dining are still extremely limited in most cases. Curbside pickup is still the norm, so make note of state-sponsored rest areas where you can safely stretch and take care of business to get on the road quicker. Policies are constantly changing, so read up before booking, right before leaving and as you travel to be aware of any huge changes.
What to Keep in Mind
If you want to travel, keep these things in mind:
- Make your plans early. Many other people likely have similar plans to you. Older people, especially, have been vaccinated, and are eager to explore.
- Do not travel if you or someone in your travel group has symptoms. Make sure everyone in your group is allowed to travel with you, and that all testing and quarantine rules have been followed.
- Get tested before and after travel. Verify rules for other states and territories. You may need to get one upon arrival. Isolate appropriately after you return.
- Check and adhere to all state and local laws, restrictions and regulations surrounding social distancing, quarantine, isolation, sanitation, masking and reservations. This goes for final destinations are en-route stops. State responses vary, so know them in advance.
- Look at COVID-19 case counts and maps around your intended travel time to make an educated decision about whether or not to go.
- See what policies are where you want to go (airlines, airports, attractions, hotels, restaurants, etc.
- Carry masks, a vaccination card or vaccine passport, IDs, hand sanitzer, wet wipes and plastic gloves, regardless of the rules in your home state. Be ready to wear and use them.
- Minimize stops and contact with others. Whenever possible, pack nonperishable snacks and plenty of water to eat in the car when needed.
- Have a plan in case someone falls ill.
- Do all you can to minimize non-essential travel. It may make sense to postpone trips until at least next year. Focus on activities that can be done outside, masked, as appropriate, and where a safe distance can be kept between your household and others.
- Be mindful that young children and high school students are still ineligible to get vaccinated, but they can still transmit the virus. Also, some unvaccinated adults may still choose to travel. Stay vigilant, and take precautions as necessary.
- Hotel owners are in a precarious position, as they have only gotten limited relief money from Congress and they are struggling to get an adequate number of bookings to make a profit. Pre-2020 levels are not expected until 2023, with urban areas taking the longest to recover. With more vaccines being approved for emergency use, bookings are increasing. While there will likely be openings where you want to stay, it is worth checking now, since demand is likely to keep increasing in the months ahead.
- Leisure travel is expected to fully rebound first, so if you are looking at going to a popular destination, it is never too early to make a game plan and start saving.
- Make memories, take pictures and have fun!
No matter what your plans are this summer, we hope you can get out for an adventure while staying safe and healthy. If we know one thing for sure, it is that planning is the name of the game this year, especially as COVID-19 mitigation strategies start to take effect. We will keep you posted on the latest travel-related news, so stay tuned in!