Our New Normal: Recent Travel Changes (so far)

In another lifetime, I managed a federal contract through the US State Department. I will never forget what one of my contacts at the Department told me in reference to travel warnings and other State Department notifications: travel warnings are often a reflection of the administration in office, meaning that they can change depending on who is in office. I kept this in mind as we witness the transition of power last month and looked forward to stricter and, in my opinion absolutely necessary, travel requirements. Let's take a look at all the changes that have gone into effect since President Biden took office on January 20.

What's new

One of the first executive orders President Biden signed when he took office mandated masks on all forms of public transportation. The CDC also mandated masks on all air travel. While airlines have made this a requirement since the start of the pandemic last year, this requirement by the CDC is thought by some to be an effort to alleviate some of the stresses airline employees feel when telling passengers to mask up. I hope that this regulation will make the jobs of flight attendants easier while re-enforcing the mask requirement.

International travelers 2 years of age and older are now required to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken 3 days prior to arrival into the US. This includes US travelers returning home from abroad. Furthermore, travelers from the following countries and regions are prohibited from entering the United States: China, Iran, European Schengen Area, the UK, Republic of Ireland, Brazil and now South Africa. Rumor has it, COVID-19 testing might also become compulsory to travel domestically by air within the United States as well.

What this means for you

For those considering travel in the foreseeable future, this means that you will probably be safer than you would have been traveling before now. There have been numerous stories in the media about people refusing to wear masks, people who were obviously sick (with COVID or otherwise) still choosing to travel, and even people who tested positive for COVID and still choosing to travel. Now that at the very least masks will be nationally mandated per the CDC, the hope is that air travel will in turn become safer than ever. And with the potential for required testing for domestic air travel, we could be even safer still.

For those of us with loved ones and friends around the world, the travel bans mean that we will continue those closest to us. And for that, I truly hope that the bans do not last long. It is my desire to see the COVID-19 vaccine distributed widely and competently so that we can get back to what we love: (safe) travel.

My predictions

I like to stay positive and although we are almost at our 1 year anniversary of sheltering-in-place, I see brighter days ahead.

It is no surprise to me that the vaccine rollout has had many hiccups and I assume that there will continue to be issues, at least for a while. But. And there is always a but, we will make it through this. If you are not ready to travel right now or even this year, that is absolutely fine. Even expected!

For me, my family and I are planning to spend New Year's 2022 in Hawaii and will probably enjoy some trips closer to home throughout the year. For my clients, already I am seeing folks planning for domestic travel in the first half of this year and even looking as far out as next summer for family cruises and reunions. I think that whenever you choose to travel is the right time to travel and we can only go up from here (fingers crossed!).

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