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When Will International Travel Resume?

When can you get back to traveling abroad? We answer this question and ones on post-vaccine flight prices, vaccine visas, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column.

Q. “When will international travel resume?” – GO

A. International travel is already happening, with a growing list of countries allowing Americans in to visit. However, many of these destinations require lengthy quarantines or negative COVID-19 tests to enter. (You’ll now need a negative COVID-19 test to return to the U.S. after an international trip as well.)

The real question is, when will international travel return to a semi-normal state? Hopefully that will begin to happen as the majority of people are able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which is likely to be this spring or summer. Since we still don’t know yet if vaccinated people can spread the virus, it’s likely that mask-wearing and social-distancing will continue to be part of travel.

Do we have to wait to resume travel until at least 75 percent of the population has been vaccinated? Dr. Fauci answered that question in the New York Times, saying that he thinks travel is going to “start easing up as you get much less than that. I think it’s going to be gradual. There is no black and white, light switch on, light switch off.”

Australian airline Qantas is betting on international travel resuming in July, saying “recently we have aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021. We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation.”

Q. “What will happen to travel costs once more people are vaccinated?” – JS

A.  As demand for travel starts to increase, travel costs are likely to follow. Steve Hafner, CEO of the metasearch company KAYAK, predicts that flight prices will jump by 25 percent once consumer confidence returns. “While travel has largely been on hold this past year, people are starting to get back out there as vaccine news restores travelers’ confidence,” says Hafner.  “As they do, prices should increase as airlines need time to restore routes and get planes back on the runways. Deal seekers should book their trip now while demand remains relatively low.”

In addition to low fares, Skyscanner’s Commercial Director for the U.S., Mark Crossey predicts that airlines will also begin to introduce incentives like “flexible bookings, and one-off deals on things like extra baggage mean that you could book your summer holiday or dream trip at a fraction of the cost.” 

To snag a great deal for future travel with no risk, look for flexible tickets when searching for a flight, or book with an airline that’s waiving change/cancellation fees.

Looking for a bargain to book now? According to KAYAK, these are the top ten cities with the biggest price drops: 

1. Cancun, MX – prices down 32% (average price $294)

2. San Juan, PR – prices down 31% (average price $179)

3. Mexico City, MX – prices down 30% (average price $246)

4. Fort Lauderdale, FL – prices down 29% (average price $154)

5. Miami, FL – prices down 26% (average price $188)

6. San Jose del Cabo, MX – prices down 25% (average price $368)

7. Saint Thomas Island, VI – prices down 24% (average price $360)

8. Denver, CO – prices down 24% (average price $151)

9. Orlando, FL – prices down 24% (average price $153)

10. San Jose, CR – prices down 22% (average price $342)

Q. “Will a vaccine visa be needed?” – CD

A. It’s certainly possible. Just as some countries require proof of a yellow fever vaccine to enter now, having a COVID-19 vaccine might be necessary in the future. In addition to country-specific requirements, airlines, cruise ships, and other travel providers may all mandate a “vaccine visa” in order to board.

Q. “I booked a flight to Japan for November. What happens if I can’t get the vaccine, need to cancel, or the destination country still hasn’t opened up?” – MC

A. Hopefully you booked through one of the many airlines offering free cancellations through the end of 2021. If you have, and your ticket is under one of the categories covered (some airlines are offering free cancellations only on certain levels of tickets — but not on the ultra-economy categories like a “super saver ticket”), you should be able to cancel if you need to for whatever reason. 

If not, or if you’re planning on booking non-refundable hotel reservations, I’d highly recommend buying travel insurance with a “cancel for any reason” policy, which will let you change your mind up until 48-hours before your trip.  

Q. “What countries are more likely to open up to Americans than others?” – MO

A. Trying to decide where to go first? Check out our constantly updated list of all the countries that Americans can travel to right now. A number are already open to Americans, and likely to continue to stay that way in the future. 

Ones with strict restrictions right now are likely to be slower to open up to tourists in the future.

Q. “Are any countries planning to do remote worker programs?” – RS

A. If you’ve been working for home wondering why you aren’t working from the beach instead, there are plenty of countries you could relocate to for a year. Virtual work site Remoters has put together a list of 16 countries offering long-term visas to remote workers. Some, like Greece, are even offering incentives for remote workers to move there.

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