Where can you go this summer? That’s a simple question with a complicated answer. The reason: There hasn’t been a definitive guide to summer travel bans — at least until now.
Consider what happened to Barbara Glavish, who wanted to visit her family in Australia and New Zealand. Between news reports, the State Department advisories and the information published online by the governments of Australia and New Zealand, it wasn’t easy to tell if she could go. But then the countries took decisive action in March.
“Australia and New Zealand closed their borders,” says Glavish, a retired occupational therapist from Incline Village, Nev. “And they’re still closed.”
That’s when Glavish canceled.
“I’m hoping to make the trip maybe next May,” she says. “I have airline vouchers good through December 2021 and plan to use those for my rebooking.”
It’s an upside-down summer for travel
This sure is an upside-down summer, isn’t it? Yesterday, I did something I thought I would never do: I wrote a column in USA Today urging people to cancel their summer vacations. All of them. But people still have travel plans, and travel questions. How did you find out about the bans? Can you get around the bans — and should you try? And what steps should you take if your travel is banned?
“Travelers should be aware of travel restrictions when planning summer travel,” says Jaimie Meyer, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist. “While the E.U. may be barring U.S. citizens from entering while there is ongoing high-level disease transmission in the U.S., even travel within the U.S. may be restricted.”
This is how to find out about your summer travel ban
Here’s where to find out if travel is banned or restricted:
International travel restrictions
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map lists every country’s entry and exit requirements for COVID. Light blue means fewer restrictions; darker blue means more restrictions. Click on the country to get details. Visaguide.world also has a helpful map of coronavirus restrictions.
European travel restrictions
If you’re headed to Europe, you’ll want to bookmark the European Commission page on Europe’s entry requirements. I’ll save you the trouble: You can’t go if you’re based in the United States and have U.S. citizenship. America still has too many COVID cases. But check back later this summer to see if that changes.
U.S. travel restrictions and quarantine requirements
There’s no federal clearinghouse for state quarantines. However, the National Governors Association has a page with quarantine and closure information. Private companies have also stepped up to provide travel restriction information. Metasearch site Kayak publishes one of the most reliable maps. It also includes an updated list of all states and their quarantine requirements. This information is incredibly difficult to keep up to date. Each state has its quarantine requirements or recommendations for incoming visitors across state lines. For that information, you have to find the state requirements. (Here’s New Jersey’s, for example.)
Attractions and monument closures
If you want to know if an attraction is open, there’s a site for that. The travel site Headout has compiled a list of 800 attractions on its Global Travel Reopening Tracker. Want to know if the Empire State Building is open? Or Yellowstone National Park? This site will tell you. “We strongly believe that access to high-quality and live data that informs and educates the public is the key to building consumer confidence,” Headout CEO Varun Khona told me. (Of course, you can always check the attraction’s site, which will have that information, too.)
COVID spread at your destination
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information about whether it’s safe to go. To find out about the COVID situation in the state you plan to visit, check out the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker map. Also, review the CDC’s travel advisory and information section.
What do you do if you’re barred
Here’s a common question that travelers like Glavish have: What if my destination is closed? She canceled her flight and accepted the credit, but if you wait until the airline cancels, you may be able to get a full refund.
Glavish didn’t have to worry about accommodations because she planned to stay with her family. But hotel refunds can be tricky, with some properties unwilling to offer full refunds. At my consumer advocacy nonprofit, we’ve had to advise some travelers to take up the matter with their credit card companies. A chargeback is sometimes — but not always — successful.
“For the travelers whose plans have been blocked because of the ban, I would look into moving your trip to next summer when we are hopeful things will open up again,” says Julie Banning, a travel advisor with Embark Beyond. “Most countries want to welcome you and are flexible on changing your dates to a future visit.”
No one wants to give up their vacation. There’s so much talk about “compromise” vacations — either a staycation or a short driving trip. But even a camping trip to the mountains has its risks — now more than ever.
Can you get around the summer travel bans?
There are workarounds. For example, Ireland and the U.K. don’t have travel bans for Americans, but they do have strictly enforced quarantine requirements. Jonathan Epstein, CEO of Celebrated Experiences, says there’s an opportunity for savvy Americans to enjoy Europe this summer.
“Many schools will have remote learning, and many parents do not need to work from offices,” he explains. “Therefore, they can travel to these destinations, quarantine at a hotel or residence for two weeks, and then have an enriching, extended stay and cultural experience.”
For example, an American family can live near Killarney National Park in a two- or four-bedroom home. Others with higher budgets can even rent a castle or manor house for weeks at a time. Others may choose to move from location to location and have varied experiences. Because of the time difference, you can spend the morning hiking, fishing, kayaking, or visiting museums. Then, in the afternoon, school and work can begin.
“Obviously, this is not for everyone,” he adds.
There are other ways around the summer travel bans and quarantines. In the United States, quarantines for travelers coming across state lines aren’t strictly enforced. Instead, authorities generally urge travelers to take “personal” responsibility for others’ safety by submitting to a 14-day quarantine. (You have to search hard to find the punishment for violating quarantine and even harder to find many examples of people who fell afoul of the rules.)
Getting around the bans for an overseas trip is more complicated. There’s been some online chatter about people entering Europe via a third country, but every expert I speak with says that’s a terrible idea.
“Trying to dodge travel bans is somewhat unethical,” warns Ralph Cope, a travel consultant and adventure tour guide based in Italy. “Travel bans are in place to protect the local population and limit their exposure to a potentially lethal virus.”
What if you can’t travel?
Any definitive guide to summer travel bans will make you consider canceling your summer vacation. And maybe your fall vacation and your holiday getaway, too.
So what if you can’t go? You’ll have to cancel or reschedule. And that might be a real hassle, says Shylar Bredewold, owner of Odyssean Travel.
“This summer’s travel restrictions can bring more headaches for consumers,” he says.
For example, if you cancel a flight, you might be entitled to a flight credit from a U.S. airline. But your hotel may not be as forgiving and could decide to keep your deposit or charge you for the full amount.
His advice? If you’ve purchased a package tour, just wait. “If you cancel your flights today for an October departure, you risk loss based on the terms you agreed to at the time of initial purchase,” he says. But if government restrictions force a cancellation, the tour operator might be more flexible, and possibly offer a full refund.
Stay home this summer?
If there’s no definitive guide to summer travel bans, it’s because the restrictions are changing so quickly. But one thing is unlikely to change. With COVID cases rising, travel remains risky. You should carefully consider any travel plans before you commit to a summer vacation. Listen to the experts and think about your safety and the safety of those around you.
And remember, there’s only one way to avoid a travel ban this summer: Stay home.