You’re Vaccinated. Now What?
Does a COVID-19 vaccine give you a green light to see the world? What have we learned from the pandemic about being a good traveler? Here, we explore how we should re-enter, where they’re welcoming us, and why we need to greet our global neighbors with respect.
The day I got my first COVID vaccine...
...a Pfizer shot to the right deltoid, I felt euphoric. Grateful to the point of tears. And hungry. It was like my body had reawakened after being on its own stress-induced lockdown for over a year, and now I wanted to eat all the food in Manhattan. I practically sprinted around the corner from the vaccine site and ordered what amounted to two lunches at the nearest outdoor restaurant.
I don’t want to lose this insatiable appetite, at least not proverbially—I want to rediscover all that was lost in 2020: the embraces, the hours-long conversations in crowded pubs, the moments of serendipity from being somewhere new. But I’m not going to do it whenever, however I please. If we learned nothing else from this pandemic, it’s how much empathy matters: that every flight you take has a ripple effect, on your destination, your fellow passengers, and the planet. That not everyone has the great fortune to receive a vaccine as quickly as many Americans have.
The coronavirus pandemic is far from over—look to India, to South America, and look within yourself to reach out to our international neighbors with a helping hand. You may notice we don’t call this a “global pandemic”—the word “pandemic” is global in its entomology. It means a disease has spread broadly across several countries. No one has been immune to suffering in the past 14 months, and despite our voracious hunger to see the world, we should do so mindfully, respectfully, slowly—and yes, still joyfully. We can travel better. Here’s how. —Laura Dannen Redman
Is It Ethical?
“Can” versus “should”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave travelers the news they’d been waiting to hear: Fully vaccinated people “are less likely to get and spread” COVID-19, the CDC said in an April 2 update. They “can now travel at low risk to themselves.” Suddenly, the United States—considered a virus hot zone for much of 2020—now has more than a quarter of its population (and rising, rapidly) vaccinated against coronavirus, making America a global leader in the next phase of the pandemic. Many people are desperate to go somewhere, anywhere, on a “vaxication” (the latest unwelcome travel neologism after momcation and bleisure). But before answering the question, Where should I go?, consider asking, Should I go?
After that, ask yourself these five questions:
Is my trip essential or nonessential?
What are the vaccination rates and COVID case counts at my destination?
Is the destination ready for—and welcoming—visitors?
Would I be a burden on a strained healthcare system if I got sick while traveling?
What is daily life like for those living in my destination?
>>Read on for more tips in The Ethics of Vaccinated Travel by Mark Ellwood.
Digital health certificates. Digital green certificates.
By different names, these all amount to a pass that offers proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. These “passports” aren’t so different in substance from a Carte Jaune, or Yellow Card, that travelers would carry to show they had a yellow fever vaccination—but they are way more complicated.
To start, there is no one global vaccine passport (yet): When it comes to “private sector” digital COVID passports, there are numerous vaccine passports in development, including the IBM Digital Health Pass, the CommonPass, and the International Air Transport Association’s IATA Travel Pass, among others. Unfortunately, none of these is widely available currently.
The paper card many Americans now have is flimsy, forgeable, forgettable, loseable. . .the list goes on. But the U.S. government has said it will not be issuing such a digital vaccine passport to citizens. “We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do,” said Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response.
Until we have a group consensus, we can all agree on one thing: Take a photo of your vaccination card and prepare to show it and download it—on airline apps, in destinations.
>>Read on for more recommendations in How Can I Get a Vaccine Passport by Michele Baran.
To sail, or not to sail?
U.S. cruise loyalists have been eager to get back on the water since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Conditional Sailing Order on October 30, 2020, effectively banning ships with more than 250 passengers and crew from sailing from U.S. ports. Canada—and as a result, Alaska—cruises are off the table through February 2022. Cruise line frustration is boiling over. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which had called on the CDC to allow cruises to resume in July, said in a statement that new instructions were “burdensome, largely unworkable and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other U.S. sector of our society.”
Consequently, vaccinated Americans can cruise this summer from foreign ports, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, St. Maarten, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Greece.
These cruise lines require adult travelers be vaccinated against COVID:
- American Queen Steamboat Company
- Avalon Waterways
- Celebrity Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
- Lindblad Expeditions
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- Victory Cruise Lines
- Virgin Voyages
- Windstar Cruises
>>Read more in the story CDC Says You Can Travel in the U.S. but Not Cruise—So Cruise Lines Are Going Abroad by Fran Golden.
Where to Go
It starts with a knock at the door.
During a recent AFAR Live conversation around true sustainability in the travel industry, Anita Mendiratta, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, delivered a quote that should be shouted from rooftops: “What gave tourists the right to walk into someone else’s home without knocking?” What indeed. “The word community has taken on a new definition. Sustainability has gone into social, economic, and spiritual realms. [Simply put]: Don’t forget your manners, eat everything on your plate, and be kind.”
Travel can be a force for good if we remember Mendiratta’s wise words. As we begin to cross borders again—be it across the United States or into the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, and beyond—keep an eye out for the destinations that are specifically welcoming vaccinated travelers, and that have a handle on their local vaccinations.
You can currently drive or fly to countless destinations across the U.S. and you can even venture farther afield to Mexico and Costa Rica, and other countries where Americans are allowed to enter (regardless of vaccination status), typically when armed with negative COVID test results.
That list has grown to more than a dozen destinations now allowing vaccinated U.S. travelers to visit, including:
- British Virgin Islands
- Republic of Georgia
Additionally, Europe has signaled that it plans to open to vaccinated travelers this summer, a move that has already been backed up by statements from France and Spain indicating June reopenings. But countries are only placed on this list once there is an official policy in place and guidelines for travelers to follow.
Read more in These Countries Are Open to Vaccinated Travelers by Michelle Baran and Tim Chester.
Need some extra inspiration?
We’re here to help.
Q: Is your first trip going to be a family reunion, milestone birthday celebration, or solo getaway after being stuck in the house with screaming toddlers all year?
A: Scan for ideas—dude ranch escapes, tricked-out vacation rentals, and more easy-to-arrange U.S. vacations—in Making Up for Lost Trips.
Q: Do you really want to go somewhere outdoors and/or remote? Still wary of crowds?
A: Same. Try our roundup of 40+ Socially Distanced Trip Ideas.
Q: Do you want to put a once-in-a-lifetime getaway on the books?
A: We have more than a dozen Epic Trips That Give Back to inspire you.
Q: Have a pandemic passion that you want to plan a trip around?
A: Bring on the banana bread vacation! (And cycling holiday, wine week: It’s all there in the 13 Trips to Refuel Your Passions.)