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The Delta Variant Is Surging. Here’s How to Still Travel Safely.

by Eben Diskin Jul 21, 2021

It’s a dangerous gamble to declare that the pandemic is “over” or that travel has “returned.” Of course, there have been encouraging signs the past few months. The EU recently recommended that its member states open their borders to US travelers, domestic travel has rebounded close to 2019 levels, and the country seems to be slowly emerging from the economic, physical, and emotional morass of the pandemic.

But as with all roads to recovery, the US comeback from COVID-19 is plagued by obstacles — most notably the highly transmissible Delta variant. Now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US, Delta is causing many around the country to dust off their masks and reconsider their travel plans. While health and safety are paramount, and you should always evaluate your personal risk level before booking a flight, the new variant doesn’t mean you have to put your travel plans on hold.

Get vaccinated

The best way to keep yourself and your family safe is by getting vaccinated. Vaccines have proven to be effective against the Delta variant, so getting vaccinated should be your first and most effective line of defense against catching COVID-19. More than 97 percent of COVID hospitalizations, and 99.5 percent of deaths, are among unvaccinated individuals, according to CNN. Experts also say that people who are vaccinated aren’t really spreading the virus, according to Healthline.

Many countries around the world have vaccine requirements, meaning you can’t enter at all unless you can show proof of vaccination. Always take your personal risk level into account — including any preconditions that might make you more susceptible to serious illness — but if you’re vaccinated, you can travel with more peace of mind.

Research the destination

Every destination has different travel requirements and restrictions that will impact your trip. It’s common for countries in Europe to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, while others, like Mexico, have no requirements at all (though you will need a test to get back into the US). For peace of mind while traveling, you should also take COVID-19 case numbers into consideration. The vast majority of new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, but if you’re vaccinated and anxious about a destination’s rising case numbers, it might be better to go elsewhere. The UK, for example, has experienced a sharp uptick in cases over the past month, and the US State Department has issued a warning about traveling there. In other countries and regions in the US, however, cases have remained relatively stable, perhaps making them less anxiety-inducing family vacation destinations.

Get travel insurance

With the global health situation evolving unpredictably, booking a trip can be nerve wracking. You don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for flights, hotels, and experiences just to have your trip canceled or postponed for COVID-related reasons. That’s why the right type of travel insurance is more important than ever. Many countries now require proof of travel insurance that covers COVID-19 before they’ll allow travelers to enter. For those that don’t, it’s still a good idea to have it. Medical travel insurance is relatively cheap, usually costing between $30 and $50, and covers any medical attention you may need abroad due to COVID-19. There’s also trip cancellation insurance, evacuation insurance, and more specific insurances that may fit your needs.

It’s also advisable to pay attention to your airline and hotel cancellation policies. Flexibility is key, and if you think your plans might change last-minute, it’s important to book accommodations, flights, and experiences that won’t penalize you for canceling or rescheduling. Matador Trips is a great example of the kind of refund policy you should look for. If the traveler must cancel due to COVID (including quarantine, canceled flights, or a positive test result), Matador will issue a 100 percent refund. This kind of flexibility goes a long way toward relieving COVID-related travel concerns.

Alternatives to international travel

2020 was the year people discovered the joys of domestic travel, and there’s no reason 2021 should be any different. Due to international border closures travelers were forced to explore their own backyards, and discovered something pretty inspiring: our backyards are pretty cool. If you’re not comfortable with international travel right now, there are plenty of domestic options to keep you busy this summer and beyond.

Last summer was the summer of camping, with people hitting the wilderness in droves and lining up for campers and RVs like it was PS5 release day at Best Buy. Whether it’s a long camping weekend, taking a cross-country road trip, or visiting a national park, there are no shortage of domestic staycations that are both easily-accessible and COVID-safe.

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