More than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended nearly all travel plans, many are eagerly awaiting their next chance to get out once again and explore—whether planning a trip for spring break, summer or beyond. But for those planning to travel in 2021, a different travel experience than what they're used to awaits.
"The entire travel experience has been transformed by COVID-19," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. "If you're considering travel sometime this year, it's more important than ever to do your due diligence ahead of any trip to ensure it is safe and enjoyable. As vaccines help boost consumer confidence to begin traveling again, we have to remember that wearing masks and social distancing are still a requirement."
In anticipation of these changes to the travel experience, experts from AAA have gathered some key points travelers should expect while on their adventures this year:
Face coverings are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the U.S., and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Outside of these transportation requirements, states—and some establishments—have mandates and/or restrictions on where and when masks must be worn.
Road trips to domestic destinations continue to be the preferred way for many to travel, but even these trips require additional planning and preparation. Those who make the decision to travel by car can refer to AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to identify which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along their route.
If renting a car, ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, an enhanced vehicle disinfectant and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.
Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. Ask about social distancing protocols like capacity reductions, hotel staff requirements to wear masks at all times and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining.
AAA cautions air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may be limited or unavailable. Some airlines continue to limit flight capacities or block middle seats to allow for social distancing. Due to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one oversized liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags, rather than limiting those to 3.4 ounces. Masks are also required at airports and on planes.
When it comes to international air travel, all air passengers coming to the U.S., including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID 19 before they board a flight to the U.S. Travelers who don't provide this to their airline will be denied boarding. There are no test requirements for domestic travel at this time.
Even with the CDC's no-sail order lifted, many cruise lines have voluntarily extended their suspension of sailing operations further into 2021. Anyone considering a future cruise vacation should talk to the cruise line or travel agent about the ship's cancelation policy and to understand what you can expect on a cruise when they start sailing again.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.