March 25, 2021
For the first time in almost a year I feel more than just a glimmer of optimism about international travel. The vaccine rollout here in the US has been frankly impressive, despite a seemingly haphazard approach in most states. Hopefully we can continue the downward trend of lower COVID-19 case numbers, fatalities, and hospitalizations as more and more people get vaccinated. This optimism has made me long to twirl silky tajarin pasta and sip Barolo wine on Saveur the Journey’s Culinary Adventure to the Piemonte region of Italy or ski the French and Swiss Alps while eating copious amounts of amazing cheese during the Ski Vacation to France trip. These trips used to seem far off but now I am allowing myself to dream.
Unfortunately, much of Europe is in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19 and is dealing with a very slow vaccine rollout and lack of vaccines. However, a few days ago there was some encouraging news from Iceland. As of March 18, 2021, Iceland will be allowing American travelers who can prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 to visit the country without any quarantine. Iceland has dealt with the Coronavirus very well and had very few infections due to stringent control of the border (it is an island in the middle of nowhere), aggressive contact tracing, and clear and consistent information from their health department and politicians. I have never been to Iceland other than to buy cod chips at the airport in Reykjavik, but I know it is a beautiful country full of trout, hot springs, waterfalls, epic ski lines, and cod chips. They have set an interesting, though predictable, precedent of allowing vaccinated travelers to enter. I imagine other countries will follow and international travel will resume over the coming months, providing vaccinations can outpace infections and new variants. Do your part and get vaccinated, especially if you have dreams of unlimited international travel.
While there are countries that have allowed Americans during the pandemic (often with a negative PCR test and some form of quarantine), many destinations have remained closed, with border restrictions being extended every month or two. The question everyone is asking is “when will the border to _____ (the place I want to visit) open up?” Well, it is hard to answer that and those decisions are probably changing day to day based on what is happening. A few years ago I discovered a company called “Scott’s Cheap Flights” that scours the internet for ephemeral hot airline deals and mistake fares. While I have enjoyed many discounted flights thanks to Scott, I have also found their newsletter and updates to be most helpful in understanding flights, international travel, and border restrictions. A few days ago Scott’s Cheap Flights sent out their predictions for border openings in Europe and Asia (since many Latin America and Africa destinations can be visited with negative test and quarantine).
Here are Scott’s Cheap Flights predictions as of March 22, 2021:
|?? Europe: A month or two ago, my sense was that much of Europe would likely reopen by the summer, especially southern European nations that rely heavily on tourism. Since then, my outlook has grown slightly more pessimistic.
Vaccination rollout in the EU has been far slower than the US or UK, and another wave of infections may be building in the continent. While the EU is working on reopening borders by this summer for people who have been vaccinated, were previously infected, or test negative, exact timing on when Americans will be welcome back is still unclear.
That said, I have some optimism from the fact that numerous countries are really pushing for earlier reopenings, from Greece to Spain to the UK. And reports that the US is planning to allow international visitors by mid-May increases Americans’ hopes of traveling overseas this summer, as some countries will want reciprocity before opening their own borders.
My best guess on when Americans will be allowed to visit at least two EU countries without quarantine: 50% chance by June, 65% chance by July, 80% chance by August.
Asia/Pacific: Japan’s recent announcement that overseas fans would not be allowed at this summer’s Olympics struck a blow for hopes of an imminent reopening. Instead, like Thailand and Australia, I think an autumn reopening is more likely for much of the region at this point.
My best guess on when Americans will be allowed to visit at least three APAC countries without quarantine: 50% by September, 80% by October. (The Maldives is already open with a recent negative test.)
|?? Reminder: need negative test to return to US|
|Don’t forget that for all international trips right now, you’re required to show a negative covid test within three days of your return flight to the US. (Many hotels and resorts, especially in Mexico, are offering complimentary tests for guests before their trip home.)
I think it’s likely that this requirement will be expanded in the next month or two to include a negative test or proof of vaccination.
Hopefully you will find that useful in thinking about future plans. Don’t forget Saveur the Journey is offering worry-free bookings with the ability to rebook your trip until 2025 if the trip is cancelled or you have to cancel for any reason related to COVID-19. Check out all of our trips at www.saveurthejourney.com!