Since the start of the pandemic, the United States hasn’t done much to update their aggressive travel restriction policies and thanks to the Delta variant, it doesn’t look like borders will fully open up anytime soon. Each week, the CDC adds new countries to their list of places Americans should not travel to and each week, frustration grows that travel is slowly but surely being restricted across the world to discourage the upcoming holiday travel season.
Two weeks after Christmas 2020, the U.S. saw its largest spike in single day COVID cases with over 300,000. That January 8th number remained the highest number of cases all year until September 7th, when 301,000 new cases were reported. Given the post-holiday spike last year and the rise of the Delta variant this year, it would seem those in charge of public health have valid concerns about the safety of holiday travel.
What the CDC is Saying about Holiday Travel
Regardless of how you feel about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they’re still the nation’s most important health protection agency. Since the start of the pandemic, the CDC has urged people to exercise extreme caution when traveling, in many cases discouraging travel to certain countries altogether. Just recently, the CDC discouraged people, particularly the unvaccinated, from traveling over the Labor Day holiday weekend and judging by the growing list of level 4 countries on their advisory list, the CDC could very well offer similar warnings when it comes to the upcoming holiday season.
Just this week, Dr.Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, expressed his support for a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel in the United States. However, other members of the administration, including Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, expressed doubt that it was a realistic situation to expect.
It often helps to look at action rather than words, and lately, the CDC’s actions point towards a heavy emphasis on sticking close to home. More countries are added to the Level 4 advisory list every week, meaning there have been over 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The list currently includes popular destinations like France, Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom.
What’s troubling is countries like Israel and Portugal have found themselves on the Level 4 list despite being some of the most widely-vaccinated countries in the world
What’s troubling is countries like Israel and Portugal have found themselves on the Level 4 list despite being some of the most widely-vaccinated countries in the world. Portugal trails only Malta and Gibraltar as the third most-vaccinated country by population percentage at over 80%. If a country that’s 80% vaccinated against COVID isn’t safe to visit, is any country?
Cruisers in particular need to pay attention to the list as the list of Caribbean countries on it has grown steadily over the past month. Aruba, the Bahamas, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Barth, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and the Virgin islands are all on the list and that really narrows down the number of ‘safe’ countries cruisers may feel comfortable visiting.
European Citizens Still Barred from Entry
There was some hope the Biden Administration would announce an end to the travel restrictions imposed at the start of the pandemic, but they’ve been radio silent on that front so far. America briefly found itself on the list of the European Union’s approved countries list this Summer, but that achievement was short-lived thanks to the rise of the Delta variant and the United States’ unwillingness to lift restrictions for EU citizens hoping to visit America.
Citizens from Europe’s 29-Schengen countries plus the United Kingdom and Ireland are currently not allowed to enter the United States unless they spend 14-days in a country that doesn’t appear on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of prohibited countries. That fact alone is going to keep holiday travel from Europe to the United States at a minimum.
the AstraZeneca vaccine, the most popular in Europe, has yet to be approved by the CDC
Another factor contributing to the situation could be that the AstraZeneca vaccine, the most popular in Europe, has yet to be approved by the CDC. This is a real problem as the AstraZeneca vaccine is the most widely-distributed around the world by number of countries and is by far the most popular in Europe. So far, only the Pfizer vaccine has CDC approval with Moderna vaccine’s approval to soon follow as the company has completed the application process.
How This Holiday Travel Season Will Be Different
For a number of reasons, this year’s holiday travel season will look a little bit different than in years past. One of the most obvious ways is people waiting until the last minute to book trips, particularly when it comes to cruises or international travel.
While booking early is always a great way to save on your trip, the problem is that so much can change in the coming months. Perhaps the country you’re planning on visiting changes their entry protocols just days before you leave. Maybe the CDC adds the country to its level advisory list meaning COVID-19 rates in the country are high. The United States could even change the entry requirements to get back into the country after your vacation comes to an end.
Uncertainty is rampant and with the rise of the Delta variant and constantly changing travel protocols which vary by country, it seems obvious why people are waiting until the last minute to book their vacation.
Why People May Not Travel This Holiday Season
For the past year and half, people have sacrificed holidays and other gatherings in the name of public safety. Those with family in Europe or elsewhere around the world likely haven’t seen their loved ones since the pandemic began. The true reason for the holidays is to give thanks and spend time with the people we care about. The way travel restrictions are going, many may have to wait even longer for a reunion.
If you’re on the fence about traveling this holiday season, there are plenty of reasons why staying close home instead might be a better idea. When it comes to traveling internationally, it comes down to risk vs. reward. Sure, there’s nothing better than the perfect vacation, but the sheer amount of things you have to know, and the list of things that can go wrong, is enough to have some rethinking their travel plans.
When it comes to traveling internationally, it comes down to risk vs. reward
From ever-changing entry requirements like testing, quarantines, passenger locator forms, travel insurance, mask mandates and vaccine requirements, there’s a lot travelers need to keep in mind to ensure their trip goes smoothly. And when you couple that with the obvious health risks of traveling during the pandemic, it’s no wonder some will skip travel altogether this holiday season. A positive test while abroad could mean spending weeks in quarantine before getting home is an option and most don’t have that luxury with responsibilities like work and family.
Making travel, particularly international travel, more challenging is frustrating, but it serves a purpose; to dissuade people from packing their bags and taking trips. It’s clear through their actions that Governments on both sides of the pond don’t feel like the world is ready for travel to return to normal just yet.
Do you have plans to travel this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!