BURNSVILLE, Minn. — It’s been a little more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in many canceled travel plans and people’s uncertainty over when they could take their next trip.
In fact, a recent AAA survey found that nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans (61%) canceled or rescheduled travel plans in 2020.
Yet, this year, more than half of Minnesotans (55%) plan to take at least one vacation of three days or more, the study also revealed.
With spring break and summer approaching, getaways are being booked by would-be travelers. However, AAA travel experts advise that things will look very different — and to be prepared for a different travel experience — than the last time many took a vacation, a release said.
“The entire travel experience has been transformed by COVID-19. 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,” Meredith Mitts, spokesperson of AAA’s Auto Club Group, said in the release. “As vaccines help boost consumer confidence to begin traveling again, we have to remember that wearing masks and social distancing are still a requirement.”
Here is what travelers can expect, according to AAA:
Masks: Face coverings are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States, 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.
Auto: 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.
Hotels: 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.
Air: 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.
International air travel: All air passengers coming to the United States, 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 United States. Travelers who don't provide this to their airline will be denied boarding. There are no test requirements for domestic travel at this time.
Cruise: 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 a travel agent about the ship’s cancelation policy and to understand what you can expect on a cruise when they start sailing again.
AAA experts also advise working with a trusted travel agent because they have the knowledge and tools available to help travelers plan a safe and fun getaway. According to the release, they serve as your advocate before, during and after a trip.
“Vacations are an investment in memory making. COVID-19 reminded us that safeguarding those investments, where possible, is important. We recommend anyone considering making a trip seek the expertise of a trusted travel agent,” Mitts said. “They are an invaluable resource for travelers navigating evolving travel and public health guidelines.”
According to AAA, the CDC continues to urge Americans to delay taking trips, but for those who choose to travel, current guidelines and requirements include the following:
Travel restrictions: State and local governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders and quarantine requirements upon arrival. Check the state and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible, as restrictions and policies may change during your trip.
COVID-19 vaccines: If you are eligible, consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The CDC says to wait two weeks after getting your second dose to travel for your body to build protection after vaccination. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, continue to follow all official travel requirements and guidelines.
Testing: The CDC recommends taking a viral COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip. Do not travel if you test positive. Keep a copy of your negative test results with you during your trip and make plans to get tested again with a viral test three to five days after you return. Self-quarantine for a full seven days after the trip, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, the CDC advises staying home and self-quarantining for 10 days.
For more information, visit AAA.com/Travel.
Readers can reach Forum News Service reporter Bria Barton at 218-333-9798.