In the United States, a big vaccine-fueled domestic travel surge is already underway. This summer season will be crowded, and ticket prices are already closing in on the expensive summer of 2019. Internationally, though, the recovery hasn’t taken off yet.

U.S. Travel—Planes. Airport screenings are up 715% from the first half of 2020, which isn’t surprising, due to Covid-19. But they are only 35% down from the 2019 rate. Traffic is rapidly recovering, especially to destinations in the South, the Rocky Mountain States, and Hawaii. One year ago, 56% of the planes at the four largest carriers—American, United, Delta and Southwest—were in storage. As of mid-May, only 21% of those planes were in storage. Some areas are already increasing airline seats: Key West, Florida will have a 141% increase above 2019 levels in June, Sarasota, Florida will be up 136%, Bozeman, Montana, 78%, and Fort Meyers, Florida, up 62%. The Salt Lake City and Orlando hubs are scheduling more seats. Guess which U.S. city will have the biggest loss in seats in June: down 51%? San Francisco. Apparently, this city is no longer a popular tourist destination!

Photo Credit: Bibhash Banerjee from Pexels

U.S. Travel—Hotels. Occupancy rates remain below 2020 levels and way below 2019. During the week of May 2-8, only 56.7% of rooms were occupied. More hotels are reopening anyway; for example, 284,000 additional rooms were available in the first week of May.

International Travel: The European Union took a big step to reopen their borders for fully- vaccinated travelers on May 19. Ambassadors from the 27 EU members agreed to these conditions: Final shots must be taken two weeks before travel from providers approved by WHO or the EU’s medicines regulator. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J are all allowed. (The U.S., they say, will soon be added to the “safe” list.) The U.K. standards are different: it has the world divided into red, amber, and green countries. The U.S. is on the amber list: Visitors must test negatively for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before departing and twice, on the second and eight days after arrival to the U.K.  A ten-day quarantine is still required, though after five days you can take an additional Covid test to get out early.

It’s complicated. European countries not part of the EU─such as Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein─are all expected to follow the EU commission’s recommendations. Iceland already opened to vaccinated tourists in March. If you’re interested in going there this summer, refer to my blogs about my visit there in 2018: Iceland, a Country Rich in Culture and Legend, Iceland’s Ring Road, and Discovering Iceland’s Southeast Coast.

Sculpture in morning light at Borgarnes, Iceland.
Sculpture in morning light at Borgarnes, Iceland.

Some countries may still be under curfew. Italy, for example, recently reduced a longstanding nationwide curfew to begin at 11p.m. instead of an hour earlier. By June 7, that curfew will be extended until midnight and then erased entirely by June 21. France has a nationwide curfew that begins at 9 p.m. Some areas of Germany, Spain, and Greece still have curfews as of this date. Shops, museums, and restaurants in most countries are open, but some restrictions still apply.  For European travelers coming to the U.S., it’s also complicated. In mid-June, my sister-in-law is flying to MPS from Munich, Germany via Iceland Air. She’s fully vaccinated, but will need a Covid-19 test 3 days before leaving. The U.S. required a letter from Gunter, her brother, explaining why she needed to come, as well as a copy of his passport!

Family Reunions. The overwhelming cause of travel booked so far this summer is for family visits or reunions. These represent 32% of group travel plans. Weddings represented another 15%. Some top group vacation destinations are seeing a doubling of reservations for June, July and August compared to 2019. If families had been seeing each other every other month, as in other years, their trip wouldn’t be considered a “reunion.” Now, families are making up for lost time.

Cruises. Cruise enthusiasts have endured a year of suspended cruises in North America and much of the world.  Since the “no sail” order was lifted, cruise lines are following the CDC guidelines for conditional sailing and implementing the changes required. Cruise lines have been releasing their new itineraries. There are strong bookings for Alaska and Europe, in addition to Caribbean cruises, which are always popular. You may want to book now for the next year or two—especially if you have a future cruise credit. Balcony cabins are more popular than ever. Note that cruise fares can usually be adjusted right up until the final payment date and cruise lines are offering flexible cancellation policies.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Traveling with Disabilities. Whether you have a temporary disability, such as recovering from a recent surgery, or a permanent disability, there are travel options for you. Wheel the World has more than 40 travel destinations and tour packages in North America, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Travegali.com is an online platform that specializes in accessible tourism. See The Travel Channel for tips for traveling with disabilities. 

My husband and I attended my brother’s 70th Birthday Event at Lake Conroe, TX while he was recovering from knee surgery. I was also using a cane because of a femur fracture that was still healing. We planned on using the courtesy carts to manage the long distances to the gate. But “due to Covid” the volunteer services were no longer active. The airport offered wheelchair service instead. We also used complimentary wheelchair services on our return trip and again, during our trip to our summer home in Wisconsin, where we are now. Don’t let disabilities get you down!

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award-winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page. Lois’s books can be purchased from PIP Productions on Amazon.


Travel planning should be fun, not stressful. How can you make it so?
A Checklist Can Ease Your Stress
__ Do you need a passport? If so, allow plenty of time for it to arrive to your door.

__Does your destination require a VISA? Apply six weeks in advance in case you run into bureaucratic difficulties.

__Do you want to sign up for Global Entry?

Global Entry PassportWhat is Global Entry? Global Entry is a program of the United States Government’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. It makes international travel so much easier. To apply, one must complete the online application at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply. After your application is reviewed, you will be contacted to schedule an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers. At the interview, a CBP officer asks you questions, takes your photo, and collects biometric information such as fingerprints. Gunter and I signed up for Global Entry this year and will use this additional stamp in our passport for the first time during our upcoming trip to Uzbekistan. We hope to glide right through those long custom lines! I’ll let you know how it works out.

__Well before you travel, make sure your medical, dental, and eyecare is up to date. Will you require vaccinations? The week before you leave, refill any prescriptions you’ll need, including those little-used “emergency” pills—just in case.

__Prepare a sample itinerary. If you’re with a group, your travel agency will do this. Be sure to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Which reservations must be made early? If you’re traveling during high season, hotels may fill up fast.

__Purchase your train, bus or plane ticket or prepare your car for travel.

__ Check those sites that combine travel, hotels, and transportation in package deals, such as Travelocity, Expedia, Costco, etc. Will any of these work for you? (Beware, sometimes package deals are misleading and can be difficult to change later.)

__Make a list of clothes and personal items you’ll need to buy; if you’re shopping online, allow time for shipment and/or backorders. Check the weather in your destination – average highs and lows for the time of year you plan to travel. I retrieve our luggage from storage two weeks in advance and begin to throw in personal items and clothes I know I won’t be needing in the next few weeks. Then I repack a day or two before the trip and add any clothes I don’t want to wrinkle.

__Review your photography equipment; will you need anything else? Be sure you have backup flash drives in case you fill up your camera(s). If you don’t normally take a lot of photos, familiarize yourself with your camera’s operation before you go. Will you need to download parts of your manual? If using a smartphone, bring a back-up charger for the trip.

__What will your internet connections be like? Will they have broadband? Wifi? (I just found out that some places in Uzbekistan still have dial-up. I’ll probably transmit only in the larger cities.)

__ If you’re traveling internationally, inform your bank and/or credit card company in advance. You do not want to be without access to funds.

Raj Palace Entrance

Gunter on the Raj Palace stairs to our unexpected suite

Prepare To Expect The Unexpected
What if your expectations don’t meet reality? That’s part of the adventure and thrill of travel. When traveling in India, our flight from Varanasi to Agra was cancelled after we had already checked in our luggage. Our next stop was to be two nights at a hotel near the Taj Mahal. Fortunately, our travel company had provided us with a cell phone and India SIM card for just such emergencies. We called them, and within 20 minutes, they had solved the problem. A driver magically appeared as our luggage was coming back down the carousel; he led us to his car and we were on our way, driving overnight.

Raj Palace Courtyard

Raj Palace Courtyard

 

The dirt road was rough and at some places, the driver went off the road into the ditch to bypass construction zones, but by early morning, we stopped at the palace of a Raj to stay for the day and evening, and the following day, we were safely deposited to our hotel in Agra.

 

 

 

 

 

Raj Palace Light Fixture

One of the many exquisite light fixtures in our suite.

 

 

I wouldn’t have missed staying in that palace for all the tea in China (I mean, India). I felt like a princess as the rising sun shone through gorgeous stained glass and exquisite chandeliers illuminated every room.

So, prepare to be flexible. Don’t over schedule and take things as they come. Above all, don’t stress.

 

 

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page.