Given the complexity and fast-changing nature of the current situation it’s tempting to give a very short answer to this one. The chances of doing much international travel this winter doesn’t look great based on today’s situation. Even if where you live is allowing international travel, quarantine regulations on return and restrictions in the destination will limit where you can go and what you can do. But there are signs that things may be improving – the unknown is whether this is definitely the case and how quickly places will open up if so.
Pulling away from COVID-19 for a second, a winter getaway in search of sun will generally mean Florida, Hawaii or the Caribbean for Canadian and American travelers. For northern Europeans, you’re normally at a minimum four-hour flight to Atlantic destinations such as the Canary Islands, Madeira or Sao Tome. Other options include southern Morocco, west Africa, or somewhere further afield like Dubai or the Caribbean.
Each of these destinations has its own entry requirements. European travelers are required to quarantine when visiting many countries, and when returning back from others. The fact that these restrictions keep changing makes planning a trip even harder. Italy, one of the remaining destinations that has been a viable option for travel from many European countries, has just announced that travelers visiting from the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Belgium must have proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours on arrival.
The number of realistically visitable destinations on England’s list of exemptions from self-isolation and Ireland’s "Green list" is now very small indeed. Don’t forget Scotland and Wales have their own slightly different exemption lists. The UK government’s announcement of a taskforce to review the current arrangements raises hopes that as winter progresses things become less forlorn than they seem today. Some of the proposed changes such as airport testing, or – or combined with – a shorter period of isolation followed by taking a test upon returning home have the potential to take the sting out of any quarantine period.
Additionally, as winter progresses destinations may be added to exemption lists should cases decline below the acceptable rate, but nothing is guaranteed. This underlines the importance of ensuring flexibility in any bookings made.
Returning travelers to the US, on the other hand, are not currently subject to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation measures, which provides a degree of flexibility, although obviously your plans will be dependent on the restrictions in the destination you want to visit.
Florida, of course, remains a viable winter sun destination with the right climate and no current travel restrictions. Hawaii is amending its block on out-of-state travel from October 15 with the launch of a pre-travel testing system which, if passed, removes the need for new arrivals to quarantine. Travelers need to be tested within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii and show a negative test result so they can avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Full requirements, including enrolling in the Safe Travels scheme, are posted on the state’s dedicated website. All being well, this signals a significant moment in the reopening of Hawaii for travelers.
Some destinations like Mexico are opening without testing requirements, though there are conditions: driving across the border from the US for non-essential purposes remains a no-no. Flying to popular destinations like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas is possible, and many resorts are now open with enhanced hygiene procedures. Temperature checks may be taken on arrival.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, there are different approaches being taken. These include requiring proof of a negative test in advance or a test on arrival (Aruba), requiring both (Bermuda) or a negative pre-arrival test and a period of quarantine in a "large bubble" (Anguilla).
As winter approaches airlines and destinations are working together more to open up travel options. For example, American Airlines is starting pre-flight testing programs for travel to the Caribbean, initially targeting Jamaica and the Bahamas. Initial phases are not aimed at vacation passengers, but are clearly seen as a starting point to doing so. Working with destinations to meet their entry requirements as easily as possible, combined with effective testing on returning home, forms the basis of the travel industry’s hoped-for pathway to a more substantial, sustained reopening with higher passenger numbers.
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