What can you expect when traveling to Europe this summer? Generally, a more relaxed experience compared to the previous two years with most restrictions scrapped or reduced significantly. However, there are some questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you're prepared before you book that Uber to the airport.
Is your passport in date?
First things first: check to make sure your passport is in date. It must be less than 10 years old (five years for children) and—this is where sometimes people get caught out—on the date you plan to leave your European destination and return home, your passport must have at least three months left to go before it expires. Though the advice from the US Department of State is to have at least six months' validity remaining on your passport whenever you travel abroad.
Over the past few years, processing times for passports have increased with routine processing currently taking between eight and 11 weeks. That's twice as long as it took in 2019. The US Department of State warns that processing times only begin the day they receive your passport, not the day you mail your application or apply in a processing center, so make sure to get your application in as soon as possible if your passport has expired or is about to.
Do you need to bring your vaccination certificate?
Most countries in Europe have dropped pandemic entry restrictions, but not all. Italy, France, Spain, and Germany, for example, still require some proof of vaccination or testing from Americans for entry. Check the embassy page of your chosen destination ahead of flying to make sure you're up-to-date with the latest requirements.
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Can you get to the airport early?
As Americans look to resume international travel, airports are experiencing some delays at security lines and check-in desks. Get to the terminal early and leave plenty of waiting time for taxis and public transport.
The same advice applies for your return journey, though you may need to be extra vigilant with your timing abroad as many airports in Europe are experiencing significant delays brought about by staff shortages. Shortly after clearing queues from the Easter travel period, airports in the UK, the Netherlands, and Ireland are being hit by fresh queues again as summer travel picks up. The forecast for the weeks ahead isn't great either. Europe’s trade body for airports, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, confirmed this week that summer travel will suffer from ongoing disruptions with most of its members expecting airports and flight schedules to be "unavoidably affected by this staffing crunch this summer".
Have you packed a face mask?
European Union officials agreed on May 11 that face masks won't be required on flights and in airports in the EU starting May 16. However, member states can still set their own rules and some, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, and more, have decided to keep them on. Airlines can still set their own guidelines too so you'll need to check your carrier's policy before flying. The UK, which is no longer part of the UK, still requires that face masks are worn on most flights.
Most countries have dropped their indoor and outdoor mask mandates, so you likely won't need one when you're out exploring any given European destination. But you'll need to wear one when boarding public transport in places like Greece, Italy, Spain, and France. Also, face masks are required in all healthcare settings in Europe. It's a good idea to pick one up before you get to the airport (where prices for face masks are typically higher) and have it in your luggage - just in case.
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Have you booked a COVID-19 test for your return flight?
The US still requires that all airline passengers over the age of two that are entering from a foreign country present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flight back. The test must be taken no more than one day before departure. You can get a PCR or an antigen test, but it must be lab-administered, meaning you'll need to get it done in a pharmacy or clinic. Costs vary depending on the country you're visiting so check ahead so you can factor it into your budget and, if possible, book the test before you leave for your trip.
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You'll be required to retain a paper or digital copy of your negative test result so that you can present it to your airline before boarding your flight home. If you've recovered from the virus within the last six months, you won't need to get tested but you will need to show your recovery certificate instead.