Everything you need for the return of travel

As restrictions lift around the world, travel feels possible once again. By The Way can help you navigate planning a trip.

(Illustration by Caitlin Keegan for The Washington Post)
Updated March 10 at 11:06 a.m.Originally published May 4, 2021

We knew the return of travel would come with complications in a pandemic. But exactly what those complications would be have been impossible to predict.

As coronavirus restrictions lift around the world — this time after an omicron variant surge — Americans are again leaving home by plane, train and car. They are reentering an industry still reeling from a historic shutdown and navigating a world of hurdles such as vaccine requirements, border restrictions and safety protocols.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel, there are still precautions to take.If you’re planning a trip abroad, check the vaccination requirements of your destination and plan for testing to return to the United States.

Whether you’re ready to reunite with family, head abroad or tackle a bucket-list dream, we’ve pulled together our best tips to help you navigate this next phase of travel.

Before you go, here’s everything you need to know.

Vaccinations and testing

When coronavirus tests became more accessible, they also became the key to travel. Not only does a negative test result ease your own worries when traveling and interacting with others, it is required to cross borders in many cases, including reentering the United States by air.

Now as vaccination campaigns continue around the globe, some countries are implementing vaccine passports in place of testing requirements — and not always without pushback. If you’ve had covid, many destinations accept proof of recovery as a substitute for vaccines or tests.

Before you start planning, make sure to check the testing and vaccination requirements of your destination.

Logistics

So you’ve decided to set out on a trip. Before the pandemic, that may have meant simply finding your passport and deciding between a checked bag or carry-on. But these days, there’s much more to it. Are there local covid-19 restrictions at your destination? Do you need travel insurance? Is snagging an affordable rental car even possible anymore? The logistics can be dizzying, but they’re not impossible to navigate.

Safety

Even vaccinated travelers should take certain steps to keep themselves and those around them safe. If you take a flight, you have crowded airports, layovers and the end of masking on public transportation to consider in the potential spread of covid-19.

Trip planning

Now for the fun part. After travel restrictions tightened during omicron, international trips are looking accessible once more. But while we learn to “live with” covid, domestic travel and road trips will continue to be popular. The outdoorsy among us are heading to national parks or making reservations for RVs and campsites. Regardless of where you’re headed, there are things to consider before you do.

Destinations

Perhaps the most exciting part of planning a trip is deciding where to go. Americans continue to flock to Mexico’s Riviera Maya despite a rash of cartel violence. The Caribbean, Europe and Australia are welcoming tourists. Much of Asia has been slower to reopen, including China, Hong Kong and Japan, but popular vacation spots like Thailand and Bali are accepting foreign travelers. Wherever travel takes you, make sure you’re mindful of the local experience.