Despite the all-encompassing disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, time marches on. April showers are still due to bring May flowers, and spring is still bound to turn into summer.
For many, the arrival of warmer weather used to be a signal that vacations were just around the corner. People plan their summer trips months and even years in advance, usually without factoring in the risk of a global health crisis.
But as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, where does summer travel stand?
What the government thinks
Earlier this month, coronavirus task force member Anthony S. Fauci told “CBS This Morning” that although he does not personally take vacations, traditional summer plans “can be in the cards.”
However, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert continued that “we have to be prepared that when the infections start to rear their heads again, that we have in place a very aggressive and effective way to identify, isolate, contact trace and make sure we don’t have those spikes that we see now.”
For anyone who had plans to take summer trips abroad, note that the U.S. Department of State is still advising Americans to avoid all international travel. It poses health and logistics risks to travelers.
“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” a State Department official told The Washington Post in an email. “Airlines have cancelled many international flights, and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips.”
It’s not only international travel that could severely disrupt your plans. Because state regulations can change without much warning, travelers may find themselves having to follow new protocols like self-quarantining for 14 days on arrival.
What medical experts think
Government predictions and restrictions aside, it’s not yet clear whether summer travel will be possible from a health perspective.
According to Gina Suh, head of the Mayo Clinic’s travel clinic, there’s no easy answer.
“Summer vacation plans may have to be delayed to be safe,” she told The Washington Post in an email. “Travel often means congregating at unsafe distances, and that can be a risk. Also, your destination may be a major factor. The only safe answer here is to stay tuned.”
What travel experts think
Like the rest of the world, industry insiders can’t perfectly predict how the pandemic will affect our lives, let alone travel plans.
“Given what’s going on right now, people may be reluctant or unsure of whether they can travel by summer,” says Misty Belles, the managing director of global PR for Virtuoso, a network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel. “And the reality is that nobody really knows at this point.”
Until the government and medical experts say that it’s safe to travel, Americans should be prepared to postpone or cancel summer vacation plans — particularly early summer trips, as the end dates for state and federal social-distancing guidelines get extended.
“I’d be very cautious of looking at travel that’s going to be in June, but I would be optimistic towards July, August,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. “I’m hopeful we’re going to see a late-summer recovery to travel.”
One thing is certain during the coronavirus pandemic: Americans are missing travel.
“There’s a tremendous pent-up demand,” Dow says. “People are getting a little squirrelly about staying at home, and they’re just waiting for what they think is a credible all-clear.”
While the future of travel is uncertain, travelers can still plan trips or fantasize about their next vacation, either practically or for an escape from anxiety.
“If you’re feeling like you need a break from the news cycle, take a moment and pause and start dreaming about where you want to go next, and start the planning process,” Belles says.
Belles has seen Virtuoso pivot from booking immediate trips to focusing on ones that require months or a year of coordination.
“You now have plenty of time to really set up the plan to get the exact trip that you want,” she says. “You have the time to budget for it, and the availability is there as well. So it’s a really strong time to look for airfare and to look for availability in the cities or areas that often don’t for the time of year you want to go.”
People who choose to book trips for summer or further out should do so with caution; the coronavirus pandemic is unpredictable. And many reservations may claim flexibility. Amid so much unknown, there will be one certainty: the headaches of rescheduling and canceling.