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You asked: Who can help me navigate European travel restrictions?

By The Way Concierge suggests services travelers can use to decipher covid restrictions overseas.

(Cynthia Kittler for The Washington Post)

Traveling has always come with complications, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it more challenging than ever. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.

“Is there some kind of travel service that will help someone navigate a trip through various European countries, including restrictions and covid tests — basically holding travelers’ hands along the way?” — Beth, Charlotte, N.C.

My immediate instinct is to recommend working with a travel adviser (they used to be called travel agents). While booking sites had largely reduced the need for these agents, demand has roared back because the pandemic has made traveling so much more complicated.

Sure, you’re capable of designing a great trip, but it’s far less stressful to put the logistics in the hands of an expert who has to stay up to date on ever-changing restrictions.

John Rose, chief risk officer for the travel management company ALTOUR, said he helps clients identify countries that are accepting visitors and helps them with documentation before they leave. He said travel advisers prove their value when you need to reschedule canceled flights and secure refunds.

Earlier in the pandemic, SmartFlyer travel adviser and practicing attorney Robert Merlin had clients on a flight en route to Hawaii when the state updated its travel restrictions. The change made it impossible for Merlin’s clients to travel in between Hawaiian islands freely, so he scrambled to find new accommodations in Maui for the rest of their trip.

“By the time my client landed, I was like, ‘You’re not going to Kona anymore, here’s what you’re doing,’” Merlin said.

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Another option is to go on an organized trip with a group-tour company. If you’re a person who enjoys traveling with other people and socializing, a group trip bakes that in. Tour companies offer some of the same benefits of a travel adviser.

Intrepid Travel, a small-group tour company, promises guests that their group leader can assist with providing details on or booking coronavirus testing. The company’s premium itineraries also offer 24/7 on-ground support during the trip.

El Camino Travel, a private group travel club for women, sets up a virtual meeting with upcoming guests weeks before a trip to go over safety concerns and vaccine requirements. The company also provides information ahead of travel on any changes or new requirements that may impact the trip. In the background, they communicate with contacts in the destination(s) they will be visiting to make sure the trip goes smoothly.

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Some companies offer the benefits of a coordinated group tour but without the strangers. For example, G Adventures offers a “Book Your Bubble” collection of trips you can take with your friends or family, coordinated by a “chief experience officer” who’s been trained on the latest health and safety measures of your destination.

And lastly, you can use one or some of the many travel apps and websites out there in lieu of hiring help or going on a group trip. The U.S. embassy site in the country you’re visiting should have the information you need for entry and requirements to return home.

For your needs in particular, Re-open EU is an interactive tool that provides information on testing requirements, contact-tracing apps and coronavirus restrictions. Plus, it lets you input a travel plan to see what exactly you need to do if you’re going from, for example, France to Italy and want to transit through Switzerland.

Merlin tells clients to use Sherpa to stay informed on travel and health restrictions.

"If you put in traveling from Canada to the Dominican Republic and you give your dates of travel, it will give you all the latest restrictions,” Merlin said. “From what I’ve seen, it’s updated daily.”

TripIt, a trip-planning and flight-tracking app, launched a Traveler Resource Center during the pandemic that offers updates from public health and safety officials, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the European Commission, and guidelines for basics like dealing with new airline rules or hotel cancelation policies.

New app Atlys helps travelers with coronavirus travel restrictions as well as streamlining the process of getting visas. Creator Mohak Nahta said users will benefit from how easy it is to review travel restrictions, but he warns not to wait until the last minute and rely on these tools.

“With covid in particular I would still tell travelers to plan a bit in advance,” Nahta said. “If you plan your trip last minute or want to go tonight or tomorrow, it might not be possible.”

Have a travel dilemma for By The Way Concierge? Submit it here.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will probably challenge a key line of treatment for people with compromised immune systems — the drugs known as monoclonal antibodies.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

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