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What Travelers Need to Know as the US Reopens

A plane on a runway
Courtesy of Silver Airways/SBPR
Many people are getting ready to travel again as COVID numbers drop and restrictions ease.

As the nation begins to open up from COVID restrictions, many people are ready to resume travel. I spoke with Mindy Combs, owner of Mindy’s Miles, about what people need to know when planning a vacation.

STEPH: So Mindy, you're a travel agent. Now that we're sort of seeing the pandemic ease in the US, are you seeing a lot of interest from people when it comes to booking travel again?

MINDY: Travel has exploded again, I've probably received 10 to 15 calls a day, as well as my agents. So people are ready to travel. They understand there's, you know, safety measures in place. So I think they're feeling more comfortable to travel. And they're ready to go. I mean, I've had people traveling for at least the last 12 months.

STEPH: Wow. So some people never stopped.

MINDY: Some people never stopped domestically.

STEPH: Yeah, so that's my next question. Are people mostly looking at traveling within the US? I know, a lot of people haven't seen their families in a while due to COVID. Or people also looking to go abroad as well, where they're allowed to?

MINDY: It's about a 5050 combination. A lot of families, especially people with younger children, they still opt to go domestic travel, where more groups or couples are leaning towards international travel.

STEPH: Now in terms of international travel, they can't go, people can't go everywhere, right? Some countries are open, some aren't.

MINDY: Correct. A lot of the places I've been sending my clients to have been Mexico, different parts of Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, Europe right now is still pretty much shut down for us citizens. Same thing as Canada, the Canada-US border has never opened back up.

STEPH: Yeah. So what are you doing to prepare people for how travel might look a little different now in this way, I don't want to call it post COVID, but the COVID era.

MINDY: I make sure that I talk to my clients and I provide them with their travel documents with their packets that I give them, I have a form that's helpful tips. So up until the minute where I give them their travel documents, I go over the most recent COVID restrictions for the destination that they're going to so they have very detailed information from me, as far as if you have to test going to the destination if you have to test returning back to the US. So I just make sure I'm on top of things when I let my clients know, before they're traveling.

STEPH: Yeah, so you mentioned testing, which I know the CDC has rules on but we've been hearing a lot about vaccine passports, both from Europe, in particular other countries abroad, but also some states within the US having vaccine passports. What are you kind of preparing people for in terms of how that works?

MINDY: Well, even people that are traveling right now, if they've been vaccinated, I tell them to go ahead and take their vaccine card with them. Because they never know when they're going to need it or not need it. So you know, the vaccine passport is still so very new, Europe is just now talking about it. Some countries are hoping to have it implemented by July 1. As far as within the US, like you said it's going to be state to state. So it's too new right now to even really give a full report on it.

STEPH: Yeah, I mean, so have you seen airlines or hotels or other types of places maybe asking for proof of vaccination before people travel.

MINDY: Now, I've not seen that yet. They have other safety measures in place. So they have quality health questionnaires that they're asking. If you've had any COVID symptoms, a lot of airlines are still doing the temperature checks. And then of course, airlines are still requiring in the airport and on the flight to wear a mask.

STEPH: Right. I know a lot of masking requirements is eased, but public transport and I believe airlines and things are one place where they haven't they have not

MINDY: It's still mandatory. And I mean I've personally been on a flight before to where they have had to tell people numerous science with their mask on or they will land the plane so they're very serious about it.

STEPH: So you know, some people are fine with showing their vaccine card or getting a vaccine passport. Other people are not fine with that. What are some options that people have if they don't want to have to provide proof of vaccination?

MINDY: I mean, right now vaccinations are not needed. I mean, you don't have to show proof of vaccination. So people really aren't being asked that to travel right now. They do have to show if they've tested negative for COVID before they travel, a lot of destinations have that. But as far as the vaccine card, it's not being asked right now. I've had clients ask me if they're vaccinated if they still have to do the COVID tested upon returned to the US. And that's not the case right now, it's still mandatory to test.

STEPH: Okay, so even if you are vaccinated, you're probably going to be testing. When you test to travel, do you test here before you go or is that at the destination,

MINDY: It all depends on the destination. To give you an example, like Mexico, you do not have to have a COVID test presented with negative COVID tests prior to entry. However, with the CDC mandate, returning back to the US, you do have to have a COVID test, the test has to be within 72 hours of returning to your destination. And it's the airline's responsibility to make sure that test is negative before you board the plane.

STEPH: Is there any last advice you'd give to people who are ready to shake off the isolation and go on vacation?

MINDY: Yeah, I mean, I would just know where the destination that you're going. Make sure you research it or reach out to a travel agent. That way you're up to date on the most current restrictions or requirements because if you get to the airport and you don't know those, you might be heading back home.

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Steph Whiteside is a Digital Media News Specialist with WSIU radio in Carbondale, Ill. She previously worked as a general reporter at AJ+ and Current TV.