Where TF Can Americans Travel This Summer? And Should They?

As coronavirus cases climb in the United States, American passports appear to be losing their value. But America is GREAT AGAIN, haven’t you heard? Thanks, Donny! As if a raging pandemic, lack of accessible healthcare, and systemic racism weren’t enough, you can say au revoir to your European summer holiday, as well as vacations in a bunch of other places around the globe. Great. As the European Union prepares to reopen, U.S. travelers did not make the 15-country safe list and have officially been blocked from entering. So, where else can Americans travel right now? And better yet, should they travel or cancel trips this summer?

“You Can’t Sit With Us”—The EU, Probably

When the EU closed its borders in March, it was no small decision. The same goes for continuing the ban for Americans, considering the fact that 15 million U.S. travelers visit Europe each year, and the industry creates jobs for 26 million people. Clearly, the bloc’s economy will take a substantial hit as the travel industry’s normally bustling summer season comes and (likely) goes without its usual international visitors. The decision was based on epidemiology as opposed to the economy, with the New York Times reporting that the EU “sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.” 

Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are on the list of approved countries, and that list will be reviewed every two weeks. However, it seems that the U.S. will have to make a serious reduction in new cases in order to be reconsidered, so we won’t be holding our breath. Unlike Americans, travelers from the approved country list will be permitted access to all EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. So if you had hoped for some thirst-trap pics for your grid in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon this summer, you’ll have to keep your posting closer to home.

There’s good news for some Americans, as the ban pertains to your residency rather than your passport. This means if you’re an American living in one of the approved countries and can prove your residency there, you may be able to enter. Congrats—it’s like a get out of jail free card!

Cruel Summer—The Countries Americans Can’t Visit

In addition to the EU, there are also a number of other countries not allowing Americans in. Canada’s regulation hottie Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the continuation of its border closure with the U.S. until August 21, with the possibility of another extension. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and China’s borders also remain closed to all international arrivals. 

As of July 22, the Bahamas has once again closed its borders to the U.S. due to the recent rise in cases stateside. However, if you’re bougie enough to have a private plane or yacht, you can keep planning your vacation as long as you can provide a negative COVID test… but you may get roasted by the internet for being a covidiot if you do. 

Countries Open To American Travelers

Dreaming of the beach? You might be in luck, as a number of Caribbean countries are open to visitors. Belize, Barbados, and Jamaica are all open to international travel, as well as St. Barts, St. Lucia, and Antigua. However, each country or territory has its own COVID restrictions upon entry. Some include providing a negative COVID-19 test no more than a week old, or temperature and health checks upon arrival. 

Mexico is also an option, even though the land border between the country and the U.S. remains closed. You can still arrive in certain areas by plane, but keep in mind that states are opening in varying degrees, so not everywhere in the country is ready for visitors. 

Despite the ban, Europe is not completely off-limits to Americans this summer; the open countries just might not be the places you have at the top of your bucket list. Albania and Serbia are European countries not yet in the EU that are currently allowing international travelers, so start your research on their tourist destinations if you really want to book a trip. Apparently Serbia has a killer wine region—who knew? Additionally, Croatia has decided to issue its own travel requirements outside of the EU’s restrictions, allowing for non-EU citizens to visit, but requiring proof of pre-booked accommodations. Meanwhile, in the UK (no longer an EU member, as you may recall), international travel is permitted; however, all American arrivals must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.

“Just Because You Ameri-can Doesn’t Mean You Ameri-should”

I hate to be the Debbie Downer here, but even though some countries are open doesn’t mean you should be booking the first flight out. The CDC and the U.S. State Department still have travel advisories that warn against non-essential travel. You know what sucks more than wearing a mask during your staycation? Being on a ventilator.

As much as you’re eager to take new travel Instagrams, we are still amidst a pandemic, and there are still a lot of risks associated with travel. Air travel may increase your exposure to the virus due to difficulties with social distancing and being near people indoors for an extended period of time. If you do decide to fly, take the common-sense precautions we’ve been talking about for the last five months: wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and stay six feet apart when possible.

Travelers should also consider the practical risks, like obtaining health insurance. Some travel health insurance becomes void when there is a government travel advisory, so be sure to always check to see that you will be covered in case you get sick or injured during a vacation. 

Many countries are not as lax as the U.S., with nations like Canada and New Zealand still keeping their borders completely closed to visitors even though they have drastically fewer cases and deaths than the U.S. The countries are also enforcing mandatory 14-day quarantine to anyone who enters the country. Additionally, countries like Australia have issued a complete ban on overseas travel, and any exemptions must be approved by the government. Given that the success of flattening the curve in these countries has far outweighed the efforts (or lack thereof) of American officials, it might be wise to take a page from their book.

Party In The USA, Because You Won’t Be Going Anywhere Else

Yes, 2020 has indeed been a horror show, with the U.S. as its main character. For now, let’s hope that next year gets a whole lot better and we can resume our partying in Mykonos in 2021. On the bright side, where other than America can we see a Karen go postal in a Trader Joe’s because her CoNsTiTuTiOnAL rIGhTs are being violated? Plus, there’s still an election that could go horribly wrong! Seriously, just so much to look forward to this year. 

Do everyone a favor and find a friend with a beach or lake house, and just stay the fuck home/in said vacation house and drink margaritas until Florida feels like Florence. Good luck.

Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels

What You Need To Know About Canceling Trips Because Of The Pandemic

Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by COVID-19. Now raise your hand if this pandemic caused you to miss out on a long-awaited vacation. (You can’t see them, but both my hands are raised right now.) If you’re like me, you might be wondering WTF our rights are when trips get canceled for any reason, whether it’s coronavirus related or not. Do we pull a Karen and ask for the manager? Should we accept that voucher credit or fight for a full refund? Allow The Points Guy CEO and founder, Brian Kelly, to fill you in on everything you need to know about canceled trips, especially during this pandemic. 

When Are You Entitled To A Refund Or A Credit?

Great news! Thanks to a recent update from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Kelly says, “airlines must refund passengers in the event flights are canceled, significant schedule changes are made, or government restrictions prevent flying due to the coronavirus outbreak.” This means that if they cancel your trip to or from anywhere in America, you’re entitled to get your money back. If you cancel first, you might only get a voucher for the face value of what you paid. So before you call JetBlue to bail on your trip to Aruba in June, he recommends waiting it out as long as you can (in hopes of scoring that $$$). 

If you do wind up getting a voucher, Kelly says it’s always worth asking for additional value. I can confirm that I’ve done this in the past and 100% will do it again because it works. So yes, we WOULD like to speak to a manager, TYVM. 

  What About Canceling Hotels & Airbnbs?

Right now, Kelly says, “most home sharing companies and hotels are being more flexible than normal, even allowing cancellations of no refund, pre-pay reservations.” So if you need to be the one to cancel your Airbnb lake house or Hilton suite next month, NBD. He claims the best way to get in touch with someone is by calling customer service or reaching out to the brand on Twitter. 

“You can typically cancel a trip directly on the site, but if you’re looking for a full refund, getting typically isn’t automatic and will require you to call and speak with a representative,” he adds. “Some airlines like Delta allow you to text via app so you don’t wasn’t time on the phone. There are also apps out there, including one called DoNotPay, that will wait on hold for you so you don’t have to.” Whoever came up with that app idea is a genius, just saying. 

Are you one of the lucky ones who always reaches the least forgiving associate? Join the club. If you run into any trouble with a certain phone agent, do one of Kelly’s favorite tricks: politely hang up and call back. He says sometimes you can find a nicer agent who’ll be more likely to help after you end the first call and try again… which is a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Oh, and as hard as it may be when you’re stressing over potentially lost money, don’t forget to be nice to all customer service members right now. “It’s important for travelers to remember that these airline representatives are going through this pandemic, too,” reminds Kelly. “Try to be as kind and patient as possible.” Fine. I guess I won’t flip out on Susan when she tells me I need to be put on hold for the third time in five minutes.

So What’s The Deal With Travel Insurance? Should You Get It?

Trip cancelations are exhausting. Contacting companies and waiting to see if they’re going to give you back your hard-earned cash is way too much of a hassle. Is travel insurance the tripsaver we all need from now on to save us from these future struggles? Well, better question… WTF is travel insurance? 

Basically, Kelly explains that people invest in travel insurance to protect their purchase in the event that they need to cancel or modify their trip for whatever reason. Bad news, though: Epidemics and pandemics are rarely covered under travel insurance policies… because let’s face it, how often do these crises happen? Before buying anything, Kelly reminds to “always make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the policy you’re planning to purchase and what it does and does not cover” to make sure it works for you. “If you’re nervous about booking upcoming travel or you just recently booked travel, you may want to consider a cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) add-on policy,” he suggests, “Typically, you’ll get back 75% of your trip and you can cancel for any reason within a set time frame.” That sounds great and all, but just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for a policy like that. The investment might be worth it for anxious travelers, though. 

Can You Get Perks On Your Next Trip If Your Last One Sucked?

Whether you had endless COVID-19-inspired delays on your last flight or your hotel room wasn’t sanitized enough to make you feel safe from exposure, you might be able to score some benefits on your next trip. “If you complain appropriately to an airline about a past experience, you’re likely to get a voucher,” says Kelly. It might be tempting to turn this into a habit if you’re a thief you keep having mediocre experiences, but try to complain only when you NEED to. “Some airlines who equip their flight attendants with iPads or devices can check to see if you’ve had a bad past experience, but don’t count on it. It never hurts to give feedback regardless so they can work to make the experience better.” From personal experience, complaining about bad hotel stays and flights (when warranted) almost always scores you a free stay, refund, credit, or an incentive to come back, too. If you need help writing a lovely ~feedback~ letter to a company with just the right amount of passive aggression, DM me. I got you.

Does It Make Sense To Sign Up For A Travel Card Right Now?

If you recently had a negative experience but you’re not a big complainer (who are you?) but still want some kickbacks, Kelly also suggests “opening an airline credit card, which will give you perks like early boarding, free checked bags, and/or more legroom seats.” Down to sign up for a new travel credit card to prepare you for future trips once this pandemic is over? He claims your best bets right now are flexible currency cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum card, where you can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners. Once you get enough points and miles, you can redeem them for cash, rewards, trips, or flight seat upgrades so you can be a bougie b*tch in first class while the old you would’ve begged for another bag of “free” chips in Row 26.

Ugh. All I know is I can’t wait to be back in the air in cheap AF Row 26 again. After two canceled trips and being cooped up inside for months because of COVID-19, I’ll never take traveling for granted again. Ever.

Images: @stilclassics / Unsplash; GIPHY (3)