Before the pandemic, you’d find me constantly preaching to Americans about traveling internationally. My advice was to go to at least one new country a year because as corny as it may sound, I truly believe that the more people travel internationally, the less prejudices there would be in this country and around the world.
However, when the pandemic hit, I took the advice of medical experts seriously and didn’t step on a plane for almost 14 months. That’s something for someone who’s used to flying every few days and at one point, traveling to 20+ countries a year.
Although I’ve flown multiple times in the past six months, I still haven’t crossed any borders. Not even to Canada, which is where my wife is from (Toronto), a place we would typically visit at least four times a year.
So, why haven’t I traveled internationally? There are several reasons:
1. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and though the U.S. is faring better than most countries right now, there’s still a risk. Besides, we live in Los Angeles and California is no doubt the best state around for road trips. We can be in the desert, mountains, islands (Catalina), vineyards and picturesque beaches that feel like a world away, all within a couple of hours. There’s no shortage of places to go or things to do.
2. I have two unvaccinated little kids. My son is 5 and my daughter is 2 and we’ve been playing it safe since no one knows what the long term COVID affects are on kids. We finally decided to do a family trip and sure enough, the whole family got sick. Thankfully, it wasn’t Covid but our two-year-old ended up with pneumonia, which was pretty scary. I can’t even imagine if it had been Covid.
3. If you’re thinking, “Then why don’t you travel internationally and leave the family at home?”, well, that’s my other main reason and an often overlooked reason for many travelers. If you travel internationally and test positive for COVID before re-entering, you can’t board the plane. Since early 2021, every traveler who enters the U.S. from abroad, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, has to show proof of a negative COVID test within the last three days.
According to the CDC, infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. But I’ve still read countless horror stories about Americans who have either had their vacations ruined or couldn’t return to their families or work because their Covid test came back positive while they were out of the country.
Some are false positives but regardless, you’d have to immediately quarantine and then retest, most likely missing your flight and if you are indeed positive, it could take a couple of weeks to test negative.
I can’t, and definitely don’t want to, take that amount of time away from my kids. This is the best time of our lives as they’re growing up right in front of my very eyes. Also, there’s not a lot of work abroad for me at the moment, so there’s less incentive for me to travel internationally right now.
Not only do I not want to risk missing my kids but who’s going to pay for the quarantine? According to this Washington Post story, “travel agents are advising people to plan for a positive test before they depart by purchasing third-party travel insurance that can cover the costs associated with 14 days in quarantine and/or additional testing.”
I always travel with travel insurance as I have a yearly plan (full disclosure: I was an Allianz Travel Insurance brand ambassador for years before the pandemic and still do some sponsored work with them). Regardless of which travel insurance company you choose, you must read the fine print carefully and make sure anything related to COVID is covered.
Something else to consider, as stated in the same Washington Post article: “The State Department has also said it will not be offering medical assistance to Americans who test positive or require a coronavirus test abroad because of the department’s “limited medical resources” outside the country. That means that Americans who become sick or stranded outside of the United States should not rely on a nearby U.S. Embassy to assist them.”
Being unexpectedly stuck abroad for two weeks isn’t just an extended vacation. Having to quarantine will come with challenges on the ground abroad, you may miss important meetings or appointments back home, it may be expensive and you may not have everything you need (i.e. medications) to last you an additional two weeks. These are all serious things to take into consideration.
This article is not meant to scare anyone but rather to make sure you understand the risks and if you do travel, to help you be prepared. I know traveling internationally can be done safely. I have many friends and colleagues who have bounced around the world in the past six months and none of them have tested positive. Granted, they’re fully vaccinated, wear N95 or KN95 masks and don’t go to crowded indoor places (especially bars). But if you have little kids at home, an in-person job stateside or other obligations, you have to ask yourself, is it worth the risk?