Catching Covid-19 is not the number one worry for international travelers, according to Inmarsat’s Passenger Confidence Tracker 2021, the largest global survey of airline passengers since the pandemic began.
The biggest concern, held by 51% of travelers, is that they will need to quarantine in their destination. That topped the 43% of respondents who said they were anxious about catching the virus at the airport or on the plane. Other major concerns for travelers boil down to the unpredictability of travel right now, with 41% of travelers expressing worry over unpredictable border closures and more than a third (36%) citing confusing safety protocols.
Even fully vaccinated travelers are right to consider the possibility of an imposed quarantine. Since January, all travelers flying into the United States must test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of entering the country. Inevitably, some travelers — vaccinated or not — test positive within the last three days of their trip.
For vaccinated travelers, the risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 is extremely low. But none of the Covid-19 vaccines are 100% efficacious, and a small percentage of vaccinated international travelers will inevitably become mildly infected and test positive for the illness while overseas.
To date, thousands of travelers on the tail end of a trip have received a positive test result via text or email, sometimes on the way to the airport for their flight back to the U.S.. This completely upends their re-entry plans because it means delaying the return home.
A positive test result means that travelers must get retested until they receive a negative test result and, in the meantime, they must remain in their destination at their own expense, often under quarantine or isolation orders. Obviously this will add significantly to trip costs.
Rules about quarantining depends on your destination. You may be able to extend your hotel stay and self-isolate in your room, but some countries require travelers to stay in a designated quarantine hotel. Regardless of where you are, you will foot the bill for any extra days spent in your destination, including accommodations, food (likely restricted to room service) and any extra Covid tests or medical aid you may need.
Before any international trip, consult the U.S. State Department’s Covid-related page for your destination. These pages are updated often and will cover entry and exit requirements in that country, as well as testing resources and information about potential quarantines.
Because your U.S.-based health insurance plan is unlikely to cover medical expenses abroad, it is important to buy pandemic-specific travel insurance before leaving home. Some countries require foreign tourists to carry it.
To give themselves an extra insurance policy against becoming a breakthrough case, some fully vaccinated American travelers are finagling a third shot of the vaccine a few weeks before leaving on their trip — even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to green light booster shots for healthy adults and many scientists say booster shots are not necessary for most Americans.
The CDC recommends avoiding international travel until you are fully vaccinated, given that the risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 is so much greater.