As you may have heard, the EU has removed the U.S. from its “safe list.” But that doesn’t mean Americans are banned from traveling to Europe. Individual countries determine their own requirements. For instance, Italy announced Tuesday that unvaccinated visitors are required to quarantine for 5 days, and vaccinated travelers must take a COVID test before entering. What do the new EU recommendations mean for those of us who have a trip to Europe on the books? We reached out to travel specialist Carie Skerritt for tips on what to do if you have a European vacation planned.
1. Don’t Panic
A recommendation doesn’t mean anything has changed, yet. Skerrit, the owner of Dream Vacations, encourages travelers to find out what the current guidelines are before hitting the panic button. From cruise cancelations to border closures, there is a lot to understand, and digging into the details is important.
2. If You Booked Through A Travel Advisor, Reach Out To Them
Travel professionals are there for you and are receiving daily updates on what’s happening around the world. They do the digging for you. If you booked through a travel agency, contact them to find out what you actually need to be concerned about, any actions you should take, and what they recommend as situations continue to change and evolve.
3. Check The U.S. State Department Website
A valuable resource for country-specific COVID protocols is the U.S. State Department. “Those deciding whether to travel to Europe should review the U.S. State Department website, which has the most up-to-date travel protocols,” advises Skerritt. The site has information on more than 200 countries listing whether it recommends U.S. citizens travel to a country, resources and restrictions within the country, information about the embassy, what it will take to return to the U.S. after your trip, and much, much more.
4. Check The Destination Country’s COVID Website
Since protocols are ever-changing, you’ll also want to confirm restrictions on your destination country’s website with a site updated by them. “Individual nations can make their own decisions regarding which visitors it will allow into their country. There is not a uniform policy in place for all countries,” Skerritt says. You may be required to quarantine, get tested, bring proof of vaccination, complete a Digital Passenger Locator Form, wear a mask in certain places like restaurants and museums, or even be subject to a curfew.
To find out what the rules are, read up on each country’s restrictions on Re-open EU’s interactive map. Simply select a country to see what measures are in place as well as rules about entering from outside the EU.
5. Check Your Trip Insurance Policy
If you bought trip insurance for your trip, pull out your policy and read through it. “Usually, the only two reasons you can cancel is if there is a death or illness,” says Skerritt and adds that the fear of getting sick may not be reason enough to cancel your trip according to your policy.
Anyone who purchased insurance/travel protection should reach out to their provider to clarify what is covered and discuss next steps.
If you’ve already booked lodging/accommodations, reach out to the vendor to find out what their COVID requirements are. For instance, there may be a curfew for the rest of the place you’re visiting, that doesn’t apply to your accommodations. The lodging vendor could have additional or different rules you need to follow while on property, including requiring a negative COVID test upon arrival.
At this time, Skerritt does not recommend pre-paying for hotels to get a better rate, giving you the flexibility to cancel if necessary. If you have already paid for a room and are no longer going on your trip, contact the vendor to discuss their cancelation policy and see if there’s any flexibility.
Speaking of contacting vendors, don’t forget about any transfer services, tours, or other transportation you’ve booked for your trip. Check the website of your tour company as well as any buses, trains, or shuttle services you plan to use and find out whether they are still operating or if there are any changes to how they’re operating. For example, if a country has implemented a curfew, it may not apply to a guided tour. Again, for cancellations, reach out to the specific vendor for policy details.
8. Get A PCR COVID Test Even If It’s Not Required
This falls under “be prepared for everything.” Even if the country is not requiring a PCR test within 72 hours, go ahead and get one just in case. “Since the protocols are changing daily, I personally recommend getting a PCR test, even if you are vaccinated,” comments Skerritt adding that the guidelines can change just before and even the day of your trip. “Passengers are required to follow the most recent procedures on the day they are traveling.” Make the appointment so that you receive your test results 72 hours before arriving at your destination, not before your departure.
Regardless of which country you’re visiting, you will need a negative PCR test to re-enter the U.S. Look for a lab at your destination or contact your travel supplier to help you locate one. The U.S. State Department website also has resources to help you find one at your destination on the country-specific pages.
9. Check To See If You’re Eligible For Travel Credit
Don’t feel comfortable traveling? Check with your travel provider that you booked your trip with and see if they will let you cancel and get a credit. Many carriers will not offer a full refund unless they are the ones who are canceling the trip. Skerritt says that sometimes when the supplier cancels, travelers are given the choice of a refund or a 125 percent future travel credit. “So if you are absolutely planning on taking the trip in the next year, that (credit) may be worth it because then you could upgrade,” she says.
Book travel with major airlines.
Skerrit recommends booking flights with a prominent airline, no matter how tempting those discount airline deals can be. This way, you are more likely to be credited or refunded if you need to cancel.
10. Get Vaccinated
Skerritt refers to vaccinations as a traveler’s “golden ticket.” “Since the EU is remaining open to vaccinated U.S. visitors, the best way to travel is to get a vaccine,” she affirms. “If you’re vaccinated, you have much more freedom,” and fewer hoops to jump through once you arrive. A word to the wise: Keep your CDC vaccine record handy!
Final Note: Multi-Country Trips Are Not Recommended At This Time
Once you’re in Europe, it’s usually fairly easy to hop from one country to the next, but that’s all changed. Skerrit advises against even island-hopping within a country right now since each island may have different rules. However, if multiple countries or islands are on your itinerary, you’ll want to complete the steps above for each one.
For a more in-depth look at European travel, check out our recent coverage: