With the school year done, many families would normally be packing up for a summer vacation. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact our lives, many will be sticking closer to home. If you’re determined to go somewhere, though, it’s important to realize that things have changed.

As you’re preparing for your trip, be sure to do some research before you leave home. From one minute to the next, guidelines and regulations can be dramatically different, so staying informed is essential. In light of this, let’s discuss five ways COVID-19 will impact summer travel in 2020. 

Changes to TSA Rules

For many, the pre-flight screening at TSA checkpoints is one of the most stressful parts of traveling. It’s always a good idea to prepare ahead of time, ensure that your carry-on items are compliant, and be aware of any changes in procedures.

Here’s a summary of their current recommendations:

  • Keep possession of your boarding passes. Do not give them to the TSA officer—you’ll need to scan it yourself. 
  • Separate food for X-ray screening. Put carry-on food items inside a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. This will reduce the chances that a TSA officer will need to go through your carry-on bag to remove food items for closer inspection.
  • Pack smart. Make sure you don’t have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels, or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces. This includes water and shampoo bottles. A nice change is that you’re now allowed to bring up to 12 ounces of liquid hand sanitizer (per passenger) in carry-on bags—just keep it in a separate clear bag at the checkpoint. 
  • Practice social distancing. You will be expected to maintain a safe distance from TSA employees and your fellow passengers. 
  • Wear facial protection. TSA officers will be wearing masks (and gloves) at checkpoints. While not yet mandatory, travelers are encouraged to do the same. You may need to adjust it, however, during the screening process.

At some airports, you may even see TSA officers wearing enhanced protective gear such as eye protection or clear plastic face shields. Additionally, plastic shielding has been installed at many travel document checking podiums, bag searches, and drop off locations.

Masks on Airplanes

Are you required to wear a mask on an airplane? The answer is complicated, mostly because the rules are changing at a rapid pace. For that reason, it’s always best to reach out to your specific airline and ask before heading to the airport. 

So far, several airlines, including Delta Air Lines (read statement) and United Airlines (read statement), have made it clear that refusing to wear a face covering could result in passengers being removed from flights or even losing the privilege of flying with the carrier. We’ve already seen this happening with American Airlines and Frontier Airlines.  

Sadly, Delta Air Lines has reported that 500 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and tragically, 10 have died. As such, you can expect them (and other airlines) to make safety a priority during this challenging time. 

Over the last few decades, the air travel industry has gone through many changes. These include taking off our shoes for security, carrying appropriate forms of identification, and the increase of fees for everything from bags to in-flight food and snacks. We comply because, like any business, airlines have the right to make their own rules. This summer, prepare to comply by packing enough masks for everyone in your party before your next flight. 

Reduced Flight Schedules

We’ve all gotten pretty used to being able to choose a date and time and easily find multiple flights to get us to our destination. You probably won’t get that lucky this year. Back in April, many airlines cut their summer schedule by as much as 90%, meaning that planning your trip could be a bit more time-consuming. 

Another thing to keep in mind here is that, in the event that something happens and you need to return home early, you will likely have fewer options. You don’t want to go somewhere and get stranded, so weigh this heavily before you venture out this summer. 

Entry and Reentry Restrictions

Every country is handling the COVID-19 pandemic in its own way. As one nation gets the infection under control, they look to see how others are faring. If they feel that allowing visitors from outside of the country could put them at risk, restrictions may be put in place. We’re already seeing that the European Union might actually ban American travelers for the foreseeable future. 

Overall, though, there are many places that don’t want to see any tourists at all right now. In fact, the Hawaii Tourism Authority went so far as to pay visitors to leave the state to avoid spreading COVID-19. Be sure to look at the latest travel updates to see if the place you’re planning to travel will even allow you through customs. 

Quarantines

When the 2020 novel coronavirus outbreaks first began, cruise ships were the first to get hit. We saw cruise passengers trapped for weeks on-board vessels where COVID-19 had been detected. Then, once they were allowed to disembark, they faced additional quarantines at home. 

There were also examples of people who arrived at a destination just as a lockdown was put into effect. With hotels and other services closed, they struggled to find someplace to stay but couldn’t fly home due to canceled flights and reentry restrictions. 

No one wants a seven-day getaway to turn into a weeks-long nightmare, but that’s the risk we take if we choose to travel right now. Many are choosing to stick close to home until things settle down, while others are still venturing out in hopes of an escape. 

If your summer plans include travel, be sure to get the most up-to-date information and have several backup plans in place should things go sideways. We’re in uncharted territory now, and an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.