Summer trips abroad just got harder than it’s worth
The CEO of Delta Air Lines understands my summer travel dilemma.
Airline executives practically came together this month to beg Joe Biden and Boris Johnson to lift travel restrictions between the United States and the United Kingdom and thus reopen New York to London, one of the routes of busiest and most lucrative trip in the world.
If they didn’t, Delta chief Ed Bastian warned, Americans planning to visit Europe this summer would leave the UK off their list of possible destinations. “American travelers are making their plans now,” he said. “If the UK delays much longer it will unfortunately lose real opportunities for US travelers as this will not be a viable option on their list.”
Exactly. As far as UK tourism is concerned, I am a regular customer. Attracted by its great theater, dreadful climate and enthusiasm for heavy drinking, I visit it every year, visit friends, walk by the Thames and roam the floors of Fortnum & Mason, which I ironically calls my place happy.
The hordes agree with me: of the nearly 41 million visits to the UK in 2019, according to the government tourism agency Visit Britain, 11%, or 4.5 million, were made by Americans. They spent almost £ 4.2bn, and I think I speak for many when I say we would love to have the chance to start over.
Interest in international travel is increasing in the United States, although it is much lower than domestic travel, according to a new survey from the market research firm Morning Consult. On June 16, 28% of Americans said they felt comfortable flying overseas, up from 15% six months earlier.
My finger, attached to my fully vaccinated person, has been hovering over the ‘book’ button for weeks, waiting for the UK to lift its requirement to quarantine visitors for 10 days upon arrival. Instead, Joe and Boris have answered the call of airline chiefs by pledging to reopen transatlantic travel “as soon as possible,” which makes you wonder what the plan was before. They agreed to set up a working group, a sure sign that a problem is a priority.
But we are now at the end of June. To see where I can go, I type “Where can Americans” into Google and that completes the sentence with “… traveling right now?” Clearly, I’m not the only one pondering this question.
I click on one of the many listings and the first country listed is Albania. Pictures of the country website are breathtaking and the slogan “Discover Europe’s last unturned stone” inspires me. The blurb tells me that Americans are welcome to visit without a Covid-19 test, but “on your vacation in Albania” – a phrase that cuts me short – I’m going to have to adhere to a curfew. No thanks.
Greece, with its heavily touristic economy, opened its borders on March 14. It does not require any testing or quarantine for those who carry proof of vaccination. Spain, too, allows the visit of vaccinated Americans. France appeared to be following the same path, but then chose to require not only proof of vaccination but also a negative test within 72 hours.
What grimly appears as I read through the requirements is how involved the reading is. The rules seem simple enough, but then, what exactly document counts as proof of vaccination for an immigration officer at Madrid airport? What is Greece’s passenger tracking form, and do I care enough to find out? How much do I want to insist on the fine print when planning a vacation that is supposed to escape the stress of everyday life?
The final blow comes when I read about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website that the United States still requires travelers arriving in the United States to present a negative Covid-19 test taken three days before departure – even for returning United States citizens who have been vaccinated.
There are things too dumb to be joking about, and that includes spending time and money tracking down a Covid-19 test while I’m on vacation, even though I’m already fully vaccinated.
The same Morning Consult poll showed that the number of Americans willing to take a road trip rose from 52% in January to 73% this month. Count me in: this summer I’m driving up to Mount Rushmore.