5 Indicators It Will Be Realistically Safe To Travel Again


Last week, there was an average of 140,984 Covid-19 cases per day in the United States, an increase of 76% from the average two weeks earlier, according to The New York Times. In March, at the pandemic outbreak, only 19 countries across the globe had no reports of coronavirus cases; now, the virus is reaching far-flung Pacific island nations likely due to cargo transport. The future of travel doesn’t look promising. So when can we travel again?

It’s not an easy question to answer, especially since Covid-19 will dictate our future of travel. Cases come in peaks and waves, forcing travel businesses that were optimistic to now be in a hold—and that hold has no end date. In fact, new reports show that hotels are a superspreader, and airports are high risk.

travel shaming on rise
Turkish Airlines safety standards during Covid-19.

While Covid-19 is costing the travel industry a projected $2 trillion, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Granted, you have to really squint to see it, but it’s there— we just need to continue to social distance and wear masks and ride out the rona. But for how long? When can we travel again?

These are the 5 indicators that show when it will be safe to travel again — without any real uncertainty or concerns about Covid-19. 

1. Covid-19 vaccine is significantly distributed. 

united covid-19 test
United Airlines.

On November 19, Pfizer announced it was working on a vaccine that was over 90% effective in preventing people from contracting the virus. Stocks surged and optimism was felt across the world.

However, the vaccine will likely be available at the start of 2021, then it will have to eventually be distributed throughout the country, if it proves effective. Experts believe that by spring, we could be in a good place in the U.S.; however, it doesn’t mean that other countries around the world will have received the vaccine, including a destination you would like to travel to. 

Does your future travel plans hinge on the vaccine? For the most part, yes. The world is watching, and the vaccine is the only real solution to prevent Covid-19. It doesn’t mean you can’t travel safely now, but you should listen to experts.

2.  The U.S. State Department, CDC and World Health Organization deem it’s safe to travel. 

Qatar Airways flight crew
Flight crew required to wear protective body suits on all Qatar Airways flights. Photo: Qatar Airways

In March, The U.S. State Department implemented a Level 4 Do Not Travel Global Health Advisory, urging Americans not to travel internationally. That advisory has since been reduced to Level 2 and 3 in many countries across the world, offering flexibility to travel to destinations that have few cases.

CDC encouraged Americans to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus (they have since not issued another statement). In March, The World Health Organization also issued a statement for people to stay at home. However, WHO issued a statement in July that countries should conduct a risk-benefit analysis and decide on its priorities, giving the small impression people will be traveling — but countries should exercise actions. 

As long as these three organizations give the green light on travel again, you should be in the clear. These are the only three organizations that really determine when we can travel again.

3. 14-day quarantines are lifted. 

Biggest signs it will be safe to travel again.

Many states and countries across the world have implemented 14-day quarantines for incoming travelers, meaning they can’t leave their Airbnb, hotel or house for 14 days upon arriving. In the past few months, many destinations lifted that rule if you arrive with a negative Covid-19 test, and to be safe, they also offered mandatory Covid-19 tests upon arrival. 

Once this 14-day travel quarantine begins to lift across the globe, you may want to consider booking your flight. It is a good sign that travel has become safer. Obviously, you’ll still want to err on the side of common sense in safety.

4. Social distancing and mask rules start becoming obsolete. 

JFK highest number of TSA COVID-19 Cases
Boarding lanes on Delta. First class (to the right) boards first.

One of the biggest signs it will be safe to travel again is when businesses stop imposing face mask coverings and social distancing. This may be because Covid-19 cases have drastically declined to less than .01 % or there have been no Covid-19 cases reported, such as New Zealand for a while. 

Once social distancing and mask rules are relaxed in businesses, from airports and airlines, hotels and restaurants, that’s a top indicator it will be safe to travel again.

5. No Covid-19! 

There will likely not be a day in the future when there is no Covid-19. In fact, Yale University stated that the virus will not be completely eradicated, such as HIV or the flu. Even if it gets to a small level of cases, Covid-19 can come back, like the plague, which returned every decade.

However, the likelihood of people contracting the Covid-19 virus will be incredibly reduced, and with a vaccine, it won’t be as lethal as it has in the past. Also, what we learned and how we handled the pandemic has helped. People now know how deadly viruses are, and they also know how important hygiene is (wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze). Ultimately, while there may never be a day there’s no Covid-19, there will be a day it’s manageable and cases are greatly contained. 

For now, if you plan to travel, make sure you do it safely. Here are 9 tips to protect yourself and others during Covid-19.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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