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What Countries Are Likely to Reopen to Travel First?

Are countries reopening? We answer this question and ones on face masks, TSA PreCheck, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column.

Q. “I’m hoping to get my vaccine soon, and I want to book a trip (safely) for late summer. What countries are most likely to be open to American travelers the soonest?” – KT

A. To figure out what countries are most likely to be open to tourism, take a look at what current rules are. There are some countries (like Mexico, Costa Rica, Albania, The Dominican Republic, and Tanzania) that have already opened to American tourists, and they’re likely to still be welcoming visitors when you’re ready to travel. Other countries, like Belize, Iceland, and Georgia, are opening without restrictions to fully vaccinated visitors. (See the full list of countries open to vaccinated tourists here.) Thailand’s Phuket island just announced a plan to allow vaccinated tourists to visit without quarantine starting July 1.

Hoping for a vacation to Australia? This popular vacation destination has tentative plans to reopen to tourists in October. 

Regions that seem the most likely to reopen first to American tourists include the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. Much of Europe and Asia are estimated to open later in the year. 

Q. “I have had Global Entry for at least four years, but I do not always get PreCheck. I went through the PreCheck line once, and was sent back despite showing my Global Entry card, because I had no PreCheck on my pass. This has happened several times and when I ask TSA agents, they always tell me that most global entry subscribers think the PreCheck comes automatically. However, it does not. I even ended up paying for both, and I still do not get PreCheck about five percent of the time. Why?” – AP

A. The good news is, you can stop paying double for both PreCheck and Global Entry. The bad news is, neither service automatically guarantees that you’ll get PreCheck every time. Global Entry includes PreCheck, along with giving you expedited customs screening when you reenter the U.S., so there’s no need to buy both services.

However, PreCheck is never guaranteed to travelers. According to the TSA, they use “unpredictable security measures, both seen and unseen, throughout the airport. All travelers will be screened, and no individual is guaranteed expedited screening.”

Not getting PreCheck is pretty rare, and it’s more likely that the airline didn’t get your trusted traveler number in their system. I’ve had this happen fairly frequently, where I know I put the trusted traveler number in during booking, but then when I check-in ahead of time, I don’t get the PreCheck symbol on my boarding pass. When that happens, I call the airline, and they add my trusted traveler number to the reservation, and 99% of the time, I’m able to reprint my boarding pass with the PreCheck symbol.

To avoid having to wait in the regular line, always check-in as early as possible, and if you don’t get PreCheck, give your airline a call to make sure they have your trusted traveler number. While you’re at it, make sure your trusted traveler number is added to your profile for each airline, which can save you time in the future.

Q. “Have there been any updates on the “vaccine passport” idea?” – PH

A. There aren’t any official vaccine passports in place yet, but many countries are beginning to require proof of vaccines for entry, so hang on to that vaccine card once you get it. The closest thing we’ve seen to a vaccine passport is the European Union’s proposed Digital Green Certificate, which will contain information including “date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier”.

The Digital Green Certificate is designed to serve as proof of vaccination, and allow unrestricted travel around the E.U.

Q. “Am I too late to book something for cheap?” – RS

A. You’re not too late! Airlines are focusing their attention on ramping domestic routes back up, and there are plenty of great deals to be found to popular U.S. vacation spots like Florida and California. International deals are likely to be more elusive (especially to destinations that don’t have a clear reopening strategy) as airlines aren’t ready to invest resources in those routes yet.

My advice is to be flexible both with dates and destinations, and have some fun on Google Explore or Skyscanner (put “everywhere”) as your destination. You’ll find some smoking deals that way.

Q. “What are some good trip ideas for people who want to have a vacation but are still too nervous to travel too far from home?” – CM

A. If you’re ready to ease back into travel, the safest way would be with a road trip and a vacation rental. Unlike flying or hotel stays, this combination lets you be in total control of how close you get to other people. Decide how far you want to drive, and pick a theme for your trip (for example, beach or mountains)? It should be easy to decide on a getaway spot that’s not too far, but still feels like a real vacation from there.

Q. “I live in Texas, where face masks are not mandatory, but I keep hearing that face masks are required to fly. Is that true?” – TS

A. Mask up on a plane or face a $250 fine (or up to $1,500 if it’s not your first time refusing to wear a mask). An emergency order requiring face masks on all modes of public transportation (including planes, buses, and trains) is in effect until May 11, 2021. This rule will absolutely be enforced by both the TSA and flight crew at the airport and in the air, so don’t travel unless you’re prepared to wear a mask.

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