As our nation is about to celebrate Independence Day, I am enjoying my favorite benefit of our political system: freedom of movement. In June alone, I (along with 14 other Americans) have traveled to Europe twice and we have visited a total of 6 countries (Germany, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, and France). My simple assessment of the state of international travel: it is good and getting (slowly) better.
Airlines: On one hand, international flying has not changed much. On the other hand, to get a boarding card you may have to present a negative COVID test (always get a printed copy) and/or submit travel health forms, depending on the destination. At the moment my favorite entry point to Europe is Germany (they have simplest entry requirement of any other EU country and reliable flight connections with the US). For the time being, I avoid London and the UK.
Hotels: When in Europe, there is a huge difference between selecting American vs. European brands. European hotels operate mostly as they did pre-pandemic. On the other hand, American owned hotels may insist on signing up health disclaimers and showing proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test.
Sightseeing attractions: Everything is back to normal, minus attempts at social distancing and retirement on wearing masks (both are loosely enforced). In many places, having masks visible, even if not only your face, is sufficient to enter. A major plus of these procedures is that most of museums and tourist attractions have fewer visitors and that makes my visits crowd free and a much more enjoyable (see Mona Lisa without crowds for the first time ever!).
Transportation: Masks are required on all forms of public transport, including taxis and trains. This is one area of travel that is different from my past visits to Europe.
Eating out: Majority of restaurants now provide outdoor seating options and limit how many people can eat inside. Tables are more spread out and number of seats per table may be limited. But the food is as good as ever!
Covid testing: This is my least favorite part of travel today. We got tested before departure (a hustle but free exercise while in the US) and a paid headache while abroad (ca $40 per test).
We are taking another 8 people back to Germany and Switzerland in 3 weeks. International trips are possible again. International travel is as safe as ever (and maybe safer than domestic travel?).
During this weekend and after a year of retractions and lockdowns, I am more than thankful for freedom of movement. Exercise your freedom and join me for a trip in 2021.