COVID-19 Travel Guide: How to Prepare for Your Trip

The pandemic is worsening again, so here's a checklist to help you deal with the unexpected

Happy Person at airport traveling during the pandemic Photo: iStock

Once again, COVID-19 has made travel planning a lot more complicated.

As the coronavirus Delta variant triggers fresh outbreaks around the globe, many destinations are imposing new restrictions. In New York City, for example, people will soon need proof of vaccination to enter many indoor facilities, including restaurants and gyms.

If you’re headed overseas, the requirements are also in flux. The Centers for Disease Control recently added 16 countries to the list of “very high” COVID-19 risk destinations.

Meanwhile, airlines, hotels and rental agencies continue to face shortages of staff and other resources. That means you are likely to face schedule changes, delays, and other headaches, says Charlie Leocha, president of Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group.

If you do find your flight or other bookings are canceled, there are a number of remedies to pursue (see below). But above all, be prepared for hassles. This checklist can help.

3 Days Before

• Reconfirm your reservations. This should include those for airlines, car rentals, hotel, tours, and restaurants.

More on Travel

• Recheck digital tools. Make sure you can log in to travel provider apps and other navigation and destination tools. Add any missing customer service phone contacts.

• Sign up for travel provider alerts. This way you’ll get immediate information on changes.

 • Give credit card issuers your contact info. Your charges might be flagged while you’re traveling.

The Day Before

• Check in online. Doing this 24 hours before departure can help you skip ticket counter lines.

• Print your boarding pass. It’s wise to have a backup for your digital pass. If you have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and it’s not indicated on your boarding pass, call the airline, or go online, and provide your Known Traveler Number.

• Gather documents. Put your passport, driver’s license, boarding pass, and vaccine record in a folder or large envelope so that they’re together.

• Scroll key websites. Check the CDC, State Department, and destination websites for any news, such as COVID-19 restrictions, that might affect your travel plans.

• Pack only TSA-approved items. The checklist on the TSA website can guide you. If you can, stick with a single carry-on to minimize waits at check-in or the risk of lost luggage.

En Route to the Airport

• Scan your phone. Look for alerts, such as notifications about gate changes or flight delays.

• Have travel documents handy. Make sure they’re easy to access.

• Give a heads-up. Let friends and family members at your destination know that you’re on the way.

If You Run Into Problems

• Be polite and persistent. Customer reps will be more likely to help you.

• If your flight is delayed or canceled, call the airline or use its app, even if you’re in line for a gate agent. This may let your reschedule your flight faster.

• If the hotel or car rental agency cancels or loses your reservation, ask the manager to provide a substitute, or even an upgrade. Or check other options—a vacation rental or a room in another hotel, for example.

• Ask for a refund. If the services are not available, request your money back, or a credit or voucher.

Photo of CR Money editor, Penny Wang.

Penelope Wang

I cover everything from retirement planning to taxes to college saving. My goal is to help people improve their finances, so they have less stress and more freedom. What I enjoy: walks through the city, time with family, and reading mysteries, though I rarely guess who did it. Follow me on Twitter (@PennyWriter).