Some countries are beginning to re-open even as the US is experiencing the most daily new cases. I’ve been considering my travel plans post-coronavirus and adjusting my expectations.
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Fewer Options… For Now
Last week I wrote about how one Sri Lankan writer touted the weakness of the US passport. I didn’t believe at the time and don’t believe today that the restrictions will last forever. It’s my opinion, for a variety of reasons the temporary limitations of the US passport will be short-lived.
While there were problems with the list in the piece I referenced, two key options exist. Some countries will allow Americans entry assuming a two-week quarantine (often self-imposed) is adhered to. For example, Croatia will accept either a two-week quarantine or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours.
The reality is that many countries won’t be able to stay closed indefinitely, even if COVID-19 continues to run rampant. Call it an ugly truth if you like, many countries around the world depend on American custom (both commercial and consumer) to operate and thrive. When countries are politically-safe to reopen to the US, they will, even if the virus hasn’t completely subsided in the US. Many can’t afford not to.
Speculating on the Future
Nations around the world will begin to allow Americans back into their countries initially with proof that travelers provide a negative COVID-19 test (though Croatia’s 48-hour rule could be tough to execute.) But I think they will also treat COVID-19 antibody tests as a suitable replacement for this document, though most antibody tests currently available simply show that a patient has been sick and overcome some form of a coronavirus, not necessarily COVID-19.
It’s my belief that countries will advise entrants without tests to self-quarantine but won’t have a practical way to enforce it. Hong Kong has required some to wear wrist bands, Indonesia requires visitors (not yet tourists) to wait out test results in government facilities. But I doubt many will go to these lengths.
Like many other travelers stuck at home during this period, I have continued to collect miles and points through credit cards that I believe will be valuable in the future. I have focused my efforts on Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards due to their flexibility and transferability to a variety of carriers. I have primarily focused on the American Express Platinum card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, both of which you can apply for here.
Adjusting Expectations, Travel Plans
My family secured a too-good-to-be-true deal to Hong Kong this spring. The territory has not adjusted entry permissions for Americans save one key differentiation: visitors can now transit Hong Kong Chep Lak International Airport. While my family could not stay in Hong Kong, at least not as a tourist unless we were willing to spend at least two weeks stuck in a hotel room (we are not) we could move on from Hong Kong elsewhere in Asia and that’s a tempting possibility.
Thailand is not an option yet for visitors, nor is Indonesia so the beaches of Bali and Koh Phi Phi are out. But if we are flexible we could transfer Ultimate Rewards points or Membership Rewards to British Airways to continue on from Hong Kong to the Maldives on Cathay Pacific (assuming the flights operate) which will welcome visitors from August 1st with no restrictions.
Unfortunately, using our Hyatt points would not be an option as the Park Hyatt Hadahaa is not yet scheduled for re-opening. However, the SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton not only has award space (with upgrades available for our dates as it stands now) starting at 66,000/night, but based on the number of room types open for booking we would likely have run of the hotel and secure an upgrade.
We could also consider a break in Portugal or Croatia, both high on my family’s target list but not places we had intended to visit this year. Portugal initially opened to Americans but adjusted entry requirements a week prior to enactment to allowing any nationals from countries that also welcome Portuguese citizens. The US essentially controls when Americans may return to Portugal by adjusting US restrictions on EU residents.
We’ve also considered refunding our Hong Kong tickets, waiting for another opportunity to travel abroad, and instead focusing on familiar places closer to home. My family is being more flexible than we normally would because we have to be. But that puts some of the fun back into travel: a leap into the unknown.
The coronavirus crisis is certainly not over in the United States but perhaps that makes a case more than ever for going abroad. While the situation is not over, we can plan for the future even if it’s uncertain.
What do you think? Where are you planning on going next? Would you keep the Hong Kong tickets we hold and find a new destination to connect onward? Is August still too soon to leave home?