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Eight tips for safe travel during COVID-19

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If you're traveling abroad in 2021, you need COVID-19 travel insurance. Not only will it provide the typical protection you need on a trip, but also COVID-related expenses for hospital stays, testing, and early return.

For avid travelers, the coronavirus pandemic has put our plans on pause. While the COVID-19 vaccine is another essential step towards a "new normal," there's still no definitive timeline for when places will reopen to full capacity.

Fortunately, it's possible to travel and discover new places in 2021, as long as we follow the necessary safety precautions. Here are some tips on how to organize a safe vacation this year.

1. Purchase travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage
If you're traveling abroad in 2021, you need COVID-19 travel insurance. Not only will it provide the typical protection you need on a trip, but also COVID-related expenses for hospital stays, testing, and early return.

That said, not all travel insurance policies are created equally. Some will only cover trip cancellation if you purchase the coverage within a certain timeframe, while others have higher deductibles or limited coverage for PCR tests. To help you choose, you can compare the best COVID-19 travel insurance here.

2. Check your destination's entry requirements and restrictions
Each country has specific entry requirements and travel restrictions, so be sure to check where Americans can travel before booking your trip.

Most countries require tourists to present a medical certificate with a negative PCR test result taken within 48-96 hours of travel. However, other countries may have stricter restrictions. Some destinations require tourists to quarantine or undergo temperature checks upon arrival, while others require visitors to install a contact tracing app.

3. Pack all the COVID-19 essentials
Make sure you leave room in your luggage for masks, hand sanitizer, and other COVID-19 essentials. Just about every country requires face masks in public areas, including restaurants, attractions, and beaches. A digital thermometer and latex gloves can also come in handy.

4. Use your credit or debit card whenever possible
Not only is it a pain to exchange currencies and keep track of physical cash, but money also passes through many different hands throughout the day, so it's not the cleanest process.

To reduce your risk of exposure to the virus, opt for contactless payments whenever possible. Just be sure to notify your bank about your trip so your credit or debit card doesn't get declined when you try to use it in another country.

5. Road trips are the safest option
A visit to a large metropolitan area isn't the best choice during the pandemic, as this is where infection rates are highest. On the other hand, a road trip is a great way to see new places while limiting your exposure to the virus.

If you want to travel abroad, opt for a car rental once you reach your destination. Having your own vehicle will allow you to safely visit national parks, outdoor attractions, and natural areas, so you can still have fun without the additional risks.

6. Look for accommodations with flexible cancellation policies
Even if you have travel insurance that covers trip cancellation, it's still a good idea to book hotels that offer free cancellations and date changes. This way, if you need to back out of your trip at the last minute, you can at least get your deposit back.

7. Be extra responsible two weeks before your trip
Normally, a minor cold or illness wouldn't be a reason to cancel your trip, but you can't take any risks during the pandemic.

During the two weeks leading up to your trip, limit your social activity to reduce your risk of getting the virus as much as possible. Avoid crowds and meeting with friends and family. If you can, work remotely and only go out for the essentials.

8. Allow for some wiggle room and improvising
If you're the type that likes to painstakingly plan your vacations, you'll have to give up that rigidity during the pandemic. Travel restrictions can change from one moment to the next, so try to keep an open mind.

Consider the current entry requirements, infection rates, and your budget to plan a couple of weeks in advance. Besides, this may be a chance to discover a country you haven't considered traveling to before.

As you can see, travel is still possible during COVID-19, but you must take the proper precautions and adjust your expectations. With that said, safe travels, and enjoy your trip!

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