How the COVID-19 vaccine will affect travel

How will a COVID-19 vaccine affect travel?

Recent news about coronavirus vaccines has given travelers a shot of optimism about the future. But how the COVID-19 vaccine will affect travel remains an open question.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to avoid traveling for the holidays. Quarantines and other restrictions will probably last through the middle of next year as the vaccine is distributed. Leisure travel might resume later in 2021, and even then it is unlikely to return to normal.

Still, travelers are hopeful.

“Music to travelers’ ears”

“The promising reports about two early covid-19 vaccines are music to travelers’ ears,” says Lisa Lee, a research professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Population Health Sciences and a former CDC official. But she doesn’t expect authorities to have fully distributed the vaccine until mid-2021 at the absolute earliest. So what to do in the meantime?

The pandemic has “weighed heavily” on travelers like Louis Brill, a retired pharmacist from Finksburg, Md.

“So far this year, my wife and I have canceled a spring trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, a June trip to Yellowstone, a September trip to Sicily and a November trip to Tahiti for a cruise,” he says. “We are both somewhat skeptical about the first covid vaccines that come out, although from what I have read about the Pfizer and Moderna ones, I am starting to feel a bit better about them.”

The Brills, both of whom are in their 60s, have put off their travel plans until late 2021, just to be safe. In September, they plan a redo of the trip to Italy, followed by a wine tour in France. They also rescheduled their Tahiti cruise for next December. This should give them time to be vaccinated.

“Realistically, it doesn’t seem like either vaccine will be scaled up to reach the general population much before May or June,” says Brill, who is both a traveler and a former health professional.

This is how the COVID-19 vaccine will affect travel

Public health experts say his timeline is about right. Karl Minges, who directs the University of New Haven’s master of public health program, warns travelers against booking a trip too soon. Although officials have suggested that some groups could receive a vaccine as early as December, he says, large-scale availability is unlikely before the second or third quarter of next year.

“So you may want to wait a month or two to make those plans, once we have a clearer idea of the true distribution time frame,” Minges says.

In the meantime, health professionals say coronavirus vaccines probably will not have much effect on travel. Expect strict mask requirements to remain on planes and in hotels, even for people who have been inoculated. Quarantines and similar restrictions are also likely to stay in place for months, until there’s widespread confidence in the new immune therapies. And that could take a while.

Even then, travelers may have to be vaccinated before visiting some destinations in 2021. If you’re traveling internationally, check the State Department and CDC websites, and you can verify that you have met passport, visa and other paperwork requirements through the International Air Transport Association’s website.

What’s a “travel corridor”?

Bruce McIndoe, a senior adviser to WorldAware, a travel security company, says the emergence of effective vaccines is likely to open travel to limited destinations through defined travel corridors. “A travel corridor is a city pair where the governments have agreed-upon rules for travelers to move between the cities with minimal or no quarantine period versus the current 14-day requirements,” he says. Such travel corridors already exist in Europe.

Will vaccines encourage so much demand for travel next year that prices will spike? That’s unlikely, experts say. Mike McGarrity, a vice president at the security company Global Guardian, predicts a short-term surge in travel after the vaccine’s distribution gets underway.

“We will probably not see higher levels of global travel until there’s widespread vaccine distribution and confidence,” he adds. “Be mindful, any resumption of travel could be temporary. Especially if we start to see the virus mutating or there is poor distribution of the vaccine.”

In other words, the bargains you see this year may last well into 2021 — and beyond.

Is now the time to travel?

So when is the right time to travel? It depends on your risk tolerance.

K.C. Rondello, a clinical associate professor of public health and emergency management at Adelphi University, says he would not make vacation plans until he knows that the vaccines work.

“The point at which I would feel comfortable making vacation plans for myself and my family is once the vaccines have been made available to all and the data begins to demonstrate population-level protection,” he says.

Travelers like Art Mayoff are also taking a cautious approach. Mayoff, a retired electronics company CEO from Benicia, Calif., is in a high-risk group. He says he expects to get a vaccine as soon as it is available, “but not quite trust it immediately.”

“As it stands now, my guess is we’ll wait to book nonessential and recreational travel until some point after the vaccine has been administered to a good portion of America,” he says. “We’ll watch the effectiveness for about six months or so, and if we see positive results, we’ll start booking travel again.”

But for some lower-risk travelers, tour operators expect to give the “all clear” a little earlier. Mark Whitman, founder of the adventure tour operator Mountain IQ, says he is operating under the assumption that vaccines will be widely available by March or April.

“We’re recommending travelers proceed with their spring break and summer travel plans,” Whitman says, “especially for tours that are likely to sell out, like the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which requires a permit and sells out very quickly.”

Vaccines have changed the outlook for 2021, but it will be a slow and cautious return to leisure travel. It’s a process that may test your patience — but it could also save your life.

When will you travel?

How will the vaccine affect your next trip? You’re welcome to share your thoughts in the comments. Remember, we’re alway here to help you if you have a travel problem. Here’s how to contact my nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.

Posted in The Navigator Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by battleface

At battleface, we deliver insurance that doesn’t quit when circumstances change. We provide specialty travel insurance services and benefits to travelers visiting or working internationally, including in the world’s most hard to reach places. Currently selling in 54 countries and growing, our mission is to deliver simple solutions to travelers worldwide heading out on their next adventure.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Pomchies

Pomchies makes an array of functional products out of swimwear material -- from hair scrunchies to luggage tags to headbands and more. Forced to pivot in 2020, Pomchies started manufacturing masks and changed the entire trajectory of the business. With over 4 million masks in circulation and a strong demand, Pomchies is now one of the most popular mask companies in the United States. To view the entire product line or to learn more, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by World Nomads

World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials. Even if you run out of travel insurance or leave without it, World Nomads can cover you. We don't just keep you and your family protected, with us, you'll travel smarter and safer. Get more information at World Nomads.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.