Helpful hints for flying back to the US this summer

Helpful hints for flying back to the US this summer

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

After being cooped up in our respective homes and host nations for the past 18 months, it’s no surprise that we’re ready to scratch our traveling itch. The dream of visiting extended families and friends is back within our grasp. However, before you book your ticket back to the States for a long-awaited visit, there are few things to know ahead of time. Here are some helpful hints to navigating your way through the rules and regulations of the current travel climate.

Know the latest guidelines of your host country. With rules that seem to change on an almost hourly basis, it’s imperative to know the travel guidelines of your host country and who is affected. Entry requirements are not necessarily reciprocal. For example, while the EU allows vaccinated U.S. passport holders entry to the bloc, EU citizens may not be allowed into the U.S. If you’re traveling from the U.K., Americans can travel back to the U.S. However, U.K. citizens are still not allowed into the States without good reason. Also, since the U.S. is currently on the amber list in the U.K. (at the time of writing), you will need to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon your return to the U.K., with the possibility of testing out on day five. Regardless of quarantine length, you’ll be required to test on days two and eight. For EU requirements, visit ec.europa.eu. For U.K. guidance, visit gov.co.uk.

Testing is required. Even if you’ve rolled up your sleeve and gotten vaccinated, you’ll still need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken no earlier than three days before your flight or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past 90 days. Most of the major international airports in the EU and U.K. have on-site test centers to make testing convenient to travel. Check your nearest airport to determine whether or not a reservation is needed. Just remember, you will need another test upon re-entry to your host nation.

Keep a hard copy with you. Because not every airline or government uses the same travel app, be sure to keep a hard copy of your negative COVID-19 test with you. It may also be a good idea to have a copy of your vaccination card handy if you’ve been vaccinated. When we recently checked in for our flight back to the States at London Heathrow, we had to show a printed copy of our test results.

Give yourself more time than usual. If you’re used to rolling up to the check-in line with 20 minutes until boarding time, you will want to give yourself a lot more time. Admittedly, I’m one of those overachievers who shows up at the airport a lot earlier than needed. On the flight mentioned above, it came in very handy. Because of the new testing requirements and COVID-19 protocols in place at the check-in counters, passengers are often confused. Give yourself at least an extra 30 to 60 minutes to get checked in and through security.

Pack your patience. As much as I’d like to say that flying and travel habits have changed, alas, many have not. Crowded gate areas, frustrated passengers and attempting to maintain distance can lead to potentially uncomfortable situations. Take a deep breath and make sure you pack extra patience. In the end, we’re all getting to the same destination. Keeping a level head in difficult situations can help diffuse the tension, and you won’t feel quite so stressed.

Mask up. Face coverings are required in airport terminals and onboard aircraft. This guidance goes for both sides of the pond. EU and U.K. laws mandate them, as does the U.S. I recommend bringing a few spares with you. We packed three reusable masks in our backpacks. We changed them about halfway through our nine-hour flight and again when we landed in Washington.

It’s crowded. Last summer, my husband had training in New Jersey and had a couple of rows all to himself. Empty rows on flights are no longer the norm. Our flight to Dulles was full, and our subsequent flights to California were overbooked. Needless to say, the planes are packed, which also means the terminals are crowded. If you aren’t used to being around many people, you may want to venture out into busy areas a little bit before your flight. This can help you acclimate and desensitize yourself to crowds.

Even though the friendly skies are open once again, there are a few extra steps to take before and during your flight. If you have extra patience and do your homework before you depart, it’ll be smooth traveling for you.

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