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Booked Your First Big Trip In Forever? Here’s What Experts Recommend You Do Before Traveling

Several things have changed.

Summer time is always a busy time to travel — and that’s especially true right now, with more and more people getting fully vaccinated and travel restrictions slowly lifting in different parts of the country and world.

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More than a million people have passed through U.S. airports each day since early March, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.

If you’re itching for a change of scenery and just booked your first big trip somewhere, there are some things experts want you to know before you pack your bags.

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To get the full picture of exactly what’s changed (and what hasn’t) around air travel for summer 2021 and beyond, we spoke to 10 experts.

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They are:

• Brett C.S. Roberts: Author of the travel book, From the Cubicle to the World, and blogger.

• Caroline Muller: Professional travel blogger.

• David Alwadish: CEO and founder of ItsEasy Passport

• Adit Damodaran: Economist at Hopper.

• Julie Loffredi: Manager of Media Relations at InsuremyTrip

• Craig Zapatka: Co-founder of travel company Elsewhere.

• Sojourner White: Professional travel blogger. 

• Randall Kaplan: founder of Sandee and Mr. Beach. 

• Dr. Mark Parrish: Regional Medical Director of Northern Europe for International SOS. 

• Dr. Terika Haynes: Owner of travel consultancy, Dynamite Travel. 

Here are their air travel tips, tricks, and things to remember:


If your destination requires a negative COVID test, pay close attention to the dates of when your test results come back.

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“Some countries will not accept results older than 72 hours. So if you’re at 96 hours, you may be out of luck and you’ll have to get retested,” advises Brett C.S. Roberts.


Check your passport expiration date right away — and if you need a renewal, be aware of the extra jumps you may need to jump through just prior to your flight.

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“The passport renewal process is a disaster right now,” says David Alwadish. “In order to get a renewal, people have to make an appointment within 72 hours of their flight, and because there are so few appointments, many are forced to wait in hours of lines in the hopes they can get a walk-in appointment.”


Keep your important documents organized — and know that you may need more now than prior to lockdown.

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Organizing is key since more documents, aside from your passport or driver’s license, are required to bring when traveling now. “Make a folder on your phone will all the relevant documents, such as Covid test results, and [digital copies of] paperwork needed to get into the specific countries you are visiting,” suggests Caroline Muller. 

If you’re traveling to Europe, Muller also advised downloading the COVID safe app as it’ll keep all of your required documents for overseas all in one place. 


If you haven’t booked your flight yet, make sure to do so at least three weeks in advance.

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“Buy flight tickets no later than three weeks in advance of your departure date,” advises Adit Damodaran. “Prices typically spike 25% in the two weeks leading up to departure and another 30% in the final week.”


Consider buying travel insurance — as it might be more important now than ever before.

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“Travel insurance can kick in if you need to visit a doctor or hospital while on a trip. And if things really go wrong, emergency medical evacuation coverage enables a sick traveler to be transported back home,” says Julie Loffredi.


Make a very detailed list of things to pack.

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“Make a packing list  — even if you didn’t before,” suggests Sojourner White. “Chances are, after a long time of not traveling you are more prone to forgetting the little things.”


Find out your destination’s COVID info well in advance of your trip — and then again as your travel dates approach.

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“Check the vaccination rates in the place you’re going to visit, including the number of Covid cases and the trend of infections in the places you are planning to visit,” suggests Randall Kaplan. 

And know that it change depending on how far out you’ve booked.


Do your homework on your airline’s expectations, too.

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“Check with your airline or transportation provider whether vaccination and/or testing is needed for travel,” advises Dr. Mark Parrish. Policies and procedures can vary from airline to airline, so set aside a fair amount of time for this — and call if you’re not sure.


On the actual flight, pack or buy all your food ahead of time.

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On the plane, don’t expect order-ahead meals — or even, in some cases, snacks. “Many airlines aren’t [back to] offering the full selection of culinary offerings just yet,” says Roberts. “Pack your favorite snacks or grab a meal for the journey.”


Not ready for air travel just yet? Get your feet wet with post-pandemic travel first by going on a travel test drive.

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“Do a vacation test drive first. Taking a short trip would be a great way to test drive post pandemic travel before a major trip,” suggests Dr. Terika Haynes. “Taking a shorter trip not only lets you dip your toe in, it also helps to bring perspective as to what to expect as it relates to post-pandemic travel.”


Find out what is the best time of day to visit popular attractions.

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Craig Zapatka advises speaking to a travel expert to find out when you can avoid crowds at popular tourist spots. Additionally, check travel bloggers — especially via YouTube and Instagram — for the most recent 2021-specific experience.

For more information and current guidance on domestic and international travel, visit the CDC’s website.

Have you flown lately — or traveled for the first time in awhile? What, if anything, was different? Is there anything you wish you’d known in advance? Share your experience in the comments.

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