Traveling During Omicron

I think we’re all ready to move on from COVID – pandemic fatigue is real.  But these variants just won’t let us be great.  Despite the curve balls COVID has created for travel, it is possible to have a safe and relatively stress-free travel experience.

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, my husband, Rob and I experienced what it’s like to travel during the surge of the Omicron variant.  I’ll be honest, I read so many blogs and articles about how to best prepare for travel during this new variant, that I was expecting it to be more of a challenge than it was.  What we found is that planning and patience are really all you need (and maybe a glass of wine once you get through security).  If you’re planning to travel soon, here are a few of our biggest takeaways:

  • Be prepared for changes: As we all navigate through the pandemic, you have to prepare for the constant changes in travel guidelines and protocols. Within a matter of a few days, the Costa Rica guidelines changed from no travel insurance to travel insurance being a requirement.  If you’re traveling abroad, check the country’s destination, as well as your chosen airline’s website frequently to stay on top of possible changes.
  • Plan in advance when returning: As of now, negative COVID tests taken 24 hours before your return are required for re-entry into the States from all countries.

Same-day COVID test clinics were fairly easy to find in Costa Rica.  We scouted them out days before it was time to head home and stopped in to see what was needed to get scheduled.  We completed the documentation online, got our tests done within 30 minutes, and the results were emailed within 3 hours.  It was fairly simple.  Some clinics may charge a modest fee for the test, but check to see if your travel insurance can cover the cost.

A “Be Kind” Note - This requirement unfortunately puts major demands on the staff members conducting the testing.  We observed some travelers who didn’t plan accordingly take their stress out on the staff.  It was evident how much pressure they were under.  Giving yourself plenty of time to take care of these requirements reduces the stress on you and the staff. Don’t be “that traveler”. It costs nothing to plan or to be kind.

  • Keep important documents at your fingertips: On our way to Costa Rica, we had to show a copy of our vaccine card, as well as a Health Pass that we completed online. On our return trip, we were only required to show a negative COVID test, along with our boarding pass and passport.

Saving screenshots of those documents as Favorites on our phones made it so easy to quickly pull them up when needed.  It also eliminated the chance of losing hard copies or scrambling to find them when asked.

  • Invest in TSA PreCheck: This probably should be tip #1. The lines to get through security were long before COVID, but now?? They’re unbelievable.  I can’t tell you exactly how much time TSA Precheck shaves off of your wait, but I can tell you that it will spare some nerves. The cost of TSA PreCheck is roughly $85 and it’s good for up to 5 years.  Even if you travel just a couple of times a year, that $85 is well worth it.  Some credit cards like the American Advantage Card, which is one of our personal favorites, will even cover the cost of the fee. Just do it and you can thank Rob later.

If you’re going to travel, you owe it to yourself to enjoy your trip as much as possible —especially given what we’ve all been through the last couple of years.  Advance planning and a healthy amount of patience is really all that’s needed to have a safe and relaxing trip during COVID.

Thanks to Rob, co-author of this post!