This Is What International Travel Is Like Now

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On my current international trip, I’ve talked about what I packed and all the COVID-19 tests I had to take, but that doesn’t quite clear up the physical act of travel through border control and on airplanes. Today, I’m going to run you through just what international travel is like now.

To be honest, I was actually quite surprised by how normal things felt. With the exception of masks, a lot of COVID tests, and a lot of extra paperwork, it was business as usual.

America is an ‘amber’ country in the United Kingdom, meaning that our COVID-19 numbers are high enough that the UK still requires a lot of tests and documents to verify health and, if I were unvaccinated, I’d have to take two post-arrival tests and quarantine for a few days. A vaccinated person doesn’t need to quarantine or take that second test.

In order to check into my flight to England, I had to provide Delta Airlines proof of a negative COVID-19 test, proof of my day two arrival test, and a passenger locator form, which basically gave the government and airline all my trip details, most importantly the location of the hotel where I’d be at. This is more important for unvaccinated people who still have to quarantine after arrival; for me, it was more a formality in case I were to test positive for COVID-19 at a later date.

When I got to the airport, I used a self-check kiosk to check some luggage. I was asked at the kiosk if I had tested negative for COVID-19 and if I was aware of the flight procedures (social distancing, masking). I agreed, then took my bag to a Delta representative to weigh and officially check my bag.

That rep again asked for proof of my negative test result, my passenger locator form, and a receipt for my arrival test, which he checked against my passport. I think this was more for secondary verification that I had all the documents with me at the airport. It took about five minutes, and I was told I was good to go.

On my flight from San Antonio to Atlanta, I didn’t need to provide any further COVID-19 information to TSA or any gate agents. But when I arrived in Atlanta, my connecting flight board instructed me to head directly to my gate. I did, where I learned that I once again needed to provide the gate agents with my information: boarding pass, proof of a negative test, proof of a test scheduled for my arrival, and a passenger locator form. With all that verified one last time, I received a red ‘DOC OK’ stamp on my boarding pass.

After I arrived in England, our flight attendants and pilots told us to have all that same information handy when going through border control. Because I’d verified everything about 1000 times, the automated passport checking machine let me through without a problem, and I got to head down to collect my luggage. I did see other folks being pulled to speak to an in-person agent, presumably because their information was lacking.

Greenland’s travel procedures are fairly similar, but I did need one extra piece of information: proof that I had been fully vaccinated, which is a requirement for entry to Greenland. For me, that was my CDC card. It was much the same procedure of having those documents checked, double checked, and then checked one more time. To get back into England, I had to provide the same list of documents, as Greenland is also an ‘amber’ country.

My husband departed for Canada at the same time I departed for England. He told me he went through a similar procedure; he needed to submit all of his information (namely: a negative COVID-19 test) to United Airlines and have all of that information verified before boarding. Canada, though, doesn’t require a test after arrival for Canadian citizens; instead, he just had to fill out information in the ArriveCan app about his location. Because he’s also fully vaccinated, he didn’t have to worry about an arrival test or a quarantine time.

Of course, every country has different standards and requirements, so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all observation. I didn’t know what to expect when I got to the airport, but I wasn’t met with any of my fears: long lines, lengthy interrogations, or surprises. I mostly just needed to provide documentation about my health and my every move which, to say the least, is a pretty small price to pay for the luxury of traveling internationally.

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