Many of our colleagues at American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) have been on the move recently, crisscrossing the country and globe for business. Today, several of them share some thoughts from their experiences to help fellow travelers better prepare for traveling during a pandemic.
1. Having the vaccine/booster makes the decision to travel a lot easier.
The first business trip Gerardo Tejado, senior vice president of global value development and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), took during the pandemic was in November of 2020 to Salt Lake City for the INTER[action] event the M&E team hosts each year. Since it was before the vaccine was available, Tejado had his guard up while traveling and interacting with others. Now that he’s fully vaccinated and has received a booster, he feels “very comfortable” flying. He has taken more than 20 trips in the US in 2021 and already 10 trips this year.
2. Have easy access to your vaccine card.
Chris Sappington, director of marketing operations, was worried he would be denied access to public venues when he realized he had forgotten his vaccine card at home during a business trip from New Jersey to Seattle. At the time, Seattle required proof of vaccination for entering indoor public spaces.
“I thought I was going to show up to this networking event, get carded, and be the only guy who doesn’t have one,” he said.
Fortunately, his wife texted him a photo of his vaccine card and that was proof enough.
Because many countries require proof of vaccination, it’s a good idea to have that card handy while traveling abroad. We recommend using mobile health passport apps, such as CLEAR or VeriFLY, that prove your vaccination status in case you forget or lose the paper version.
3. Donning a mask all day isn’t so bad.
One of Dan Ratnavale’s biggest concerns when traveling to Britain for a conference was wearing a face covering for nine consecutive hours during the flight from Miami to London at a time when “masks on” was a requirement.
“It’s just something I had never done in terms of being on a long international flight and wearing a mask that long,” said Ratnavale, director of solutions design. Plus in Florida where he lives, people are relaxed about the use of one.
After researching the most breathable types of masks, he purchased a Mission face covering and said he had no problem sporting it his entire flight.
Of course, with many countries easing mask mandates, this may no longer be an issue for travelers who are comfortable going maskless.
4. Don’t stall on any COVID-19 tests you need to take.
Several Amex GBT colleagues had to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their international flight to enter the country they were visiting.
Sometimes it can be hard to find a testing center that provides fast results. Tejado had to scramble to find a second location after being told the testing center he first went to couldn’t deliver results in time because of the high demand.
Ratnavale ended up getting an at-home test through eMed, a partner of American Airlines.
“It was so easy to do and pretty inexpensive.”
Labcorp also has a direct-to-consumer offering called Pixel that enables anyone to purchase a test kit, collect a sample at home, ship the swab to a lab, and access results online within one to two days.
5. For some, entering a country can be difficult.
For Tejado, getting to London in the fall of 2021 was easy, but getting home required a 14-day detour.
As a Mexican citizen living in the States on a working visa, he could not travel directly to New York since the US had a travel ban for non-American citizens flying from Britain. He ended up doing a 14-day quarantine in Mexico City before returning to New York.
“Half of the plane from London to Mexico City was in the same boat,” he said.
Fortunately, the US eased its travel restrictions on foreigners whereby fully vaccinated visitors from around the world can enter the country. That means now when Tejado wishes to fly internationally, he can take a nonstop flight home.
We advise doing your homework to find out what travel restrictions you may face based on your unique circumstances – and think beyond citizenship. Those who are not vaccinated may face more rigorous testing and quarantine measures in some parts of the world.
6. Be prepared to experience different responses toward COVID-19.
Traveling allows us to encounter perspectives different from our own – including attitudes toward coronavirus. So be prepared that where you are heading may have softer or stricter measures than you are accustomed to.
For example, Terri Buscemi, vice president of business development, observed during recent domestic trips in the US that those in New York were following mask and social distancing guidelines, while those in Nashville had a looser stance.
7. You have more control over the situation than you may realize.
Buscemi believes it is absolutely within our power to have a safe and successful travel experience. She said that if you find yourself in an uncomfortable position, there are always options at hand.
For instance, if there’s a large group of people in the hotel elevator, Buscemi will step out and wait for the next. If people are not wearing masks and get too close to her, she’ll move away. To avoid being surrounded by people sans masks, she suggests eating before heading to the airport – not at the food court at Terminal A.
“You can’t control others, but you can control yourself,” she said.
8. Take things step by step.
For those who may be hesitant to travel in this climate, Marilyn Markham, director of the Salesforce Center of Excellence for Amex GBT, recommends taking a short leisure trip to ease back into the scene before heading on a business trip where you have less control over where you go and how long you stay.
“The first trip I took since the pandemic started was the scariest, but once on the trip, it demystified a lot for me,” she said. “I realized that it’s just a case of taking a few extra precautions like having enough masks for the trip plus extra in case the strap breaks, a nice-smelling hand sanitizer, and some wipes for the plane.”
“By traveling on my own terms,” she added, “I felt in control of where I went and what I did. Yes, there were a few times I felt crowded in, but it helped me be more prepared to assert distance or avoid uncomfortable situations. Mostly, I realized traveling now isn’t much worse than traveling BC (i.e., before COVID-19).”