Now is the time to start making your travel plans for winter 2022. While we all hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be a thing of the past, the reality is that you still must consider it when deciding where to go. While it's impossible to say definitively what the status of the pandemic will be, scientists, epidemiologists and other experts can make reasonably reliable predictions. This expertise means that you'll want to know about the places they suggest you avoid and the destinations likely to be the safest, especially in Europe.
Learn About the Levels and Stay on Top of the News
The first thing you should do is understand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) four-level system for travel notices. Countries (and some cities and regions) are categorized into five levels:
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- Level One: Low levels of COVID-19. Travel is safe for most people.
- Level Two: Moderate levels of COVID-19. The CDC discourages travel for unvaccinated individuals.
- Level Three: High level of COVID-19. Avoid unnecessary travel.
- Level Four: Very high level of COVID-19. Avoid all travel.
- Level Unknown: Accurate data is not available; treat as level four.
Next, you'll want to ensure that you and your party are fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters. Even a single unvaccinated traveler increases everyone's risk of getting sick or spreading COVID-19. For more guidance about the COVID-19 vaccines, you'll want to check the resources provided by the CDC. Finally, watch your destination countries or places you're considering visiting on the COVID-19 travel health notices and other resources provided by the CDC.
Traveling to Level One and Two Countries
Travel to either level one or two countries is generally considered safe for fully vaccinated people. However, if you're planning a trip to a level two country, you may want to look at the recent data and trends, as it could move to level three soon. Many countries are currently in each of the levels. However, most of Europe is not. Some countries designated at level one at the time of this writing include:
Countries in the level two category include:
- Dominican Republic
Traveling to Levels Three and Four Countries
Restrictions on travel to level three countries have gotten laxer as more of the population have received vaccines and boosters, and we get closer to herd immunity. Nonessential travel to levels three and four countries is discouraged, especially for unvaccinated individuals. You may not even have a mandatory quarantine in some cases, though you may be banned from specific public spaces.
In general, it's good practice to buy travel insurance and stay up to date on alerts, data and trends if you're considering visiting a level three country, which currently includes:
- Most countries in western and northern Europe, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and Italy.
- Most countries in the Caribbean, such as Turks and Caicos, Barbados and Aruba
- Many Central and South American countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador.
- Several other popular tourist destinations worldwide, such as Australia, Canada, Israel and Japan.
There are currently no countries designated as a level four risk of COVID-19, which is good news all around. However, there are dozens of countries for which accurate data is unavailable. You should treat them as level four risk just in case. Some of them are:
- French Polynesia
Other Diseases to Watch
In addition to COVID-19, it's always wise to keep an eye on other travel health alerts posted by the CDC. Presently, there are additional travel alerts in Austria, France, Mexico and several other countries.