Top Travel Destinations During COVID: Budget-friendly Airfare to Explore Spectacular International Hotspots

2023-11-23 03:00:05 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Looking to satisfy your wanderlust during the ongoing pandemic? Look no further! In this article, we have rounded up the best travel destinations during covid, along with vital information on airline policies and emerging global flight maps. From the skyrocketing interest in international travel since China's reopening to the changing geopolitical tensions and their impact on Chinese tourists, we have it all covered. Moreover, we will delve into the top destinations for 2022 and even explore affordable airfare options to get you there. Get ready to embark on a safe and incredible journey to some of the most exciting places on the planet!

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Check Your Airline's COVID Policies

Several airlines, including Delta and United, are still waiving change fees for travelers who need to rebook due to COVID. Hawaiian Airlines allows a one-time ticket change, with fares charged for the price difference. Purchasing travel insurance for a flight also covers most COVID-related cancellations and rebookings.

These considerate policies have prompted some travelers to make morally conscious decisions when feeling ill. Carmino DeMecurio, for example, had a business trip booked from New York City to Fort Lauderdale for January 19. However, he tested positive for COVID on January 16 and cancelled the trip. Delta issued him an e-credit for a future flight, allowing him to participate in the meeting remotely. He believes it was the right decision to respect others' health.

With Eased COVID Requirements, Many Sick Travelers Choose to Fly

Traveling while sick has become easier due to relaxed COVID guidelines. Previously, providing a negative COVID test before a flight was costly and stressful. However, the CDC dropped this requirement for domestic travel last June. Many countries have followed suit for international travel, with only a few still requiring testing or proof of vaccination. Detailed entry requirements for specific countries can be found here.

Quarantining while traveling has also been costly and inconvenient. Given the choice between traveling while infected with COVID or isolating and potentially incurring additional expenses, many travelers choose to fly. Ellen experienced this firsthand. While on vacation in Kauai, she started feeling unwell but decided not to get tested before her flight back to the mainland. Despite taking extra precautions, she tested positive for COVID upon her return. She admits feeling guilty but points out that people cough and sniffle on planes and in airports frequently.

Despite the ongoing COVID situation, some people are treating it like the flu or a common cold, especially if they are vaccinated and unlikely to get severely ill. However, it's important to remember that not everyone is in the same boat. Elderly or immunocompromised individuals could end up in the hospital if exposed to the virus. The CDC continues to advise avoiding travel if you are sick or have tested positive for COVID. If you do travel, it is recommended to isolate for at least five days after a positive test and wear a high-quality mask when in contact with others.

Interest in International Travel Rises Following China's Reopening

Chinese adults are increasingly interested in traveling abroad after years of strict "zero-COVID" policies. Over half of the respondents in a survey said they want to travel internationally for leisure, representing a 24-point increase compared to last year. Although all types of travel have seen increased interest, leisure travel has experienced the most significant change, followed by business travel.

Furthermore, over three-fourths of Chinese adults with leisure trips planned for the next year said their plans would involve international travel. This is a substantial increase from 45% in July 2022. It's worth noting that interest in domestic travel within China has slightly declined. However, the majority of those planning international trips also intend to take domestic trips.

This shift in preferences can be attributed to a drop in concern about COVID-19. In the past, potential travelers worried about the virus and logistical complications such as quarantines. But with the decline in COVID-related concerns, people are more willing to travel internationally. The negative impact of geopolitical issues on travel decisions, such as anti-China bias, has also decreased.

High Travel Costs Affect Chinese Travelers Amid Soft Economic Recovery

One notable increase in concerns since last year is the impact of high travel costs on travel decisions. This can be attributed to the current economic situation in China. Consumer confidence has declined, impacting spending on big purchases like travel. Travel restrictions and reduced flight routes have made airfare more expensive. This, combined with the scarcity of travel discounts, has made travel less affordable for many consumers.

The War in Ukraine Shapes Global Flight Routes and Chinese Travel

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a significant impact on global flight routes and, consequently, Chinese travel. Many countries, including Canada and the United States, have implemented sanctions and closed their airspace to Russian airlines. In response, flights between China and North America have become lengthier and more expensive. Chinese airlines, not subject to the same restrictions, have added a small number of additional routes to the United States that avoid Russian airspace.

Geopolitical tensions have also influenced Chinese travelers' concerns. Around 2 in 5 Chinese adults consider poor relations between China and a foreign country as a major reason to avoid visiting. While concerns about COVID-19 have decreased, worries about geopolitical issues have risen in relative terms, making it the third most commonly cited major reason to avoid international travel.

Chinese Travelers Show Growing Interest in the Middle East

As Chinese travelers venture abroad, the preferred destinations have shifted. Previously, top destinations were in Asia, with the United States being the only non-Asian destination in the top 10. However, preferences have evolved, with the Middle East and North Africa emerging as popular destinations. Interest in Europe has also increased, particularly for off-the-beaten-path locations.

Conversely, destinations in East, Southeast, and Central Asia have seen declines. Travel to North America has significantly decreased due to logistical factors such as fewer flights and lengthy visa processing times. The cost of flights between China and the United States has also become prohibitive for many travelers.

The Effects of Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions and the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have had negative economic and social effects on the travel sector. Slow travel, where tourists visit fewer destinations during their trips, has become more popular. Business travel and international conferencing have declined, with virtual alternatives becoming more prevalent. The effectiveness of travel restrictions in containing the spread of COVID-19 has been a topic of debate.

Traveling to Vaccinated Venues

Many tourism venues, such as museums, visitor centers, restaurants, and hotels, now require COVID-19 vaccination for staff and/or visitors. These venues are known as "vaccinated venues." Tourists' beliefs about the effectiveness and side effects of COVID-19 vaccination impact their preferences to visit these venues.

Overall, the global travel industry is eager to see where Chinese travelers will choose to go as they resume international travel. The Middle East and North Africa have emerged as popular destinations, while the preference for Asian destinations has slightly declined. Logistical factors and geopolitical tensions continue to influence travel decisions, highlighting the ever-evolving nature of the industry.

Discover the Top Travel Destinations for 2022

If you're looking for travel destinations that are not too far from home, it's time to dust off your passport and get ready to explore. These destinations are open to Americans and offer some of the best travel experiences during the COVID pandemic, whether you're traveling alone or with your family.

Important: The CDC has issued travel advisories for more than 128 destinations, including some listed here. COVID-19 rates are constantly changing. Before finalizing your travel plans, make sure to check the State Department website for up-to-date information and advisories.

1. San Jose, Costa Rica

No quarantine or testing requirements

Travel Requirements: Starting April 1st, travelers heading to Costa Rica do not need to apply for a Health Pass or purchase travel insurance for entry into the country.

Important: Vaccination is not required. However, to fully enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer, including most establishments, it is recommended to be fully vaccinated.

Costa Rica is a unique tropical getaway with diverse wildlife and incredible rainforests. With about 500,000 different species, it's home to about 5% of the world's estimated species. Don't miss the awe-inspiring Cloud Forests, which offer a glimpse into the country's vibrant plant and animal life, as well as stunning views.

If you prefer the ocean, Costa Rica's coastlines are perfect for beach lovers. The Pacific and Caribbean sides both offer spectacular experiences. While the Pacific is more popular among tourists, make sure to explore the gems of the Caribbean side as well.

2. Lisbon, Portugal

No quarantine; negative COVID-19 test required

Travel Requirements: Children under 12 do not need to provide a negative COVID-19 test. All travelers from the US, including fully vaccinated individuals, must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flight. Passengers are also required to fill out an individual Passenger Locator Card before departure or onboard their flight.

Portugal has received the Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and has its own Clean and Safe stamp, which signifies businesses compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements. This makes Portugal an ideal destination during COVID.

Lisbon, one of the world's oldest cities, offers a rich blend of history, culture, and entertainment. The city's seven hills provide breathtaking views, and attractions like the Castelo de Sao Jorge should not be missed. For a change of pace, take day trips to coastal resort town Cascais or the enchanting Portuguese town of Sintra.

3. Mexico City, Mexico

No quarantine or COVID-19 test required for entry

Travel Requirements: Travelers to Mexico must complete a Tourist Entry Card. Health screenings are conducted at airports upon arrival. As of March 2022, visitors are no longer required to fill out an online health questionnaire.

Mexico has always been a popular destination and is conveniently located for US travelers. Mexico City, the country's capital, offers an array of attractions, including over 150 museums. From the famous Palacio de Bellas Artes to the Museo Frida Kahlo, there is something for everyone. Nature lovers can also enjoy beautiful parks and hiking trails, while food enthusiasts can savor the local cuisine.

4. Belize City, Belize

Provide a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination

Travel Requirements: As of March 1st, 2022, travelers can skip the COVID test with proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated travelers aged 5 and older must provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to entry. As of February 15th, tourists are required to purchase insurance with COVID-19 coverage and book accommodations at an approved hotel.

Belize is open to travelers and offers a stunning Caribbean experience. The country has received the Safe Travels stamp from the WTTC and has implemented its own Gold Standard program to ensure businesses prioritize health and safety. This makes Belize one of the best flight destinations during COVID.

From snorkeling in the barrier reef to hiking Victoria Peak, Belize offers various opportunities for adventure and exploration. Don't miss the chance to make unforgettable memories in this tropical paradise.

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

No quarantine or COVID-19 test required for entry

Travel Requirements: As of March 10th, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is no longer required. Visitors are also not required to fill out a Travel Declaration Form. CDC testing requirements are exempt for travelers returning to the US.

Puerto Rico has lifted capacity restrictions and is welcoming travelers. Fully vaccinated individuals are exempt from local rules requiring masks at public beaches and parks.

San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, is known for its colonial architecture and stunning beaches. The city offers a blend of history and natural beauty, including three bioluminescent bays. Whether you're exploring the city or enjoying the beach, Puerto Rico has something for everyone.

6. Hawaii, United States

No entry requirements for domestic travelers

Travel Requirements: Hawaii has eliminated previous arrival and entry requirements as of March 26th. The Hawaii Safe Travels Program is no longer in effect.

Hawaii is a remarkable destination for US travelers who want to stay close to home. The islands have implemented numerous safety measures and have eased many restrictions as COVID numbers improve.

Enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Hawaii, whether you're diving with manta rays or exploring the islands via helicopter. Hawaii offers countless opportunities for unforgettable experiences.

7. U.S. Virgin Islands

No quarantine; proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test required

Travel Requirements: Fully vaccinated travelers can skip a COVID test with proof of vaccination. Non-vaccinated travelers aged 5 and older must take a COVID test. All travelers need to upload their information to the USVI Travel Screening Portal within five days of departure. No COVID-19 test results are required for traveling or returning to the US mainland, unless there are state-specific requirements.

The US Virgin Islands offer a rich history and natural beauty across its roughly 50 islands.

St. Thomas:

St. Thomas is the most popular destination, and it serves as the entry port to the US Virgin Islands. Explore the historic downtown area, visit local-history museums like Fort Christian and Blackbeard's Castle, and enjoy St. Thomas' beautiful beaches.

St. Croix:

St. Croix is the largest and more tranquil island. Discover the island's colorful past and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding.

8. Athens, Greece

No entry requirements

Travel Requirements: All pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted as of May 1st. Greece is open to all travelers, and testing and vaccination requirements have been removed from restaurants, bars, and other businesses.

Athens, the capital city of Greece, is a must-visit destination for its rich history, architecture, and culture. The Acropolis and its iconic landmarks like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike are worth exploring.

Take a stroll through Athens and immerse yourself in ancient Greece. With its beauty and history, Athens guarantees a memorable experience.

9. Cancun, Mexico

No quarantine or COVID-19 test required for entry

Travel Requirements: Travelers to Mexico must complete a Tourist Entry Card. Health screenings are conducted at airports upon arrival. As of March 2022, visitors are no longer required to fill out an online health questionnaire.

Cancun is famous for its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters. Explore the vibrant nightlife in Zona Hotelera or immerse yourself in Mexican culture in downtown Cancun. With its diverse offerings, Cancun is one of the best flight destinations during COVID. Don't miss the opportunity to try the local cuisine and experience the city like a local at el Parque las Palapas.

10. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

No vaccination or COVID-19 test required for entry

Travel Requirements: As of February 17th, the Dominican Republic has ended its COVID mandates. Visitors are not required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country or access businesses. All travelers must complete an electronic ticket upon arrival or 72 hours before entry.

The Dominican Republic, the second-largest island in the Caribbean, offers a wealth of wonders. Santo Domingo, the capital city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts a rich history shaped by various nations. From historic sites to natural landscapes, the Dominican Republic provides an unforgettable vacation experience.

Find Affordable Airfare with Next Vacay

There you have it! The top flight destinations during COVID. Now, the only thing left to do is find the perfect airfare. Look no further than Next Vacay, where our team of expert deal hunters will send you the best flight deals straight to your inbox. Say goodbye to endless searching and let Next Vacay take care of the rest.

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As the world slowly emerges from the grip of the pandemic, travelers are eagerly planning their much-awaited adventures. With relaxed COVID requirements and airlines working diligently to ensure safety, flying has become a popular choice for many wanderlust-filled individuals. China's reopening has not only sparked interest in international travel but has also unveiled a newfound fascination with the Middle East among Chinese tourists. However, cost-conscious travelers are keeping a close eye on the fluctuating travel expenses amidst China's soft economic recovery. The ever-evolving geopolitical landscape, including the war in Ukraine, has also reshaped global flight maps and influenced Chinese travelers' concerns. As we dive into 2022, let's explore some astonishing destinations that beckon us to embark on unforgettable journeys. From picturesque landscapes to stunning cultural experiences, these top destinations are sure to ignite your wanderlust. But before you set out on your adventure, how about finding some cheap airfare to make your dreams a reality? Get ready to create cherished memories in the world's most enchanting corners while ensuring your safety every step of the way. Safe travels!

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