Greetings from all of us at GATEWAY CRUISES 'N TOURS:
Changes in the industry are abundant and they are also constant.
The CDC has placed many new sanctions and rules on the cruise lines and Royal Caribbean is beginning their mock cruises to get certified to resume operations.
Other cruise lines seem to be taking a wait and see attitude toward those mock cruises but we'll see where it takes us.
We will place cruise information on our HOTSPOT section but please keep in mind the specials you see there can change at a moents notice but we'll try to keep up with is as much as possible.
And with the virus running amock at this time in most parts of the country travel might be somewhat restricted wherever you go. We do recommend checking with local authorities and sanctions form where you and live and also to where you are going. You might have to isolate when you get there and when you return so please check with your local healthy departments so you don't get caught in an uncomfortable situation.
NEWS AND VIEWS have continued during this time and we will update this section as well as the COOL POSSIBILITIES when we have the chance to do so.
Please stay safe an dhealthy and remember you will GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY soon.
Bill and Fred
By Robert Silk
Nov 17, 2020
A Frontier Airlines jet at McCarran Airport in Nevada. Photo Credit: Clark County Department of Aviation
Frontier Airlines will add St. Thomas, Cozumel and Oakland, Calif., to its route network in February.
The carrier will fly from Oakland to Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix with a total of eight weekly services beginning in early February. Frontier's service from the East Bay will increase to 15-times weekly in March.
The discount airline will start slower in St. Thomas and Cozumel. Service from the Virgin Islands launches on Feb. 19 with one twice-weekly route from Orlando. Cozumel flights are to begin the Feb. 13 with weekly Saturday service from Denver.
Frontier unveiled the new destinations as part of a larger 19-route announcement for flights beginning in February and March. Sixteen of the routes will be new to the discount carrier, while three will be resumptions of service. Fourteen of the routes are slated for year-round operation and another four are to operate most of the year, but with a pause in the slow fall season.
The routes include seven each that will touch Orlando and Ontario, Calif., as well as three that will serve Frontier's base in Denver. Two of the routes will serve Sacramento, Calif.
Like most other U.S. carriers, Frontier is currently flying significantly less than it was a year ago. In December, the carrier plans to offer 212 routes, compared with 291 routes last December.
From Conde Nast we have some news about proper dress code on a plane.
By purchasing your ticket, you agreed to follow certain appearance rules.
November 3, 2020
Although boarding a flight to a far-flung destination can still be a glamorous event, most air travelers today don't worry about looking pulled together for the plane ride. Yet while comfortable pants and t-shirts have largely replaced the high heels or three-piece suits of the Jet Age, the majority of modern airlines actually still have dress codes in place.
These aircraft rules aren’t usually to monitor style, however. They are focused on weeding out attire that flight crews or fellow passengers might see as inappropriate or offensive in order to avoid conflicts on board.
In one of the more recent high-profile incidents, a woman named Kayla Eubanks was boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from New York LaGuardia to Chicago in a halter top when a gate agent stopped her from boarding. She was told her attire was “lewd, obscene, and offensive,” she said in a Twitter thread of the incident that later went viral. “I was told that passengers may look at me in my attire and be offended,” the tweet said. Eventually, the captain of the flight lent her a t-shirt to wear over her top, and Eubanks boarded the flight.
Airlines’ appearance rules are found in a legal document called a contract of carriage—essentially a legal agreement you enter into with an airline any time you purchase a fare. By purchasing a ticket, you are automatically agreeing to follow the rules and terms listed in the contract of carriage.
Parsing this legal agreement, which can be found by searching online, can be a useful resource to discern what your rights are in a host of different situations, such as lost luggage, compensation for delayed or canceled flights, and overbookings. Additionally, the document usually contains some type of language regarding dress codes or other appearance standards for passengers.
This portion of contracts of carriage is usually found under a section called “Refusal to Transport,” and the rules on appearance are typically written in intentionally broad language, giving gate agents and flight crews a wide latitude to interpret what is “appropriate” and what is “offensive.” As such, the unfortunate reality is that the dress policies can sometimes lead to some passengers being unfairly targeted.
If you feel you’ve been singled out by an airline worker for your appearance, it will help to know the exact wording of the contract of carriage rules. If the issue still can’t be resolved, you might be forced to change or otherwise cover up if you want to make your flight. However, after the plane lands you can still file a consumer complaint with both the airline and the Department of Transportation.
After Eubanks, the Southwest passenger, posted her complaints to social media and tagged the airline, the carrier reportedly issued an apology and refunded the cost of her ticket. And, as proven by the government's recent warnings to airlines on issuing refunds during the pandemic, the DOT does actually read and take action on flier complaints, even if it takes a while.
Here's a look at airline dress codes on U.S. carriers, according to their contracts of carriage.
Under the “Refusal to Transport” section of its contract of carriage, Alaska says “passengers who are barefoot and older than two (2) years old or who have uncovered torsos (except the midriff, which may be uncovered) unless required due to disability" will not be allowed to board.
Also not permitted to fly? “Passengers who wear or display, and refuse to cover or stow, clothing or other items deemed to be lewd, profane obscene, or patently offensive.”
The Fort Worth—based airline lists its appearance standards under a heading called “Complying with airline rules for safety” in its legal document. That section gives passengers a terse directive: “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”
Delta’s version of the legal agreement states the carrier will not transport a passenger when “the passenger is barefoot,” or when “the passenger’s conduct, attire, hygiene or odor creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers.”
The Aloha State’s hometown airline says it will refuse to transport you if “you do not meet Hawaiian’s standards for dress and attire as follows: Clothing must cover the upper part of the torso. Tank tops, tube tops, and halter tops are allowed."
The carrier also says that “clothing must cover the lower part of the torso. Shorts are allowed. However, speedos and bikini bottoms are not allowed. Footwear is required for safety reasons unless you are unable to do so because of a disability or physical condition that prevents you from wearing footwear. In all cases, clothing must not be lewd, obscene, or patently offensive to others."
For the “comfort and safety” of other passengers, JetBlue says it will not transport fliers whose "clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive,” or “persons who are barefoot and over five years old.”
In its contract of carriage, Southwest says that any passengers “engaging in lewd, obscene or patently offensive behavior, including wearing clothes that are lewd, obscene or patently offensive” will not be transported. The same goes for “persons who are barefoot and older than five years of age, unless required due to a disability.”
Any flier aboard Spirit who “is barefoot or inadequately clothed, or displays items of an obscene nature,” will not be allowed on the flight, Spirit’s agreement says.
In United's contract of carriage, the appearance standards simply state that “passengers who are barefoot or not properly clothed” will be refused transport.
PHOTO: Path on the water from a large cruise ship. (photo via cassinga/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
A new survey found the majority of Americans who enjoy cruise vacations are ready to sail again once the coronavirus outbreak wanes.
According to InsureMyTrip, 3,602 U.S. respondents were asked whether they would go on a cruise right now if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines were in place for the resumption of services.
Around 53 percent of Americans polled said they were not ready to go on a cruise until it was safe, while another 11 percent said they would probably sail again right away and 23 percent said they would sail as soon as possible.
Only 13 percent of respondents said they would not go on a cruise due to COVID-19.
When booking future cruise vacations, InsureMyTrip recommends considering travel insurance with the Cancel For Any Reason coverage to best guard against covered COVID-19 related travel concerns.
Last month, the CDC let its no-sail order expire on October 31, setting the stage for a conditional, phased-in return to cruise ship operations. Cruise lines will have to conduct several test voyages, and travel agents have come out in force to volunteer.
Conde Nast has your best interests in mind with these safety ways to travel.
Our holiday travel checklist includes one important question: whether you should travel at all.
BY SARAH KUTA
November 16, 2020
It’s the big question on everyone’s mind (and in every family group text) right now: Is it safe—or responsible—to travel during the holiday season this year?
We usually wouldn’t think twice about hopping on a plane or driving home to celebrate with loved ones. But during a pandemic—one that still has no clear end in sight—it’s a much trickier decision, especially as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in nearly every U.S. state. And while experts agree that, in general, people should cancel their travel plans for the upcoming holidays and stay home, if you do decide to travel, there are several steps you can take to lower the risk of transmission. Here’s what to consider as you plan your trip, and what you can do to help keep yourself and others safe.
Spend some time really considering whether traveling this holiday season is worth the risk. Yes, it’s been a long year and, yes, it’s probably been months since you last saw your family in person. But no matter how you try to justify it, traveling to visit them could spread coronavirus to the people you love and their communities.
“Unfortunately, we have seen the numbers increasing nationwide, so it becomes even more important to assess the risks for your family,” says Andrés Henao, an internal medicine physician, infectious disease specialist, and assistant professor for the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “It comes down to: Where do you live, where are you going, what transportation are you taking? How many members are in your family, and how many people are you going to visit? Are there members of the family who have an increased risk of developing bad outcomes if they contract the infection?”
If your parents live somewhere with high or rising case numbers, or if you’re traveling from an area with high case numbers to a more isolated or vulnerable region, it's worth considering taking this year off and staying home
Maybe this is the year to start new (virtual) traditions with your family or rethink the typical holiday travel calendar. Barring the religious significance of specific dates, the holidays are really about spending time together, which your family can do without the sky-high flight prices, crowded airports, and indoor activities necessitated by colder temperatures.
If you still decide to go through with your plans, make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to COVID-19 safety precautions and protocols.
Have “the talk” with the people you will be celebrating or staying with. Discuss candidly everyone’s comfort level and lay down some ground rules. The worst thing you can do is shrug your shoulders and leave it up to chance—make a plan, then commit to sticking to it.
Agree to self-isolate for two weeks ahead of time, limit interactions while traveling, wear masks except for when eating or drinking, and get a COVID-19 test prior to the trip. Any naysayers can accept the alternative: sitting out the holidays this year.
Driving is your safest mode of transportation. But even then, says Diego Hijano, a physician and infectious disease expert with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, plan your route in advance: “Pack all of your food ahead of time so you don’t have to stop as often and interact with people.”
If you absolutely must fly, take every precaution possible during your journey. Research airlines ahead of time and, if you can afford it, try to book your flight with a carrier that’s implementing the strictest COVID-19 policies and procedures. Wear your mask, wash your hands, pack hand sanitizer (and use it often), wipe down your onboard seating area, and consider eating at home, instead of at the airport or on your flight. The same goes for a train journey.
If you’re using a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber for any part of your journey (to and from the airport or train station, for instance), wear your mask and try to open the car’s window for ventilation to help lower the risk.
The longer you spend in close proximity with someone, the greater the risk of spreading the virus. Staying somewhere outside the family home can help. “We know that the first two or three hours of a family gathering, people respect all the precautions,” says Hijano. “But after that, people start getting complacent. If you stay over, by the end of the first day, everyone will be without masks, just talking as if it is normal life. You want to see somebody, you want to hug them and touch them.”
Book a hotel or a vacation rental (or even rent an RV) to help limit the amount of time you spend together. Another option? Have the entire holiday get-together at an off-site hotel or resort. “The industry has put in place an enormous amount of protection and you’re much safer if you’re doing it [outside] of your home, in a resort or hotel setting, where everyone can be in separate rooms, the rooms are being cleaned properly, there’s distancing in the restaurants, and everything is organized,” says John Niser, director of the International School of Hospitality and Tourism at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
You might be wondering if everyone in your family should get tested for COVID-19 right before you get together. The short answer is yes: If you test positive, you can immediately cancel your plans and self-isolate, preventing further spread in your own community, among your family members, and in your destination's community (it also helps with contact tracing). If your family has been self-isolating and they all test negative, it can give you more peace of mind while you visit them.
A negative test result, however, is not a free pass for your family to skip the other COVID-19 precautions, nor a guarantee that you won’t spread the virus. In fact, getting negative test results might actually make your family more lenient and complacent when it comes to social distancing, masks, and hand-washing. “If I get a test today, the only thing I learn is that today, I don’t have the virus,” says Hijano. “It’s not proof that I’m not infected, because I could have contracted the virus yesterday and it’s too early to tell, no matter how good of a test you are using. It does not mean that tomorrow you won’t have it. It’s just a window in time.”
Timing your pre-trip COVID-19 test can also be tricky—you want to get tested as close to your departure date as possible, but there’s also a risk that you won’t be able to get the results back in time or get a test at all (some testing sites are prioritizing people who have symptoms or are high-risk). Even if you do get tested, keep self-isolating and build some flexibility into your travels so that you can make last-minute changes based on the timing of the results.
If you can, get tested once you arrive at your destination too, as it may help catch any exposure you experienced during your travels (though, again, not a guarantee).
The CDC recommends self-isolating for two weeks before attending a gathering. This practice can considerably lower the risk of spreading the virus but as with testing, it’s not a guarantee and not an excuse to set aside other COVID-19 precautions.
Even if you stringently self-isolate, you can still be exposed during your travels and you may not show symptoms for up to a week—after you’ve already spent time with your family. (Some people do not show symptoms at all.)
Once you return home, make sure to self-isolate again for 14 days to prevent further transmission in your community. All told, you’re looking at bookending your trip with 14 days on either side—28 total days of isolation—which may cause you to reconsider traveling altogether.
If you start to show symptoms or get a positive test result at any point during those 14 days after your travels, it’s essential to call everyone you interacted with on the trip immediately. Encourage everyone else in your family to do the same. The sooner you can pass along information, the better for everyone involved and their communities.
Canada Extends Travel Restrictions Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Looks like we won’t be able to travel to Canada anytime soon, nor will Canadians be able to travel here without quarantine. Saying it was protecting Canadians from COVID-19 and reducing the spread of the disease is its top top priority, the government of Canada extended measures it first introduced in March 2020 to prevent the spread of the virus.
Those measure include prohibitions and restrictions on discretionary and optional travel from the United States and all other countries to minimize the introduction and spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of Canadians. These measures included the requirement for all travelers entering Canada to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.
Bill Blair, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced that Canada will extend its Mandatory Isolation Order and temporary travel restrictions for all travelers seeking entry into Canada from a country other than the U.S., until Jan. 21, 2021. Travel restrictions for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals arriving from the U.S. remain in place until Dec. 21, 2020 and may be extended at that time.
Canada continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe. The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the Mandatory Isolation Order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021, will enable the Canadian government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.
In addition, Canada said it is amending its order and creating a framework for considering applications from high-performance amateur sport organizations seeking to hold International Single Sport Events. To be considered, applicants would need to include written commitments of ongoing support from provincial or territorial and local public health authorities and provincial or territorial governments, as well as plan to protect public health and the health of participants. The authorization would be issued by the Department of Canadian Heritage (Sport Canada) in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Additional information will be available on the Department of Canadian Heritage’s web site shortly.
Canada continues to recommend that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or who has recently come into close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, should continue to quarantine or isolate for 14 days. At all Canadian ports of entry, the final determination on a traveler’s admissibility is made by border services officers who base their decision on the information presented and available to them at the time of entry.
The Department of Canadian Heritage will determine which foreign nationals can receive accreditation to enter Canada to participate in an International Single Sport Event. An International Single Sport Event includes World Championships, Olympic or Paralympic Qualifications, as well as World Cups. A high-performance amateur athlete is defined as an athlete competing at the international level and affiliated with his or her country’s national sport federation.
“Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is my most important responsibility,” said Blair. “We have introduced a number of policies to keep Canadians safe but must remain flexible and adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation, while keeping your health as our top priority.”
“Canada’s response to COVID-19 is based on the latest scientific evidence,” said Hajdu. “We will continue to adapt our public health measures this way and remain committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians.”
Dec 01, 2020
See-through kayaks are a new option in Grenada.
Gay Nagle Myers
The year has been unnerving one for all of us, but for those involved in travel and tourism, it's been a time that's called for extraordinary innovation, communication, strategies and thinking well outside the box, not to mention long hours, patience and skills in handling frustrated travelers, cancellations and the ever-changing maze of entry protocols.
However, many have maneuvered through this, and done it well.
I've got Zoom and webinar overload like many others, but these online briefings served a purpose and taught me a lot about a region I thought I knew pretty well.
In particular, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) have offered speakers, topics and presentations that brought Covid's realities into sharp focus.
Hoteliers outlined health and hygiene measures for their guests and staff -- who could have guessed a year ago that "contactless check-in" would become a staple of a resort stay?
Destinations and tourist boards alerted me to reopening dates, airlift returns, protocols for entry, virtual happy hours and marketing initiatives designed to attract digital nomads to work and play in beach locales.
Here are highlights from a recent CTO webinar, dubbed a virtual learning session, with destination updates and selling points aimed at travel advisors; 150 of them tuned in.
British Virgin Islands
The BVI opens today, Dec. 1, to international visitors, and ferry service from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands will resume Dec. 8, according to Perla George, business development manager, North America, for the tourist board.
In advance of the border reopening, BVI bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen their doors to local patrons. The iconic Soggy Dollar Bar on White Bay on Jost Van Dyke poured its first Painkiller rum cocktail since March 17.
A change in an entry requirement now calls for a PCR test result taken within 72 hours of date of arrival versus the former seven-day requirement. "The measure is one more step to maintain a low case count, given the rising numbers of positive Covid cases around the world," said Renee Goodwin, acting marketing manager of the Grenada Tourism Authority.
For visitors who do brave the testing gantlet, Cavaks, one of Grenada's newest tour operators, features transparent, see-though kayaks to explore the underwater landscape. Spice Isle Exploration, another new tour company, takes visitors to the sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique and offers sunset sails, as well.
Goodwin reported that Annandale Waterfalls has reopened under new management. Other sites that have reopened include Grand Etang Rainforest Preserve, Fort Frederick, Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station and Diamond Chocolate Factory.
The island's SLEx travel experts program has grown to more than 30,000 travel advisor specialists, according to Richard Moss, senior sales manager at the St. Lucia Tourism Authority.
"More than 80% of our accommodations properties have reopened, and more than 80% of our airlift has returned," Moss said.
"St. Lucia is not a mass destination, and we are not selling sun, sand and sea exclusively -- we are selling the total vacation experience," he said.
He reminded viewers that masks are required except at beaches, pools and restaurants.
The island has 21 properties certified by medical officials as safe for visitors, according to Lise Cuffy with Discover Dominica tourism board.
Dominica launched a Safe in Nature initiative this fall and recently was named by National Geographic as having some of the best offerings for adventure travelers.
"Our challenge is having no international airport, but with flights on regional carriers from a number of gateways, including Antigua, Barbados, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Lucia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is possible for the U.S. visitor to get to Dominica in one day," Cuffy said.
"There's been no community spread of Covid cases, and our case numbers remain low, primarily brought in from abroad," said Deborah Millington, with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
The Welcome Stamp program, launched this summer for visitors to live and work remotely in Barbados, has generated much interest and a number of applications, according to Millington.
The border is open between the Dutch and French sides of the island. U.S. visitors can stay in hotels, villas, guest houses and apartments on the French side, effective Dec. 1, according to a special waiver from France, which was approved on Nov. 20, according to Elsie Marishaw, a representative of the Office de Tourisme in St. Martin.
However, Belmond La Samanna remains closed for the 2020-2021 season, and Secrets St. Martin has delayed its reopening until mid-December.
Grand Case Beach Club is accepting reservations.
On the Dutch side, more than 300 restaurants have reopened, as well as many resorts, according to Marla Chemont, marketing assistant for North America, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.
Properties, attractions and accommodations must be inspected and approved before receiving a Safe Seal certification.
Antigua and Barbuda
Colin James, CEO of the Antigua Barbuda Tourism Authority, reported that 17 major hotels have reopened, representing 60% of the room inventory. James added that 14% more inventory will be coming on line in December.
The markets for villas has increased because they are offer more space, especially for families traveling together, according to James.
Social distancing measures are followed in both islands. "We like to say that people should stay nine coconuts away from each other," James said.
Airlift is resuming with American flights from Miami and New York JFK, as well as Delta from Atlanta and United from Newark.
Warren Solomon, director of tourism, reported that there is no reopening date yet for international visitors, but he hinted that an announcement could be coming by the end of the year.
The country has had 13 cases of Covid, primarily among returning residents, and one death.
When Montserrat does reopen, its most popular tour, called The Buried City of Plymouth, will again be offered. The tour takes in the site of the former capital of Plymouth in the southern half of the island, which now lies buried under 60 feet of ash and mud from the volcanic eruptions in the mid-1990s.
The website visitmontserrat.com, which launched this fall, is generating awareness of the island's history, culture, sites and attractions, according to Solomon.
"While leisure travel is still prohibited, it is critical that the destination remains visible to the travel market, so that when the borders do reopen, Montserrat will be a warm-weather destination considered by consumers," he said.
PHOTO: American Airlines Airbus A319 over Miami. (photo via Boarding1Now/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
As the International Air Transport Association (IATA) moves forward with plans for an app that will enable flyers to display their COVID-19 status at airports, be forewarned.
If you thought the wearing of face masks was a civil liberties issue, this could be even more difficult to navigate among the flying public.
It’s known as a digital passport and it would provide airlines with information on whether a passenger is free of COVID-19 and whether they have been vaccinated when the inoculations become available next month. In turn, the aviation industry hopes it will instill confidence in travelers to fly again, particularly international travel and business travel, the two sectors hardest-hit by the virus.
“Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA CEO, said in a statement.
But right-to-privacy advocates are questioning the move, if not outright objecting to it. According to the respected publication The Hill, the digital health pass would include a passenger’s testing and vaccine information and would manage and verify information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travelers.
That’s four different entities, and that’s four too many for some who believe their privacy will be violated.
“Proponents of immunity passports do not yet know the extent of the problem they are solving. Companies selling their pre-existing digital identity solutions should be viewed with suspicion; this is not a problem that has been 'solved' as we have yet to define what the problem is,” wrote Privacy International on its website.
Privacy International is an advocacy group that vows “to protect democracy, defend people's dignity, and demand accountability from institutions who breach public trust.”
Privacy International called immunity passports a ‘theoretical credential,’ a solution to solve the problem of restrictions and lockdowns invented by proponents of digital identity; the digital identity industry; think-tanks; and the travel industry.
But, the group noted, “The nature of what information would be held on an immunity passport is currently unknown. The social risks of immunity passports are great: it serves as a route to discrimination and exclusion, particularly if the powers to view these passports falls on people's employers, or the police.”
Yet, just like face masks are now policy on flights and in airports, it remains to be seen how much of a pushback the privacy rights groups will give for a plan that is likely to be instituted.
The government is catching up with the backlog during the pandemic, but there are still hiccups.
September 28, 2020
Have you checked your U.S. passport lately? Even if you’re not considering international travel any time soon, you may want to take a look at the expiration date. Though travel agents typically recommend giving the government a few months to process a passport renewal, the timeline has, unsurprisingly, become a bit more complicated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently there's a major backlog at the U.S. Department of State, meaning travelers who need to renew will have to allow more time than usual, especially since international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your return date to the United States.
We tapped a few experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, based on when your passport is set to expire.
"Due to the pandemic, expect delays in the renewal process,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn.
The government updates this page every Thursday with passport statistics. As of September 17, there were 934,000 passports awaiting issuance. Due to the phased reopening of U.S. passport agencies and centers, which began in June, processing time for renewed or new passports may be “substantially longer than usual,” officials say. (It took between six to eight weeks to process passport renewals in 2019, according to State Department officials.)
State Department officials report that they’ve largely worked their way through the backlog created by the COVID-19 shutdown of routine processing, with 97 percent of applications received in April, May, and June completed. Most applications are now being processed and returned to applicants within 10 weeks, they report.
However, as of September 8, only 11 passport agencies throughout the country were open in phase two—meaning services are still greatly reduced, and therefore wait times increased.
Pre-COVID, you could pay $60 to receive your passport renewal faster, within about 10 to 12 days. In March, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. As of September 28, expedited service has resumed, with a slower turnaround time of 4-6 weeks.
As of now, yes. Mailing your passport in—with uncertainty over when it may be returned—is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it in, you should be able to track your application status through this page, upon entering your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.
It’s smart to always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, adds Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”
Simply put: Start the renewal process immediately, says Spence.
If a last-minute emergency trip comes up, there's an in-person option. Passport agencies and centers are only open to assist customers who need a passport in the next 72 hours for a life-or-death emergency—such as a serious illness, injury or death in your immediate family, including a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling or grandparent. You must make an appointment in advance at a facility near you for emergency service (walk-ins are not allowed).
The experts are divided on this one. Wendy Murphy-Murphy, a travel consultant with global agency Frosch, recommends waiting for the country to enter phase three before attempting to renew your passport, as this step will enable third parties to enter passport offices in person.
On the other hand, Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit, says you should start the renewal process immediately if your passport expires in 2021. “If anyone has plans to travel internationally [next year], take the time and apply for one now so it is ready when [you are] ready to travel,” she says. “It’s a minimum of three months [now] to get a passport and can take up to six months in some cases.”
“Never let them expire,” says Murphy-Murphy. Ideally, your passport should be good for a full year upon your return from any trip. Considering the status of your passport should now be the initial step before considering any travel plans, she adds.
If your passport is expired, you are eligible to renew your passport by mail for up to five years after the expiration date. After five years, you’ll be required to re-apply in person. But considering many of us will be in the skies as soon as we are able and feel safe, you might want to get moving on that renewal ASAP.