Greetings from all of us at GATEWAY CRUISES 'N TOURS:
Changes in the industry are abundant and they are also constant.
Currently the cruise lines remain in a holding pattern as the CDC has not finalized ways to get them back to the Amerian ports and then to lift the no sail order.
They are in the process of returning ships closer by but the mock cruises that will be required have not even begun to come together.
We will update you when we can and when we know more but for now we don't think cruises will return till spring of this year and maybe even beyond then.
Another source of concern is the Alaska season. The Candaian government will not lift a no sail order in their ports until the virsu is more under control here in America so the Alska season at this time is temporary on line but stand by for further updates on that as well.
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 Matt Turner
Jan 13, 2021 9:46am
Photo by andresr/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
All international travelers arriving in the United States will now need proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 in order to board their flight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guideline on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.
The Order applies to all air passengers traveling into the U.S., including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. It takes effect January 26, 2021.
To be allowed entry onto the flight, passengers must now show proof of a negative, pre-departure test result for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), collected within the three calendar days preceding the flight’s departure from a foreign country. Alternatively, the passenger may instead travel with written or electronic documentation of a positive viral test result that confirms previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and a letter from a licenses health care provider or public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel. The passengers must provide the documentation to the airline and any U.S. government official. The order applies to passengers who are two years of age or older.
If a passenger chooses not to provide a test result or documentation of recovery, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger, according to the CDC.
Note: As per several Presidential proclamations, with specific exceptions, foreign nationals who have been in any of the following countries during the past 14 days may not enter the U.S: China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and the European Schengen Area.
When arriving in the U.S., the CDC further recommends travelers get tested three to five days after travel and to stay home or otherwise self-quarantine for seven days after travel. Even if you test negative, the CDC says to stay home for the full seven days; if you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.
By Robert Silk
Jan 14, 2021
An FAA order directs the agency to more strictly penalize unruly behavior. Photo Credit: Senohrabek/Shutterstock.com
FAA Steve Dickson has signed an order directing the agency to more strictly penalize unruly passengers.
The move comes in the wake of a spate of disruptions last week by people flying to and from Washington, where pro-Trump protest escalated into an attack on the Capitol. Threatening and violent behavior, as well as refusals to wear masks, have been growing problems, the FAA said.
Historically, the agency has often addressed unruly-passenger incidents by starting with warnings and counseling. Under the order, which is effective immediately, the agency will drop those steps and move straight to legal enforcement against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with crew members.
The policy will be in effect through March. Penalties can include fines of up $35,000 and imprisonment.
The new FAA policy comes amid concerns of more unruly or dangerous behavior by flyers surrounding Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Flight attendant unions have been lobbying for enhanced regulations that would make it easier to keep people who are displaying abusive behavior from boarding planes. And lawmakers have asked the TSA and FBI to add any individuals identified in the attack on the Capitol to the no-fly list.
During a Delta earnings call Thursday, CEO Ed Bastian said he expects that to happen.
"I do anticipate that if the TSA is able to identify individuals, you'll have people added to the no-fly list -- no question about it," he said.
Jan 06, 2021
The Bahamas welcomed more than 22,000 U.S. visitors between July 1 and Nov. 30 last year.
Credit: 2020 The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
The second half of 2020 was a challenging run for the Bahamas, due to a number of false starts for the archipelago’s tourism industry, along with several substantial overhauls to its safety and testing requirements for arriving visitors.
But in recent months, the Caribbean nation has managed a relatively stable stretch of welcoming international visitors, and all told, more than 22,000 U.S. travelers visited the country between July 1 and Nov. 30 last year, according to tourism officials.
Joy Jibrilu, the director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, described 2020 as a year of “unprecedented roadblocks” in a Dec. 28 statement. But she also said the destination is committed to developing “new and unique ways to promote our islands’ offerings through expanded programs and initiatives” in 2021 that will “bring even more visitors back to our shores as quickly as possible.”
On Dec. 17, the destination launched a revamped Bahamas.com website, featuring new trip-planning tools for consumers, as well as new imagery and enhanced content about the destination’s activities and attractions. The site is also touting the spring 2021 launch of a new specialist program for travel advisors, which will include a rewards program.
“Bahamas.com provides consumers with a first look at all that our islands have to offer,” Jibrilu said in a statement. “We are thrilled to introduce the relaunched site.”
Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations for Travel Leaders Group’s parent company, Internova Travel Group, said the recent months of stability in the Bahamas’ COVID-19 pretest and safety requirements have helped the Caribbean archipelago earn back some trust among potential U.S. visitors.
“The number of people testing positive [in the Bahamas] is extremely low,” he said. “Properties are open. You haven’t had any negative news, and all this snowballs. … It increases consumer confidence, and all this is moving the Bahamas in the right direction.”
Vlitas said Internova saw a notable increase in traffic to the Bahamas over the recent holidays, along with new bookings coming in for January and February 2021.
Travelers to the Bahamas must complete a COVID-19 pre-test before departure and take another test on their fifth day in the destination.
Credit: 2020 The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
“As every month goes by, it’s more of a V curve, shooting up,” Vlitas said of business to the destination.
U.S. travelers looking to visit the Bahamas are currently required to upload proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test — taken no more than five days before the date of arrival — to the destination’s travel.gov.bs website, where individuals must also apply for a Travel Health Visa (the cost of which is dependent on length of stay) and opt into a health insurance program. Arrivals will all undergo symptom and temperature screenings at the airport in the Bahamas, and travelers who stay longer than four days must also undergo an additional rapid COVID-19 antigen test, according to tourism officials. (Note that some islands may be following different orders than others, so travelers should check the status of their specific destination at www.bahamas.com/travelupdates before departure.)
As every month goes by, it’s more of a V curve, shooting up.
Margie Hand, an Andavo Travel advisor in Birmingham, Ala., said that the post-arrival test has been a turnoff for many of her clients considering a Bahamas vacation.
“I think a lot of people have a fear of ‘What if I get there, and I’m tested five days later, and I’m positive and I’m stuck there, having to quarantine there,’” Hand explained. “I think that’s in the back of a lot of people’s minds.”
Hand, who described the Bahamas as an important part of her business prior to the pandemic, said she didn’t sell any 2020 trips to the destination after its July reopening last summer. She did, however, sell a number of trips to other Caribbean islands during the second half of 2020, including Antigua and Jamaica, where visitors are required to provide proof of a negative pre-arrival test but do not need to test again during their stay.
Late last month, Hand booked a couple for three nights at the all-inclusive Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island for travel in late January, but she noted that the clients wanted to return home before the Bahamas’ mandatory fifth-day COVID-19 test requirement.
Hand said another challenge for the destination is many of its most popular luxury properties still haven’t reopened.
“Not having Rosewood Baha Mar; not having The Cove, Eleuthera; and not having some of those higher-end properties open is definitely a deterrent,” she said, noting that the Rosewood isn’t accepting reservations until March.
Katheryn Marshall, owner of Ms. Kathy’s Travels in Largo, Md., said her traditionally robust Bahamas business was also nonexistent after the destination reopened last summer. Marshall noted she booked a number of vacations to Mexico and Jamaica in recent months, but she said the Bahamas’ false starts last summer and ensuing confusion about what was actually required to visit the destination took a real toll.
“Now they’re open,” she said. “And we’re trying to get the word out to everyone that you can go to the Bahamas without problems.”
Marshall, Hand and Internova’s Vlitas were all bullish, however, on business not only to the Bahamas later this year but overall in 2021 — thanks, in large part, to the pent-up demand many hope COVID-19 inoculations will unleash in the months ahead.
“I was maybe getting eight requests every two weeks before,” Hand said of her overall business in the final months of 2020. “And now I’ve gotten eight requests in less than two days. So, since Christmas day, I’ve definitely seen a surge in people wanting to travel.”
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
PHOTO: Carnival Freedom. (Photo via Flickr / Jerry and Pat Donaho)
Nearly three months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowed its no-sail order to expire in favor of a Conditional Sailing Order, it's still unclear as to when the prerequisite test cruises will begin.
During Monday's fourth-quarter 2020 earnings call, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said that the company remains in the initial phase of the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order and currently has no timetable for when simulated sailings will begin as it waits for additional guidance from the public health institute.
"It's a work in process...additional guidelines for future phases have not yet been issued by the CDC," Donald said. "To give you a specific timing on the test cruises, we would need additional guidance from the CDC."
"We are starting to bring ships back to the U.S. and meeting the criteria that are currently out there to be in a position to then subsequently do test cruises," he added. "I learned a long time ago, never try to predict regulatory anything."
Rising case numbers across the country are likely one factor for the CDC's delay. As of Thursday, the U.S. has reported more than 23 million COVID-19 cases and 385,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
Cruise lines operating in U.S. waters will need to complete a series of simulated or mock voyages with the help of volunteers to ensure the proper COVID-19 protocols have been implemented and are effective before they can operate revenue sailings.
With 60 days required between test cruise results and the start of revenue cruises, the latter likely won't resume for several months. As a result, multiple cruise lines have paused operations through March and April.
by Matt Turner
Jan 4, 2021 1:00pm
Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino (Marriott International)
The Caribbean island of Curaçao is eager to start 2021 on a high note, announcing earlier this week that prior border restrictions have been lifted. American residents from every state will be allowed entry without the previously required 14-day quarantine so long as they adhere to the entry protocols. The announcement follows the island’s initial phased reopening, which began in October, and coincides with the return of non-stop flights from the eastern seaboard.
“Curaçao has taken a cautious reopening approach, first with the lifting of restrictions to residents of the New York Tri-State area then extending into Florida,” said Paul Pennicook, CEO of the Curaçao Tourist Board, in a press statement. “Upon successful opening to these markets over the past months, we feel confident in our ability to safely welcome back all American travelers and provide them with an exceptional experience in a responsible way that also considers the well-being of Curaçao’s local community.”
From January 1, every state within the U.S. will be re-classified by the Curaçao Tourist Board, the Ministry of Public Health, the Environment & Nature and the Ministry of Economic Development. American visitors will be required to complete the following steps prior to arrival via the online portal, found at dicardcuracao.com, in order to enter Curaçao:
PHOTO: Over-The-Water Bungalows at Sandals South Coast. (Photo by Codie Liermann)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s new protocols requiring travelers returning to the U.S. to present proof of a negative COVID-18 has challenged Caribbean-selling travel advisors to again adapt to a new paradigm driven by the pandemic.
Edouard Jean, the owner of New York-based Massive Travels, said Thursday he had fielded calls “most of the day” from clients regarding the new rules.
“From a traveler’s point of view; this is going to add stress to one’s vacation,” said Jean, who believes travelers will have numerous questions including, 'Where can I get the test? How much is it going to cost me?' and 'Will I get the results in time?'” he said.
As a travel advisor, “It’s going to be harder to sell to some clients who now have to take into account the extra hoops to jump thru and the extra cost for a family vacation,” Jean said. “And in general, who is to say you can’t become affected with COVID within 72 hours after getting a negative result.”
Nevertheless, some Caribbean resorts and destinations are already prepared to accommodate return-home tests mandated by the CDC changes. Here are the programs on tap at Caribbean hotels, resorts and destinations.
AIC Hotel Group
All-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels, UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya and Nobu Hotel Los Cabos are offering U.S. residents free return-home antigen testing and complimentary medical assistance. Existing and new reservations of three nights or more booked by February 28, 2021, for travel between January 26 and December 31, 2021, will receive two complimentary antigen tests per room. Additional tests can be purchased for $50.
Complimentary onsite medical assistance applies to all existing and new reservations from countries requiring negative COVID-19 test results and traveling through December 31, 2021. The onsite medical assistance will cover the extended hotel stay and quarantine costs for guests who test positive for COVID-19 while at the hotel.
AMResorts is offering on-site, complimentary COVID-19 antigen testing and extended quarantine stay coverage to guests traveling to the U.S. “These new services support guest health, wellbeing, and peace of mind during vacation to meet CDC U.S. travel requirements,” said officials in a statement.
On-site property testing will be administered by private hospital provider Hospiten beginning January 26. Guests should contact the concierge at each resort to schedule departure testing. Guests who receive a positive test while on property will have quarantine costs covered for up to 14 days.
“With an increasing number of countries requiring a negative COVID-19 test result prior to entry, it is important that guests have an easy, hassle-free way to secure test results within the comfort and safety of AMResorts properties,” said Gonzalo del Peón, AMResorts’ group president Americas & Global Commercial.
Bahamas mega-resort Baha Mar offers PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 tests prior to guests’ departures from the Bahamas. Tests are being administered on-property by Doctor’s Hospital Nassau with results returned on official letterhead.
The optional testing will be facilitated at the guests’ request. PCR tests cost $125 plus tax and results are provided within 24 hours (48 hours on Sunday). The Rapid Antigen test is offered for $25 plus tax with results that can be expected in one hour.
“As we embark on this new beginning, we are determined to make it easier for our guests to navigate the logistics of international travel in the current world by offering on-site testing solutions,” said Graeme Davis, Baha Mar’s president.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa
Saint Lucia boutique property Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa and sister resort Serenity at Coconut Bay are offering guests who stay five nights or longer complimentary rapid antigen COVID-19 “Return Home” tests prior to departure. Departure testing is also available for short-stay guests for $75 per person.
Guests facing post-travel testing requirements upon returning to the U.S. can arrange with Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa front desk personnel or with their butler at Serenity at Coconut Bay for an Abbot Rapid Antigen COVID-19 return home test upon arrival in Saint Lucia.
Couples Resorts will offer free onsite rapid antigen testing for all guests lodging at its four all-inclusive properties, Couples Tower Isle, Couples Swept Away, Couples Negril, and Couples Sans Souci. Tests will be administered by a contracted medical partner within three days of a guest's departure date. Result collection will be processed with the approximate 15-minute timeframe for rapid antigen test results.
Private pool at Excellence Oyster Bay
With resorts in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico, Excellence has partnered with certified local labs to provide COVID-19 free tests for guests whose home countries require a negative result to board a return flight.
Testing will be available on-site and free of charge for affected countries at all of the brand’s open hotels and resorts. “This new service will enable [guests] to remain at the property and get the necessary documentation to re-enter their destination of origin,” said Domingo Aznar, vice president of sales and marketing.
Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts
Palace and Le Blanc have expanded the Purely Palace and Purely Le Blanc programs to include:
– Now all resorts throughout Mexico & Jamaica will offer easy, onsite COVID-19 antigen (rapid) testing.
– Tests will be conducted on property at no cost to guests (for up to two guests per room) traveling to the United States.
– Testing and samples will be administered by experienced in-house lab teams.
– Results will be received within 30 minutes, and documentation will be ready for guests to present at the airport for their journey back home.
– Guests can contact the concierge to schedule their departure test as soon as they check-in.
If a guest tests positive, Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts will cover the cost of quarantine for up to 14 days at no cost to guests, for up to two guests per room should both guests test positive.
Playa Hotels & Resorts
Playa Hotels & Resorts will provide free on-site antigen testing and discounted PCR tests from January 22 through April 30, 2021, for guests staying at least three nights in Mexico and the Dominican Republic and five or more nights in Jamaica.
In addition, should anyone test positive and need to quarantine, guests will receive a 50 percent discount on accommodations.
Sandals and Beaches Resorts
The Caribbean all-inclusive resort firm “will be making available through March 31 complimentary COVID-19 testing right in the comfort of our resort,” according to a statement. “Tests will be conducted by approved and practiced medical professionals with our guests’ maximum convenience in mind and minimal distraction to their overall vacation experience,” the statement adds. “Once at the resort, our team will assist the guest without difficulty to make the arrangements required to schedule their COVID-19 test on-site at the resort.”
PHOTO: Travelers in Anguilla. (photo by Brian Major)
“Testing has been at the forefront of Anguilla’s reopening strategy; that includes testing on arrival and departure,” said Haydn Hughes, minister of tourism.
“The CDC’s requirement for testing on departure for all visitors returning to the US is one that Anguilla has the capacity to handle in an efficient manner. We are in fact already providing this service on request to guests.”
Hughes added that Anguilla, noted for its strict COVID-19 protocols, is increasing its testing capability “to ensure that we meet the anticipated demand.”
He added, “We have taken every precaution and introduced stringent protocols to ensure the health and safety of both our visitors and our residents. Our effective management of this disease has resulted in just 11 cases since we reopened our borders last November and no community spread.”
“All necessary facilities and procedures” are available for visitors requiring COVID-19 testing while in Aruba as a requirement for re-entry to their country, said Aruba Tourism Authority officials in a statement. “Aruba has expanded testing and has state-of-the-art hospitals and medical facilities that offer PCR tests to outbound travelers, with an average turnaround time of 24 hours,” the statement adds.
Aruba’s primary testing areas are locatedin close proximity to hotels, and appointments can be made in advance, officials added. “The Aruba Government and Department of Public Health were prepared for the CDC’s new mandate and can reassure our travelers they will have easy access to testing in time for their departure," Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, the Aruba Tourism Authority’s CEO.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts & Nevis requires travelers staying fewer than seven days to take an exit test 72 hours prior to departure, while those staying longer than seven days can schedule an exit test through their hotel front desk, said a St. Kitts Tourism Authority spokesperson.
Travelers staying in hotels should inform the front desk, who will arrange testing onsite. Travelers not in hotels can arrange testing by calling 869-467-1273 or by visiting the Health Centre in Basseterre or consulting a government-approved doctor.
Jan 07, 2021
A bill in the Florida senate would reverse limits on the cruise industry that were approved by voters in November. Photo Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock.com
A Florida state senator submitted a bill this week that, if approved, would nullify the recent decision by Key West voters to limit cruise ship traffic.
In November, Key West voters approved measures to cap the number of cruise passengers allowed ashore daily, ban ships that carry more than 1,300 people from docking and prioritize ships based on their health and environmental records.
The bill, proposed by Republican senator Jim Boyd of Bradenton, near Tampa, states that "a local government may not restrict or regulate commerce in the seaports of this state" and specifically says that local governments cannot regulate or restrict "a vessel's type or size" or "number, origin or nationality of passengers."
Filed Jan. 5, the legislation would make such matters subject to state regulations and would make any ordinances previously decided, such as the one in Key West, void. The bill further says that allowing local governments to impose their own maritime commerce requirements could disrupt Florida's economy.
The bill needs approval by Florida's Senate and House in order to pass.
Between 60% and 80% of Key West voters said yes to the three measures.
By Robert Silk
Jan 05, 2021
Even with the new testing requirement in place, Canada will continue to require arriving visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Photo Credit: Credit: Horth Rasur/Shutterstock.com
Beginning Thursday, Canada will require all flyers scheduled to arrive from outside the country to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to departure.
Only results from molecular PCR tests will be accepted. Rapid antigen tests, which are less reliable, will not be sufficient. Tests must be taken within 72 hours of departure.
• Related: Air Canada Rouge returns to the skies
"Our government remains committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians," minister of transport Marc Garneau said in announcing the policy. "These new measures will provide another layer of protection for Canadians as we continue to assess public health risks and work to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Canada."
Even with the testing requirement in place, Canada will continue to require arriving visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Transport Canada said it will be increasing surveillance efforts to ensure that quarantine requirements are adhered to.
• Related: Preview 2021: Airlines
Most U.S. residents are still prohibited from entering Canada. Exceptions are in place for those with dual Canadian citizenship, individuals with family in Canada and individuals who must travel for nondiscretionary purposes, such as essential work.
By Tovin Lapan
Jan 05, 2021
Kauai's Napali Coast. The island has decided to rejoin Hawaii's Safe Travels program. Photo Credit: Francois Seuret/Shutterstock.com
A month after opting out of Hawaii's Safe Travels program that allows travelers to skip the state's mandatory quarantine period with a negative Covid-19 test result, the island of Kauai has now won state approval to rejoin under its own specific set of guidelines.
Under those guidelines, travelers who have been inside the state on another island for 72 hours or more may bypass a mandatory 10-day quarantine on Kauai with proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken from one of the state's approved providers within three days of traveling to the Garden Isle. Everyone arriving in Kauai from outside the state is still required to quarantine for 10 days, no matter what tests they have taken.
"A person must be physically present in the state of Hawaii for more than 72 hours before flying to Kauai in order to qualify as an interisland traveler," according to the Kauai County's statement on the new regulations. "This means that travelers who arrive from out of state would not be eligible to participate in the Safe Travels program to Kauai until they have been in Hawaii for more than three days."
Gov. David Ige approved the new plan from Kauai County mayor Derek Kawakami on Dec. 30, and it took effect on Jan. 5 -- a little more than a month after the island opted out of the statewide pretravel-testing plan, drawing the ire of many of Kauai's travel-related business owners.
"While Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island continue to have cases, the rate of infection is significantly lower than the mainland," Dr. Janet Berreman, Kauai's district health officer, said in a statement. "With our low rates of disease and frontline healthcare workers and first responders beginning to be vaccinated, this is an appropriate time to allow interisland travel with a pretravel test, while continuing to require additional precautions for people who recently traveled out of state."
Additionally, Kauai also plans to enact a regulation that allows travelers staying in the county's "resort bubbles" who have already received a negative pretravel test to take a second test three days after arrival on the island, and if that test also comes back negative, they are able to cut short the quarantine.
The infinity pool at Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences at Hokuala, one of six Kauai properties participating in the resort bubble program.
Resort bubbles, formally known as enhanced movement quarantine zones, allow travelers who agree to monitoring -- including wearing a GPS tracking device -- to use the grounds and facilities at participating properties. Under the current guidelines, individuals in quarantine may not leave their accommodations or home for anything other than a medical emergency. Currently, a half dozen properties on Kauai are approved as resort bubbles: The Cliffs at Princeville, Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, Koa Kea Hotel and Resort at Poipu, the Club at Kukui'ula, Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences at Hokuala, and Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
"We realize the resort bubble program is tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents," Kawakami said in a statement. "Our residents continue to be our highest priority. Now that our community has been able to enjoy the holiday season without a major surge in cases, we feel we are in a good position to loosen interisland travel restrictions and offer more convenient opportunities to travel between islands."
In announcing the new regulations, the county also said it has yet to determine when Kauai might adopt the Safe Travels program for travelers arriving directly from out of state, as well. The statewide program launched on Oct. 15, but after seeing an increase in coronavirus infections, Kauai was granted permission to stop participating in Safe Travels on Dec. 2.
"Unfortunately, it is just not safe at this time to allow transpacific travel to Kauai without additional safeguards; we hope that will change soon," said Dr. Berreman, citing the increasing coronavirus infection rate on the U.S. mainland in December.
More info on Kauai's pandemic-related regulations and travel information are available at www.kauai.gov/COVID-19.
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.