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What to do if you’ve booked a Europe trip and entry rules changed

Date: August 31, 2021

By Caroline Turner, The Points Guy

Given yesterday’s recommendation by the European Union Council to its 27 member states to once again prohibit unvaccinated Americans from nonessential travel, you may be wondering how to go about canceling your upcoming travel plans if a ban takes effect as expected. (Note: The Council’s recommendations will not apply to travelers who have taken approved vaccines, such as those from Johnson & Johnson, Modern and Pfizer.)

We’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know about where to check for individual country updates, how to change or cancel your flight, and whether credit card companies will allow you to do so for free.

Where to find country updates

Generally, your best bet is to consult a country’s official tourism or government website for the most updated entry restrictions due to COVID-19. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State maintains a country page with the information most relevant to Americans and international travel via the U.S. Embassy in each location.

Watch these sites for changes to entry requirements, which may bar unvaccinated Americans or allow them in with certain testing and/or quarantines.

Check back frequently to determine whether your European travel plans might be affected. The below websites serve as official, updated guidance for each country in the EU:

How to cancel/change your travel plans

If you’re looking to cancel or change your flight with as few monetary repercussions and frustrations as possible, start by checking to see if your flight was booked on a refundable fare.

Although Southwest has had a long-standing policy of no change or cancellation fees, 2020 inspired Delta, American and United to all follow suit and eliminate change fees for most flights.Delta and United took it a step further by waiving change fees for basic economy class through Dec. 31. Frontier has also waived all change fees through Sept. 30. And Alaska Airlines permanently eliminated change fees across the board in 2020.

Fortunately, most domestic airlines have waived change fees for non-basic tickets (think premium economy, business class and first class), so if that’s the case for your ticket, you should be able to cancel and receive a credit.

“Book something refundable if possible when using bank issuer points,” says TPG senior credit card reporter Andrew Kunesh, who warns that “many U.S. airlines won’t let you cancel or change basic economy tickets unless there’s a very special circumstance like a schedule change or travel waiver, so keep this in mind when booking a flight in basic economy.”

Otherwise, you may be charged a fee for canceling your flight and/or the difference in fares when rebooking a new flight.

Here’s additional information on specific airline, hotel, cruise and train changes and cancellation policies thanks to TPG’s strategic travel reporter Benji Stawski.

Read more: Delta variant is on the rise — here’s what to do if you need to cancel your trip

Will credit card companies allow you to change travel for free?

As with all travel during pandemic times, TPG recommends that you do not, I repeat, do not book any portion of your travel as nonrefundable or unchangeable as it’s seriously not worth the money that may be saved upfront.

“Generally, your credit card won’t help you when it comes to COVID-19-related cancellations or interruptions,” says TPG credit card writer Stella Shon. “You’ll have to rely on independent travel insurance that offers ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage.”

If nonrefundable travel is your only option, the “cancel for any reason” (also known as CFAR) travel insurance Shon speaks of allows you to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns, assuming you adhere to the purchase and cancellation stipulations outlined in the policy, writes TPG senior travel editor Andrea Rotondo. Just understand that CFAR doesn’t cover 100% of your trip costs. Most policies cover up to 75% of the cost of your trip.

Remember that general travel insurance usually does not cover epidemics and pandemics. If you’re considering independent travel insurance for your next trip, you can use a site like InsureMyTrip to quickly compare numerous policy options that include various types of coverage — including coverage for COVID-19.

Bottom line

Country officials are constantly modifying their reopening guidelines based on changing COVID-19 data, so carefully watch for changes specific to your desired destination.

The EU remains open for now, and yesterday’s news has yet to be implemented.

“This doesn’t change anything immediately and many countries will likely stay open to (vaccinated) tourists,” says Kunesh. “We may just see testing requirements imposed for some destinations.”

If that’s the case, and you’d still like to be able to travel, you’ll need your COVID-19 vaccine or see your list of travel options continue to decrease by the day.

“Unfortunately, it’s also going to shrink options for those who don’t have easy access to testing,” says Summer Hull, TPG’s director of travel content. “Especially for countries that don’t take the at-home monitored tests. Here in Texas, it is almost impossible to get an appointment, let alone a quick turnaround. I know Florida and much of the South is the same.”

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