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Some tips for those of you leaving soon

We just returned from 3 weeks in Switzerland, Austria and Paris. For those of you following soon, thought I would pass on some tips.

  1.  Take LOTS of masks.  I took a lot of K95s and we used a lot of them.  You want to toss any you’ve worn a long time.  The only time we wore blue surgical masks was on the flight back because we knew every single person on that flight had been tested within 72 hours of the flight.  Otherwise we used the K95s and were glad we had them.  We had two instances on trains where we were around people coughing and sneezing.  It was nice to be able to toss used ones and start fresh.

  2.  KEEP UP WITH THIS FORUM. It was helpful to be able to check in here as things were changing while we were on the ground, so check daily.

  3.   STAY FLEXIBLE.  You may have your whole trip planned out but things can change in days, literally.  In the 3 weeks we were there multiple countries made multiple sudden changes to their requirements. We could not eat anywhere in France without their vaccine passport. Fortunately for us in France we were on our way back to the US anyway so we had to get tested for the flight.  Since I had done my research I knew we would need France’s Pass app and had already downloaded the app so after testing was able to load the QR codes on our phones and that allowed us to eat both indoors and out and access to museums, etc.  The important thing is to STAY ON TOP OF IT!  Literally things can change overnight and you have to be ready to deal with it.  No one is going to figure this out for you, you have to do it yourself, you have to fill out forms yourself, you have to comply yourself.

  4.  Expect FORMS, lots of forms!  Each country had its OWN SYSTEM!  There is NO uniformity!  It was easier for us at the beginning because we could use CDC cards but that was changing everywhere by the end. RESEARCH and PREPARE.  

  5.  Try to minimize the countries you go through and ease your headaches.

  6.  Plan as many outdoor activities as possible.  It was nice for us because we did spend a lot of time in Switzerland and Austria outside, hiking and so on so that reduced our need to produce documents.

  7.  Treat the CDC cards as you would a passport, even more.  You can always get a lost or stolen passport replaced at the embassy but the US government has said on all the embassy websites they will NOT help you get the CDC card replaced.  So treat those cards like gold!  I carried a neck money belt that I wore under my top every day as if we had lost or had those stolen it would’ve been a disaster.  Same thing with your phone because it will have all your data and QR code’s on it.  I did print out back up copies.

  8. Reduce stress! Since we knew we would have to test in Paris 3 days before our return to the US and had we somehow contracted a breakthrough case and then would’ve had to quarantine for 10 days, we got a hotel with a big bed, a balcony, a microwave, a good TV and WiFi in a very easy location for food delivery.  That also reduced stress, knowing we weren’t going to be stuck in a box for 10 days on the off chance we got a breakthrough case.

  9.  Trust your vaccines! Just trust, wear your masks and use sanitizer a lot.  On the other hand we actually felt much safer there than if we had been visiting the US.  Vaccinations are very high there, and compliance with rules is very high there especially with the vaccine passports.

10..  One of the best things for us was reduced crowds! That also made it so nice when we did do something inside like a museum.  Really fun to visit places that would normally be packed and have few crowds.   

Overall it was a great trip, great weather and we were welcomed with open arms. Keep on travelin’ ! Off to England next summer!

Posted by
9782 posts

Well done! I will add that it is easy to buy masks here (in Switzerland now), especially surgical type.

Posted by
1357 posts

I also really enjoyed the lack of crowds. It did seem that the Europeans were taking advantage of this and filling the void, but not as big tour groups. As we left Murren Saturday morning, the little train into Murren was packed. As we checked out of our Murren hotel, the owner said they were full for the weekend. But, we only saw only two organized tour groups , and one was hikers. The lack of big tour groups overwhelming sights was refreshing.
The one downside to travel currently is not being able to "unplug", as one must keep up with the changing mandates.
I did find the posts on the RS site to be more current than the other travel sites.
It is more work traveling to Europe now, but it is so wonderful.

Posted by
916 posts

We could not eat anywhere in France without their vaccine passport. 

This is contrary to almost every other first hand account I've read. Did you actually try to eat using the CDC card as proof of vaccination or did you already have the pass?

Posted by
251 posts

Celeste the first night there before we were tested we did find one small place that took the CDC cards but every other eating place we went, every museum, etc. absolutely required the pass. We saw people turned away, many places had signs out saying you needed the pass or don’t bother trying to eat there. Honestly though it’s so easy to get tested, 15 minutes at any pharmacy that if you can’t get your full Pass Sanitaire before you go it’s not hard to test and use the QR code that way.

Posted by
285 posts

cchapin, Bravo for your PSA; I agree whole-heartedly with your key points.

Masks: Yes, bring lots. Being retired, days went by without having to wear a mask. Just the opposite here. I started writing the date on the inside of my disposable mask to help me remember to change it every couple of days.
RS Forum: Things I learned from the Forum: discounted Swiss Travel Pass, Abbott COVID Antigen test, and links to requesting Swiss COVID CERTIFICATE.
CDC card: yes, very valuable. Like cchapin, I too keep it in my Neck Wallet. We’ve been asked for it a couple of times.
Traveling now has its risks, but I’ve really appreciated the smaller number of tourists.

Posted by
251 posts

Pat, I know how you feel about not being able to be totally unplugged like past trips. I tried to keep focusing on one day at a time, and “ok today I don’t have any hurdles” or “ok today all I have to do is fill out this or that”. We were pretty lucky on timing. But even so there is always a bit of your mind nagging you. I kept repeating Yoda’s words to Luke in Star Wars “always to the future this one has looked, never his mind on where he was, what he was doing”, then I would take a deep breath and refocus on the present. Pretty easy to do staring at the Eiger or Lake Hallstatt or the Eiffel Tower. And really glad we picked a lot of outdoor stuff, that helped.

Posted by
8248 posts

Thanks for your update and tips!

I'm surprised that people are being turned away with the CDC card in Paris. Thanks for that information.

Posted by
651 posts

cchapin100: I am not traveling to Europe until at least 2023 (dear wife's orders) but I will add my thanks and appreciation for your post. Thoughtful and articulate.

Posted by
64 posts

Cchapin- this is an excellent list! Your steps looks much like mine were in when we booked and went on our Portugal trip. I will add a few more to consider.

  • If you are super worried about how you will do your Covid testing to come home, you can bring kits with you. Abbott’s BinaxNOW with eMed on demand scheduling or Ellume (sold through CVS) with prescheduled appointments. Just need to have good wi-fi to use these.
  • Be prepared that you might not able to check in for your flight online the way you used to. Depending upon the flight and the countries you are in, you might find a wild mixed bag of systems, forms, etc. Don’t panic if you have to check in at the airport. And be prepared that some of these systems might be seriously clunky, as the tech side of these things is being rushed out to meet changing requirements.
  • Speaking of airports- make sure to get to the airport 3 hours before an international flight. Yes, it feels ridiculous. Yes, it is necessary as check in is taking much longer because of all the forms they have to check and various testing requirements.

  • If you are worried about changing requirements before you leave from the US (for example, a country starting to ask for PCR tests for entry), just preschedule appointments before you go as a precaution (we did CVS with rapid testing that was acceptable for travel). Then you won’t be scrambling if something changes days before travel. You can always cancel that appointment if you don’t need it.

Thanks for putting this together. It is nice to give back to this community that was so helpful in planning to travel during this interesting time.

Posted by
251 posts

Totally agree on the check in for flights. We had to check in at the airport. We flew BA back to LA from CDG, transit LHR. We had struggled to get their Verifly app to work but finally did the night before. Didn’t matter when we checked in at CDG, guy could’ve cared less. He wanted to see each and every paper document—CDC cards, negative antigen tests, UK passenger locator forms. However Verifly did help getting on plane at LHR even though we had our boarding passes from CDG. Plan extra time!!!!

Posted by
1357 posts

I completely agree with the extra time needed to check in at the International airports now. When my husband insisted on arriving at the Zurich airport three hours early I went begrudgingly. But when the desk agent couldn't find our ticket #, and we had to stand in another line, I was calm knowing we had plenty of time. It also seems that the airlines aren't staffing their counters with enough staff, and then when one passenger has a problem, the line just stops moving. Altho it's inconceivable to anyone here on The Forum, folks ARE showing up at check-in amazed that they needed covid testing before flying!!!

Posted by
278 posts

Could you please list the actual museums/monuments, etc., that would not let you in with the CDC pass?

Posted by
12386 posts

Good advice, but study the rules of where you are going and do some research on transportation and the on the ground situation as every jurisdiction is unique.

In my last two trips which covered 7 countries I didn’t see that much difference between countries, but I choose my destinations to help ensure that; So for me

  1. Masks: On the first 6 country trip I followed the rules to the “t” and burned through 4 masks. On my second trip, also following the rules to the “t” I used 2 masks (because I lost one), but if your tolerance is not at the level of the local jurisdictions, I would plan on 4 a day (100 for a couple on a two week trip should be sufficient).

  2. Forum: For COVID I have found it to not be very accurate, but do find the official country sites and check them daily.

  3. Flexibility: Always good, even before COVID, but you might find a bit more certainty if you choose locations that have had relatively stable COVID restriction; and yes, those do exist but mostly outside of the EU.

  4. Forms: Again a function of where you go, in my 7 countries I needed to register in three, buy COVID insurance for one, buy a Visa for one, and produce a COVID test for one and some of that occurred in one country so I really only had special requirement in 3 of the 7.