How to Use Tech to Prepare for Travel in a Pandemic

Once you figure out the logistics for getting in and out, you have more homework to do. Don’t expect your favorite airport restaurants or lounges to function normally. Before you leave, check your airport website to see what is open near your terminal. If your options are missing, pack a meal. When you get to your destination, check the websites for the restaurants and attractions you want to visit for opening hours. The travel industry is far from getting back to normal.

Updated

April 14, 2021, 5:50 a.m. ET

To make travel smoother, airlines can require travelers to present a vaccination record and digital documentation showing that they have been vaccinated. The airlines have tested mobile health apps like CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association’s passport app to ensure travelers can present their health information in a safe and verifiable manner.

In theory, most apps work like this: when you are vaccinated in a medical facility, the app connects to that facility’s database to get your information. The app then loads a QR code, which is a digital barcode that checks that the vaccine has been given. You can then display this barcode at the airport check-in counter, at the boarding gate, or at immigration control.

There is still too much vaccination passports in the air to use widely, Harteveldt said. Airlines, government agencies, and cruise lines are still testing the apps to see which products are the most reliable and easy to use. It could get messy with different parties requesting people to download different pass apps and many experiments potentially failing. Vaccination records have also sparked a heated political debate over the legality of requiring digital IDs for an allegedly voluntary vaccine. (Biden’s government has announced it will not push for mandatory vaccination records or a federal vaccine database.)

So the best we can do with vaccination cards right now is nothing. Don’t upload your data to any of the apps yet. However, when it is time to travel, check your airline’s website for updates on vaccination records and follow the instructions.

The rest of your preparation for travel technology will be largely the same as it was in pre-Covid times. Pack a spare battery, charger, and safety pin to eject your SIM card. Then do the following:

Unlock your phone. Your phone must be unlocked in order to work with foreign SIM cards. Many newer smartphones are unlocked by default. However, you should call your carrier to confirm that your device works with other carriers.

Buy a foreign SIM card. When traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming fees to your cellular operator by temporarily using a foreign calling plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or from a cell phone store and insert it into your phone. You can also order a SIM card online and have it delivered to your home before you start your journey. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which is essentially a digital SIM card to add a separate phone plan. I’ve had mixed experiences including eSIMs that failed to activate when I reached my destination, so I prefer physical SIM cards.)

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