How to use technology to prepare for travel during the coronavirus pandemic

How to use technology to prepare for travel during the coronavirus pandemic


Once you’ve figured out the logistics for getting in and out, you’ll have more homework to do. Don’t expect your favorite restaurants or airport lounges to operate normally. Before you leave your home, check your airport’s website to see what’s open near your terminal; if your options are lacking, prepare a meal. Likewise, when you arrive at your destination, be sure to check out the websites of the restaurants and tourist sites you hope to visit during their hours. The travel industry is far from back to normal.

To facilitate travel, airlines may require travelers to present a vaccination passport, digital documentation proving they have been vaccinated. Airlines have tested mobile health apps, including CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association travel pass app to ensure travelers the ability to present their health data in a secure and verifiable manner.

Most apps will work, in theory, like this: If you get vaccinated at a medical facility, the app connects to that facility’s database to retrieve your information. The app then loads a QR code, which is a digital barcode, verifying that the vaccine has been administered. You can then show this barcode at the airport check-in counter, boarding gate or immigration control.

There is still too much in the air with vaccine passports for widespread use, Mr Harteveldt said. Airlines, government agencies, and cruise lines are always testing apps to determine which products are the most reliable and easiest to use. Things could get chaotic if different parties require people to download different passport apps, and many experiments can fail. Vaccine passports have also sparked a fierce political debate over the legality of requiring digital credentials for a vaccine that is ostensibly voluntary. (The Biden administration has said it will not press for mandatory vaccination credentials or a federal vaccine database.)

The best we can do now with vaccine passports is therefore nothing. Don’t upload your data to any of the apps yet, but when it’s time to travel, check your airline’s website for vaccine passport updates and follow the instructions.

The rest of your travel tech prep will be largely the same as before Covid. Take a spare battery, charging cables, and a safety pin to eject your SIM card. Then do the following:

Unlock your phone. Your phone must be unlocked to work with foreign SIM cards. Many newer smartphones are unlocked by default, but you need to call your carrier to confirm that your device will work with other wireless carriers.

Buy a foreign SIM card. If you are traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming charges to your carrier by temporarily using a foreign phone plan. When you get to your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or at 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 your trip. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIM, which are basically a digital SIM card to add a separate phone plan. I have had mixed experiences including eSIMs that failed to activate when I reached my destination, so I prefer physical SIM cards.)

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