News & Politics

As Covid-19 Vaccinations Inch Closer, People Are Planning to Start Traveling Again in 2021

Some are booking flights and looking forward to finally taking those cancelled vacations.

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Coronavirus 2020

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Given how truly awful 2020 has been, it makes sense that people are desperately searching for something to look forward to.

And apparently that something, for a number of Washingtonians, is to GTFO of town next year. With news of vaccinations possibly starting by the end of the year, some are placing bets that life will be safer come mid-2021, and are booking flights and making plans to finally take those cancelled vacations.

Kathy Allen and her husband haven’t really left the house since March. But in recent evenings, as they’ve eaten dinner and watched the news (“I’m a Lester Holt girl,” says the 41-year-old PR consultant), the Northeast DC couple has been buoyed by reports of forthcoming vaccinations. Which is why they’re planning to rent a vacation home and fly to Fort Lauderdale in April.

“Travel just was off our agenda. It wasn’t something we even entertained,” says Allen of the previous months. “And the minute we started hearing serious rumblings about [the vaccine], I think I one day was just sitting around, and I was like, ‘Wow, maybe we really can go somewhere this spring.'”

The duo hasn’t purchased tickets or booked the house yet. But even if they aren’t vaccinated themselves come April, they feel the country as a whole will be safer, says Allen, therefore making it safer to travel again. And, yes, it does help that Joe Biden will be president at that point, says Allen. Would she still be vetoing travel if Donald Trump had been re-elected and was overseeing the rollout of the vaccine? “Absolutely,” she says. “Especially to a state like Florida.”

John McCleskey and his husband are also encouraged by the prospect of the vaccine when it comes to vacation plans. The Takoma couple hasn’t been on a plane all of quarantine, but they’re traveling to Copenhagen in August for WorldPride, after which they’ll spend a few days in Amsterdam before boarding a houseboat for a canal tour.

And even though, McCleskey, a 37-year-old USDA employee, booked all the travel in October to take advantage of the good prices, he feels more assured in their plans now that it seems vaccines are getting closer. Everything but the boat rental is refundable, but now McCleskey doesn’t think problems like border closures will be an issue. “I feel fully confident,” he says. “We are going to be going on this trip, 100 percent. Even my husband now has kind of started to come around on that.” (He’d had some doubts.)

But McCleskey also felt sure that, vaccine or not, international travel would be a thing by summer 2021. “I felt economically that the bans were not going to viable for that long of a period,” he says, adding that he would have felt comfortable just relying on precautions like temperature checks, quarantining, and testing when traveling. The duo also booked first-class tickets to Europe and back, which McCleskey says makes him feel safer than sitting in a three- or four-seat airplane row. 

Finally, after a long, no-good year, he has something to be excited about. “It is something that I look forward to every single day,” McCleskey says of next year’s trip. “The day that I read they were anticipating March to April [for widespread vaccine rollouts], I mean, I think I made a pretty high-pitched squeal.”

Meanwhile, Russell de Leon is using his high-risk status as justification for making 2021 travel plans. The 41-year-old bartender and H Street resident has heart issues, and is thinking he’ll be in the first wave of people to get vaccinated. (“According to the New York Times, I’m getting it before most of my friends,” says de Leon.)

So he’s planning to use flight credits to book a Palm Springs trip in May for a friend’s rescheduled wedding, and then will likely head to New Orleans in June for his birthday.

And even if the wedding ends up getting cancelled (again) or a NOLA trip doesn’t pan out, de Leon still isn’t going to let his Covid protection go to waste: “If it turns out I have the vaccine and things are still sort of shut down [in DC], I’m just going to go to a red state and hang out.” 

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Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Petworth.