The Biden Administration may start relaxing U.S. COVID-19 travel restrictions with Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and Brazil by the middle of May — giving hope to foreign travelers they might be able to explore Route 66 by summer for the first time in more than a year.
The CNBC report Thursday cited two sources for the story, including one senior official to the president. Reuters reported the same day the U.S. travel ban with Mexico and Canada was extended through April 21.
President Joe Biden earlier this month expressed hope the U.S. would have COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults by May, as well.
That hope is not unreasonable, as Biden’s initial goal to have 100 million doses administered within his first 100 days in office was accomplished 42 days early. The emergence of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has fueled that optimism. The other two vaccines in the U.S. require two shots.
Adminstration aides have tempered those travel-easing hopes with caveats, however:
As for international air travel from Britain, Europe and Brazil, interagency working groups in the Biden administration have agreed to revisit the issue on a weekly basis as new data becomes available. Public health experts have raised concerns about new variants that could spread rapidly in communities that are reopening quickly, while other officials have noted that all international travelers must test negative before boarding. Those two views, according to sources, have offset each other in deliberations.
Preliminary studies indicate the vaccines remain mostly effective even against new variants of the disease. In short, you still might get sick after contracting such a virus, but your chance of developing a serious illness that requires hospitalization is much, much less.
Even in a best-case scenario where the Biden Administration lifts travel restrictions to those countries before summer, travelers might find a new problem — a likely car-rental shortage that also would lead to sky-high prices.
A writer for AutoSlash who works in the industry wrote that many rental corporations trimmed the size of their fleets because of cratering demand during the pandemic. Rental-vehicle shortages will only worsen as demand ramps up during the summer road-trip season.
Perhaps you’re wondering why rental car companies don’t just ramp up capacity to meet the growing demand. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Vehicle pricing is relatively high right now and getting new cars in is extremely challenging. Between auto factories shutting down during the pandemic and the widely reported semiconductor shortage disrupting auto factories worldwide, competition for new vehicles is fierce. Keep in mind that the business model in the car rental industry is to buy cheap, rent the cars, and then sell for a small loss within 12 months.
This year, the cost of your rental car may end up being the most expensive component of your trip – and that’s if you are able to snag one at all. The problem is going to be especially acute for travelers who want or need larger vehicles like minivans, full-size passenger vans and full-size SUVs. These tend to sell out most quickly and may already be gone even when booking weeks ahead of time.
The writer advises travelers to book their vehicles far in advance. Waiting until the last minute may assure a traveler he or she won’t have a vehicle to rent at all.