Ready to travel? Be flexible if you want to go to Europe

D.C. area travel agents are expecting a surge in demand this summer if the European Union follows through with plans to welcome American travelers who’ve been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

EU officials said Monday they are completing plans to allow Americans back this summer, depending on the course of the outbreak on both sides of the Atlantic. Travel to the 27-nation bloc has been restricted for more than a year.

“I talk to people all day long and they all can’t wait to go,” said Guido Adelfio, owner of Bethesda Travel Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

But the veteran travel agent said travelers should remain flexible since so much is uncertain at this point.

“We don’t know, necessarily, which flights are coming back on, or which flights are there and then they pull them away … museums that are open, they might close, or the restaurants may be at half capacity,” Adelfio said.

Because the EU has not yet officially changed its COVID-19 restrictions, travel experts anticipate that the typical three- to five-month time period people use to book a trip to Europe could be cut this year to three to five weeks.

“One piece of advice to those thinking about traveling to Europe — it’s more important than ever to talk to a travel agent because they would be very familiar with the various regulations,” said Troy Petenbrink, a D.C.-based travel writer.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the New York Times on Sunday that American tourists fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could resume their visits to Europe this summer. She did not mention a date.

“Many of these countries rely on tourism, they need the money, so it’s not a surprise,” said Petenbrink.

Adelfio said that Europe will be particularly inviting to travelers who don’t like crowds.

“Guess what? Nothing is crowded now, so this is the year to go,” he said.

While the great cities of Europe are common destinations to overseas travelers, there could be new interest in the spacious European countryside.

“Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence — these are all great places to travel. But now, we think, with COVID, people are going to be more prone to going to the countryside,” Adelfio said.

“We’re big fans of Umbria. We love the Bordeaux area in France. Visiting Normandy, that’s a life changing experience. Tuscany, Sicily, parts of Spain, the Greek Islands, Croatia — these are all fantastic places you can visit,” he said.

A major part of the European tourist industry is welcoming Americans.

“They’re going to be so glad to roll out the red carpet. Once things get going again, you just won’t believe the reaction we’re going to get,” said Adelfio.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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