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How to Use Technology to Prepare for Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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

To make traveling smoother, airlines may require travelers to present a vaccine passport, digital documentation proving that they have been vaccinated. Airlines have been testing mobile health apps including CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass app to ensure travelers can present their health data in a secure, verifiable way.

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

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

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

The rest of your travel tech prep will largely be the same as it was in pre-Covid times. Pack a spare battery pack, 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 come unlocked by default, but you should call your carrier to confirm that your device will work with other wireless carriers.

Buy a foreign SIM card. If you’re traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming fees to your carrier by temporarily using a foreign phone plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or a cellphone store and insert that into your phone; you can also order a SIM card online and have it delivered to your home before you travel. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which are 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 SIMs.)

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