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

Keep up on vaccine passports

Airlines may require travelers to present a vaccine passport, digital documentation proving that they have been vaccinated to make traveling smoother. 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, 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 reliable and easy to use. If different parties require people to download other passport apps, things could get chaotic, and many experiments may fail. Vaccine passports have also set off a fierce political debate over the legality of requiring digital credentials for an ostensibly voluntary vaccine. (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.

Prepare your phone

The rest of your travel tech prep will essentially 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 an unfamiliar phone plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or a cellphone store and insert it into your phone; you can also order a SIM card online and deliver it to your home before traveling. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which are essentially digital SIM cards to add a different 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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