Hoping to return to France’s sprawling vineyards, sparkling cities, and cobblestoned towns after a year without European travel? Rejoice if you’re vaccinated: French President Emmanuel Macron is “finalizing” plans to allow inoculated Americans to visit this summer as part of a broader tourism reopening, he told CBS on ‘Face the Nation’ this Sunday. Macron also said he has briefed President Biden’s administration on the move, even as France is currently undergoing a third national lockdown that has closed schools and non-essential business, set a 7 p.m. curfew, and prohibited gatherings through the end of April.
“We will progressively lift the restrictions the beginning of May,” Macron said, for both European citizens as well as Americans. “We are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say.”
Americans have been banned from entering the European Union for nonessential reasons since March 2020 due to the United States’ high level of coronavirus cases. France has tallied more confirmed coronavirus infections than any other E.U. nation, at 5.2 million cases and 100,000 deaths. The country has so far administered 17 million initial doses of coronavirus vaccine shots, with 4.5 million people (about seven percent of France) fully vaccinated as of April 19. Those who are two weeks out from their final coronavirus shot are considered fully vaccinated.
But how fast should vaccinated francophiles be searching for that flight? Travelers hoping to travel to France this summer should temper expectations and consider what they want out of their trip, travel specialists say, which will determine if and when you should book. Here’s what experienced travel planners want you to know about going, and what Europe’s road to allowing vaccine passports for entry looks like.
How to decide if you should you book a trip, and when
Ready to hop a plane to Paris as soon as restrictions lift for vaccinated Americans? Travel specialists call the announcement by Macron great news—with a few big caveats.
“The first reaction is ‘yay, it’s great if somebody is opening up,’” says Adamarie King, a travel advisor for travel-xperts.com who has already started receiving requests for France bookings in the 24 hours since Macron’s interview aired. “But then immediately of course we start thinking about the logistics and making sure we have accurate information for our clients and don’t get them in pickle.”
Even if restrictions lift as planned, slow vaccination rates in Europe could mean further case waves and rolling restrictions throughout the summer, and the region is unlikely to get back to business as usual right away. King says travelers who are intent on getting to France can find flight and hotel availability for summer if they act fast, before pent-up demand starts selling out flights, but that those early visitors should take the May opening “with a grain of salt.” The solution: only book flexible flights and lodging in case the trip needs to be pushed back.
Early returners to France should also keep in mind their activities may be limited, says Michaela Moore, a travel specialist with Creative Vacations. “I have lots of interest from vaccinated clients, just kind of waiting for the green light to go,” Moore says. “But of course there is this third lockdown, there’s potential for other restrictions, so it’s also about making sure [you] are going to get the experiences needed to go.”
Moore advises that travelers seeking to spend all their time indoors at cultural institutions like museums, historic sites, and fine-dining restaurants—which will likely operate at lesser capacities or require and limit reservations—may want to push off their trips until 2022 to ensure they will be able to do so. Those who are more interested in sticking to outdoor activities and doing as the locals do, she says, are more likely to enjoy visiting, especially in summer, even if there are restrictions in place.