Every year millions of people travel to America to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Foreign travellers have been allowed to enter America again as of November 8. If you want to travel to the United States for Thanksgiving, you will need to apply for a visa or ESTA. Be prepared for big crowds and apply for your ESTA on time.
As Thanksgiving is a truly a family holiday, American airports and roads are always very busy during this period. Last year, the number of international visitors remained low due to the coronavirus. However, now that the travel restrictions have been lifted, people are booking trips to America on a massive scale. Delta Air Lines have already announced that they expect to carry almost three times as many travellers on Thanksgiving as in 2020. The American Transportation Security Administration expects some 2 million travellers a day at American airports.
The fact that travelling to America is relatively easy for European tourists is another reason for the large number of bookings; in theory, all you need is an ESTA and your flight tickets. Unlike the visa, the ESTA is often granted within a few hours.
Do you need a COVID-19 test and a vaccination certificate?
In America, there is generally no need to do a COVID-19 test nor to show a vaccination certificate for domestic flights. However, foreign visitors who travel to the United States before Thanksgiving must have both certificates in their possession. Only fully vaccinated travellers are welcome in the country. This means that only people who have received two vaccinations or one shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can travel to America. Travellers who have only had one dose of the vaccine and have not yet had their second dose due to a recent coronavirus infection, for example, will not be admitted. Not even with a recovery certificate. There are a limited number of exceptions, for example for children under the age of 18. They do not have to be fully vaccinated.
In addition to showing a proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test result is also required to travel to America. The test must be taken no more than three days before departure. It is compulsory to wear a face mask at all airports in America.
Tips for travelling during Thanksgiving
One of the consequences of COVID-19 is that many airports in the United States do not have enough staff to manage the exploding number of booked flights. This is causing long queues and it will be even more so in the period leading up to Thanksgiving. Keeping the following recommendations in mind will reduce the likelihood of problems.
1: Have a Plan B
Several airlines in America have had to cancel flights this year, leaving travellers stranded at airports. Always check in advance if there are alternative routes to your destination. Sometimes it is not necessary to wait hours or even days for the departure of your original flight. An alternative route may take more flying time, but you will quickly gain that time back if you can leave sooner.
2: Become familiar with TSA regulations
The Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA, is responsible for the security of passengers travelling by air within or into America. This agency was created after the attacks of 11 September 2001. The TSA has strict rules about what you may and may not take with you in your luggage. Many travellers who are travelling to America for Thanksgiving want to bring along some food and/or drinks for the Thanksgiving dinner. There are different rules for hand baggage and checked baggage. For example, you are not allowed to bring liquids such as sauce or wine on board, but cake and other pastries are allowed.
3: Hit the road on time
The American Automobile Association (AAA) expects more than 48 million Americans to be on the road for Thanksgiving. This will lead to long traffic jams. Therefore, it is important to get on the road on time. Research indicates that if you need to be on the road for Thanksgiving, it is best to do it between 9 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and 11 a.m. on the day of Thanksgiving itself.
4: Apply for your ESTA on time
Although an ESTA is granted on average within three days, it is still wise to submit your application on time. It is recommended to apply for your ESTA as soon as you have planned your holiday to America. This is because an ESTA is valid for two years.. Even if your trip cannot take place, you will still be able to travel in the future with the same ESTA (provided that the passport with which the ESTA was applied for is still valid). With an ESTA you may stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days per trip.
If for any reason you need an ESTA at the last minute, you can apply for an urgent application. On average this will be granted within 60 minutes.