SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - For the first time in over a year, Pacific Beach resident Ashlyn Lipori-Russie is planning a big trip with friends.
"We'll try to undo some of the burnout that we've accumulated over the past year and a half," she says. "So we're going to go spend a few days at an adults-only resort and try to unwind."
Lipori-Russie and her friends leave for Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on Wednesday. But before booking the trip, she needed answers to a lot of questions.
"Am I going to be able to get in and out of the country, easily, seamlessly? What hoops am I going to have to jump through to do that? And how will the experience be impacted by potential COVID precautions that are still in place," she wondered.
Even though the land border crossing between Mexico and the United States is closed to all but essential travel, Mexico allows people to fly in with no restrictions.
Other countries aren't as lenient. Some require proof of vaccination. Others want a negative COVID-19 test. Some make people quarantine when they arrive.
That's why travel agents say anyone planning an international vacation should proceed with caution.
"This has been challenging," says Laila Matarwe, the owner of Five Star World Travel in Oceanside. "From country to country, it varies. It's crazy."
As of the start of June, about 70 countries allow tourists from the U.S. That includes including some of the most popular destinations in Europe and the Caribbean.
With each country having its own rules and restrictions, Matarwe says you have to do your homework.
To help, the U.S. State Department has a full country-by-country breakdown on its website.
Even with that information, rules and regulations change as infection numbers rise and fall, so Matarwe tells her clients to be flexible and invest in travel insurance.
"If you're going to plan it, make sure that we can cancel or change our arrangements without a lot of penalties," she says.
But just because you can travel doesn't mean you should. The very first sentence on the top of the CDC's page for international travel says, in bold letters, "Do not travel internationally until you are fully vaccinated."
The CDC also sorts countries into four color-coded levels of COVID-19 risk. The vast majority of countries on their map are labeled "Very High" or "High" risk for infection. That includes most of the places allowing American tourists.
In addition to the rules in other countries, the US also has rules for people returning from a trip. Anyone flying into the United States must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within three days before their flight home.
Matarwe says people need to account for all of the extra time and costs of testing as part of their travel plans. Her advice: get a travel agent who can help sort it all out for you.
"Having somebody on your side that really knows and does their research and who can make it a more seamless trip is prudent," she says.
She also tells people to book now, as demand and prices will increase throughout the summer.
But for Lipori-Russie and other people planning to travel this summer, all the extra rules and restrictions will be worth it for a chance to travel again.
"We're just aiming for smooth sailing," she says. "I've done a little bit of research, but we wanted to take the trip, and we're gonna take it, regardless of any hindrances that might pop up."