International travel with unvaccinated children; Spain drops the vaccine requirement for teens

Feb 12, 2022

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Traveling with children and teens always comes with challenges, but the pandemic has added complexity because of the restrictions that are in place for international travel. With the long holiday weekend for Presidents’ Day coming later this month and spring break around the corner, you may be looking to get away with your family.

While domestic travel is easiest for U.S. travelers as you don’t have to worry about entry requirements, now that many countries are opening their borders and removing restrictions, you may want to take the family further afield.

But where can you go, especially if your children are not vaccinated yet? One choice is Spain, which announced on Friday that starting Feb. 14 it will allow unvaccinated U.S. travelers between the ages of 12-17 to visit the country. They only need to show a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Unvaccinated children under 12 were already able to visit the country with fully vaccinated adults.

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Parents still need to comply with Spain’s COVID-19 regulations that require proof of vaccination for U.S. tourists. Adult visitors must be fully vaccinated with their last dose at least 14 days before travel and not more than 270 days prior to arrival. If the second vaccine shot was administered more than nine months before planned travel, a booster shot is needed at least 14 days before entry.

Travel planners might want to think twice before booking a trip to the country with children who are not vaccinated though, as Spain is currently on the CDCs “Level 4: Very High” risk for COVID-19. But many countries are at that level due to the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. If you decide to travel, here are the CDC guidelines on traveling with children.

Related: Countries reopening after COVID-19

Some Vacation spots that don’t require vaccines for children

Dad and son wearing masks and looking out of an airport window.
(Photo by ArtMarie/Getty Images)

If you are comfortable taking an international trip with your family and your kids are not vaccinated, there are more destinations you can consider. Below is a small sample of other places that do not require young children to be vaccinated, though many do require adults and children over 12 to be vaccinated and most still require a negative COVID-19 test for anyone over 2 before arrival. Some also require testing after you get to your destination as well. Vaccines for children under 5 have not been approved, so there are no vaccine requirements for them.

If you are looking for a European destination other than Spain that allows unvaccinated children, Bulgaria allows unvaccinated children age 12-18 to visit, although they do need to present a negative PCR test to enter.

If North America is on your radar for an upcoming trip with the family, you can visit Canada with children under 12 if they are not vaccinated. They still need to meet testing requirements and submit information electronically through ArriveCan.

Island GetAways that allow unvaccinated children

Long Bay Village, Anguilla. (Photo by Shawn Walters/EyeEm/Getty Images)

If you’re looking to get away from the winter weather to a sunny destination in the Caribbean and your kids are not vaccinated, consider Anguilla, which does not require vaccines for children under 18. They will still need authorization, proof of a negative PCR test taken 48-120 hours before arrival or a negative antigen test no more than 48 hours before landing. They will also have to test again on arrival.

Another warm destination is the Bahamas, where unvaccinated travelers 12 and older need to take a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. Children aged 2-11 can show results of either a negative PCR or a rapid antigen test on arrival.

Bermuda requires all travelers over 18 to be vaccinated, but unvaccinated minors may enter with vaccinated adults who need to provide a negative test taken within three days of departure.

Children under 12 with parents who received their second vaccine dose more than two weeks before travel are allowed to enter St. Kitts and Nevis without additional testing.

Some islands like St. Lucia allow unvaccinated children 5-17 years of age, but they need to be tested before and after they arrive, and they must stay in quarantine until the test result comes back negative.

Other rules to consider

Family traveling with face masks for COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of
Family traveling with face masks for COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Orbon Alija/Getty)

These destinations are just a sampling of those that allow minors in without vaccines, but you should be aware that many places still have restrictions on what you can do once you’re there, so be sure to do more research before deciding to take a trip with the kids.

Many destinations have opened their borders and rules are changing daily so be sure to check the country’s embassy site for up-to-date information before booking.

Related: U.S. rules for international travel

Keep in mind that the CDC recommends vaccinations for all travelers over 5 to most foreign destinations. If you do decide to travel internationally, current regulations require you to take a negative test when returning to the U.S.  To keep up to date on the ever-changing rules for traveling to international destinations, check TPG’s comprehensive guide to COVID-19 regulations by country.

Featured photo of Ibiza, Spain by David Navarro Azurmendi/Getty Images.

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