Addressing Your Travel Questions and Concerns
After enduring almost a year of confinement, constantly evolving Covid-19 restrictions and with vaccinations on the immediate horizon, it is completely understandable that many Americans are hoping to travel again in the near future. Our responsibility as travel professionals is to evaluate the situation and try to answer the many questions potential travelers may ask, the primary questions being, “is it safe to travel, where can I go and what are the protocols I must follow?”
Here are some answers to the main questions on travelers’ minds that we hope will help you make educated decisions:
Is it safe to travel?
The short and honest answer is NO. However, we just need to add that it is not necessarily safer NOT to travel since no matter where you go safety precautions are being taken. What we do know is that the Covid-19 virus remains a threat, as do new variants that have recently emerged, and that the virus continues to affect areas and communities around the world and in the U.S. in a variety of ways and intensities.
Where is it safest to travel to?
Here, the short and obvious answer is—wherever the data indicates lower numbers of positive test results and deaths. It is important to recognize that local health organizations and processes designed to handle the pandemic play a crucial role in making that determination. From our own personal experience, we have traveled safely within the U.S., as well as to Turks and Caicos, and in all instances felt that the hotels and resorts we visited took the necessary precautions to ensure guest and staff well-being.
When addressing the question of safe places to go to, we need to remember to address the question of how safe is it to get there? How safe is it to fly? Drive? Take a train? Cruise ship?
At present, people remain most comfortable traveling in the safety of their own car and are seeking drivable destinations. However, since the fall, travelers have become increasingly confident about traveling on planes. Airlines and airports continue to take measures to limit contact with travelers, implementing more frequent cleaning and sanitizing procedures, requiring masks as mandated by the federal government on all forms of public transportation, social distancing, requiring travelers to respond to health self-assessments prior to check in, and submitting negative Covid-19 test results in order to fly internationally.
In terms of sailing on cruise ships and river cruises, initially The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a No Sail order in effect for U. S. cruise operations until September 30, which was reevaluated on a regular basis. On October 30, 2020, the CDC issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships operating or seeking to operate in U.S. waters. This order introduced a phased approach for resuming passenger cruises; passenger operations continue to be suspended during the initial phases of this order. At this time, the CDC still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. Cruise lines have been working diligently to establish new onboard protocols for Covid-19 testing and screening, sanitation, medical capabilities, frequent handwashing, hand sanitizer stations, social distancing and revised dining options. If you do choose to cruise, masks are now federally mandated even if you have been vaccinated.
Which destinations are open to visitors? Are travelers permitted to enter? Is proof of Covid-19 testing required? Is quarantine mandated? Are hotels/house rental available? Are restaurants/attractions open?
This varies greatly from one destination to another and changes frequently, as evidenced by the number of states and countries pausing their re-openings and implementing stricter restrictions including proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to traveling, submitting health documentation, pre- and post-travel quarantines, mandated mask wearing, social distancing and hand-sanitizing. Check with each state, country and hospitality provider prior to booking a trip to learn current restrictions, recognizing that they could still change once you have booked.
Effective January 26, 2021, all travelers must submit a negative Covid-19 viral test taken within 72-hours of entry or return to the U.S., even U.S. citizens, or they will not be permitted to board their form of transportation. As a result, many hotels and resorts, particularly in the Caribbean and Mexico, now offer onsite Covid-19 testing, either included in your stay or for an additional cost.
If I cancel my trip due to Covid-19 do I get my money back?
There is no yes or no to this question. Terms and conditions vary from one supplier to another, some are regulated, some are not, and all may vary from one day to the next. Cancellation and refund questions need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Does travel insurance cover my expenses in case of cancellation due to Covid-19?
The short and simple answer is NO. Every policy is different. We always recommend travel insurance but suggest that travelers discuss the details of what is specifically covered directly with an insurance provider prior to purchasing a policy.
Many hotels, resorts, tour and cruise operators have implemented more flexible cancellation and final payment policies to accommodate traveler’s anxieties and the possibility of last-minute changes. A number of international resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are also offering guests who test positive for Covid-19 while staying there the ability to quarantine in a designated area on the resort property for up to 7-10 days at no additional cost. U.S. airlines have largely waived change-penalties and many have extended the validity periods to use ticket vouchers.
If you have more questions, we will try to answer them, recognizing that travel remains in a state of flux and the answers one day could be markedly different the next day. We are all in this together. When you are ready to travel again, we will be here to help.
Karen & Wahid