Tag Archives: coronavirus

Woman holding passport and boarding pass waiting in transit area in the airport, standing by for the next schedule traveling, late delay of the arrival departure, missing checking in

“Cancel For Any Reason” CFAR Travel Insurance: What It Is and How It Works

As a result of Covid, travelers have become more interested in travel insurance than ever. Trip cancellation is a common benefit—but only pays out if you cancel for a covered reason. Additional “Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage allows you to cancel your trip without requiring that you justify your reasoning. It may give you the peace of mind you need to book a trip—but there are caveats. Here are the main points travelers need to know about buying and using CFAR insurance.

Cancel For Any Reason coverage is expensive.

Pre-pandemic, CFAR coverage typically added 40% to your insurance premium—but as both interest in and claims against CFAR policies have increased, in many cases their price has too. We looked at six insurance quotes in August 2023 and found that a CFAR clause increased the premiums on five of those products by 50% to 113%. To put this in dollar figures: Standard travel insurance for trip cancellation/interruption and medical expenses on a $20,000 trip may cost $1,000; adding CFAR could bump that up to $1,500 or more.

Don’t expect to get all your money back.

Specifics vary by policy and based on your state of residence, but most plans reimburse 50% to 75% of your nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs. Some have a maximum amount that you can insure (e.g., $10,000 per person).

You can’t add CFAR at the last minute.

To be eligible for CFAR coverage, you must purchase it soon after you make your first trip payment, usually within 14 to 21 days (and in some cases, within just 24 hours of your deposit).

You can’t cancel at the last minute, either.

You’re out of luck if you find out a day before your trip that you must cancel. In order to be reimbursed via a CFAR clause, you must call off your trip at least 48 hours prior to departure.

Covid has impacted the availability of CFAR coverage.

Before Covid, CFAR policies were unavailable to residents of New York State due to state insurance regulations; back in March 2020, in light of Covid, New York’s governor announced that travel insurance companies could sell CFAR policies in the state. While several providers saw Covid as a reason to discontinue offering CFAR coverage entirely, others—including Travelex Insurance Services—have added optional CFAR upgrades.

Is it right for you?

CFAR is an option that can provide some peace of mind, at a price. Whether it’s enough peace to be worth the cost is a personal choice.

Which insurance company should I choose? 

There are many providers, and in our article How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It, you can learn more about what to look for, what to avoid, and how to choose the right one for your specific needs.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

globe with airplane flying around it and a first aid kit on the plane - concept for travel insurance

What Medical Evacuation Coverage Do You Need?

They are the nightmare scenarios you’d rather not consider, but still want to prepare for: maybe it’s breaking a leg while biking through Tuscany, or having a heart attack on a remote island with no decent hospital. The good news is that with the right evacuation coverage, you can avoid the $200,000 bill for emergency medical transport to the best regional medical facility, or even home to a hospital you trust. Here’s what you need to know about how to get home if disaster strikes—and how to protect yourself from the financial repercussions.

What kind of medical transportation does conventional travel insurance offer?

Some travel insurance policies will pay for transportation to a medical facility, should you become sick or injured—but they will usually only take you to the nearest facility that they deem appropriate. If you’re traveling internationally, that probably means a clinic or hospital in the country you’re visiting, where you’ll be treated until you’re well enough to take a commercial flight home. At a bare minimum, you should make sure that your insurance provides at least $100,000 in coverage for medical evacuation to the nearest adequate medical center.

What if I want to be flown to a hospital near my home for treatment?

If you’ve been hospitalized away from home but you want to be treated near family and friends, you need a second layer of protection. Specialized medical-evacuation programs such as Medjet, Global Rescue, AirMed International, and Global Guardian will transport members to the hospital of their choice once they are medically stable. You can purchase a short-term membership from one of these programs to cover a single trip, or an annual membership for an entire year’s worth of travel. The cost of medical evacuation to a hospital back home can easily reach $150,000 or more, so this benefit is important on both international and domestic trips. A few travel insurance providers, including Travel Guard and Ripcord, include transport to your “hospital of choice” in some of their plans.

What if I get Covid during my trip?

Only a few medical evacuation programs will transport Covid-positive patients. Medjet will transport members who are hospitalized with Covid while traveling globally (subject to the local safety situation—State Department Level 3/4 advisories prompted by extreme violence may preclude evacuations); their individual memberships start at $99 for eight days of coverage. Covac Global will evacuate Covid-positive members who are not hospitalized, but only if it is deemed “medically prudent to avoid hospitalization”; those not evacuated receive a $500 stipend for each day they spend in quarantine. Individual Covac Global memberships that cover medical evacuations, including for Covid, start at $765 for 15 days.

Which medical evacuation program do you recommend?

Wendy personally has a MedjetHorizon membership covering her and her family, partly because it offers crisis protection too: If during a trip you feel that your safety and security may be threatened—because of a political incident, terror attack, or other crisis—Medjet will come to the rescue. As for travel insurance to get you as far as the nearest medical facility that the insurance company deems appropriate, the policy that Wendy purchases for her and her family members always depends on the circumstances of the trip, but she often chooses and recommends Travelex Insurance Services. That’s because its Travel Select policy is the policy she’s received the best feedback about from travelers, when it comes to reliability, generosity, and customer care. Transparency disclosure: Medjet and Travelex are both sponsors of WendyPerrin.com. But that’s because Wendy believes in them and uses them herself. (Travelex Insurance Services is not related in any way to the defunct currency-exchange business Travelex.)

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

World globe ball on the white background

The Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In

Which countries are open and relatively safe?
The Menu below lists the smartest places where U.S. residents can go now and what the entry requirements are. Note that requirements may be different for children; follow each country’s links for more details.

Are you curious what travel looks like now?
Read these reviews from travelers just back from international trips. They got safe, easy trips because they used the right local fixers to design their itineraries and book their arrangements.

Use the black buttons below to contact the best local expert for arranging a safe, smart, WOW trip. Using Wendy’s questionnaire is the only way to get the priority treatment and WOW perks that the travelers in these trip reviews got.

 


Menu

Europe
Mediterranean:  Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Turkey
Northern and Scandinavia: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom
Central:  Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
Eastern: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia

Atlantic Islands
Bahamas, Bermuda

Caribbean Islands

The Americas (North, Central, South)
Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay

Asia
Cambodia, China, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Pacific Region
Australia, Bora Bora and Tahiti (French Polynesia), Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea

Africa: Safaris and Islands
Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, the Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Cradle of Civilization, Ancient Lands, Arabian Peninsula
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Republic of Georgia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Uzbekistan (Silk Road)

 


Countries Open to U.S. Travelers With No Quarantine

Argentina

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ARGENTINA


 

Australia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT AUSTRALIA


 

Austria

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT AUSTRIA


Bahamas

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE BAHAMAS


 

Belgium

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BELGIUM

 


 

Belize

boy jumping in to ocean from a high dock in Belize

Tourism businesses need to earn a Gold Standard Certificate to operate in Belize. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BELIZE

 


 

Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda.

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BERMUDA

 


 

Bhutan

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BHUTAN

 


Bolivia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOLIVIA

 


 

Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT TAHITI + FRENCH POLYNESIA

 


 

Bosnia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOSNIA

 


 

Botswana

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOTSWANA

 


 

Brazil

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BRAZIL

 


 

Bulgaria

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BULGARIA

 


 

Cambodia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CAMBODIA

 


 

Canada

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT CANADA

 


 

Caribbean islands

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean

Caribbean islands are opening with various rules and restrictions. Photo: Shutterstock

Entry requirements:

  • Vary by island. See Caribbean Tourism Organization for details

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN

 


 

Chile

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CHILE

 


 

China

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CHINA

 


 

colorfully painted walls on a block of Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia, is colorful, almost like New Orleans. Photo: Shutterstock

Colombia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT COLOMBIA

 


 

Cook Islands

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE COOK ISLANDS

 


 

Costa Rica

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT COSTA RICA

 


 

Croatia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CROATIA

 


 

Czech Republic

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE CZECH REPUBLIC

 


 

Denmark

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT DENMARK

 


 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)

Dubai Burj Khalifa view from hotel balcony

Photo: Timothy Baker

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT DUBAI

 


 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

 


 

Egypt

 

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT EGYPT

 


 

Estonia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ESTONIA

 


 

Fiji

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FIJI

 


 

Finland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FINLAND

 


 

France

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FRANCE

 


 

Georgia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT GEORGIA

 


Germany

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT GERMANY

 


Greece

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT GREECE

 


 

Hungary

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT HUNGARY

 


 

Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Iceland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT ICELAND

 


 

India

Entry requirements: 

  • Random testing on arrival

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT INDIA

 


 

Indonesia 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT INDONESIA

 


 

Ireland

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT IRELAND

 


 

Israel

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT ISRAEL

 


 

Italy

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ITALY

 


 

Japan

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JAPAN

 


 

Jordan

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JORDAN

 


 

Kenya

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT KENYA

 


 

Laos

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LAOS

 


Latvia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LATVIA

 


 

Lithuania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LITHUANIA

 


 

Luxembourg

Entry Requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LUXEMBOURG

 


 

Madagascar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MADAGASCAR

 


 

Malaysia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT MALAYSIA

 


The Maldives

private villa in the Maldives on a spit of land surrounded by turquoise water

Photo: Soneva Fushi

Entry Requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE MALDIVES

 


 

Malta

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MALTA

 


 

Mauritius

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MAURITIUS

 


 

Mexico

Tulum Riviera Maya, Mexico

Photo: Journey Mexico.

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MEXICO

 


 

Monaco

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MONACO

 


 

Mongolia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

Montenegro

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MONTENEGRO


 

Fez Morocco ceramic studio Art d'Argile

The ceramic studio Art d’Argile in Fez Morocco. Photo: Tim Baker

Morocco

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOROCCO

 


 

Mozambique

Entry requirements:

  • Full vaccination, or PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOZAMBIQUE

 


 

Namibia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

Ask us about Namibia

 


 

Nepal

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NEPAL

 


 

The Netherlands

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS

 



New Zealand

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT NEW ZEALAND

 


Norway

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NORWAY

 


 

Oman

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT OMAN

 


 

Panama

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT PANAMA

 


 

Papua New Guinea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 


 

Peru

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PERU

 


 

Poland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT POLAND

 


 

Portugal

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PORTUGAL

 


 

Qatar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT QATAR

 


 

Romania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ROMANIA

 


 

Rwanda

gorilla standing in the jungle in Rwanda

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT RWANDA

 


 

Saudi Arabia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SAUDI ARABIA

 


 

Serbia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SERBIA

 


 

The Seychelles

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE SEYCHELLES

 


 

Singapore

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SINGAPORE

 


 

Slovakia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVAKIA

 


 

Slovenia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVENIA

 


 

South Africa

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA

 


 

South Korea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SOUTH KOREA

 


 

Spain

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SPAIN

 


 

Sri Lanka

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SRI LANKA

 


 

 

Sweden

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SWEDEN

 


 

 

Switzerland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SWITZERLAND

 


 

Taiwan

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT TAIWAN

 


 

Tanzania

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT TANZANIA

 


 

Thailand

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THAILAND

 


 

Turkey

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT TURKEY

 


 

Uganda

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT UGANDA

 


 

United Kingdom

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE UNITED KINGDOM

 


 

Uruguay

Entry requirements:

  • Medical insurance covering Covid-related expenses

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT URUGUAY

 


 

Uzbekistan

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT UZBEKISTAN

 


 

Vietnam

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT VIETNAM

 


 

Zambia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ZAMBIA

 


 

Zimbabwe

Entry requirements:

  • Full vaccination or PCR test done within 48 hours of departure

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ZIMBABWE

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Aerial view at famous european travel destination in Croatia, Dubrovnik old town.

Where You Can Travel If You’re Vaccinated—No Testing Required

Below are the countries you can enter without taking a Covid test prior to or on arrival, as long as you’re fully vaccinated. (Update: As of June 12, 2022, the U.S. no longer requires air travelers to show a negative test to enter the country.)

A growing number of countries have lifted all Covid requirements and don’t require either proof of vaccination or a negative test; you can find those here.

Additional countries welcome vaccinated travelers with a negative test or other requirements. You can find the full list of where you can travel here.

Mozambique

Zimbabwe


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

A lit Christmas tree at night in front of Santa Maria del Fiore Florence Italy

Where to Go for the 2022-23 Holidays

Time is running out to book a trip over the December/January holidays. We’ve tapped the experts on Wendy’s WOW List—the well informed, on-the-ground trip planners who’ve been wowing our readers throughout the pandemic—to find destinations that are still able to be booked for Christmas or New Year’s vacations. These are places where they can still find you charming hotel rooms and savvy private guides and can put together a high-caliber trip.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Italy

A lit Christmas tree at night in front of Santa Maria del Fiore Florence Italy

Florence lights up for the holidays. Photo: Shutterstock

Italy was incredibly crowded and pricey this summer. For a true taste of the country, the answer is to go in winter, when the weather is mild and the cities and countryside have a more local flavor. Ride a Vespa around Rome; learn how to row a gondola in Venice; gather with your family at a private villa on Sicily or Lake Como; take in an opera at La Scala in Milan; or stroll holiday markets in the Dolomites.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN ITALY

France

The Champs-Élysées at Christmas time, Paris, France

The Champs-Élysées at Christmas time, Paris. Photo: Paris Perfect

If you got shut out of France this summer, now is your chance to book a December trip. The light in Provence in winter is why so many famous artists moved there, and this month is prime time for the region’s acclaimed truffles. Of course, Paris is fabulous for Christmas and New Year’s—the City of Lights gets even more dressed up for the holidays. France’s best Christmas markets are in Strasbourg and run until December 24. If your trip dates include December 25 or 31, don’t worry that everything will be closed: The right expert can arrange a private cooking class on Christmas, or concert tickets on New Year’s Eve.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN FRANCE

Costa Rica

beach, coastline lined with green jungle at Costa Rica Carrillo and Samara Beaches in Costa Rica

Carrillo and Samara Beaches, Costa Rica.

From beach to cloud forest to volcanoes, Costa Rica packs a lot of highlights in a small country. The skies are generally dry in December, but the land is lush and green from the recent rainy season. If you’re having trouble finding hotel rooms for your family over the holidays, our experts can help: They’ve blocked rooms at their favorite properties expressly for you last-minute planners.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN COSTA RICA

Belize

Tiny island with coconut trees and boat in Belize

Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive as Wendy’s son did, fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters. Accommodations range from beach resorts to overwater bungalows to remote jungle tree houses. If you’re traveling the week leading up to Christmas, you can even charter your own private yacht to enjoy fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and endless horizons.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN BELIZE

Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise Canada in winter

Lake Louise. Photo: Billie Cohen

The Rockies are absolutely gorgeous when covered with snow, making it a winter wonderland that is perfect for the active family…think snowshoeing, sleigh rides, and ice canyons. You can go dogsledding near Lake Louise, cross-country skiing near Jasper, and snowmobiling outside Banff. Wind down your day in a cozy private cabin or a cushy resort with spa treatments to ease any sore spots from your snowy adventures.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

London

London skyline with Nelson's Column and Big Ben at dusk

London skyline. Photo: Julian Love/London and Partners – Visit London

Enjoy a Dickensian Christmas in London, which puts on a display of spectacular lights and holiday markets. A knowledgeable local guide can make the city’s stories come alive, whether via an after-hours tour of the Tower of London, an exploration of the city’s street-art scene, or a pub crawl to the best local watering holes.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN LONDON

A castle in the English countryside

Broughton Hall Christmas

Broughton Hall, in the Yorkshire Dales, at Christmastime.

Looking for a place to gather with extended family? Consider a stately home—even your very own castle—that suits a group of 16 or more in England. These houses are tastefully decorated throughout, tree and all, and come fully staffed, so you need not worry about cooking or cleaning over the holidays. Nearby you’ll often find Christmas markets to stroll, but you can just as easily stay on property and enjoy plenty of activities that bring your family together and put you in the Christmas spirit: wreath-making workshops, cocktail masterclasses, even a brass band recital.

ASK ABOUT A MANOR HOME IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE

Panama

pier and overwater bungalows in Bocas del Toro Panama

Bocas del Toro on Panama’s Caribbean Coast. Photo: Costa Travel

Under-the-radar Panama has hotels and private villas on both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines—which deserve to be better known for their diverse marine life and prime surfing spots—not to mention verdant highland landscapes, VIP Panama Canal tours for would-be engineers, and coffee and chocolate fincas that will welcome you for tours and tastes.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN PANAMA

Colombia

A view from the beginning of the hike towards Cocora Valley which is famous for its tall wax palm trees in Colombia

Cocora Valley, Colombia.

Colombia’s charms range from Bogota, sitting 8,000 feet up in the Andes, to Cartagena, with its charming walled Old City on the Caribbean coast. In between you’ll find boutique haciendas in the coffee regions, cable cars to scale the mountains around Medellin, and a rich diversity of wildlife. The interior cities are quieter over the holidays—a plus when it comes to exploring museums and navigating traffic—while places along the coast often demand multi-night stays. Not all of Cartagena’s beaches are alike; work with an expert to find the right strand for you.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN COLOMBIA

Norway

Northern lights in Norway.

Enjoy a cozy holiday with your family in Norway: Ride a sled pulled by reindeer in search of the northern lights, go snowmobiling above the Arctic Circle, learn about the indigenous Sami culture, enjoy locally sourced meals inside your timber lodge or ice hotel, and warm up between outdoor pursuits in a wood-fired sauna.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN NORWAY

The Maldives

Beautiful beach landscape with overwater bungalows Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives

Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives. Photo: Shutterstock

What better tropical getaway than jetting off to these idyllic islands in the Indian Ocean? Most are home to just a single resort, where you can spend your days snorkeling with manta rays, digging your toes into the sand at beachside restaurants, and relaxing in your private overwater bungalow. Pure bliss.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE MALDIVES

The Alps

Ski Resort of Corvara at Night, Alta Badia, Dolomites Alps, Italy

Corvara ski resort, Alta Badia, Dolomites Alps, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Wintertime Alpine fun comes in many flavors, from rustic huts on the Italian slopes to chic French ski towns to Zermatt’s après-ski scene. Whether you’re after a private guide to take you off-piste skiing, a hut-to-hut adventure, or a more civilized locale with options for non-skiiers, we can probably connect you with the right expert. Deciding between the Alps or a ski trip out west? You’ll pay more for the flights to Europe, but lift tickets there are considerably more affordable.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE ALPS

Mexico

Gorgeous view of Teotihuacan, The Sun´s Pyramid surrounded by hot air balloons, shot take at the dawn.

Mexico City is vibrant with arts, restaurants, and parks—and the historic Teotihuacan pyramid is nearby too. Photo: Shutterstock

Our southern neighbor is a perennial favorite for the winter holidays, but several corners of the country still have good availability in December. Head to the Riviera Nayarit, north of Puerto Vallarta, or to Los Cabos for gorgeous beaches and great dining options. For an urban experience without the crowds (because the locals are all at the beach), try Mexico City, where the springlike weather brings warm days and cool evenings. Southeast of the capital is Puebla, known for its colonial history, colorful architecture, and culinary and art scenes. And on the Yucatán Peninsula there’s Mérida, a hotspot during both the Mayan and colonial eras, today rich in history and culture.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN MEXICO

Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador. Photo: Hacienda Zuleta

Options are dwindling in the Galapagos for the holiday weeks, but availability is easier to come by at Galapagos hotels than for boat-based journeys. In mainland Ecuador, where December temperatures are in the 70s, it’s easy to combine Quito’s Old Town with a historic hacienda in the nearby Andean highlands, where you can explore craft villages, hike in ecological reserves, and horseback ride among quilt-like pastures.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE GALAPAGOS AND ECUADOR

 

Peru

machu picchu ruins

The ruins at Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo: Aracari

Imagine spending the holidays at Machu Picchu, or riding the rails in luxury on the Andean Explorer train line from Cusco to Lake Titicaca to Arequipa. There can be afternoon showers in Peru at this time of year, but smart planning can focus your outdoor activities on the mornings—you can even hike the last few miles of the Inca Trail and arrive at Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, which has a spectacular, panoramic view of the ruins.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN PERU

Safari in Botswana or Zimbabwe

Rhino-spotting on safari in Botswana. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

South Africa and Kenya may be booked up, but there’s still availability in Botswana and Zimbabwe, where December falls during the green season. In return for the possibility of an afternoon or evening rain shower you get lush vegetation (which makes for great photos), more prolific predators (because the grazing species are having their babies), and significantly lower rates at many camps and lodges.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY SAFARI

Antarctica Cruises

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

If seeing wildlife is your goal, the latter half of December is the very best time to cruise to Antarctica. By then, thousands of penguins, including their fluffy chicks, have made their home along the coastline, the sea ice has usually broken up enough to allow great access, and the weather is generally better than earlier or later in the season.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY ANTARCTICA CRUISE

Southeast Asia

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand hotel pool

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand.

2023 is Southeast Asia’s moment: Nonstop flights are coming back, and the crowds that descended on Europe this summer haven’t yet arrived. With so many great new hotels opening in Bangkok, it won’t be hard to find room over the holidays; there are still rooms aplenty in Hanoi and Saigon too. Flight options into Cambodia are more limited, but the reward is wide hotel availability in Siem Reap, and far fewer tourists at Angkor Wat than you’d have seen there in December 2019.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Bora Bora and Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Hiva Oa Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The Aranui 5.

Many resorts are booked up for the period between Christmas and New Year’s, but you can still snag an idyllic overwater bungalow for the week leading up to Christmas. You can also still book a cabin on the Aranui 5, a supply boat that doubles as a passenger ship and sails 12-day itineraries through the remote Marquesas archipelago.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN FRENCH POLYNESIA

Europe’s Christmas Markets

Christmas tree and projected snowflake lights on a building at the Warsaw Christmas market in Warsaw Poland

Warsaw’s Christmas market. Photo: Polish Tourist Board

Many of Europe’s charming Christmas markets close on December 24, but a growing number are staying open past the holiday. That’s true at many markets in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Belgium; in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Light Festival runs all the way until January 22. A savvy specialist will work your itinerary to hit the markets that still have a truly local feel.

ASK ABOUT A CHRISTMAS MARKETS TRIP

Sri Lanka

sigiriya rock Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka. Photo: Pixabay

Last year’s political unrest is over, but Sri Lanka has yet to see tourism bounce back. That’s great news for intrepid travelers: Many hotels aren’t charging peak rates, and the dollar is very strong against the rupee. Combine the country’s cultural landmarks with a scenic train ride through tea plantations in the hill country, then overnight in a tented “cocoon” near a national park that abuts the ocean and offers frequent leopard sightings.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN SRI LANKA

 



Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel

Many of us would like to ensure we’re coronavirus-free before we travel. Pre-trip Covid tests are required by some foreign countries, with the test administered anywhere from 24 hours to a few days before your arrival.

Thankfully, it’s become much easier to get quick Covid test results, whether you are seeking a mail-in option that eliminates having to visit a public-health clinic or testing site, or you require an in-person or video-proctored test on a short timeline.

Below are several of your best options for a test with the last-minute results you need for some destinations: We’ve listed in-person options for PCR tests in select U.S. cities, mail-in PCR test kits that you can do from home (note that some places will not accept results from mail-in tests), and proctored, self-administered antigen tests that you can take in a foreign country. If you’re looking for a PCR test in a location not listed below, do a search for quick Covid test—not “rapid,” as that is the term commonly used for antigen tests—and your desired location. In my reporting, I’ve found that urgent-care centers are a good bet for quick Covid tests.

Jump to: In-Person Tests

Jump to: Mail-In Tests

Jump to: Tests That Can Be Self-Administered Abroad

In-Person Tests

Nationwide

  • ARCpoint Labs offers tests at dozens of labs across the country. The cost is $150 for same-day results.
  • Curative conducts saliva-based tests at pop-up sites across the country. There is no out-of-pocket cost, and results are usually available (but not guaranteed) in 1-2 days.
  • DM Covid-19 Test will send a clinician to your home almost anywhere in the Lower 48 states to conduct a curbside test, with 3-4 days’ advance notice. Results are available the same day in Orlando, Philadelphia, northern Virginia, central Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York for $349, or the next day at any location that they cover for $299.
  • CVS has drive-through testing—as well as walk-up testing in some locations—and reports that the average turnaround time is 1-2 days. Tests are free for those who meet certain criteria related to symptoms and exposure, and $139 otherwise. (Note: Pharmacies’ turnaround times are not as reliable as testing centers that guarantee results in time for travel.)
  • Walgreens offers drive-through tests at select locations; turnaround time varies by location and by the lab used to obtain results. There is no cost for most individuals. (Note: Pharmacies’ turnaround times are not as reliable as testing centers that guarantee results in time for travel.)
  • Passport Health is offering tests at some of their clinics at a cost of $200, with results in 72 hours.

Arizona

  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Phoenix; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Saguaro Bloom sells test kits with a self-administered swab at their Scottsdale location; the cost is $149 for results in 24 hours, or $279 for same-day results.

California

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in Los Angeles, San Diego, or Orange County to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Cosmos Health Solutions offers tests in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Tustin. Tests are free with insurance, with results in 24-48 hours; you can pay $75 for results in less than 24 hours, or $150 for results in 1 hour.
  • Good Life Medical Services has drive-through testing in Los Angeles that is free if you have insurance, or they will send a clinician to your home for $250. Results are returned in 48-72 hours; 24- to 48-hour turnaround is available for an additional $250-$350.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, and Los Angeles; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Reliant Urgent Care conducts tests at locations across Los Angeles county; the cost is $175 for same-day results.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Van Nuys and Sacramento, using saliva samples. The cost is $164-$215 for results by midnight 2 days after your test; in Van Nuys, you can pay an additional $24.75 for results by midnight the next day.
  • US Specialty Labs does drive-through testing with documentation for travel in San Diego for $135, with results in under 24 hours.
  • McCampbell Analytical offers self-collected test kits, which you pick up and drop off at their lab about an hour outside San Francisco in Pittsburg. Options range from results the next day for $99, to results in 3 hours for $699.
  • IGeneX offers testing in Milpitas, next door to San Jose; their staff will assist as you collect your own sample using a nasal swab. It is $250 for results in 24 hours, and $400 for same-day results.
  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva tests in San Jose, with results in 24-48 hours for $189, or guaranteed the next day for $439.
  • CityHealth conducts tests in Sacramento and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, with costs billed to your insurance and results in 48 hours; you can pay $120 for results in 24 hours.
  • Med2u Inc. does home/office visits in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The cost is $200, plus a travel fee of $100 or more; results are available late the next day.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Los Angeles area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.

Colorado

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Denver area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.

Delaware

  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Middletown; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Florida

  • Get Result Today performs tests at several locations throughout Florida. The cost is $139 for results within 24 hours, or $249 for results in 30-60 minutes. At-home testing is available in some locations for an additional fee.
  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Miami area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Covid Testing LLC does testing at several locations in Orlando and Central Florida. Testing is free with insurance, plus a $35 charge for next-day results or $75 for same-day results.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Atlantis; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • LAB Doctor offers tests in Ft. Lauderdale for $179, with results the next day.
  • BayCare is conducting tests at the Tampa airport for $150, with results typically returned in 48 hours.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Tampa, using saliva samples. The cost is $164 for results by midnight 2 days after your test; you can pay an additional $24.75 for results by midnight the next business day.
  • Med2u Inc. conducts tests at their Hollywood office, and will do home or office visits in the surrounding region. The cost is $200, plus a travel fee of $100 or more; results are available by late evening of the next business day.
  • Physician Partners of America will come to clients in the Tampa and Orlando areas to conduct a test for $300, with results in 24 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Miami area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Daytona Beach; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

Georgia

  • Viral Solutions offers drive-up testing in several locations around Atlanta at no cost. Results are typically available in 2 days.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Atlanta; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva and throat-swab tests in Atlanta, with results in 24-48 hours for $169, or guaranteed by 2:00 a.m. for $209. They will also come to your home or office for an additional $249.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Atlanta; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

Hawaii

  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva and throat-swab tests in Honolulu, with results in 24-48 hours for $199.

Illinois

  • Prime Care Physicians offers drive-up tests at their clinic in Schaumburg with results in 15-48 hours; they accept some insurance or charge $125 out of pocket. They also do in-home or in-office tests for an additional $100-$150 fee.

Maryland

  • Brookville Pharmacy conducts tests in Chevy Chase; the cost is $200 for results in 48 hours, or $250 for results in 24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests at their Columbia office; it’s $219 for same-day results, or $299 for results in one hour.

Massachusetts

  • Tufts Medical Center conducts tests in Boston, with results in 48-72 hours. If your insurance does not cover the test, the cost is $135.
  • Veritas offers tests at locations in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Ipswich, Andover, Beverly, and Newton Center. The cost is $120; results are available the same day if your sample is collected before noon, or the next day for afternoon tests.

Nevada

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Las Vegas area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Las Vegas; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, or $150 for results in 12 hours.
  • Phamatech, Inc. conducts shallow-nasal-swab tests in Las Vegas. The cost is $120 for results in 24-48 hours.

New Jersey

  • LabQ offers walk-up testing at various locations in New Jersey. The testing is free, with results in 24 hours.
  • Urgent Medical Care & MRI in Jersey City conducts tests with a 30-minute turnaround at a cost of $250.

New York

  • Get Result Today performs tests in Manhattan, Glen Cove, and Merrick. The cost is $139 for results within 24 hours, or $249 for results in 30-60 minutes. At-home testing is available for an additional fee.
  • LabQ offers walk-up testing at various locations in New York City. The testing is free, with results in 24 hours.
  • Bloom Labs sells test kits with a self-administered swab at their Manhattan location; the cost is $299 for results in 3-4 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests near JFK airport; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • CareCube offers tests at their locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The cost is $100-$150 with insurance, or $225 without, with results in 4-6 hours.
  • The Medical Offices of Manhattan performs tests at their three locations in Manhattan, with results in 1 hour. The office visit costs $199 (your insurance may cover this), and the test costs $225.
  • Venistat will send a clinician to your home anywhere in New York’s five boroughs or on Long Island. The cost is $115 with insurance, or $185 without. Results are guaranteed in 24 hours; the average turnaround time is 14 hours.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Manhattan, using saliva samples. The cost is $184 for results by midnight 2 days after your test, or $208.75 for results by midnight the next business day.
  • The New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine offers tests with same-day results in Manhattan; the test costs $395, an official certificate for travel an additional $35.
  • Urgent Care of New York performs drive-up tests at its four locations in Westchester and Rockland counties for $75 (they accept most insurance for the $120 cost of the visit), with results in about 20 minutes.
  • Med2u Inc. does home/office visits in New York City. The cost is $200, plus a $100-$200 travel fee; results are available in 24 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the New York area (including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.

North Carolina

  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Wilmington; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Oregon

  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Portland; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • AFC Urgent Care Center offers tests at their 5 locations in the Portland area. The cost is $139 for results in 24-72 hours, or $199 for results in 15-60 minutes.

Pennsylvania

  • AFC Urgent Care Center conducts tests in South Philadelphia. They bill insurance for a standard test with results typically returned in 1-3 days; same-day results are available for $150.
  • Frontage Lab does testing at its Exton facility. The cost is $200 for same-day results.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Philadelphia and East Falls; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

South Carolina

  • Phlebo on the Go offers mobile testing in Hilton Head and the surrounding area; the cost is $165 for results in 24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Fort Mill; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Tennessee

  • At their two locations in Nashville, Complete Health Partners offers a package that includes a medical exam and a Covid test for $250, with results in 30-45 minutes.

Texas

  • APC Health offers drive-through tests in Pearland. The cost is $60 for results in 24 hours.
  • DevLab bio conducts tests at their lab near Dallas-Fort Worth. The cost is $115 for next-day results, $215 for same-day results, or $290 for results in 30-45 minutes.
  • BioExcel Diagnostics performs saliva tests at their lab in Houston. The cost is $60 for results within 48 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Houston area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.
  • iGenomeDx conducts drive-up tests at its San Antonio lab for $125. Results are available by 6 p.m. for tests done before 10:30 a.m.; otherwise, results are available in 24-48 hours.
  • ADL Health conducts drive-through tests at its San Antonio testing center; the cost is $169 for results in 24-48 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Austin; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.

Virginia

Washington

  • The City of Seattle offers free tests with results in 48-72 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Seattle; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Discovery Health MD conducts test at the Seattle Airport and at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton nearby. The cost is $176 for next-day results or $349 for results in 1 hour.

Washington, D.C.

Mail-In Tests for the U.S.

ADL Health

  • The price: $119 for travelers flying on United; $169 for all others
  • The promise: Results are typically available 24-48 hours after the lab begins processing your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online; when you’re ready to conduct your home test, return to ADL’s website to activate your kit. Collect your sample via a shallow nasal swab, then send it to the lab using the enclosed, prepaid UPS Next Day Air shipping label.
  • Get more info on ADL Health.

APC Health

  • The price: $100
  • The promise: Results are available within 24 hours of your sample arriving at their lab.
  • The process: When you request a kit from APC, you can choose to collect your saliva sample independently, or during a video call. (Some countries require that you be supervised while taking the Covid test necessary for entry.) Return your specimen via the prepaid UPS materials. Results include a QR code.
  • Get more info on APC Health.

Azova

  • The price: $114.99
  • The promise: Results are expected 12-36 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Choose from a nasal-swab or saliva test kit. Once you receive your kit, you can schedule a video observation to collect your sample. Return it via the prepaid next-day air shipping materials.
  • Get more info on Azova.

Carbon Health

  • The price: $145
  • The promise: Results are expected within 72 hours of shipping your sample to the lab.
  • The process: Order online and your testing kit will be shipped to you via FedEx overnight delivery. Collect your saliva sample and return it in the overnight packaging provided.
  • Get more info on Carbon Health.

The COVID Consultants

  • The price: $199 (+$25 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are guaranteed within 24 hours of your sample arriving at the lab.
  • The process: Fill out their form and The COVID Consultants will immediately send you a kit (you can choose between a sputum test or nasal swab) and an invoice. Collect your sample and send it to their lab via the included packaging for overnight shipping.
  • Get more info on The COVID Consultants.

empowerDX

  • The price: free with insurance, or $99
  • The promise: Results are normally available with 24-48 hours of the lab receiving your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online and you will receive it within 2 business days. Collect your sample with the shallow nasal swab, then return it via the enclosed FedEx next-day packaging.
  • Get more info on empowerDX.

Everlywell

  • The price: $109
  • The promise: Results are reported within 24-48 hours of the lab receiving your sample. The stated time of your sample collection may default to midnight. You must be 18 or older to use the test.
  • The process: Order a kit online and it will arrive within 2-8 business days, depending on the shipping method you choose. Once the kit arrives, insert a swab about one inch into each nostril, then return your sample to the lab via the prepaid UPS next-day service label.
  • Get more info on Everlywell.

ImmunitiRx

  • The price: $225, with a 10% discount on orders of 4 or more kits (+$15 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are reported 24-36 hours after their lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online and ImmunitiRx will send it out via FedEx two-day shipping. Spit three to four times into the supplied cup, then deliver it to a FedEx DropBox for overnight shipping to the lab (box and shipping label provided).
  • Get more info on ImmunitiRx.

LetsGetChecked

  • The price: $109
  • The promise: Results are usually available 24-72 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order a test online, then activate the kit via the company’s website when you’re ready to use it: Collect your sample with a shallow nasal swab, then mail it to the lab via the enclosed express UPS shipping label.
  • Get more info on LetsGetChecked.

Med2u Inc.

  • The price: $200, plus $39 shipping fee per order (+$10 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are available 12-14 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order either a nasal-swab or sputum testing kit and collect your sample. Return it to the lab via the prepaid overnight shipping label.
  • Get more info on Med2u Inc.

Quest Diagnostics

  • The price: $135
  • The promise: Results are typically available 1 to 3 days after your sample arrives at the lab. You must be 18 or older to use this test.
  • The process: Quest’s kit includes materials to collect an upper respiratory nasal sample and a prepaid overnight Fedex shipping label. (Quest also offers drive-through testing at a number of Walmart locations across the country for $125.)
  • Get more info on QuestDiagnostics.

Reliant Health Services

  • The price: $129
  • The promise: Results are usually available 24-48 hours after your sample arrives at the lab.
  • The process: The kit includes materials to collect a saliva sample and a box to return it to the lab via prepaid Fedex overnight shipping. When you’re ready to take the test, register it online, indicating that you are using it for travel. If your destination requires video observation, you will be connected to a practitioner for a telehealth visit.
  • Get more info on Reliant Health Services.

VaultHealth

  • The price: $90
  • The promise: Results are returned 24-48 hours after your sample arrives at their lab. The provided documentation lists the date of the sample collection, but not the time.
  • The process: Receive your testing kit in the mail (or via Doordash delivery in select cities), then do a Zoom video call with a test supervisor, who will guide you through the process of saliva collection. The kit includes prepaid materials for overnight shipping.
  • Get more info on VaultHealth.

Tests That Can Be Self-Administered Abroad

Note: These kits are antigen tests, which many countries now also accept for entry (typically within a shorter window prior to arrival than PCR tests). Internet access suitable for a video call is essential. 

Abbott BinaxNOW + eMed 

  • The price: $150 for a pack of 6 tests via eMed; $70 for a pack of 2 via Optum
  • The promise: eMed sells Abbott’s BinaxNOW test kits that you can self-administer anywhere you have broadband internet access and a device with a camera. Results are determined in 15 minutes during your guided testing session.
  • The process: Order the kits online and you can self-administer them via a video visit with an eMed Certified Guide. The test involves a shallow nasal swab. You must download the NAVICA app before departing the U.S. and bring two tests per person.
  • Get more info on eMed.

Ellume + Azova

  • The price: $26-$45 for test kit, $15 for video observation visit
  • The promise: Ellume’s test kit meets the testing requirement to enter the U.S. only when conducted under video observation, which Azova provides. Results are sent via SMS and email within 24 hours.
  • The process: Purchase an Ellume kit online or in a pharmacy, then go to Azova’s website to schedule a video visit during which you will take the test. Video observations are available 24/7, but it is recommended that you schedule your session as soon as you have booked your flight back to the U.S.
  • Get more info on Ellume.
  • Get more info on Azova.

Lucira + Azova

  • The price: $89 for test kit and video observation
  • The promise: Results in 30 minutes.
  • The process: Order a kit online, then schedule your video observation. Results are available via QR code and pdf.
  • Get more info on Lucira + Azova.

On/Go + Azova

  • The price: $55 for test kit and video observation
  • The promise: Results in 15 minutes.
  • The process: Order a kit online, which includes two tests. Take the first test 24-48 hours prior to your scheduled video observation, during which you will be instructed to take the second test. Results are available via QR code and pdf.
  • Get more info on On/Go + Azova.

Qured

  • The price: $45
  • The promise: Take a kit during a telehealth visit and receive results in 2 hours.
  • The process: Order a kit online, schedule your video consultation, and at the appointed time one of Qured’s health advisors will walk you through the testing process. The kit includes a second test, which users are advised to take 24-36 hours later to confirm the result.
  • Get more info on Qured.

Reliant Health Services

  • The price: $69; discounts for boxes of 2, 6, and 10 tests
  • The promise: Results are typically available within 15 minutes of your telehealth session .
  • The process: Order a kit online. When you’re ready to take the test, register your kit on the website during operating hours (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Sunday); you will be sent a link to access a video-observation session.
  • Get more info on Reliant Health Services.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

aerial view of yacht in the blue ocean with text over it for WendyPerrin.com WOW Week of travel talks

Live Answers to Your Travel Questions: Join Us on Zoom for WOW Week 2022 May 2–6 at 6pm EDT

 

UPDATE: WOW Week is now over. Thank you all for joining us! We have posted the Zoom recordings below, in case you missed any talks or want to share them with your friends. Stay up to date by signing up for our newsletter


 

More than two years of pent-up travel demand has suddenly been unleashed, and the result is that May and June are nearly sold out in some parts of the world. Prices are soaring, the global travel landscape is still changing weekly because of Covid, war, and other current events—and travelers who want a safe trip of the highest caliber need new strategies and tools to navigate the when, where, and how.

That’s why we’re gathering plugged-in experts for WOW Week 2022, our annual virtual get-together, which, this year, will focus on intel to help you ace 2022 and winter 2023 specifically.

At 6:00 p.m. EDT each evening, May 2–6, we’ll host a live Zoom happy hour with insiders from different parts of the travel world—including airline, insurance, and on-the-ground destination experts—who will share what you need to know, and answer your burning questions, on the timely topics below. These chats are open to all—and they are free, thanks to a generous sponsorship from Medjet, the global medical transport, travel security, and crisis response company—so tell your friends!

Registration is open now by clicking the link for each Q&A that interests you.

We can’t wait to see you there!

—Wendy and the team

 


 

Unique Travel Opportunities For 2022 And Beyond

Monday May 2 at 6pm EDT

The shift in the pandemic and other current global circumstances have led to a unique travel landscape this year, from which unusual opportunities are emerging. Join us to learn about how and where to get a better travel experience in 2022.

WATCH THE ZOOM RECORDING

 

How to Protect Yourself and Have Peace of Mind

Tuesday May 3 at 6pm EDT

It may feel like the pandemic is over, but if you are planning a trip, there are specific things you need to do in order to protect yourself. In this talk, experts from the fields of health, travel insurance, and emergency assistance tell you how to prepare.

WATCH THE ZOOM RECORDING

 

Solutions for Summer

Wednesday May 4 at 6pm EDT

It seems like everyone in the world is flooding back to Italy, France, and Greece this summer. Given the sold-out hotels and soaring prices in many dream locations, where can you still get a Covid-safe and iconic experience this summer? We’ll discuss your smartest options.

WATCH THE ZOOM RECORDING

Winter Travel: The holidays and beyond

Thursday May 5 at 6pm EDT

Did you get shut out of France and Italy this summer? Consider those countries’ festive holiday spots for Thanksgiving or Christmas instead. We’ll talk about smart and unexpected winter options—from tropical beaches to European Christmas markets to Antarctica cruises to seeing the northern lights—for this year’s winter holidays all the way through to 2023’s spring break.

WATCH THE ZOOM RECORDING

 

Smart Airline Travel in 2022: Best flights, seats, and fares

Friday May 6 at 6pm EDT

Is there any affordable airfare anywhere in the world this year? And, if so, where? Air travel watchdogs Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Concierge, and Gary Leff, founder of View From the Wing and Book Your Award, reveal what you can expect from airlines and airfares in 2022: when to buy your tickets, how to choose the safest flights, where to find business-class bargains, how to get the most value for your miles, and much more.

WATCH THE ZOOM RECORDING

 

A big thank-you to our WOW Week sponsor, Medjet.

Medjet is a global air medical transport and travel security membership program that can give travelers greater peace of mind. Their sponsorship enables me, Billie, Brook, Kristine, and the rest of our growing team to spend time answering your travel questions and finding the smartest trip-planning specialists for you.

woman and son wearing masks on a plane

5 Testing Tips for an Easy Return Flight to the U.S.

Air travelers age two and older must still show a negative Covid test when flying back into the U.S. after an international trip.  Many other countries have dropped their testing requirements for entry (you can see our list of no-test countries here, and our list of countries without any entry requirements here), but when you’re coming to the U.S.—citizen or not—you still need to get that test shortly before your flight home, typically on the day before.

WOW List travel specialists have been doing a great job of arranging for local last-day-of-trip Covid tests that are hassle-free, convenient, and super-speedy:  Often a health technician comes to your hotel to swab you, then you receive your results by email later that day.

If you’re not using a WOW List travel specialist to optimize your trip, here are five ways to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible for yourself:

1. Choose antigen, not PCR

The CDC accepts either a PCR or an antigen test.  PCR results typically take longer to obtain. For the most control over how you spend the final day of your trip abroad, pack a couple of video-monitored self-administered antigen tests, so you can take your swab whenever it’s convenient for you as long as you have Wi-Fi and video capabilities. For where and how to get these tests, see How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel: Tests That Can Be Self-Administered Abroad.

2. Test as early as possible

The official allowable test window is one day before your flight, as opposed to a strict 24 hours. In other words, if your flight is on a Thursday, you can take your test anytime on Wednesday. If you test early in the one-day-before window, you’ll have more time to troubleshoot in case anything does wrong.

But do also confirm what your airline requires, as their employees are the ones who will check your paperwork. One traveler reported being turned away by an airline representative who insisted that the U.S. required a test within 24 hours of departure. (The WOW List guide accompanying the traveler advocated on her behalf; when that failed, he helped her get a quick test inside the airport so that she wouldn’t miss her flight.)

3. Schedule your return flight with your test date in mind

If your plan is to use a local pharmacy or lab for your test, don’t schedule your return flight to the U.S. for the day after a Sunday, a national holiday, or any other day when local pharmacies and labs are closed. If you’ve already scheduled your return flight and the previous day is a Sunday or a holiday, then it’s especially important to carry a couple of the aforementioned video-monitored, self-administered tests. They’re an easy Plan B.

4. Carry your results to the airport in both paper and electronic form.

Phones break, Wi-Fi can be spotty, or the airport person tasked with approving your results might randomly prefer paper. Be prepared for all checkpoint contingencies by having your test results on paper (your hotel can print them out for you) and easily accessible on your phone without internet service (meaning: download the results file directly to your phone).

5. Show documentation of recovery instead.

If you’ve had Covid within the past 90 days, and you’ve met the CDC’s criteria for travel (e.g., you no longer have any symptoms; you can see the rest here), and you’ve gotten a signed letter from your doctor, then you can skip the one-day test and instead show both the letter and your past positive test. The letter must adhere to a specific format and include specific information (such as your name and date of birth; the doctor’s name, address, and phone number; etc.), so review the CDC guidance carefully if you choose to go this route. If you have recovered from Covid but don’t have both the letter and the old test result (together known as “documentation of recovery”), you will need to take the one-day pre-return test like everyone else.

For more tips and solutions, check our collection of articles in: Your Biggest Covid Travel Questions Answered

 



Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

palapa with two beach chairs on a beach with turquoise ocean and palm trees

The New Travel Checklist

Vaccine or no vaccine, the coronavirus pandemic will affect how we travel for a long time to come. New protocols mean that, to prepare smartly and safely for a big trip, there are new tasks to attend to, new questions to ask, and a whole new packing list.

So we’ve compiled a checklist of important items to address long before heading to the airport.

To Do:

  • Check the entry requirements and restrictions for all destinations on your itinerary, even if you’re merely transiting through them. Consult our lists of the Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In and Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information.
  • Complete any forms or paperwork required by your destination, and download any required apps. These could include an entry form, contact tracing information, or health affirmations. Hawaii, for example, requires that you fill out an “online safe travels form.”
  • Get a Covid test—which you can now do quickly and easily by mail—for your own peace of mind, even if it’s not mandated by the destination. By getting tested as close as possible to your departure date and getting a negative result, you lessen the chance that you might unknowingly spread the virus. Proof of your negative status can also be useful just in case the rules change at your location, or a company or hotel decides they want it, or some other emergency happens. Here’s how to get a fast Covid test, with results reliably delivered shortly before your travel date.
  • Make a plan to get tested at the end of your trip. As of December 6, 2021, all travelers entering the U.S. via air—regardless of vaccination status or citizenship—must show a negative Covid test taken within one day of their departure. There are self-test kits that you can pack in your luggage, or your trip planner can arrange for an in-person test at your destination.
  • Consider self-isolating for 14 days before you travel.  It’s another way to minimize the chance of unknowingly spreading the virus. Of course, you might live in a place that requires quarantining for 14 days after your return—as these states do—to avoid potentially bringing the virus back to your home community.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least three or six months past your travel date (depending on the country’s rules).  If you need to renew it, do it now; there are delays.
  • If you are making a large non-refundable advance payment for your trip, research travel insurance—including medical evacuation coverage and Cancel For Any Reason options—before or at the time you book. That’s because you need to purchase your policy very soon after making your first trip payment: Insurance that includes the Cancel For Any Reason option and coverage for preexisting medical conditions requires purchase within 21 days of your first trip payment (or deposit). Most travel insurance policies were written before the pandemic and thus are not an ideal fit for pandemic travel, so your research may be time-consuming. Which is just one reason why it pays to…
  • Book through a vetted and reviewed Trusted Travel Expert from Wendy’s WOW List. These are the destination experts and local fixers who know everything you don’t about what’s really happening where you’re headed. They can ensure you will get the up-to-date guidance and on-the-ground assistance you need. They will also assure you end up with the safest, smartest hotel choices. If you’re not certain which trip-planning specialist is right for your trip, or you’re not even sure where you’d like to go, talk to us directly via Ask Wendy and get a personalized recommendation.

To Ask:

  • Rules and requirements are changing quickly nowadays—they may even change while you are en route—so ask your WOW List trip designer what your contingency plans should be. What are the most likely changes to occur at your destination, and how might your plans change as a result? Know your Plan B.
  • Share your specific concerns about Covid-era travel with your WOW List trip designer because he or she will have solutions you have not thought of. Ask, for instance, about hygiene and social-distancing protocols at hotels; how private vehicles are made safe; how museums, monuments, and restaurants are operating, etc.
  • Get the details of your trip planner’s cancellation and refund policy in writing. You’ll want to understand how you are protected, and policies are more flexible than they were pre-pandemic.
  • As your travel date approaches, ask your airline how full your flight is. You might want to change to a less full flight (which often can be done for no fee). Here’s how to choose a smart seat on the plane.

To Pack/Carry:

  • Proof of Covid-19 test results (even if not specifically required by the destination, it’s smart to carry at all times).
  • Masks. And, since cloth masks should be washed often, travel-size packets of Woolite or detergent for hand-washing them at night in your hotel-room sink.
  • Gloves. Try to avoid airline bathrooms; when you must use them, wear gloves. Keep extra pairs of gloves in your day bag for any situations that may arise.
  • Sanitizer and wipes. The TSA allows air travelers to bring 12 ounces in carry-ons now. It’s helpful to pack smaller bottles also, to carry with you in your day bag at your destination, or in case international airports have different liquid allowances.
  • Face Shield for the flight.
  • Snacks. Airlines vary in what food they’re now providing in flight, so be prepared with your own favorites.
  • Comfort accessories, such as a blanket, pillow, and sweater for your flight. The flight you’re on might not offer pillows or blankets, even for sale. And if you keep the air nozzle turned on above you the whole time to help circulate the air, it might get chilly.
  • Passport, travel insurance info, test results, and other travel documents. Print everything out, and keep back-up copies securely in the cloud or on your phone.
Doctor holding passport with COVID-19 sign stamped onto a white paper,immunity passport or risk-free certificate concept,recovered Coronavirus COVID19 patients being issued proof of convalescence, UK

The Biggest Mistakes Travelers Make When Getting a Covid Test

Many countries and states require a pre-trip Covid test (here’s how to get a quick one), and you won’t be allowed in without proof of a negative result—even if you’ve been vaccinated, in some cases. But it’s not as easy as showing up with a piece of paper. Each destination has different requirements and processes, and travelers can run into unexpected complications that torpedo their trips. Such complications can be avoided by booking your trip through the right WOW List destination specialist—someone who knows the nitty-gritty of what’s needed for your destination and knows the local options that will make your life so much easier. We have plenty of first-hand reviews from travelers who’ve taken recent trips with their help, but we know that some people are determined to try to troubleshoot on their own. So here are the most common Covid-testing snafus that are currently tripping up travelers—and how to avoid them:

You thought you didn’t need a test because you were vaccinated—and you were wrong.

A few countries are allowing fully vaccinated travelers to bypass testing requirements, but many still demand a test. That’s not the only kind of pothole to watch out for. For example, while Ecuador doesn’t require vaccinated travelers to get a test to enter the country, those same travelers do need a test if they want to travel on to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

Questions about when, where, how, and if vaccine passports will be implemented still abound, so, to be safe, carry a hard copy of your vaccine card or other official proof that you’ve received your shots. And remember that most places only consider a person “fully vaccinated” 14 days after they’ve received all doses.

Your test wasn’t taken within the required time frame.

Different destinations are specifying different time frames for when incoming travelers should take their Covid test (including the U.S., which now requires a one-day window for non-vaccinated citizens and a three-day window for those who are fully vaccinated). Whereas most countries specify that a test be taken within a certain number of hours of your departure from your home, a few require the test to be taken within a certain number of hours of your arrival—a distinction that is easy to miss but has big consequences. WOW List trip-planning experts, who are regularly in touch with government officials in their regions, know how to avoid potential timing pitfalls, such as the time zone to use for calculating your testing window (your home’s or your destination’s) and whether a flight delay could invalidate your test results.

You didn’t get it from an approved lab.

Your destination might accept tests only from an approved list of labs (as Hawaii does) and may not accept any results from rapid tests or at-home kits (like St. Kitts and Nevis). Finding the right lab near you can be stressful, and that is where a WOW List trip planner can help. “I don’t think we could have found testing, if it were not for Kleon,” reader Jeff Goble told us about his trip to Bora Bora and the French Polynesia specialist he used for it. “We actually had to fly to LAX the Saturday before our Tuesday departure because it was not possible to get a PCR test with a quick turnaround in Arizona. Kleon worked really hard to help manage this with us and found a testing location in L.A. that met French Polynesia’s requirements and that would give our results back within 24 hours.”

The results don’t explicitly state the type of test you took.

The Covid test that’s required is usually a specific kind (for example, nasal swab versus saliva, in-person test versus mail-in kit), and the officials checking your documentation will look for proof of that on your certificate. If it’s not there, you could have a big problem. When my colleague Brook got her test results before her Maldives trip, she saw that the urgent-care clinic did not state on the certificate that it had performed a PCR test. Thanks to the Maldives specialist who had planned her trip, she knew that would be a dealbreaker. So she returned to the lab and had them add that wording and re-issue her documentation.

The results are dated wrong.

In addition to checking that the type of test is stated clearly on your certificate, confirm that your correct name and correct test date are printed there too. You don’t want to be stopped at the border because the lab’s computer stamped the wrong date or printed a different name from what’s on your passport. This happens!

You need an in-country test but don’t know where to find one.

Researching Covid-testing labs at home is hard enough. Imagine having to track one down in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. For her trip to the Maldives islands, Brook used a Maldives specialist on The WOW List who, when she needed a test in the Maldives in order to travel onward to Dubai, made it happen locally: He arranged for her Maldives resort to test her there (which involved a brief stop one morning at the resort’s clinic, after which her sample was sent by ship to a nearby lab and her butler was emailed the results the next day). In Turkey, this WOW List trip designer arranges for healthcare workers to administer tests to travelers at their hotels in the morning before they head out for the day; then by the time they get back in the evening, the results are ready for them.

You need a time-sensitive test in order to include an additional location.

Say you want to go to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll need to show your test results twice: once when you arrive in mainland Ecuador, and again before flying from there to the islands. (Even fully vaccinated travelers must get tested before going to the Galapagos.) You’re allowed to take the Ecuador test as many as three days prior to arrival, and the Galapagos test has to be within four days of arrival. This means you could need to get tested again in-country, depending on your itinerary and when you took your first test. One WOW Lister who just returned from the Galapagos figured out a solution: A private company can come to your hotel and administer the test. “We paid about $100 per person, and they emailed us results the next day,” he told us in an interview about his Galapagos trip during Covid.

The rules changed, and you didn’t know it.

Remember, testing rules (like so many other Covid-related travel requirements) are changing all the time. For example, time frames for tests may suddenly get shorter or longer, or the list of approved labs may be altered without notice. Just before Brook left for the Maldives, its government announced that the allowable window for testing had been increased from 72 to 96 hours; there was also some confusion about whether the documentation now needed to include the traveler’s passport number. The WOW List specialist who booked her trip spotted the potential problem and saw that it could lead to Brook being barred from her flight if Emirates didn’t have the updated info. So he contacted the Emirates staff himself to make sure they had the correct guidance from the Maldives government and that she could make her trip without a hitch.

The good news is that you do not need to figure all this out of your own or spend hours on the Internet trying to decipher other people’s experiences. You just need the right destination specialist to arrange and troubleshoot your trip. Check out these trips during Covid as examples of how the right specialist can be your savvy resource and safety net, and ask us to connect you with the best one for your needs here: Get a personalized trip recommendation.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

What Vaccinated Travelers Do and Do Not Need to Worry About

If you’re vaccinated, what do and don’t you need to worry about when traveling internationally during Covid?  We interviewed Dr. Timothy Triche on this topic on May 4, 2021, during WOW Week, our series of virtual get-togethers addressing today’s most pressing travel questions.  Unlike some of the talking heads we see in the media, Dr. Triche is an experienced world traveler who is able to assess and explain Covid risk in the context of the type of international travel that our sophisticated readers do.  Fast forward the video to 6:45 if you’d like to skip the intros and get straight to the meat and potatoes of our interview.

Dr. Triche is a Professor of Pathology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. He is the Co-Director for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Center for Personalized Medicine and, before that, headed its Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine for 20 years. He has been working on coronavirus solutions since the start of the pandemic. He was responsible for developing the DNA-sequencing-based Covid-testing program at Children’s Hospital/USC Keck School of Medicine, and he is actively engaged in vaccine development efforts designed for use in places like Africa that lack ready access to health care. 

In our conversation, Dr. Triche explained—in clear and understandable language—many topics of concern to travelers, including:

•What variants are, how they spread
•How vaccines offer protection and to what degree
•How to gauge risk in various locations around the world
•Interpreting CDC and State Department warnings
•Air travel risk, including long-haul vs. short flights and airports
•Traveling with unvaccinated children
•Traveling between the first and second dose of vaccine
•The risk factor of cruises

Dr. Triche answered many additional questions, and shared his own travel plans, so be sure to watch the video.

Updates emailed to us by Dr. Triche since his talk:

  • July 28This study helps explain why the Delta variant has become so prevalent: Infected individuals produce far more virus than they would when infected with the original version, making it more transmissible. Dr. Triche points out that “99% of the cases are occurring in unvaccinated persons,” and advises that “the prudent traveler will check before departure and look for adverse trends like rapidly increasing case numbers.”
  • May 26: This study found that people who have been infected with Covid possess long-term immunity that lasts many years.  “If we are lucky, vaccinated individuals will show the same pattern,” says Dr. Triche.  He points out that people who contracted the original SARS virus—the coronavirus identified in 2003—remain immune to it today.  “I’m getting optimistic that this may be like the original SARS story, where people remain immune 18 years later,” says Dr. Triche.
  • May 21:  People in Los Angeles County who have been fully vaccinated have only a 0.03% chance of getting coronavirus.  Of those who become infected after vaccination, the vast majority have no symptoms.  “This is by no means unique to L.A.,” writes Dr. Triche.  “This is what happens in any country with widespread vaccinations.”  A vaccinated traveler’s chance of dying from Covid is about one chance in a million, he adds.
  • May 14:  People in Illinois who have been fully vaccinated have a 0.06% chance of contracting the virus.
  • May 6These numbers show that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are highly effective against the most worrisome coronavirus variants.
  • May 5These data about long-term immunity help answer the question:  How long will I be protected after vaccination?  No one knows yet, says Dr. Triche, but likely at least the better part of a year or more.  These findings show that even if your antibody levels fall, you are still protected.

Excerpts from the video, edited for clarity and length:

Variants

Q: A lot of people are worried about traveling to a place where there is a variant.  They think, oh my gosh, there’s a new variant in that city—I’d better avoid that entire continent. Which variants do we need to worry about? 

DR. TRICHE:  People keep talking about variants. But they’re confusing two things. There’s lineage—in other words, something that spreads from Person A to Person B—and lineage is also often called a variant. That doesn’t mean nearly as much as the particular constellation of mutations in that lineage or variant. And unfortunately, the variants pick up new mutations over time, and they still call it the same variant. What matters most is the group of mutations in any variant.

The reason this happens is that mutations are like roulette. It’s like going to Las Vegas: Every time that virus makes a copy of itself, there’s a chance it will pick up one of these mutations. If [the mutation] makes it work better from the virus’s viewpoint, it’s going to become common in that population. And so, unfortunately, these mutations are going to happen around the world, over and over, as long as this pandemic goes on.  All that really matters is:  Does it make a difference for your immunity?  And the answer is:  Some mutations diminish your immunity, but they don’t make you non-immune.… Let’s just pretend that it takes 10 million viruses to infect you, even if you were not immune, with a normal strain.… With a bad mutant strain, it might take less than that. Even so, if you’re vaccinated, the chance you would encounter enough viral particles to overcome your immunity is very low, probably less than one chance in 10,000. So, unless you’re in extraordinary circumstances, you’re going to be immune to all the variants in the world right now.

Vaccines, India, Brazil, and South Africa

Q: Are there countries that we should avoid because of a variant?  How comfortable can we be that current vaccines are going to protect us against the variants out there?

DR. TRICHE:  I wouldn’t worry so much about the variants.  Remember, you’re likely immune against all the current variants if you’ve been vaccinated.  It’s just the level of your immunity: Let’s say that your immunity could be measured as five-plus, four-plus, three-plus, two-plus, one-plus. Your immunity for the original variant that the vaccine was made against is five-plus; your immunity for the nastiest variants might be three-plus. However, in this scheme, it takes one-plus to be immune. So you’re covered—it’s just that the coverage is less assured, less guaranteed for some of the nasty variants, depending on your immune system and the magnitude of your exposure. What worries me most is going into an area with a high prevalence of the nasty variants of the virus. Remember, I said earlier, there’s no such thing as an absolute guarantee of immunity for anybody at any time, because it is possible to overwhelm your immune system. I mean, if you drink a quart of viral isolates, you’re probably going to get the disease, regardless of how immune you are, because you’re going to overwhelm your immune system.  What worries me is going into an area where the virus is endemic, everywhere you turn, and you’re getting exposed to it over and over again. I fear that there’s a chance that you’re simply going to overwhelm your immunity. And so I worry less about variants than I do about the local prevalence of the disease. So, back to your first question: Personally, I would not be traveling to Brazil or to India right now. In contrast, South Africa has improved dramatically.

Q: Have they almost reached herd immunity now in South Africa?

DR. TRICHE:  That’s what it looks like, yeah, because the rate of decline in South Africa now is extraordinary and unprecedented. I would never have dreamed this would happen. And there’s really only one explanation. It’s not that suddenly everybody got vaccinated. It’s because they got vaccinated and also so many people got the virus and they are testing and social distancing. I mean, it was rampant, as you know, out in the Cape Town area, and then eventually, throughout South Africa—it just tore through the population. And now it’s in a precipitous decline, which is what you see when you reach herd immunity. So it sure looks like they are, yes.

Q:  As for India, you say that the problem in India was really caused not by the viral strains or mutations, but by human behavior. I mean, isn’t the spread of this virus really, in the end, all about human behavior?

DR. TRICHE:  Absolutely. To be fair, I would say it’s like 95% human behavior and 5% strain. The reason the strain is relevant is because if one version of the virus is more transmissible than the other, that would mean nothing until you pack them into some sort of religious festival with 100,000 people standing next to one another. Guess what happens with the more transmissible variant?  More people will get sick, and it’ll spread through the population more successfully and efficiently. But if the crowd never occurred in the first place, the virus has no place to go. So the combination of a more transmissible virus and a lot of people hanging around together is a real bad combination. And that’s what happened in India:  They had a bunch of religious festivals and political gatherings. And, of course, then it went absolutely exponential.

Air travel

Q: So you want to avoid masses of people. Do you consider airports to be masses of people?

DR. TRICHE:  Not like what we saw in India or Brazil or South Africa.  In an airport, presumably, there are so many safeguards. One of the reasons I think things are going so well in South Africa now is that now they have many, many safeguards in place: You get tested at the airport for positivity, you get tested for symptoms.  Everybody arriving gets tested, everybody leaving gets tested.  When you put those types of measures in place, you limit the possibility of spread. And, let’s be honest, most of the pandemic has been driven by so called “super-spreader events.”  So what you don’t want is the so-called Typhoid Mary—the person who doesn’t know that they are about to come down with it, and they go have dinner with 100,000 people. Guess what happens? 100,000 people now get the virus.…  An airport’s not like that. It is transient exposure, and many people have been cleared. So the probability of there being a problem in a place like an airport is minuscule, compared to a religious festival or political rally.

Q: When people worry about the airplane flight, a big factor they consider is the length of the flight.  Are they right? What are the most important things to consider about an airplane flight to minimize your risk?

DR. TRICHE:  [Worrying about the length of the flight] is like saying, The longer I live on this planet, the greater my probability of getting hit by an asteroid. We don’t spend a lot of time worried about getting hit by an asteroid, do we?  So yes, a longer airplane flight is, by definition, statistically speaking, greater risk, but if the risk is so minuscule — I mean, think about everything you do in life:  If you get in your car and you pull out of the driveway, you are taking a defined risk. If you pull out of your driveway twice, you’re doubling your risk. Do you not drive because of that? No, you drive despite it, right?  Because your perception of risk for driving your car is very low, but, statistically speaking, it’s probably worse than getting on an airplane and taking a four-hour or an eight-hour or ten-hour flight. I mean, people get killed in cars every day, but not that many people have developed COVID from air travel. Relatively speaking, it’s relatively safe.

There have been some exceptions—and that’s what worries everybody—but the exceptions are not the rule. Personally, what I worry about much more is the off-chance that the guy sitting next to me in the middle seat is a Covid carrier, doesn’t know it, and is breathing all over me for the entire flight.  In that case, the fact that I’m wearing my mask, except when I’m eating or drinking, ought to provide adequate protection.  The difference between a four-hour flight and a ten-hour flight is probably minuscule, as opposed to not wearing your face mask…. But again, I emphasize, the odds are very, very low. Because the airlines have obviously gone to extraordinary lengths to clean up the air in the airplanes. It’s far cleaner now than it was pre-COVID, by the way.

Dr. Triche’s own travel plans

Q:  A viewer wants to know when and where is your next international trip?

DR. TRICHE:  My problem right now is our planned trip included a young grandchild who’s not vaccinated. So we are in a bit of a bind right now, because I really don’t want to take her on an international trip until she gets vaccinated.  It looks like that’s going to happen anytime now, so that makes me feel a lot better. For myself, personally, I would not be averse to traveling anytime soon. Again, with all the caveats we said earlier. I’m not going to India or Brazil. And until I know a little bit more about the on-the-ground situation in South Africa—I mean, the numbers are falling precipitously, but I would certainly not want to accidentally land in a hotspot that I didn’t know about.  But, you know, from what I’m hearing and reading, even that’s fair game. And certainly once you get out of the cities—and this would be true of most of Africa—you’re in a situation where, particularly in the lodges (where, from what I understand, all the staff is being tested), that’s an extremely safe environment. So, in situations where you know your destination is being tested, and people are unlikely to be spewing virus all over your dinner plate, I would feel very comfortable. The airplane travel is, I think, far less risky than being exposed to that little minibus ride from the airport with a whole bunch of people in it and you’re wondering if everybody in this bus has been vaccinated and if anybody is a carrier. Those are the scenarios that I would worry more about. I don’t want to be in an enclosed environment that’s not controlled—as opposed to an airplane, for example—for prolonged periods of time, when I don’t know the status of the other people in the vehicle with me. Same reason we’re not eating inside in restaurants right now. Because this virus is spread from person to person. And the only efficient mode of transmission is in a closed environment. If you’re outside, it’s not going to happen. Surface contamination is extraordinarily unlikely. Stay inside in a room with a few people, one of whom is exhaling the virus, and you’ve got a potential problem.

 


We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

United States of America map. USA map with states and state names isolated

Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information

Even when you arm yourself with the info below—each state’s most useful resources about quarantine rules, caseloads, reopening (or re-closing) plans, and guidance for travelers—it is tough to anticipate all the potential snags of a Covid-era trip.

A smart, safe, luxury vacation within the U.S.—say, in a remote wilderness lodge in Alaska, or on a private sailboat off New England—is possible, but so much depends on your specific individual situation that we recommend you write to us directly for personalized advice. We are longtime travel journalists with a network of smart travel sources, so we’re accustomed to cutting through the noise and news to get reliable answers about travel during Covid-19 (which we’ve been collecting in our Covid-19 Travel section, which includes intel on testing, insurance, and first-hand accounts from travelers). If you are thinking about a future international trip, we can advise you on that too. Don’t miss our article tracking which countries are open to U.S. travelers and what you can do there; if you are fully vaccinated, you can check out the subset of countries where you can travel if you’re vaccinated without pre-trip testing.

Note that the CDC now requires all air passengers coming into the U.S. to have proof of a negative test or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 before they board the plane. This requirement goes for U.S. citizens too. (Masks are required on all forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.)

Once you land, the CDC recommends getting tested 3–5 days later, along with a post-trip self-quarantine of 7 days. Even if you test negative, they advise you to stay home for all 7 days. If you don’t get tested, the quarantine is 10 days. To help with that, we have info on how to get a quick-turnaround Covid test.

GET A PERSONALIZED TRIP RECOMMENDATION

 

Alabama

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Alabama’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard

Traveler Information (Alabama Tourism)

 

Alaska

All nonresidents over the age of 10, including those who have been vaccinated, are asked to upload health declarations and information to Alaska’s Safe Travels online portal.

Travelers must provide proof of negative molecular-based SARS-CoV-2 test taken within 72 hours of arrival or take a free COVID-19 test at the airport. If your results are pending or if you take the test at the airport, you must strictly social distance (both at your own expense) until results come back.  A second test taken 5 to 14 days after arrival is requested.

Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to test or quarantine.

Travelers who have documentation that they tested positive within the past 90 days do not have to submit to pre-trip testing or testing on arrival, but are strongly encouraged to get tested after 5 to 14 days in the state.

Beginning June 1, 2021, at participating airports, all travelers to Alaska will be eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information

Safe Travels information

Reopening Plan

Traveler information, restrictions, and advisories (Travel Alaska)

 

Arizona

No travel restrictions for visitors

State Coronavirus Updates

Department of Health Services and Reopening Guidance

Traveler information, restrictions, and advisories (Visit Arizona)

 

Arkansas

No travel restrictions for visitors

Arkansas COVID-19 Information Hub

Arkansas COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Traveler information (Arkansas Tourism)

 

California

The state strongly discourags travel, asking people to delay until they’re fully vaccinated. For those who must travel, the advice is to follow CDC guidelines, i.e. get tested 1-3 days before travel, and 3-5 days after travel, and when you get home, self-quarantine for 7 days, no matter what your test results were. If you didn’t get tested, self-quarantine for 10 days.

All restrictions except those for conventions of more than 5,000 attendees are scheduled to lift statewide on June 15.

California COVID-19 Information Hub

Business and activity restrictions by county

COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Traveler Information for the State (Visit California)

Traveler information by region (Visit California)

 

Colorado

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Colorado COVID-19 Information Hub

Colorado COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Information on what’s open (state parks, campsites, retail, etc.)

Traveler guidance (Colorado Tourism)

 

Connecticut

No travel restrictions for visitors, but the state recommends following CDC guidelines for safe travel. Masks are required in public (indoors and outdoors) when six feet of social distancing is not possible

Connecticut COVID-19 Information Hub

Latest guidance on masks, social distancing, and what businesses are open

Traveler Advice and Regulations (Visit CT)

 

Delaware

No travel restrictions for visitors

Delaware’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Advisory (Visit Delaware)

 

Florida

No travel restrictions for visitors

Florida’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Florida’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Florida’s Reopening Plan

Traveler Advisory Updates (Florida Health Department)

Traveler Advice (Visit Florida)

Walt Disney World parks information (including mask requirement)

 

Georgia

No travel restrictions for visitors

Georgia’s COVID-19 Hub

Department of Health Daily Status Report

Traveler Advice and what’s open (Explore Georgia)

 

Hawaii

Hawaii has strict requirements for travelers:

•All travelers to Hawaii (including to Kau’ai) must have a negative Covid test prior to boarding the last leg of their flight to Hawaii and must upload the results to the state’s Safe Travels website before arrival. Anyone without a test or proof of the results must quarantine for 10 days. Travelers without a test or who cannot show sufficient proof of a negative test, must quarantine for 10 days or until they can show proof of negative results (testing and quarantine are at travelers’ own expense). All travelers, regardless of testing, will undergo temperature checks on arrival and must fill out a travel and health form. Some airlines are offer pre-flight virus testing to Hawaii-bound passengers.

Effective July 8: Travelers who have been fully vaccinated in the U.S. can bypass Hawaii’s pre-trip Covid test and quarantine requirement. Travelers must upload their CDC card to the state’s Safe Travels Program and bring the card with them to Hawaii.

•Only certain tests are accepted by the state of Hawaii: FDA-approved NAAT nasal swab test from a CLIA-certified approved partner laboratory.

•Covid tests and quarantine are no longer required for travel between islands.

Hawaii COVID-19 Information Hub

Hawaii Travel info: Safe Travels Hub and test results upload information

Travel FAQs

COVID-19 Data Dashboard

 

Idaho

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Idaho’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Idaho’s Reopening Plan

Traveler Advice (Visit Idaho)

 

Illinois

The state has no restrictions for travelers, but Chicago does. The city’s testing and quarantine requirements are based on outbreak data for each state or territory. Travelers coming from a state or territory designated as Orange must quarantine for 10 days (or the length of their stay, if it’s less than 10 days), have proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival to Chicago, or be fully vaccinated no less than two weeks prior to arrival. Travelers from yellow states do not have to test or quarantine. Everyone has to wear masks and abide by social distancing.

Illinois COVID-19 Information Hub

Chicago COVID-19 Information Hub

Restore Illinois reopening plan

Chicago reopening information

Chicago Emergency Travel Order and yellow/orange state designations

 

Indiana

No travel restrictions for visitors

Indiana’s COVID-19 Information Hub and Data Dashboard

Traveler Resources (Visit Indiana)

Traveler Resources for Indianapolis (Visit Indy/Indianapolis Tourism)

 

Iowa

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Iowa’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Current Case Status Dashboard

Traveler Advice (Travel Iowa)

 

Kansas

Quarantine is required for visitors who have been on a cruise, been to a mass event outside the state, and from certain states and countries. The length of the quarantine varies with each situation, and the list of states and countries is reviewed every two weeks. The length of quarantine may be shortened depending on whether you’ve been tested.

Kansas’s COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Cases Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Travel KS)

 

Kentucky

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Latest updates and openings

Travel Advisory (Kentucky state government)

 

Louisiana

No travel restrictions for visitors

Louisiana’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Information (Louisiana Travel)

Traveler info for New Orleans (New Orleans Tourism)

Maine

As of May 1, visitors from all states are exempt from Maine’s previous quarantine and testing requirements. However, if a state has a spike, the Maine CDC will re-apply requirements for visitors to and from that state.

Maine’s Coronavirus Hub

Division of Disease Surveillance and current data

Travel Protocols, FAQs, and Openings (Visit Maine Tourism)

Maryland

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Covid Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler Guidance (Visit Maryland) 

Massachusetts

Visitors and returning residents are advised to follow a 10-day quarantine.  If a traveler can show a negative test result administered up to 72 hours before arrival, or if they are two weeks out from their final dose of a vaccine, they may bypass quarantine (but quarantine must be observed until the test results are received). Visitors staying in Massachusetts for less than 24 hours can also bypass quarantine

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Covid-19 Travel Advisory (state government)

Tourism information and Traveler FAQ (Visit MA) 

Michigan

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Guidelines for Traveles (Michigan tourism)

 

Minnesota

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening plan and phases

Travel information (Minnesota Department of Health)

Travelers Guidance (Explore Minnesota)

 

Mississippi

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Mississippi Case and Data Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Visit Mississippi)

 

Missouri

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Missouri Recovery Plan

Traveler Guidance (Visit Missouri)

 

Montana

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance and Resources (Visit MT)

Contact Info for Montana’s Tribal Nations and Reservations

 

Nebraska

Visitors to Nebraska from domestic locations have no travel restrictions, but anyone arriving from an international destination must follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Nebraska Case and Data Dashboard

Traveler Recommendations (Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services)

Traveler Guidance (Visit Nebraska)

 

Nevada

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening and phases plan

State-wide Traveler Information (Visit Nevada)

Traveler Information for Las Vegas (Visit Las Vegas)

 

New Hampshire

Travelers from domestic locations have no travel restrictions, but are advised to follow CDC guidelines, including getting a PCR test 3-5 days after travel.

Travelers returning from cruises or international travel must quarantine for 10 days. They may test out of quarantine if they take a PCR test on day 6 or 7 (antigen/rapid tests are unacceptable), results come back negative, and they are asymptomatic. But the state advises these travelers to self-monitor for symptoms for all 10 days and strictly adhere to mitigation measures.

Travelers do not need to quarantine for 10 days or get tested for COVID-19 if either of the following apply: They have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccination and more then 14 days have passed since receiving the second dose, OR they tested positive for active COVID-19 infection (by PCR or antigen testing) in the last 90 days (if the infection was more than 90 days ago, then the traveler must follow the quarantine rules).

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler information and quarantine rules (state)

Tourism resources (Visit NH)

 

New Jersey

Non-essential travel is strongly discouraged, but if you do travel it is recommended that you follow CDC guidelines and get tested 1–3 days before the trip and 3–5 days after. Even if you test negative, you should still quarantine for 7 days. If testing is not available or results are delayed, you should quarantine for 10 days.

Fully vaccinated travelers and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past three months are exempt.

All travelers from from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Delaware (even if unvaccinated) are also exempt.

NJ’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Live Data Dashboard

Traveler Quarantine Information and Health Form (Visit NJ)

Reopening Plan

 

New Mexico

Travelers arriving from high-risk states (with a 5% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day average) are advised to self-quarantine for at least 10 days and to seek out a Covid test. Testing locations and availabilities are available at togethernm.org.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions & Recommendations (New Mexico Department of Health)

Traveler information (New Mexico Tourism)

 

New York

There are no quarantine or testing requirements for asymptomatic domestic or asymptomatic international travelers arriving in New York, but the state still recommends testing and quarantine for the following groups:

•Fully vaccinated individuals who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3
months are recommended to get tested 3-5 days after arrival in New York from
international travel.
•All unvaccinated domestic and international travelers who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months are recommended to get tested 3-5 days after arrival in New York, consider non-mandated self-quarantine (7 days if tested on day 3-5, otherwise
10 days), and avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe disease for 14 days,
regardless of test result.

All travelers must still complete the Traveler Health Form unless the traveler had left New York for less than 24 hours or is coming to New York from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

New York State’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Phased Regional Reopening Information

Cases and Data Dashboard

NY State Covid-19 Travel Advisory (state government)

NY State Traveler Information (NY State tourism)

New York City Traveler Information (NYCGo)

 

North Carolina

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan with information on local restrictions and what’s open

Traveler Guidance (Visit NC)

 

North Dakota

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Updates

Traveler Guidance (State Health Department)

Traveler Guidance (ND Tourism)

 

Ohio

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Data Dashboard

Ohio Reopening Plan

 State Travel Advisory (Ohio Department of Health)

 

Oklahoma

Travelers are requested to wear face masks and limit participation in indoor gatherings for 10 to 14 days, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance (Oklahoma Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Oklahoma City)

 

Oregon

Travelers are requested to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers are exempt if they are 14 days past their final vaccine dose and have no COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan and County Status

Travel Alerts (Travel Oregon)

 

Pennsylvania

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Hospital Data

Traveler information (Pennsylvania Department of Health)

 

Rhode Island

Domestic travelers from hot spots (the list is updated regularly) must provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival  or quarantine for 10 days.

International travelers must quarantine for 10 days, but If you have a negative result from a test taken at least 5 days after you arrived, you may shorten quarantine to 7 days.

Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to quarantine but are still encouraged to get a COVID-19 test between 5 and 10 days after out-of-state travel.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Tourism information (Visit Rhode Island)

Traveler Guidance and FAQs, including testing sites for visitors (RI Department of Health)

 

South Carolina

No travel restrictions for visitors, but anyone who has traveled is advised to stay home as much as possible and to wear a mask in public.

COVID-19 Information Hub

State Parks Information

Traveler Guidance (State government)

 

South Dakota

No state travel restrictions for visitors, but some tribal lands are closed to anyone without a permit for providing essential or emergency services. See more information about tribal checkpoints here.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Cases and Data Dashboard

Tourism information (Travel South Dakota)

 

Tennessee

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Tennessee Vacation)

 

Texas

No travel restrictions for visitors

Texas’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Travel updates (state government)

Traveler Guidance (Travel Texas)

 

Utah

No travel restrictions for visitors

Utah’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Utah State Parks Information

Utah National Parks Information

Traveler Guidance (Visit Utah)

 

Vermont

Domestic travelers do not have to quarantine, but unvaccinated visitors (including children and Vermont residents) must have a COVID-19 test within 3 days prior to arriving in Vermont (see rules here).

International travelers must follow CDC after-travel guidelines for testing and quarantine.

Visitors to Vermont must follow the same gathering rules as locals. See full details here.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Traveler requirements and FAQ (Vermont state government)

Traveler Guidance (Vermont Tourism)

 

Virginia

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data

FAQs about openings, restaurants, and more 

Traveler Information (Virginia Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Virginia Tourism)

 

Washington, D.C.

A negative test (taken within 72 hours of arrival) is required for travelers from jurisdictions with more than 10 cases per 100,000 people.  Any traveler staying in Washington, D.C. for more than 3 days must take another test within 3 to 5 days of arrival.

Exemptions:
-Those who are fully vaccinated (and do not have Covid symptoms)
-Those who have tested positive in the last 90 days and do not have symptoms.
-Visitors from Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Guam, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and the Virgin Islands
-Visitors coming into D.C. for less than 24 hours

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance (Washington D.C. Tourism)

Open/Close Information on Museums, Restaurant, Festivals, and Attractions

 

Washington State

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler information (Washington state government)

 

West Virginia

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidances (West Virginia Tourism)

 

Wisconsin

No travel restrictions for visitors, but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends residents cancel or postpone travel, even within the state, unless they are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data

Traveler Guidance (Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

 

Wyoming

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Travel updates (Wyoming Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Wyoming Tourism)

 

Additional Resources

CDC Guidelines for Domestic Travel (CDC)

CDC Guidelines for After International Travel (CDC)

COVID-19 cases by state (CDC)

Covid-19 Travel Recommendations by Country (CDC)

COVID-19 Risk Map for Every U.S. County (Harvard Global Health Institute)

Health departments by state (CDC)

Mask mandates and business restrictions by state (The New York Times)

Mask mandates by state (Pew Trusts)

National Park restrictions by state (National Park Service)

Restaurant restrictions by state (Open Table)

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel (WendyPerrin.com)

The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers With No 14-Day Quarantine and What You’ll Find There (WendyPerrin.com)

How to Stay Safe on a Road Trip During Covid (WendyPerrin.com)

Pandemic-Era Travel: The Trip Reviews That Matter Most Right Now (WendyPerrin.com)

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Aerial view of Athens Greece from airplane June 4 2021

6 Things I Learned About Taking an International Flight to a Recently Reopened Country

I’ve just landed in Greece, after a nine-hour nonstop flight from New York. Here are five things I learned about taking an international flight to a recently reopened country.

Check the situation at the gate at least an hour before boarding—it is likely to be hectic.

When I arrived at JFK two hours before my flight to Athens, I passed through security in less than a minute (really!), but at the gate I found a scene that was a mess. For one thing, the flight was packed—it was a big plane (2-4-2 configuration in economy) and nearly every single seat was taken, which meant that there were a ton of people huddled around the gate. But what made it worse was that everyone was queued up in a very, very long line for a reason that few people seemed to understand. Some thought it was the usual pre-boarding lineup. Others thought we had to get verified for something before we’d be allowed to board. Still others weren’t sure if this was a verification line only for people who had to show their Covid test and if there was a separate line for vaccinated people.

Delta representatives were at the gate, but they were not using a PA system to make announcements, just shouting occasionally—so you couldn’t hear anything. We all waited, wondering what we were supposed to be doing. I got the feeling that the airline staff was feeling the same way. As rules change and solidify for the countries we’re traveling to, the airlines are tasked with a lot of the prep work—and they don’t yet have good systems in place. This is why boarding was scheduled to start an hour before departure, but it was still a confusing hour. So if you’re the kind of traveler who usually saunters to the gate right around boarding time, do yourself a favor and (a) get to the airport at minimum two hours ahead of your flight and (b) head to the gate as soon as you get through security so that you can evaluate the situation and find out whether you need to start queuing up early for any verification process that has suddenly popped up.

In my case, it turned out that the airline staff wanted to look at everyone’s passport, boarding pass, and official Passenger Locator Form—a contact-tracing form from the Greek government that had to be submitted online prior to departure. (To make things more complicated, when some passengers had filled out the form, me included, they got confirmation emails that the QR-coded, approved document wouldn’t arrive in their email inbox until midnight on the day of their arrival in Greece—and since our flight was an overnight flight that started the day before, we only had proof of submission but not the actual approved form. In the end, the frazzled single Delta staff member tasked with checking the documentation allowed this, but there was a lot of stress among my fellow passengers as to whether they’d be allowed to board.)

Print everything out.

If you keep all your documents on your phone (boarding pass, vaccine/test proof, and any government-required health forms), you’re going to have to shuffle through a bunch of apps when an official asks to see each one. If it’s allowed, you might want to go old-school and print everything out on paper so you can hand over the stack in one fell swoop rather than wrestling with your phone. In fact, the Delta attendant asked me for a paper boarding pass—maybe it makes their lives a little easier too.

Carry a scarf—it’s even more important now.

This is a classic tip, but there’s a new reason why a scarf is part of my essential plane gear. Delta put a blanket and pillow on every seat (yes, even in economy) for the overnight flight, but I couldn’t help but wonder: How clean are they? How are airplane pillows sanitized? The blanket came wrapped in plastic, which I guess indicates that it came from the cleaners. However, the pillows were not wrapped in anything—it was just a pillow in a pillowcase, and I couldn’t tell if the pillowcases were disposable or had been cleaned, as they were just sitting there on the seat on top of the blanket. So throwing a scarf or an extra shirt over the top can act as a personal pillowcase.

Eat at a different time than everyone else.

We took off at 5:15 pm NYC time, and dinner was served shortly after we boarded. Of course everyone took off their masks to eat (quick shout-out to all the passengers, because almost everyone wore their masks correctly; and kudos to the Delta flight crew, who politely nudged noncompliant passengers throughout the flight). Even though I’m vaccinated, and I know that airplanes are pretty safe environments, I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable dining with a few hundred strangers with their masks off. So I decided to wait to have my meal until everyone around me had finished eating and put their masks back on. This had two additional perks: First, I was able to use the bathrooms before the inevitable post-meal rush left them nasty. Second, delaying my meal meant that I could go right to sleep after we took off and therefore get on Greece time more effectively (it was midnight in Greece when our flight took off, we landed at 10am, and I am writing this feeling well rested and ready to get on with my day). When I woke a few hours later, I could eat while everyone else was masked. (I had brought my own food, but if you prefer to eat what they’re handing out, ask a flight attendant to hold your meal.)

Look for open seats at the last minute.

On my way to the airport, I checked the seat plan on the Delta app to see if there were any open rows left on my flight. I already knew the plane was going to be packed, but I also knew there’d been a few of the paid “preferred” rows still available when I checked that morning, and I was considering using my miles to upgrade. But I wanted to wait until closer to the flight time because I also knew I’d be frustrated if I spent the miles expecting to have a two-seat row to myself only to have someone snatch up the other seat at the last second. It was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off: I got the aisle spot in a two-seat row, and no one took the window. I don’t know why that row was considered “preferred”—it wasn’t an exit row, and the seats were the same size as the others—but my 9,500 SkyMiles points purchase ended up being worth it. I had more space for my own Covid-related comfort, and I could stretch out to sleep. If you don’t want to upgrade to a premium class or even a comfort-plus category seat (which was sold out on this flight), you could try this hack and see if you can get a little more space at the last minute.

Get the VIP fast-track pick-up for when you land at your destination.

Ironically, the entry process once I landed in Greece ran a lot smoother, and took a lot less time, than the boarding process in New York. That’s partly because the ground staff in the country you’re traveling to probably knows exactly what they need and how the process works. But it’s also because Mina Agnos, one of Wendy’s recommended travel fixers for Greece, booked a VIP fast-track pick-up service for me: A guide met me with a sign before I entered the passport control area and whisked me past the line of other passengers. First I flashed my CDC vaccine card and my Passenger Locator Form (as promised, the official version with the QR code was in my inbox when I landed, although no one ended up actually scanning the code). Then my fast-track fixer brought me to a special, no-line window to get my passport stamp. Several dozen people were on the regular line, and I expect there would be even more of a crowd as our plane continued to unload all its passengers. Not only did this whole process take just a few minutes, but it also alleviated the stress of dealing with the unfamiliar logistics of our Covid-travel era. With my fast-track fixer at my side, I knew that if I ran into a problem, she could communicate with whatever authorities might have questions, aid me in solving them, and help me get any additional support I needed.


We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

man at a cafe in Medellin Colombia

Dispatch from Colombia: It’s Open, and Open-Air

Colombia is just a three-hour flight from Miami and five hours from New York. So, if you’re ready to board a plane, the country’s diverse landscapes—Caribbean beaches, Amazon rainforest, lush jungle, snow-capped mountains—are within reach for a week-long or maybe even a long-weekend escape (or even a three-month trip, as one reader just experienced and reviewed). Those landscapes offer plenty of open-air experiences and space for social distancing, and entry requirements are pretty easy to tackle too: U.S. travelers just need proof of a negative Covid test taken within 96 hours of their departure from the U.S. (see How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel).

So we touched base with Marc Beale and Boris Seckovic, two Trusted Travel Experts for Colombia on Wendy’s WOW List who live in the Medellin area. Marc has remained in Colombia throughout the pandemic, and they’ve both been closely tracking travel rules and Covid safety protocols. We spoke to them to find out what it’s like to be in Colombia now, and what travelers can expect.

*This article is part of a series in which we are following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

Colombia - Colorful painted buildings in the town of Guatape

The town of Guatape is in a lake region not far from Medellin. Photo: Marc Beale

You live in Colombia. Where have you traveled within the country during the pandemic, and how was it different?

Marc: My wife and I were in Cartagena in the fall, and it was fun and enjoyable. To go to Café Del Mar and have a beer on the city walls, for example—we didn’t have to make a reservation. It’s a big, open, outdoor space, and normally you can just walk in and sit at a table. But now they have only one entrance, so you have to queue up, and they have to disinfect your table before seating you. But once you sit down, it’s the normal Café Del Mar experience.

My family has also spent time in a lake area called El Peñol and Guatapé, which is a day trip from Medellin. El Peñol and Guatapé is totally open to visitors. It’s a very outdoorsy area, so it’s pretty Covid-safe. One of the fun things to do is to climb this huge rock with 700 steps called El Peñón, and you get an amazing view over the countryside. The village itself is open, and it’s very pretty to walk around. So really, apart from having to wear a mask and go with a local guide, there’s no difference from pre-Covid. Face masks are mandatory in all public areas (even outside my house I have to wear a mask).

Where do travelers usually want to go in Colombia, and can you go there now?

Marc: Almost everyone goes to Bogotá, the coffee region, and Cartagena. Probably half come to Medellin, and half go to the Amazon or Tayrona National Park or one of the islands. All of these places are open now; there’s no region that has been shut off.

Boris: In the Amazon, though, we’re not taking travelers to visit the indigenous communities. If Covid were to get into a community there, it would be devastating because people there don’t have access to hospitals.

What’s worse than before the pandemic? What’s better?

Boris: Colombia is a lot about its people, and the Colombian smile goes a long way to make your trip stand out. One thing that’s different, with all the mask-wearing, is that a lot of social cues and warmth are harder to express. We wonder how that barrier will affect how guests experience Colombia. We tell this to travelers, but they’re so eager to come anyway.

Transportation is more challenging: The flights, the entry requirements, the forms… they’re changing all the time. But people are aware of the hurdles and they still want to come. We have travelers who are coming in February; they’ll be starting in the coffee region, then going to Cartagena, and then spending a few nights on an island. They have already taken a few trips during the pandemic, and they’re aware of the hurdles.

In terms of in-country experiences and activities, though, not that much has changed. In fact, it’s easier to get access to certain experiences and places now because there are fewer travelers around and people have more open schedules.

Whether it’s getting travelers into our favorite rooms at a hotel, or getting them our favorite slots to see a particular nature sight, or access to journalists or ranking officials to have lunch with, or musicians to meet—in the past, that has proven challenging during peak tourist periods. But now, that’s a lot easier to organize.

View of pool area from Luxury Room at Sofitel Legend Santa Clara

Hotels, like the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, have to meet protocols of bio-safety. Photo: Marc Beale

What are hotels like now, and how are they accommodating safety concerns?

Marc: In order for hotels to reopen, they need to meet protocols of bio-safety. When you enter, you are stopped in your tracks—you have to disinfect your shoes, then disinfect your hands with gel. Some have really fancy contraptions that you stand in front of and they take your temperature automatically. Every hotel has an in-room pack for you with antibacterial gel, a face-mask, and a reminder of protocols. They are not sending room cleaning regularly; you can schedule it for when you want, so you can monitor who comes in and out of your room.

When I was at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara in Cartagena, there were a lot fewer sun loungers around the pool. They have a very big pool area and normally it’s full, but they had removed loungers and spaced them out more, and you had to reserve them. Also, that hotel normally has one of the best breakfast spreads in Colombia: so much variety of fruits, hams, cheeses, pastries, coffees, teas, cooked stuff—it’s amazing. Now, though, you have to order from the menu (which is all QR code). There’s no spread. Hopefully it will come back at some point.

outdoor restaurant near Medellin Colombia with a wooden deck and chairs and pretty lights on the awning

Colombia’s mild weather lends itself to outdoor dining, like at this restaurant outside of Medellin. Photo: Marc Beale

What is it like to go to a restaurant?

Marc: Cartagena is an outdoor dining place anyway, but they’ve put even more tables and chairs outside. In Medellin, they’ve blocked off a popular thoroughfare with trees and made it a pedestrian area with a lot of outdoor seating. Tonight I’m going down for dinner made by one of our favorite chefs

You can’t go inside a restaurant here without protocols: Disinfect your shoes, step onto the mat, disinfect your hands, take your temperature. And you can’t walk in off the street; you need to make a reservation. The capacity has been reduced in order to space tables. And if you’re waiting in line, there are footpads on the ground showing you where to stand.

If you sit indoors and dine, there’s atmosphere—there will be other people. Yes, the tables are farther apart, and there are no physical menus, and the waiters are in masks 100% of the time, but you can take yours off. You’ll feel like it’s a relatively normal experience.

Travelers who are coming from a country where there’s a hard lockdown will find Colombia quite free. Here, everything is open.

Boris: Keep in mind as well that Colombia is a tropical country, so the weather doesn’t change much year-round. The temperature depends on the elevation. Bogotá is the highest and coldest city, but even that’s like a September day in New York, so they have outdoor seating anyway, and heaters if it gets colder. Medellin has spring weather that’s ideal for sitting outside. And Cartagena is the opposite of Bogotá: During the day it might be hot to sit outside comfortably, but in the evening it’s cooler and nice outdoors. Most restaurants are requiring a reservation, but cafes and bars not so much.

What Covid protocols have you and your staff put in place?

Marc: We’ve upgraded our vehicles to be bigger, so if you’re a family of four, you’re in your own vehicle that we previously would have used for a group of ten. We recommend opening windows for fresh air instead of using air-conditioning. Our local English-speaking guides wear masks all the time and stay two meters away from you, and we’ve spoken to each and every one of them about Covid safety.

What has the pandemic made surprisingly nice right now?

Marc: People will find the country quieter and more relaxed. It’s nicer to be in places where there’s just less people around.

Boris: Colombians are very grateful for visitors right now, and people will find how lovely and welcoming they are.



Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Close-up on a red closed sign in the window of a shop displaying the message "Closed due to Covid-19".

How to Protect Yourself in Case a Travel Company You Pay Goes Out of Business

Travel planning these days often requires that you make a large, non-refundable, advance payment. Here’s how to protect your investment:

Does travel insurance protect me if a travel company ceases operations?

Some comprehensive travel insurance policies will reimburse you for trip cancellation or interruption due to bankruptcy or financial default of your travel supplier: an airline, cruise line, or tour operator, for example. Many such policies will not cover you, however, if the company you used to book your trip—a travel agency or other intermediary—goes out of business. This is one area where policies differ widely, so to confirm that your financial investment is protected, speak with a representative of the insurance provider whose policy you plan to purchase and explain your specific situation.

When do I need to purchase this insurance?

Within a couple of weeks after putting down your deposit toward a trip. One reason why is that coverage for financial default may be activated only if you buy insurance within 10 to 21 days (depending on the policy) after making your initial trip payment. You also usually can’t file a claim for cancellation due to financial default until 10 to 14 days after you’ve purchased the policy. Note that you may not be covered if your trip is years out: Some policies limit financial-default claims to trips taken within 12 or 15 months of purchasing your insurance.

Will the policy offered by my cruise line protect me if the cruise line goes out of business?

No. Some travel companies—cruise lines, tour operators, and such—sell their own insurance or “protection” policies. The premiums may seem attractive, but you will not be covered if that company financially defaults. Instead, you need the protection of third-party insurance—meaning, a policy written by someone other than the travel company that is operating your trip.

Am I protected if I pay by credit card?

If you don’t receive an item or service that you paid for by credit card, you can dispute that particular charge. But what if your airline goes under the day before your trip and you can’t find another way to get to your destination, so you’re out the $5,000 you spent on nonrefundable hotel reservations? In that case, your credit card provider will credit you the cost of the flights, but it won’t help with the hotel stays (because the hotels are still operating). A travel insurance policy with a financial-default clause, however, will cover all of your losses because you were forced to cancel your entire trip.

For more guidance on the right insurance for your particular needs, read How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

 

View of Hvar with green mountains and sea, Croatia

Croatia Is Open and This Couple Enjoyed It So Much, They’re Going Back

View of Hvar with green mountains and sea, Croatia
Hvar, where the Andrews spent a day with a winemaker
view of Hvar Croatia
Hvar
view of Rovinj Croatia
Rovinj, on Croatia's Istrian peninsula
stone pathway by the water in Rovinj Croatia Istrian peninsual
Walking around Rovinj
small alley and arched walkway in Split Old Town Croatia
The Old Town in Split, without its usual crowds
A spritz at the outdoor deck at the San Canzian hotel in Istria Croatia
A spritz at the outdoor deck at the San Canzian hotel in Istria.

 

When Jennifer Andrews wrote to Ask Wendy to find out who could best help her pull together a trip to Croatia during the pandemic (Croatia is open to U.S. travelers with a negative Covid test), we sent her to WOW List candidate Ala Osmond. Jennifer and her husband, David, traveled in October and were so impressed by Ala’s first-hand knowledge of the country, and the trip she designed, that they’ve already planned a second Croatia trip with her—for April. “She thought of absolutely everything and made it so easy for us,” Jennifer wrote in her trip review. Eager to learn more about what it’s like to travel in Croatia now, we called Jennifer at her home in Austin, Texas. Here’s what she said:

Why Croatia?

Because it was open and they would let us in. [Laughs] And because David had read that it felt like Italy.

Why now?

We were supposed to go Italy last spring, but that’s when the pandemic started raging. I get the WendyPerrin.com newsletter, and I kept reading different articles that seemed very well thought out, and that kind of took away my concerns. When Croatia came up, I thought: Let’s use Wendy Perrin because they know more than we do, and if anything goes wrong, they can help.

What were your concerns about traveling now?

My biggest concern was the timing of our pre-travel Covid tests. The minute you get swabbed for the required test, the clock starts ticking. We ended up getting a test two days before our flight, just to make sure we were okay, and then we got another one at 8 a.m. of the day we flew. By the time we landed in Frankfurt, we had the results and we were negative.

Your review said Ala was on top of Covid concerns and gave you options on how best to handle them. Can you explain that?

I’m the kind of person who can spend ten hours researching where to get a PCR test. I have the tenacity of a bulldog. But with this trip, I didn’t have to do anything. Every single detail was planned out. For example, at the airport, the fast track was just waiting for us, and that felt better because of the virus.

Also, at one point in the planning, we thought we couldn’t get a test in the right time frame before we left, so we’d have to take a test in Zagreb right when we landed and stay there until we got the results. Ala had a back-up plan for that: If, for example, we got to Zagreb and the lab was closed, she had four options fully thought out with all the steps. Or if we got the test back and it was positive, we would just call Ala and go to that back-up plan. It didn’t feel like we’d have to scramble if anything went wrong.

How was flying from Houston to Croatia?

It was three flights, but they went really smoothly. We flew United, and the flights were empty. There were only four of us in the business-class section. We had one problem: The couple in front of us were anti-maskers. The flight attendant kept yelling at them. I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me—you just signed a million waivers! Finally a guy turned around and yelled, just put your mask on!

You said in your review that the experiences Ala arranged were not things you could have found online and booked yourself. What was your favorite experience?

The wine experience we did on Hvar! We spent the entire day with a wine master who drove us all over the island. She’s been there for five years and started her own winery, and she’d tell us things like, “This is why I came here, this is why I like Croatia, this is how I started my company.” We got to taste wine at its different stages, so she could point out when it was bitter and how it would change over time. And then, at dinner, we had a different bottle of the finished wine with each course. We’ve been to a million wineries, but this was different.

Also, I’m vegan, and she had gone to the restaurant four different times to discuss the menu—she was so involved in making sure it was this really great day. She had so much knowledge.

This was the first time you used a trip designer recommended by Wendy Perrin. How did this differ from the way you usually travel?

The guides were really, really good. Everywhere we went, they knew our itinerary already. It sounds stupid, but not having to repeat everything you’ve already done is so nice. They said, “I see you went here. We heard you did this. Did you like this restaurant?” It was like traveling with a group of friends.

And they knew their stuff. We’ve been to Rome like 50 times, and on tours they take you by places but don’t take you in. By contrast, in Split, our guide would take us inside the stores, or she’d see her friend and we’d have a conversation with them. Her family is from Croatia, and she could talk about her family, the war, and her career as an attorney. So there was personal stuff along with the history. And then she’d say, “That’s where Anthony Hopkins just bought a house!” [Laughs] Our guides knew fun stuff like that too.

Before the pandemic, certain parts of Croatia were known for being crowded. Did you see a lot of tourists?

It was the tail end of the season. By the time we go to Rovinj, it was empty. A lot of restaurants were closed, but some really good ones were open, and people sat outside. We walked for miles because it was so pretty, and it was pretty empty.

In Split there were quite a few people walking around, but it was never crowded at all. Everyone was so nice, and everything was open. And when we went to see the Roman ruins, we were the only ones there; it was so empty that we could hear our echoes when we were talking.

Split had never hit my radar. I thought we’d just go to Dubrovnik. But when I talked to Ala, she said she liked Split better because it feels less touristy. And it was charming in every way: the cobblestones, and just sitting in the old city having a spritz. It struck me: It was so nice to feel normal, to sit outside and have a drink, and see people walking by, even with masks on.

Were people wearing masks?

When you’re outside, you don’t have to wear the mask but you keep your distance. Inside, you wear masks. In the car, we all wore masks. And guiding, because there were so few people, we could all stand back ten feet.

What about at restaurants?

At restaurants, every single server had on masks and gloves, which I have not seen here at home. I wasn’t worried anywhere. Everywhere we went, they said thank you so much for coming, we’re so happy to see Americans.

What were the hotels like?

That was another thing Ala was good at: She knew the hotels. She wasn’t just reading off the website; she knew them. I saw a hotel that looked good on the website, but Ala said no, it’s slipped, you don’t want go there. She knew it because she had been there.

What did the pandemic make easier or harder about your trip?

Not having the crowds made things easier. Flights were harder, but you just go through a few more hoops and then you appreciate it that much more when you get there.

When you enter Croatia and you have your negative test and you know that everyone else visiting has had a negative test too…I stopped worrying. I felt safer in Croatia than I do here. If every country required a negative test, I feel like we could travel. The weird thing is when you come back to the U.S., no one asks you anything.

What do you wish you knew beforehand?

I’m never going to do another trip without a Wendy Perrin specialist. It’s not even a question anymore. I know whatever I can do, y’all can do better.

Just having that conversation with the specialist—your relationship starts when you have that conversation and you tell them who you are and what you want to do. I get it completely now. You do need to talk to somebody. I used to say: Just email me. But now I get it.

 

UPDATE: Jennifer’s review of her return trip to Croatia in April, 2021

Our second trip to Croatia was even better than the first. Ala took what we loved about our last trip and made this one even more tailored to what we wanted to do. We did not have to worry about a single thing- Ala took care of everything including organizing our covid test for our flight home. All the restaurants we went to were informed of my no meat/no dairy so I didn’t have to explain it over and over. We had an amazing driver/guide who suggested several stops so we could walk around some different towns and we loved that—so much so that we are going to stay in one of the towns we asked about (Opatija). The Istrian Coast has had very few cases of covid but all the hotels and restaurants were very cautious and strict about following guidelines. We felt very comfortable everywhere. Ala really does plan the most perfect visit to Croatia and you have local numbers for anything that comes up during your trip so I never had to worry about anything. She knew the hotels really well and is really good about knowing what we would like or didn’t like. I cannot recommend her highly enough.



Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Brando-Resort-Tahiti-OneTahi-motu.

You Can Go to Bora Bora Smartly During Covid: This Couple Did

Jet skiing around Bora Bora
The Gobles at the St. Regis Bora Bora
Lunch on the table, feet dangling in the ocean — at the St. Regis Bora Bora
Relaxing with a coconut by the crowd-free pool at the St. Regis
The Brando resort sits on the private Tahitian island of Tetiaroa, where Marlon Brando filmed Mutiny on the Bounty in the early 1960s.
The villa at The Brando felt very private.
An ocean view from The Brando resort
The Gobles spotted sharks on a snorkeling excursion at the St. Regis Bora Bora.
Brando Resort Tahiti aerial overview
The Brando resort, Tahiti. Photo: The Brando
Brando Resort Tahiti- villa at sunset
The Brando resort, Tahiti. Photo: The Brando
Brando-Resort-Tahiti-OneTahi-motu.
The Brando resort, Tahiti. Photo: The Brando
overwater bungalows at St. Regis Bora Bora with mountain in background
St. Regis Bora Bora. Photo: St. Regis

 


 

This traveler got this trip by starting with this questionnaire.  For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.

 

When longtime reader Jeff Goble and his wife escaped to French Polynesia in September 2020, they felt like they were in paradise.

Not only were they surrounded by the tropical beauty of the islands but they also had the reassurance that every traveler arrived coronavirus-free, thanks to the country’s requirement of two Covid tests: a pre-trip RT-PCR test conducted in person within three days of your flight, and another self-administered test four days after arrival.

In fact, Mr. Goble’s getaway to French Polynesia was the only international trip he didn’t have to cancel during the pandemic—his work trips to Zambia and a milestone birthday celebration in Italy were all on hold.

The couple planned the trip through Kleon Howe, a French Polynesia specialist on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. “Kleon prepared us so well. Any concern we might have had, he alleviated,” said Mr. Goble from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. They spent eight nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora (their pick) and another six at The Brando on the private island of Tetiaroa (Kleon’s suggestion). We couldn’t wait to hear about their experiences and live vicariously through their photos, especially because come May 1, the islands will reopen again to American travelers after a short pause for safety this winter.
.

Why did you pick French Polynesia?

We had been twice before, and we love it. It is also one of the few places that will admit Americans. We had five international trips scheduled this year, and all were canceled except this one.

Did you have any apprehension about taking this trip?

Friends of ours went shortly after the country reopened on July 15, so we had their recommendation that things were good. And we were reassured by the testing requirements: You realize that everyone on the plane with you has had a negative test within three days and will be tested again on day four of your visit. So it felt like a very safe environment as we were considering it. And it felt like a very safe environment when we got there.

How did Kleon help?

There were three areas where he provided super value.

First, I would have passed on The Brando if it wasn’t for Kleon, and that would have been a mistake. Why? The price—it’s expensive. But it was well worth it. Our friends who had been there the previous month said, I’m going to warn you, you’re never going to want to come home. And for the first time ever on a vacation, my wife looked at me and said, I don’t want to go home. And she meant it. Call the kids, tell the broker to sell everything, wire money to us, we’re not coming home. [Laughs]

Second, I don’t think we could have found testing, if it were not for Kleon. We actually had to fly to LAX the Saturday before our Tuesday departure because it was not possible to get a PCR test with a quick turnaround in Arizona. Kleon worked really hard to help manage this with us and found a testing location in L.A. [from French Polynesia’s list of approved manufacturers] that we were able to get access to and that would give our results back within 24 hours.

And third, not huge, but we made a decision while at The Brando that we wanted to visit a pearl market, and he made those arrangements for us on the fly and organized the transportation for us.

Without Kleon, the trip would have been a much less enjoyable experience—or we might not have been able to go at all. That’s because French Polynesia’s entry requirements changed while we were going through the planning process. At first they were allowing typical rapid Covid testing, but apparently some passengers arrived and tested positive, so that’s when French Polynesia changed to the PCR test and added some additional paperwork requirements too. Just having Kleon hold our hand through it and make sure we did it correctly was very reassuring.

Can you tell us what makes The Brando so special?

The Brando hadn’t been on our list until Kleon convinced me that we had to go. He said it was a not-miss, and he was so right. We’d previously been to the St. Regis, and I wasn’t sure where we were going to spend the second week until Kleon convinced me. And I’m so glad he did.

It’s the finest resort we’ve ever stayed at anywhere in the world, in terms of service, privacy, and attention to detail. In the backyard of your villa, there’s vegetation that separates you from other villas on either side of you, and we found the privacy really enjoyable, plus the staff was the best we’d ever experienced. Everybody knows your name, and they’re happy to customize for you. The quality of the facilities was outstanding too.

It feels like a bespoke experience when you’re there. You’re not spending time with many other people. We’d be at the pool, and maybe there’d be one other couple there. Part of that is Covid-related, but part is the design of The Brando. Even when they’re full, it’s a very private experience. You understand why they get a lot of celebrities there; you can enjoy the setting there and do so with privacy.

The site is an important part of it; it’s so unique that you can understand why Brando bought it. We’ve been to a lot of tropical islands around the world, but there’s nothing like it.

How did you spend your time in the islands?

At the St. Regis Bora Bora, we spent a few hours jet skiing all the way around the island, which is a fun experience. And then we spent a half-day snorkeling with sharks and rays, and they set up an amazing lunch at a picnic table with our feet in the water just off shore. Other than that, we relaxed and spent time at the beach and pool and spa.

At The Brando, the only activity we did was whale watching. It was a really special experience because it was just a boat captain, a naturalist guide, and the two of us. We had a three-hour private whale-watching tour and got to see a lot of whales up close. We really enjoyed that.

In French Polynesia you are permitted by law to get in the water with whales and to snorkel in their vicinity. Sadly for us, the whales were faster swimmers than us, and they did not find us interesting enough to stick around. The Brando has a lot of interactions with nature you can do, led by a member of the scientific team on the island.

For this trip, you flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, and then on to Tahiti. How were those flights?

We’ve been flying a bit over the course of the summer, and since we were aware that the flight from LAX to Tahiti would be only about 50 percent full and that everyone had been tested, it was the safest flight we made this summer. I would fly a lot more if every time I got on an airplane everyone had been tested recently.

From Phoenix to LAX, we flew Southwest. It shouldn’t have come as much of a shock to me, but you could have fired a cannon through Bradley Terminal at LAX and not hit anybody. I’ve been through LAX dozens of time; it was safe.

What do you wish you’d known beforehand (and therefore would tell other people)?

My only tip would be that now is a good time to go and we felt safe. There’s nothing I wish I’d known beforehand because, frankly, Kleon prepared us so well—any concern we might have had, he alleviated—and also, we’d been to French Polynesia before. The only thing I wish is that I went to The Brando before. [Laughs]

 



Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Gaia Riverlodge Belize

Dispatch from Belize: Private Sailing and Outdoor Adventures Right Now

Gaia Riverlodge Belize
Gaia Riverlodge
Rio on Pools 1 Belize
Rio on Pools
On top of High Temple - Lamanai Belize
On top of High Temple - Lamanai Belize
Flying over Glover's Atoll Belize
Flying over Glover's Atoll
Gaia Riverlodge Belize
Gaia Riverlodge
Gaia Riverlodge Beliz
Gaia Riverlodge
Gaia Riverlodge Beliz
Gaia Riverlodge
Blancaneaux Lodge
Chaa Creek Staff Belize
Chaa Creek Staff Belize
Chaa Creek's Butterfly Farm Belize
Chaa Creek's Butterfly Farm Belize
Chaa Creek Sanitization Station Belize
Chaa Creek Sanitization Station
RTV Safari Tour Belize
RTV Safari Tour
Site inspection at Ka'ana Resort Belize
Site inspection at Ka'ana Resort

 

With a Caribbean coastline that is home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, yet is only a 2.5-hour flight from Miami or Houston, Belize is both beautiful (think open blue sea, lush green jungle) and convenient. But how Covid-safe is it? So far, so good. The country reopened to international flights on October 1 (with the requirement that travelers are either fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test), and since then a few of our readers have ventured there and been rewarded with trips that were both memorable and safety-conscious.

To get a better understanding of what Belize is doing to minimize risk, we called Rachael Wilson and Patricia Johnson, who’ve earned a spot on Wendy’s WOW List for their customized trips, both on land and water, and who orchestrated the experiences that led to those happy travelers’ reviews. Rachael and Patricia live in Belize year-round, and over the past several months, they’ve traveled the country, checking out Ambergris Caye (Belize’s largest island and gateway to many other islands), the Cayo District (an area known for its parks, natural reserves, and Mayan ruins), the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest, and more. Their goal was to see how pandemic protocols are being instituted and followed, and to judge for themselves where travelers should and shouldn’t go. Here’s what they’ve learned.

*This article is part of a series in which we are following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

You live in Belize and have been road-testing travelers’ favorite spots anew. What have you observed?

Rachael: Ambergris Caye, which is normally the most touristed island in Belize, is a mixed bag: 60% of the properties have it together, but 40% are still ironing out maintenance after this very difficult time. So it’s important we are out there seeing things for ourselves, so we can guide people to the properties that are doing well. The travelers coming to Ambergris are predominantly Americans, and returning expats and homeowners, which is really good for the economy because they’re living their lives: eating, going to the hardware store, and diving.

Patricia: I live in the Cayo District, in San Ignacio. I spent an overnight at Chaa Creek Resort recently, which was one of the first hotels that were Gold Standard Certified. It was good to get a feel for what they’re doing to make sure guests are safe. The check-in is now contactless, and as soon as you arrive there’s a sanitization station. Then the health and safety concierge does a temperature check and takes you to your room, and you have access to the concierge via WhatsApp.

A lot of properties have taken this time to upgrade, and I stopped by Ka’ana Resort to see their renovations. Ka’ana added private outdoor gardens and plunge pools, and expanded their decks so they could have outdoor dining and improve the private experience.

What activities are open for travelers, and how are they different from pre-Covid?

Patricia: Most of the activities are open because most are socially distanced anyway. Like if you’re going to the Mayan ruins—I’ve been there several times during the pandemic—there’s no one there. We had guests over Thanksgiving, and they were the only ones there. It was an amazing experience.

Rachael: Scuba diving, snorkeling, cave tubing, hiking, mountain biking—all of those things are socially distanced anyway, so they’re the same.

Patricia: The experiences we are steering people away from are the very interactive ones, like ceramics, tortilla making, and cooking classes. But the hotels are providing a taste of the culture anyway, in terms of nights with Mayan cuisine or Garifuna nights with drumming and dancing with social distancing.

Before, we would pick and choose activities based on guests’ interests. But because of the Gold Standard, we have to reign in who we send where, and with who, so that the protocols are adhered to. For example, we had a guest who did a private catch-and-cook: They went out with a captain and caught lobster and conch, and then they went to a remote place on the beach and made ceviche and cooked it over coconut husks. They said it was amazing, and the best day ever. They didn’t see anybody else. So the classic Belize experiences are not really impacted.

What about restaurants?

Patricia: Most restaurants here in Belize are open-air. And right now they are open at 50% capacity. I went to a restaurant on Sunday night here, and it was sanitized, we wore masks when we entered, the servers wore their masks, and it felt normal.

Rachael: Places have adapted too. Red Ginger at the Phoenix in San Pedro was indoor with air-conditioning, but they’ve built a patio and put tables on the roof, so everyone can be outside. I saw friends there I haven’t seen in a long time, and there were seats between us outside. They’re discouraging people from just going to the bar and standing there.

How do you work safely on private boat charters, where the space is confined?

Rachael: The guests are coming into the country with a required negative test, and we’re able to test the crew. If everyone’s negative, it’s completely relaxed. The guests don’t have to wear masks if they’re on deck, but the crew will wear masks. We’re asking guests to keep a mask on if they’re inside. The crew is two people: the captain and the chef, and they wear many hats. So if the chef is serving the food, the chef will keep the mask on and then step away to tell them what they’re eating. And then when the chef cleans the cabins, they’ll have all the PPE on. It’s tricky because they want the guests to see their smiles, and that’s hard. So we ask that they stand away.

How many people are on a boat?

Rachael: We have two boats that can take up to eight people each. But typically there are only up to six people per boat, and we don’t mix the groups—they’re private charters. Honeymooners, couples, groups of friends and families. We can do tandem bookings as well. We booked four families over Thanksgiving, so they could go out together, and we can kind of wrap the boats so that we can have appetizers on one boat, for example.

What are travelers’ biggest concerns now, and how are you addressing those?

Patricia: They are really looking at the Covid numbers. Everybody is fearful of getting on the plane. Once we tell them about what safety measures are in place on the ground here, they feel more at ease. Primarily it is the thought of getting on the plane.

Rachael: But when you get off the plane in Belize, you can be onto the catamaran in ten minutes. If you’re headed from the airport to another part of the country, you may get into a little 14-seat puddle-jumper plane—however, it is difficult to be socially distant. For this reason, many of our clients have chosen the land transfer or water taxi instead. I took a puddle jumper back from the islands, and I recommend that you keep your mask and face shield on for the duration of the flight especially since the flights are short (15 minutes from Ambergris Caye to the airport). You can also book a private charter on a puddle jumper (planes are disinfected by fogging or spraying before and after each flight) ora private helicopter transfer that has Plexiglas surrounding the captain.

Tell us about the government’s Gold Standard safety certification. All hotels and yacht charters must earn it before opening?

Rachael: Yes, I had to get the certification for our catamarans in order to operate them. It’s a lot about monitoring and reporting and recording and tracing, as well as enhanced protocols for sanitizing, mask wearing, and hand washing. It’s complicated for us with the catamarans, because the guests go out with the crew on board, and we have to keep everyone safe, but it’s mostly about training everyone and using the right cleaning products. We have an electrostatic fogger for the boats, it makes our turn-arounds much quicker. And for our vehicles, if anyone’s been in it, we fog the vehicle right away.

Patricia: Some properties do have inspections at random times. All resorts must receive their Gold Standard Certification in order to welcome tourists. It is a strict requirement and once you download the Belize Health App you will need to indicate where you are staying by selecting from the list of Gold Standard Hotels. Majority of the resorts here have standalone accommodations and are serious about guests’ and employee safety, so the protocols are stringently followed.

What has the pandemic, surprisingly, made easier or better?

Rachael: It’s easier to see the Mayan ruins. There are normally 20 to 50 or maybe more people there, depending on the time of year, but we’ve had guests who’ve had the ruins all to themselves. The same with the yachts. People are going out and not seeing another boat. And in the marine reserves, while the fish are all there regardless, there seems to be more of an abundance of nature now.

Patricia: At the Mayan ruins, we also know which times of day are quieter, so even when things get busy again, we will know when to take people there. Like most everywhere else, the pandemic halted all incoming travel, and this sparked some creativity for many, including our local guides. Some of them have formed a Belize Hiking Group, focused on showcasing and protecting natural resources, and I recently joined their first hike for this year: a three-hour trek along little-known trails that ended with a swim at Vaca Falls. All the guides are Gold Standard Certified, so social distancing and other protocols were followed.

Is there anything that’s harder?

Rachael: It’s a huge part of the culture of coming here that Belizean people are warm and welcoming and fun and laid-back, so having half the face covered up is hard.

 

We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

beach lounges under a palapa on the beach looking out to the blue ocean with boats in the water at the Mandarin Oriental hotel Bodrum Turkey

Dispatch from Turkey: What Travelers Can Expect in Istanbul and Beyond

beach lounges under a palapa on the beach looking out to the blue ocean with boats in the water at the Mandarin Oriental hotel Bodrum Turkey
Turkey's seaside resort of Bodrum is filling in for travelers' European summer vacation plans. Photo: Mandarin Oriental Bodrum
exterior of Hagia Sophia mosque and surrounding park in Istanbul—with no crowds.
"At Hagia Sophia, the upstairs is closed, but now is a really good time to get in there because it’s not crowded and the renovation hasn’t started," Karen says. Photo: Sea Song Tours
Istanbul's Blue Mosque and the surrounding park without any tourists
Istanbul's Blue Mosque and the surrounding park are usually packed with tourists. Photo: Sea Song Tours
view over beach from restaurant at Mandarin Oriental hotel Bodrum Turkey
Travelers are extremely interested in beach escapes and private yacht or gulet trips. Photo: Mandarin Oriental Bodrum
Ephesus, Turkey
The maximum number of people allowed into Ephesus now is 650 at a time. Pre-pandemic, it could be 50,000.

 

Karen Fedorko Sefer lives in Istanbul, and she’s been there throughout the whole pandemic. When Turkey reopened its borders in June 2020, Karen closely monitored the situation to keep on top of how it was affecting travelers. In the months that followed, she organized trips for several Americans and WendyPerrin.com readers, and was able to deliver a safe and high-quality experience (you can read about one WOW trip here). Then in December, in order to curb rising coronavirus cases, the country reinstated some safety precautions, including a pause on indoor dining and weekend curfews for residents (not tourists). The good news is that while the country is maintaining vigilance, some precautions were recently eased for Covid-tested travelers—and they are eager to return.

We’ve talked to Karen repeatedly throughout the past year to get her first-hand insight into what it’s like to travel in Turkey, what visitors can expect to see and do, and how their trips will or won’t be affected by pandemic measures. This week, she gave us the latest.

*This article is part of a series in which we will be following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

What restrictions are in place now?

None when it comes to seeing the sights and touring. Citizens are locked down on the weekends (from Friday 9pm to Monday 5am) and, because of that, all the shops (besides grocery stores)—including the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar—are closed on weekends. But all other sights are open, and tourists do not have to stay in.

Who is coming to Turkey now?

People who have been vaccinated. Summer bookings are strong already, because we’re one of the few countries in the Mediterranean basin that is going to be open.

Where are they going?

The Bodrum seaside resort area was at 100% occupancy in July, August and September of last year, and the same is anticipated for this summer. Private yachts are also in high demand: We’ve booked a lot of gulet trips for this summer.

When Turkey first re-opened to tourism in June 2020, who was coming then, and what did they want?

I welcomed our first guests on July 20, and most were younger travelers. We booked a lot of last-minute gulets and yachts because families and friends living in separate countries wanted to come together and chose Turkey because it was one of the few places that was open to people from many countries. And since Turkey was doing Covid tests at the airport, we also had people staying over in Istanbul for a few days, getting their test, then flying on to the Maldives—for example, honeymooners.

A year later, have the types of trips they want changed?

Yes. Before, families and friends just wanted to come together and have a reunion. Now, they are vaccinated and looking for a summer beach vacation. Normally Americans don’t come to Turkey for the beach. They usually drive around the country sightseeing. They go to Bodrum for the historical sights, like the Bodrum Castle and Myndos Gate. But now they want beach and water and boating activities. Normally, the people who come to Turkey in summer are Europeans or Russians because they’re close by. Now, Americans who would have gone to the beach in other Mediterranean countries are coming to Turkey instead.

People are also coming for longer periods of time—usually 10 to 14 days. We have much larger bookings, and people are staying longer.

How does the popularity of gulet and yacht charters compare to pre-Covid?

Gulets are more popular than before, and it’s either groups of friends, groups of couples, or multigenerational families who book them. They like the idea of being on an isolated vacation together. And then they spend a couple of days before or after in Bodrum, where we have some of the most luxe hotels in the world.

What’s so special about Bodrum?

It’s the St. Tropez of Turkey. The people who usually go to St. Tropez, Mykonos, Capri, they’re coming here. There’s no mass tourism in Bodrum. And there are no cruise ships coming, so there are no cruise crowds.

If Bodrum is fully booked, how do they make it feel safe?

Everyone has to wear masks anywhere outdoors in Turkey, and social distancing is mandatory. In Istanbul, there are so many people that it can be hard to stay a meter apart. But at the beach, it’s easy. The beaches are allowed only a certain number of sunbeds, and the sunbeds are each one meter away from the next. So if the beach is full, you go to the pool or rent a cabana. And not everybody’s at the beach; they could be at the spa, on a yacht for the day, or in town. Plus, hotels in Bodrum are not big: The Mandarin-Oriental has 133 rooms, the Edition has 108 rooms, the Amanruya has only 36.

What else should travelers know about a beach vacation in Turkey?

People ask me, “Where can I go in Turkey where there’s a beach I can walk for miles?” I explain that in Turkey we don’t have a lot of long, sandy beaches (except in Antalya, but it’s not super-high-end there). We do have two hotels in Bodrum with sandy beaches (they brought in the sand from Egypt because Turkey has pebble beaches). Then people want to know how long the beach is in Bodrum, so I show them a picture so they can see where they’d be walking or how private it might be. They’re not familiar with Turkey at all—they’re used to going to Italy every year—and they’re trying to find a beach spot that’s similar to the one they like in Italy.

One traveler said, “We need to know the best places where we can get fried calamari because we always love that in Italy and we want to be able to get it in Turkey.” Well, of course they can get it in Turkey! Our calamari here is amazing. It’s fresh from the Aegean Sea! But they’re thinking about what they love about their summer vacation and how to get it in Turkey.

What does Istanbul look and feel like now? What has changed?

It’s business as usual, except that everyone is wearing masks. Hotels and sights are open, but there are restaurant restrictions (see below). Historic landmarks limit the number of visitors (it varies by site), but we offer a “fast track” to get our travelers to the front of the line.

At Topkapi Palace, it’s easier to move around, and the indoor restaurant has gotten much better: It used to be big buffets, but it’s now a la carte. They have a beautiful view of the Bosphorus, fewer tables, and the quality of the experience has really gone up.

At Hagia Sophia, the upstairs is closed, but now is a really good time to get in there because it’s not crowded and the renovation hasn’t started. The underground cistern is closed for renovation, but we have some other cisterns we are taking people to.

How about Ephesus? What’s it like with no cruise crowds there?

At Ephesus now, the maximum capacity is 650 people at one time, and generally there haven’t been more than 200. In normal times, there could be 50,000 people there at once! Everybody is just loving the fact that they’re the only ones there.

Can travelers still have special private experiences at historic sites, like you used to arrange for them?

We’re not permitted to open Hagia Sophia after-hours anymore, since it was turned back into a mosque. But we’ve made an agreement with an underground cistern and we are doing after-hour visits there. We can still do dinners and concerts and cocktails inside Ephesus, and we just worked out with the Ephesus museum to bring our guests in first thing in the morning before anybody gets there. We’re also working now with Virgin Mary’s house to try to bring people into the private chapel.

We still arrange special experiences like stopping in a village house in Cappadocia, or a great new cooking class in Istanbul, or day trips to wineries and new museums. Our savvy guides pull off a tremendous number of spontaneous experiences too.

What are the safety protocols for hotels?

They take your temperature upon arrival. If you have a fever, they won’t allow you to enter. The rooms are sanitized, and you must wear a mask in all common areas. When you sit down for dinner, you can take it off, but in all other cases, when you’re walking around in the hotel, you have to wear it.

What are the restaurant restrictions?

Restaurants are currently open from 7am to 7pm for everyone—travelers and citizens. After 7pm, the restaurants are only allowed to do takeout. Hotel restaurants are allowed to have outside guests visit from 7am to 7pm; after 7pm only hotel guests can dine in them. During Ramadan, however—which is from April 13 to May 14—the government has decided that all restaurants will be closed for in-person dining and offer only takeout. For travelers who are touring at that time, we will get lunch boxes from the hotel or takeout from the restaurants and find a nice outdoor spot for lunch.

When the restaurants are open, they are capped at 50% capacity, and there must be 1.5 meters between tables. You have to wear your mask into the restaurant and can take it off only when you sit. All of the waiters wear masks, and some are wearing face shields. The menus are all by QR code. It’s actually quite pleasant, because guests are not packed in.

Is now a good time to visit Turkey?

All the sights are open, the spring weather is beautiful, and after Ramadan ends on May 14 the restaurants will be open again, and it should be possible to eat virtually every meal outdoors. Plus, the U.S. dollar is really strong against the Turkish lira.

Summer will be a good opportunity to experience Turkey without the crowds because the mass-tourism groups with the big buses won’t be here. Pre-Covid it was packed, packed, packed in summertime: It would be an hour and a half to get into a sight if you didn’t have the fast track, and 50,000 people would be at Ephesus from the cruise ships. But now only 650 are allowed in there at once, and other sights are capped too.

During Covid, I’ve had people go to the ancient Roman site of Pergamon, and they are the only people there. You couldn’t get that experience before.

What safety steps are you taking for your travelers and staff?

In cars, the guide and driver sit in front of Plexiglas and speak to the travelers in the back seat via a microphone. We’re monitoring all the hotels; they must be certified for safety by the government and can’t open if they’re not inspected and approved to be following all protocols the government has put in place. Pools and spas are open in some hotels; they also have to be certified by the government so they’re not all open.

We have a chart where we keep track of what’s been certified and what hasn’t, and that informs our decisions about where to recommend. We monitor traveler feedback because they are telling us every detail about hotels and restaurants.

We are doing PCR tests on a regular basis for all our private guides, private drivers, and other staff, and the government has set up a system where all certified tourism staff can be vaccinated by the summer.

What about testing and vaccines for your travelers?

You must have a negative PCR test to get on the plane to Turkey, and you have to fill out the health form online. There are no protocols for vaccinated arrivals yet; they have to follow the same rules. Then when travelers are getting ready to go back to the U.S., we can handle getting their PCR test here, either at a private hospital or at the hotel, for between $35 and $50 dollars per person. We usually have the health workers come first thing in the morning before a guest’s tour, and when they come back to the hotel after their tour, the results are on their phone—same day.


 

We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

private jet with red carpet

Private Jets: The Safest Option, and More Affordable Than You Might Think

The biggest Covid risk that savvy travelers face nowadays is not at their destination. It’s getting to their destination. It’s airports and airplanes. So imagine if you could cut your airport waiting time down to 20 minutes, and share your airplane cabin’s air with just a few other people, by flying private. Think private jets are too expensive? If you’re already flying in first or business class, and if you’re traveling with a group of five or more people, you may find that chartering your own plane is within reach—and worth the cost to minimize your risk of exposure to Covid and ensure a worry-free trip.

Flying private will never be cheaper than flying commercial. Rates for a six-passenger aircraft generally start at $3,000 per hour of flying time. But if you can fill every seat—and provided you book through the right private-jet broker who doesn’t add a huge markup—it might make sense for your travel group. The price of, say, a transcontinental flight on a six- or seven-passenger light jet works out to about $3,750 per person each way. If you’ve got flexibility in your timing, airports, or destination, that price can actually drop by 75%: The trick is to book an “empty leg,” which means filling the return flight of a plane that’s been booked for a one-way trip. The schedule is dictated by the original passengers, but the savings for you are considerable: a coast-to-coast “empty leg” one-way might cost less than $1,000 each for a family of six.

If you don’t have the flexibility for an “empty leg,” you’re looking at pricing of perhaps $1,800 per person each way for a flight between New York and West Palm Beach, $3,000 per person each way between Boston and Vail, $3,500 per person each way between Dallas and St. Barts, or $3,000 per person each way between Chicago and Los Cabos, Mexico. Yes, it’s a splurge, but you also might gain more than you imagine, and not just in health and peace of mind. Here are additional benefits to consider:

Less time in airports

With a commercial flight, you need to get to the airport an hour or two ahead—time when you’re sharing indoor air with other people, some of whom may take their mask off to eat or simply aren’t bothering to wear it properly. If you’ve chartered your own jet, however, you can arrive 20 minutes before flight time, and you’re likely flying in and out of much smaller airports with few other passengers around.

Less exposure in the air

While commercial jets’ hospital-grade air filters are very effective, the particles exhaled by your seatmate may reach you before the air has a chance to be filtered. On a private plane, you share that air with just two or three people—a pilot, copilot, and possibly a flight attendant—instead of two or three hundred, and you could even pay for the crew to be tested before your flight.

Less vacation time wasted in transit

Say you want to fly from your home in Miami to a ski trip in Lake Tahoe, California. The commercial airport closest to the slopes is an hour away in Reno, Nevada. Since there are no scheduled nonstop flights from Miami to Reno, you’ll spend most of a day getting from A (Miami) to B (Denver) to C (Reno) to D (Tahoe). On a private charter, you can fly straight from Miami to a smaller airport that’s just 20 minutes from your lodge and strap on skis that same afternoon. In the U.S., there are about 500 airports open to commercial traffic, compared to 5,000 for private aircraft.

Your choice of timing

Airlines have drastically cut schedules during the pandemic, often leaving travelers with just one or two flight times to choose from on their preferred day of travel; sometimes these inconvenient changes are made at the last minute. When you fly charter, though, you dictate the schedule. And if you’re late to the airport, your plane will wait for you.

Frequent last-minute availability

With commercial flights, the closer you are to your departure, the more prices go up and options dwindle. With private jets, it’s not hard to find a charter at the last minute—and you may even pay less, since an operator doesn’t want their jet sitting idle. Payment can also wait: You’ll likely need to put down a 10% to 20% deposit to reserve a charter flight, with the balance commonly due two weeks before the flight.

Thinking of flying private?

There is a variety of private-jet brokers and sources, each with different pros and cons. Feel free to ask us for a personalized recommendation . We can level with you about the right source for your specific needs—one who will find you the safest, smartest option and negotiate the best rates on your behalf.

Ask Us About a Private Jet Trip

 

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Where to Go This Winter

Many of you have been asking: Can I travel safely this winter? The answer is that it’s possible to minimize your risk greatly—even when traveling to far-flung destinations—thanks to new, smarter entry requirements for certain states and countries, better Covid testing options, and new protocols that particular travel companies, hotel staff, and private drivers and guides have put in place. Read our reviews of real trips that travelers have taken to many of these destinations, all of which share three major characteristics: They are currently open to U.S. residents without a quarantine; they allow for social distancing, both during your daily activities and at your accommodations; and they are warm enough that you can eat many of your meals outdoors.

Click to get a personalized trip recommendation

Mexico

Beach villas and other private accommodations make it easier to social distance in Mexico. Photo: Cabo Villas

From private beachfront villas to small boutique inns with open-air common areas to colonial haciendas that you can reserve for just your family, you’ll find an array of options in Mexico that allow for easy social distancing—as these travelers did in July. Many airlines are operating between the U.S. and Mexico, with no Covid-testing requirements. For east coasters, a quick flight to Cancun gives you entrée to the Riviera Maya and Tulum; west coasters will find nonstops to Cabo San Lucas (where migrating whales and whale sharks pass by every winter) and Puerto Vallarta, the latter a gateway to the top-notch resorts and private villas on the Punta de Mita peninsula. Beyond the beach, the freestanding suites in the Mayan forest at Chablé Yucatán allow for complete privacy. Read Mexico trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Mexico

A Caribbean island

St Lucia beach with Pitons mountains in the background

St. Lucia is open to U.S. travelers. Photo: Shutterstock

A good many Caribbean locales are once again welcoming U.S. travelers. Some require pre-trip testing, others test on arrival or screen for symptoms, and some—including Anguilla—have created “vacation bubbles” so that travelers can take part in certain land and water activities that have been deemed safe. Read this article for more details. If you’re nervous about getting sick outside the country, know that Medjet will fly you home from the islands if you are hospitalized with Covid.  

Ask About a Trip to the Caribbean

Hawaii

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Hawaii now allows travelers to skip quarantine if they arrive with a negative Covid test. Photo: Shutterstock

The Hawaiian islands did away with their mandatory 14-day quarantine in October—provided that travelers register with the Safe Travels program and arrive with negative results from an approved Covid test performed no more than 72 hours prior (passengers headed to Kaua’i must still quarantine or stay in a “resort bubble,” and there may be quarantines for inter-island travel). A number of airlines will help passengers headed to the islands get a pre-flight test, for a fee. Once you’re in Hawaii, it’s all about enjoying the outdoors, from snorkeling to hiking to stand-up paddleboarding and ATV rides. Read Hawaii trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Hawaii

Belize

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Charter your own boat in Belize for days of snorkeling, sunbathing, and plenty of distance from other travelers. Photo: Belize Sailing Vacations

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away; travelers who arrive with a negative Covid test will be fast-tracked through the airport, while all others will be screened and tested. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters. Only accommodations that have earned the country’s new Gold Standard Certificate of Recognition are allowed to open; options range from beach resorts with separate bungalows to remote jungle tree houses—or you can charter your own private yacht as I did, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and plenty of distance from everyone except your captain and first mate (who have at least 14 days between charters, to avoid contact between groups of guests). Read Belize trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Belize

Skiing in the Rockies

Aspen Skiing, Rockie Mountains

Ski resorts are limiting capacity this travel season. Photo: Parker Olsen.

The slopes are operating differently this year: Major resorts are limiting capacity to allow for social distancing on lift lines (snow conditions and run availability will determine specific numbers), and pass holders receive priority on peak dates. At many resorts, day-of lift tickets aren’t available at the window, but you can buy a pass for as little as one day of skiing. It’s usually sunny enough to enjoy lunch outdoors on the patio; as for dinner, condos and private homes are in high demand among those who want to dine without others around. A first-rate ski trip will be pricey this year, but the right specialist can help you snag those sought-after slope reservations, and can get you the ideal ski-in/ski-out hotel suite or private cabin. Read ski trip reviews.

Ask About a Ski Vacation

The U.S. Southwest

Arches National Park, Utah

Some of the southwest’s outdoor meccas, such as Arches National Park in Utah, make for fun winter adventures. Photo: NPS Photo by Jacob W. Frank

Utah offers Moab, a year-round adventure mecca with 4×4 tours, canyoneering, and hiking in nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks, plus spectacular resorts with your own private, standalone accommodations, such as Amangiri and Camp Sarika. New Mexico exempts travelers from its quarantine if they get a negative Covid test 72 hours before or after their arrival, and the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe is welcoming guests.

Ask About a Trip to the Southwest

The U.S. Southeast

covered gazebo dock stretching into lake in tennessee at Blackberry Farm resort

Blackberry Farm is in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, . Photo: Blackberry Farm

Northeasterners may not want to drive too far south, given the lengthy quarantine many face upon returning home, but if you live in the Southeast, there are a lot of drive-able, even pet-friendly, resorts in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee that have standalone cabins or cottages spread across considerable acreage. Just a few examples: Blackberry Mountain in Walland, Tennessee, situates guests atop the Great Smoky Mountains, with adventure (bouldering, anyone?) awaiting you at the doorstep of your cabin. The Cloister at Sea Island has its own private island on the Georgia coast. At Virginia’s Salamander Resort, every room has a private patio or balcony, and their famed equestrian center is open.

Ask About a Trip to the Southeast

Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica

The weather in Costa Rica during the winter months is ideal. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica’s jungle lodges and beach resorts are open to all U.S. residents with no testing required. The weather is ideal at this time of year too, with the skies clear but the landscape refreshed by recent rains in much of the country. Read Costa Rica trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Costa Rica

Bermuda

Warwick Beach, Bermuda

Warwick Beach, Bermuda. Photo: Shutterstock

Bermuda is great in winter: The humidity is low, the temperatures are warm enough to have dinner al fresco, the golfing is excellent, the 2- or 4-person microcars available for rent make it easy to get around the island safely, and many of Bermuda’s colonial-style resorts have individual cottages with immediate access to the outdoors. You can also feel more comfortable knowing that travelers are screened rigorously, with Covid tests required in the week before a trip, again on arrival in Bermuda, and on days 4, 8, and 14. And if you can’t imagine going home, there’s always the “Work from Bermuda” program, which allows visitors to stay on the island for up to a year while working remotely.

Ask About a Trip to Bermuda

The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

blue footed booby galapagos islands ecuador

The ratio of guides to guests is likely to be much lower than usual this year in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: peterstuartmill/Pixabay

Prior to Covid, on a Galapagos cruise you’d often have to share a guide with 15 other guests; these days, with travel to the islands just beginning to ramp up again, that ratio will likely be much lower. All travelers and staff are tested prior to flying to the Galapagos. Some hotels on the islands are welcoming visitors again, a few expedition-cruise ships are operating—or maybe your family group wants to have a small vessel all to yourself. If you’d like to extend your trip into the Amazon rainforest, consider Sacha Lodge, which is adjacent to one of the most biodiverse spots on earth; each group gets its own private guide, and the dining room is open-air. Read Galapagos trip reviews

Ask About a Trip to the Galapagos

The Maldives

Beach views from Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

The Maldives require a negative Covid test taken within three days of the first leg of a traveler’s flight. Photo: Gili Lankanfushi

These idyllic islands in the Indian Ocean, many of which are home to just one resort, requite visitors to present a negative Covid test taken no more than 96 hours prior to the first leg of their flights to the Maldives; I spent a blissful five days there in October. It’s a breeze to socially distance at a private-island resort, where secluded beach villas and overwater bungalows are the norm. Restaurants are already open-air, toes-in-the-sand kinds of places, and the closest interaction you might have is with a manta ray while snorkeling. You’ll also benefit from lower rates and more generous cancellation policies at many resorts this winter. Read Maldives trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to the Maldives

An African Safari

zebras drinking from a stream in the great migration of animals in Kenya

Safari camps usually book up years in advance, but for the 2020 holidays, the camps and the safari drives will see fewer people. Photo: Shutterstock

Safaris had grown so popular within the past few years that you were likely to notch more sightings of other 4x4s than of lions or rhinos, and the best camps and lodges—which typically have only a handful of rooms or tents—would book up years in advance. Now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Africa’s wildlife in solitude, as one of our travelers did in December. Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all allow travelers in with a negative Covid test; Namibia and Rwanda require tests both before and after entering the country. A savvy safari-planning specialist can lead you to the lodges that are limiting occupancy in game-drive vehicles, are testing staff, and have open-air dining areas and in-room air conditioning (the latter a necessity in some parts of southern Africa at this time of year). Read African safari trip reviews.

Ask About an African Safari

Egypt

Egypt’s pyramids and other famous sites reopened in September at lowered capacity. Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re feeling truly adventurous, consider Egypt. While Cairo’s bustling souks and narrow streets don’t lend themselves easily to social distancing, there are certainly ways to sightsee while staying in your bubble, and this is an unprecedented opportunity to see the country’s pyramids and other archaeological wonders without the crowds: These sites reopened in September, but with much lower capacity. (Or do as these travelers did and have an expert arrange for private, after-hours access.) Travelers must bring a negative Covid test from the 72 hours prior to their departure. Read Egypt trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Egypt

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Covid testing sign Newark Airport

Airport and Airline Covid Testing: What You Need to Know

UPDATE: Starting December 6, 2021, U.S. will require that all travelers entering the U.S. via air—regardless of vaccination status or citizenship—must show a negative Covid test taken within one day of their departure. You can read the CDC details for testing and vaccine requirements here.

As travelers make decisions about whether and where to travel in 2021, airports and airlines are announcing new Covid testing options to help passengers comply with the rules implemented by various countries and states.

Starting January 26, they will take their biggest role yet. On that date, the CDC is instituting a new policy that requires all travelers flying into the U.S. to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of arrival. Airlines will be responsible for vetting the proof—and denying boarding to those who don’t comply. They seem to be okay with this, since Airlines for America, the trade organization that represents all major U.S. airlines, recently sent a letter to Vice President Pence urging this kind of blanket testing program.

While we applaud these developments and wait to see how they play out, there are important caveats that travelers need to understand in order to smartly and safely plan their trips.

What you need to know about AIRPORT tests:

It may take a few days to get your results.
Various companies are partnering with airports to open on-site testing facilities. Already XpresCheck (formerly XpresSpa) has centers at EWR, JFK, Hartford and Logan, and JFK has additional facilities run by Adams Health. But there is a wide variety in the kinds of tests they offer, the prices, and the turnaround times. While some do offer rapid testing, in many cases, you’ll still have to wait two to five days to get your results, so it may not be worth it to go all the way to the airport for the test rather than visiting a clinic near home. Call ahead to find out what tests are available, and whether tests are limited to travelers en route to destinations that require them.

It may not be the right kind of test you need.
Xpress Check is offering 15-minute turnaround in some locations, but these are not PCR nasal swab tests, the kind usually required by destinations that ask for pre-trip tests. The reason is that rapid tests have been shown to be less reliable and have a higher rate of false negatives. Still it’s better than nothing, so these rapid tests can be useful for domestic travelers who want to be tested before going to visit Grandma, but not for most people who are crossing a border.

You will likely have to pay for it out of pocket.
The trend right now is that these in-airport testing sites charge travelers directly. The cost can run up to $250 or more depending on how fast you want results (if a rapid test is even available). There are some exceptions though. At Oakland Airport, Hawaii-approved testing partner CityHealth is offering tests to travelers flying to the islands, and their website says they accept “most insurance”. At New York City’s LaGuardia airport, testing is available for free but your results won’t come back for about 48 hours and are given only by phone—making this testing option useless for travelers who need immediate results or documented proof of their results in order to enter another state or country, or to bypass quarantine (including New York State).

Testing options by airport:

Alaska: Anchorage International Airport (ANC):  Alaska requires incoming travelers to arrive with proof of a negative test. If they do not have that, they will be required to test upon arrival and quarantine until the results come back. Nonresident testing is available at the airport for $250 (tests for residents are free).

Arizona: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX):  XpresCheck (formerly XpresSpa) is offering PCR tests with a turn-around time of two to three days (no rapid tests available at this location. If your insurance doesn’t cover the test, you must pay out of pocket.

California: Oakland International Airport (OAK): Travelers flying from OAK to Hawaii can make an appointment to be tested at one of two airport locations. Same-day appointments are not recommended.

California: San Francisco International Airport (SFO):  United Airlines passengers flying from SFO to Hawaii (and that route only) are eligible for a test at the airport. They can choose between taking a rapid test on the day of their flight inside the international terminal ($250; results in about 15 minutes), or taking a PCR test via a drive-through location at an airport parking lot ($105; results within 48 hours).

Connecticut: Bradley International Airport (BDL): Incoming travelers can get a test on the day their flight arrives—and that day only. The test is a PCR nasal swab, costs $125 without insurance, and results take up to 72 hours.

Florida: Tampa International Airport (TPA): Both PCR (three-day turnaround) and antigen tests (1-hour turnaround) are offered at cost to the traveler. Note that your destination may require a specific kind of test.

Massachusetts: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS): XpresCheck is offering PCR tests with a turn-around time of two to three days (no rapid tests available at this location. If your insurance doesn’t cover the test, you must pay out of pocket.

Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP): Free saliva tests are available to any traveler and are administered Vault Medical Health. Results are available in a few days.

New York: JFK Airport (JFK): XpresCheck is offering PCR tests with a turn-around time of two to three days, and rapid tests with results available in 15 minutes. If your insurance doesn’t cover the test, you must pay out of pocket.

New York: LaGuardia Airport (LGA): Testing is free to all passengers. Results are turned around within 48 hours but they are delivered by phone only — which the site acknowledges will not be acceptable proof to bypass quarantine for some places, including New York State.

New York/New Jersey: Newark Liberty Airport (EWR): XpresCheck is offering PCR tests with a turn-around time of two to three days, and rapid tests with results available in 15 minutes. If your insurance doesn’t cover the test, you must pay out of pocket.

Texas: Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): Testing is available for American Airlines passengers flying to Hawaii only. This is rapid test and it costs $249.

Vermont: Burlington International Airport (BTV): The airport offers PCR and rapid tests for Covid and rapid tests for the flu to anyone (including those not traveling), at the individual’s expense.

What you need to know about AIRLINE tests:

They may be offered for specific routes only.
But as of early November, domestic airlines are only offering testing options for flights to Hawaii (where a pre-trip Covid test is required), and the testing is available only from specific departure airports. As of now, airlines are not offering pre-flight tests to all of their travelers.

Airlines are partnering with labs to offer their passengers tests in different ways.
This does not mean you can get a test at check-in at the airport. Instead, it means you can maybe get a discount or preferred treatment at certain lab locations (or for mail-in kits) with stipulated proof of your flight.

In many cases, the tests may still take a few days to turn around results.
Just because a test is performed at an airport doesn’t mean you’ll get the results in time to take your flight—which makes these facilities less useful for travelers who are on their way to somewhere else.  These offerings are more useful for those who are arriving and want post-flight reassurance.  Where rapid testing is available, it may only be available from a specific airport. For example, United offers rapid testing for those flying from SFO to Hawaii; American has it at DFW.

The type of test offered may not be the one you need.
Many destinations require a PCR test (Hawaii doesn’t), so travelers need to check the type provided by the airline-lab partnership.

Testing options by airline:

As the holidays approach, here is a snapshot of what airlines are offering Covid test options right now, and what travelers need to know about them:

Alaska Airlines
Passengers of Alaska Airlines can show their Hawaii itinerary and get discounted tests from Carbon Health. The testing site in Seattle gives priority to Alaska Airlines passengers, and the Portland location is only for the airline’s passengers.

American
American Airlines has a few programs:

The airline has partnered with LetsGetChecked to sell at-home, mail-in testing kits to passengers flying to U.S. destinations that require testing, as well as to Belize, Grenada and St. Lucia. Tests cost $129, can be ordered online, and promise results within 48 hours of the specimen arriving to the lab.

Travelers on flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Hawaii have two options from American’s partnership with CareNow: They can book an in-person rapid test at a CareNow urgent care location, or at DFW on day of their flight.

American and British Airways
American is also partnering with British Airways and the oneworld airline alliance on a trial testing program. For select flights, eligible volunteers will take three different Covid tests for free: The alliance’s goal is to show that testing can prevent infection during air travel and to determine how many tests are recommended in order to ensure virus-free cabins. The trial will start with flights AA50 DFW-LHR, BA114 JFK-LHR, and BA268 LAX-LHR; at a time yet to be announced, the trial will also add the flight AA106 JFK-LRH.

Delta
Delta has launched a trial of what it calls “Covid-Tested flights” on two routes.  One route is between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO), and for these trial flights, passengers departing from Atlanta must obtain a PCR test (at their own cost) within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time and show proof of negative results at check-in. Then passengers will be tested again before they board with a rapid antigen test provided by the airline at no additional cost; a negative result is required for boarding. Covid-Tested Italy flights are available on select flights through February 12, 2021.

Delta is also running this trial between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), but the rules are slightly different. For the Amsterdam flight, travelers must get a PRC test within 5 days of the scheduled arrival time in Amsterdam and self-isolate between when they take the test and when they board the plane. Then they will get a rapid test at the airport at no extra cost, and will need to test negative before they’re allowed to board. This trial runs on select flights through January 6, 2021.

Hawaiian Airlines
The airline has partnered with Worksite Labs for drive-through testing exclusively for their passengers in San Francisco. Passengers can opt for a 36-hour version or a more expensive same-day service.

They also offer their passengers expedited processing of and a slight discount on VaultHealth’s saliva test, which is taken at home and then mailed in.

JetBlue
JetBlue offers all of its travelers a discount for VaultHealth’s at-home testing kit.

United
Hawaii passengers whose flights originate at San Francisco airport can book one of two different tests: a test that they take at the airport on the day of their flight, or a drive-through test at the airport several days before their trip.

On November 16, United started a four-week rapid-testing trial for passengers flying from Newark Airport to London Heathrow. On select dates, all passengers over the age of two will be required to take a free rapid test before boarding and will receive results within 30 minutes.

Starting December 7, United passengers flying certain routes from Houston to Latin America and the Caribbean can order an at-home, self-collected, mail-in Covid test, which (if negative) will allow them to bypass quarantine restrictions. Two weeks before their flights, travelers going from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to specific airports in Aruba, Belize, Guatemala, Peru, the Bahamas, Panama, Honduras, or El Salvador will receive information on how to order the at-home testing kit for $119 via Advanced Diagnostics Laboratory.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

teenage boy tandem skydiving selfie over Hawaii

How My Son Spent His Gap Year During Covid: First Stop, Hawaii

“Sorry, Mom, I didn’t ask your permission about this.”  Those words, spoken by my 18-year-old son at the start of the video below, are not what Moms usually want to hear.  Mercifully, Charlie’s decision to jump out of a plane 12,000 feet above Hawaii’s Kohala Coast left him unscathed.

I didn’t know he’d gone skydiving until he texted me this video.  It’s a sign of the times that my first reaction was not fear of a malfunctioning parachute or a landing in the Pacific Ocean but, rather, alarm over Charlie’s too-close-for-Covid proximity to the tandem-skydive instructor.  I thought it might worry you too, so I waited 14 days to share this video, just so I could assure you that nobody got sick.

How did my 18-year-old end up in Hawaii during the pandemic?  Well, he’s with a group of students who all deferred their freshman year of college because of Covid. Rather than spend the fall attending college from the attic bedroom of their parents’ house via a computer screen, these students have been living and traveling on Hawaii’s Big Island as part of a Pacific Discovery gap-year semester program.  Since Labor Day, they’ve been working on farms, helping local conservation causes, and learning about sustainability. They’ve managed to steer clear of the virus entirely and enjoy some sense of normality.

That’s partly because Hawaii has the lowest infection rate of any state in the U.S.  In fact, it’s the only state that has seen a decline in coronavirus cases this month.  Hawaii’s Big Island has taken particular pains to keep the virus off its shores:  Until recently, all incoming travelers were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.  Which is what Charlie and the other students did.  The quarantine is a strict lockdown:  Charlie couldn’t leave his room to buy food or go for a swim, and he had only 45 minutes a day in a backyard for exercise.  Before that quarantine, the Pacific Discovery students had already—immediately before their flights to Hawaii—self-isolated at home for 14 days and tested negative for Covid.

Hawaii’s Big Island recently implemented even stricter measures than Oahu and Honolulu:  Incoming travelers must produce two negative Covid tests (not just one) if they want to bypass the 14-day quarantine.  Which is why my worry about Charlie’s proximity to the tandem-skydive instructor began to fade, once I learned how small the probability of infection was: the Big Island has 4.5 cases per 100,000 people. (Charlie also explained that the instructor had recently been tested and that half of the students and the program director had skydived too and nobody got sick.)

If you have a college-age kid who’s interested in a gap-year semester program, you can learn of options here.  Pacific Discovery is one of only a few that figured out how to operate a real-world travel program this fall (others switched to virtual programs).  Pacific Discovery managed it by switching the trip from its original location of New Zealand and Australia (after those countries’ borders closed to U.S. residents) to the new location of Hawaii’s Big Island, and by adopting Covid safety protocols that worked.

Jealous parents: If you’re too old for a gap-year program but inspired to travel to Hawaii with no quarantine, and to get the maximum experience while minimizing risk, reach out to me via Ask Wendy.

(3) The Blue Ridge Parkway

How to Stay Safe on a Road Trip During Covid

(3)	The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway makes social distancing easy.
(2)	Pine Spur Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Pine Spur Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
(1)	The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, October 2020
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, October 2020
Woman in a mask at Mt Vernon  George Washington’s home in Virginia.
Everyone wore a mask at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia.
homeschool day with kids Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia.
At Mount Vernon it was Homeschool Day.
At Mount Vernon, costumed—and masked—interpreters
At Mount Vernon, costumed—and masked—interpreters
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia
We had to wait to enter Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, because they are limiting the number of visitors.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia
Richard Johnston Inn courtyard Fredericksburg Virginia
This is the spot where we parked our car at the Richard Johnston Inn in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Richard Johnston Inn courtyard Fredericksburg Virginia
Breakfast can be served outdoors in the courtyard instead of indoors in the dining room.
Richard Johnston Inn breakfast
And the breakfast is yummy!
Richard Johnston Inn interior of guest room with dog Fredericksburg Virginia
Here’s our pet-friendly room off the courtyard. Macy (on the bed at left) felt right at home.
St Simons Island Georgia biking on beach
We met up with friends on St. Simons Island, Georgia, where you can bike on the beach!
St Simons Island georgia oak trees
St. Simons is famous for its magical oak trees.
 St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum Georgia
We opted not to enter the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum because I was too concerned about poor ventilation in a cramped space.
 Fort Frederica National Monument entrance St Simons Georgia
The entrance to Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island, October 2020
Fort Frederica National Monument St Simons georgia
We felt very safe exploring the remains of the 18th-century fort and town known as Fort Frederica.
Fort Frederica National Monument St Simons georgia
These small motorized watercraft are a great way to get a sightseeing tour while staying socially distanced from the rest of the group.
Fort Frederica National Monument St Simons georgia
Our favorite historic landmarks of our trip were, like Fort Frederica, outside and uncrowded.
covid safety signage at Fort Frederica National Monument St Simons georgia
Safety signage at Fort Frederica

 

As we’ve learned more about Covid and how to avoid it, my family and I have grown more ambitious with each road trip.  Since the pandemic started, I’ve had to make four essential road trips. On the first trip, right after New Jersey’s lockdown ended, we avoided hotels and restaurants altogether. On the second, I learned how to choose safe hotels and restaurants. On the third, we added visits to historic monuments and museums and even rented a house. Each time, before leaving home and upon returning, we each took a mail-in Covid test and self-isolated, so as reduce the risk of spreading the virus. And it worked: Nobody in the family has gotten Covid.  As I head out on my fifth long road trip of the pandemic, here are the strategies I’ll continue to utilize.

For safer food stops and restrooms, get off the Interstate.

Gas-station convenience stores, chain restaurants, and food courts just off highways—all of which tend to have poorly ventilated, cramped bathrooms—are, in my experience, the least safe places on the road. They are highly trafficked by a wide cross-section of people from who-knows-which states with who-knows-what rules, and many of those people don’t stay six feet away. By contrast, in towns a few miles from the highway, even in red-zone states, we’ve found non-chain, family-run places that are much cleaner, less crowded, more virus-savvy, with more outdoor seating (plus outdoor heat lamps) and better take-out menus.

Bring a plug-in cooler for your car.

To avoid indoor dining, too many fast-food drive-throughs, and frequent supermarket runs, pack a cooler where you can store provisions such as cold cuts, condiments, and other ingredients for luncheon sandwiches.

Order curbside pick-up from eateries that win local awards and have extensive takeout menus.

When I can’t find a good outdoor-dining option, I search online for eateries that are beloved by the locals and do a huge takeout business.  As just one example, when we were nearing Winchester, Virginia, on I-81, I did a search for “Winchester Virginia best BBQ takeout,” found Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery (check out the menu), and picked up Low Country Shrimp & Grits.  Bonus: I got to see historic Old Town Winchester en route.  Pro tip:  Always order by phone because the conversation with a human being yields important current info that you don’t get otherwise, plus they’re less likely to get your order wrong.

Look for government-run public restrooms.

In addition to local libraries, state welcome centers, and national historic landmarks’ visitor centers, we found the cleanest, least crowded bathrooms in places run by the U.S. National Park Service. First prize goes to the spotless, empty restrooms along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Before visiting a historic landmark or museum, find out what’s planned there for that day.

When we spontaneously pulled into Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia, it turned out to be Homeschool Day. There were moms with kids all over, and while it was possible to stay six feet away from them, it would have been better to visit on a different day. A relatively easy way to avoid a school-field-trip environment is to visit such sites in the late afternoon.

Buy tickets in advance for indoor sites (and indoor sections of sites).

Many monuments and museums are limiting capacity, to reduce the number of visitors in enclosed spaces. This means there might be a wait to enter or tickets might be sold out. At F.D.R.’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, there was no wait to stroll the grounds but a wait to tour the house. At Mount Vernon, we bought Grounds Passes that allowed us to access most of the estate, but tickets to get inside the mansion itself were sold out.

Look for hotel rooms with outdoor private entrances.

To avoid sharing poorly ventilated indoor spaces with strangers, I usually seek out hotels that have standalone cabins or cottages with windows that open. (If I think a guest or housekeeper was in the room recently, I’ll keep the windows open for ventilation).  Where such hotels are not available, I look for historic inns because they often have rooms outside the main building.  We’ve now stayed twice at the Richard Johnston Inn in Fredericksburg, Virginia, because they have pet-friendly rooms off a courtyard:  We can park the car, walk to our room, and punch in the entry code to open the door, without entering a lobby or encountering another person. In the morning, breakfast can be served al fresco in the courtyard, and each time we were the only guests eating there.

Pack a HEPA filter.

When I enter a hotel room, my goal is to avoid breathing any particles left by someone else or touching anything recently touched by someone else.  So, before making a reservation, I speak with the room reservations supervisor in order to choose a room that will not be occupied by someone else the night before my arrival.  (On road trips I tend to make same-day reservations, so the supervisor knows for sure whether someone slept in the room the night before.)  Upon arrival, I use sanitizer wipes to clean all doorknobs, faucets, and the like. Last but not least, I place our air purifier with HEPA filter near the bed.

If you’re renting a house, the state’s infection rate matters less than hyperlocal factors such as the town and street you pick.

We spent the last weekend of one road trip in a vacation rental on an island off the coast of Georgia, and friends of ours who live in Florida drove up to share the house with us for three nights.  Georgia and Florida are not known for their Covid safety, yet our location and timing—St. Simons Island, near the beach, in shoulder season—allowed us to be as carefree as it gets nowadays:  We cooked all our meals, rented bikes—on St. Simons you can bike on the beach!—and spent our time sightseeing, fishing, taking long walks beneath the island’s famous oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and just being so happy that we could catch up in person with our friends, even if we couldn’t touch or hug them.  We’re already planning to rent the same house with them next year.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

overwater bungalow at Joali resort in the maldives

How to Choose an International Resort in a Pandemic

My water villa at JOALI Maldives had more than 1,000 square feet of interior space, plus a sizable deck with a private infinity pool and steps down to the water.
The villa deck at night.
JOALI gives every traveler a bike to get around the property. If you prefer not to pedal, your butler can also take you around by buggy.
The tables at each of JOALI's restaurants were spaced far apart, and we never had anyone seated at a table next to ours.
The JOALI waitstaff all wore masks when serving guests.
JOALI's restaurants all have walls that roll up, lending plenty of ventilation to even the indoor seating. This is the Mura Bar.
The view is grand from the cantilevered hammocks at JOALI's villas.
JOALI's water villas are built along a 1.2-kilometer jetty.
The building with the undulating roof is JOALI's open-air lobby. The main pool, restaurants, and beach villas are on the island in the distance.
JOALI's Japanese restaurant, Saoke, is constructed on a pier and artfully lit at night.
couple on exercise bikes at private overwaterbungalow at JOALI resort in maldives
When I mentioned that I wouldn't work out indoors at the gym, the JOALI staff brought the gym to us, delivering two exercise bikes to our villa's deck just in time for sunset.
All of the rooms at Dubai's Al Maha Resort are standalone villas with private pools.
Breakfast on my private deck at Al Maha.
Your private guide can take you on a desert safari into the sand dunes surrounding Al Maha.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is home to Al Maha Resort—and to herds of Arabian oryx that have been successfully reintroduced to the region.
Guides deliver falconry demonstrations each morning at Al Maha.
You can also try your hand at archery.
A sunset camel ride at Al Maha involved plenty of space between guests.

 

I’m recently back from a 20,000-mile journey to see what international travel looks like during Covid. My husband and I spent a week at two resorts that make it easy to socially distance and spend time outdoors—one on a private island in the Maldives, and the other in the Dubai desert. Before and during our travels, we took careful steps to minimize our health risk. We’ve been back for 14 days, and we never got sick, so I’m sharing the strategies we employed to keep our risk low.

Not everyone will be ready to travel abroad now, but I’m so glad that I did. The trip was a much-needed escape—from Covid and from the smoke and fires near my home in northern California. I soaked up the beauty of exotic landscapes, from tawny sand dunes to tropical atolls arrayed like turquoise spots on a peacock’s plume. I’d long been curious to try scuba diving and finally gave it a go in the Maldives; it was exhilarating to peek into an entirely new world that may actually have benefited from the strangeness of 2020.

The time in airports and on planes (mask usage was lax on my international flights, so I put my faith in the HEPA air filtration and my own KN95 mask) was probably riskier than anything else I’ve done since March; during this pandemic, I’ve ventured indoors only for grocery runs and a few routine doctors’ visits. Still, I felt very safe at both resorts—and I spent far more time rejoicing in my good luck at being able to travel right now than I did worrying about becoming infected. Here’s my hard-earned advice:

Choose a country where every arriving traveler has taken one or more recent Covid tests.

I’d had to postpone a 10th wedding anniversary trip to the Maldives after the pandemic hit this past spring. When the country reopened its borders in July, I wasn’t comfortable rescheduling because they didn’t require travelers to be tested for Covid. But after the government implemented pre-arrival testing in mid-September, I rebooked my trip, knowing that the other travelers I’d be coming into contact with—both at the resort and on my flights there—would have been tested recently. To meet the requirement myself, I found an urgent-care clinic nearby that offered PCR tests with same-day results; you can find options in your area in How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel.

Pre-trip testing isn’t fail-safe—you can be newly infected when you’re tested and still get a negative result, or you can become infected while in transit to your destination—but this measure goes a long way toward reducing your chance of being exposed to the virus during a trip. Nowadays, many destinations that have opened their borders require travelers to be tested anywhere from 48 hours to 14 days before their trip; some mandate additional tests during the trip itself, which may give you an even greater degree of confidence. Learn more here: The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers With No 14-Day Quarantine and What You’ll Find There.

I had to get tested again in the Maldives in order to enter Dubai on my way home—a process that turned out to be far simpler than my search for an appropriate pre-trip test in New York: We popped into our butler’s buggy after breakfast one morning and he drove us to the resort’s on-site clinic, where a doctor swabbed us and then sent the samples by ship to a lab across the atoll. We had our results in less than 24 hours.

Pick a place where the other guests will be foreigners who have been tested recently, as opposed to locals who have not.

At JOALI Maldives, the private-island resort recommended to me by the Maldives and U.A.E. specialist who booked my trip, all the other guests were foreigners who had been tested. Also contributing to my sense of safety: the resort’s private, spacious villas, each with their own indoor and outdoor living areas, infinity pool, overwater hammock, and outdoor shower.

My flights left me with a long layover in Dubai, so I also opted for two nights at Al Maha, a safari-style lodge located in a conservation reserve an hour outside the city. I did not feel quite as safe at this resort as I did at JOALI, and here’s why: While my stand-alone suite provided plenty of social distancing (from everything but the gazelles and doves who took up residence at the edge of my private pool), I hadn’t anticipated that most of the other guests would be Dubai-based staycationers. The only health screening for them was a temperature check at the property’s gate. Happily, I was able to take part in several on-site activities—a falconry demonstration, an archery lesson, a sunset camel ride, and a private desert drive—while staying masked and keeping my distance from other guests, though we did have to meet indoors at the lobby to join these activities.

Focus on resorts where you can eat outdoors or in your room.

I did not want to share indoor air with other travelers, so I chose resorts with al fresco or in-room dining. JOALI’s four restaurants all have walls that open up to let in the breeze, as well as toes-in-the-sand or edge-of-the-dock outdoor seating. At Al Maha, high temperatures dictated that breakfast and lunch were served inside—so we simply called for their free room service, which we had them set up outside in the morning and indoors at midday. Dinner was on the restaurant’s patio, where there was plenty of room to spread out. (In winter, Dubai’s temperatures peak in the 70s and all-day outdoor dining is possible.)

Find a property that houses its staff on site.

Both resorts that I chose have living quarters on site for their workers, which greatly reduces the vectors for virus transmission. It meant that I didn’t have to worry about my butler going home to a family member who works at a hospital, or my waitress getting infected on her subway ride to work. In both the Maldives and Dubai, resort staff must undergo a period of quarantine and testing prior to their employment. So the only way the virus could be introduced to either resort was through another guest.

Choose a resort that will let you postpone or cancel if you test positive.

Our JOALI butler mentioned one morning that his next guests, due to arrive from the U.K. in a few days, had just tested positive for Covid. The resort wouldn’t penalize them, he explained: Guests who can’t travel due to a positive test can postpone or cancel their stay with no additional fees; this particular couple had already rebooked for a later date. The rules are similarly generous at Al Maha, allowing cancellations or date changes up to 24 hours before arrival. An unexpected positive test just before your trip would be bad enough; book wisely to make sure you won’t be hit with the double whammy of a health scare and a nonrefundable deposit.

Be upfront about your comfort level.

The staff at JOALI quickly sensed that I was more cautious about Covid than most. (I never saw another guest wearing a mask on the property—but I also never wished that another traveler would put one on, since every group kept to itself and we were never indoors together.) As a result, my husband and I were given the most private tables at meals, and the fitness trainer even brought two exercise bikes to our villa’s deck so that we didn’t have to work out inside the gym. Resorts are hungry for business right now and eager to please the customers they do have, so make your preferences known, whether that’s keeping housekeeping staff out of your room (I was comfortable letting them in once I confirmed that they would be masked) or arranging a massage outdoors rather than inside a spa treatment room.

Book your trip through the right destination specialist—one who will not only get you the safest rooms in the safest resorts but also will coordinate expedited service through the airport.

Landing in the Maldives, I saw that my fellow passengers would need to share the enclosed space of buses ferrying them from jet to terminal. Imagine my delight, then, to see a woman holding a sign with my name as I got off the plane. I’d arranged for VIP arrival assistance through the Maldives trip-planning specialist on Wendy’s WOW List—and, as a result, we were spirited from the plane to a private minivan and driven to a lounge, where we enjoyed snacks and WiFi while airport officials gathered our luggage and took our passports to be stamped. The process probably saved us half an hour and allowed us to socially distance in a large room that my husband and I shared with just a few other families, rather than waiting in an immigration line that would have put us in close contact with others. On arrival in Dubai, we again received expedited service: a quick ride in a cart to the head of the fast-track immigration lane. Such assistance is available at many airports around the world, but only if you book through a savvy destination specialist.

 

Have you traveled during Covid? We’d love to hear what measures you took to stay safe. Let us know in the comments below.

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

 

Full Disclosure: JOALI Maldives and Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa provided this reporter with complimentary stays. WendyPerrin.com did not promise any editorial coverage, and there was no quid pro quo. Our policy when accepting discounted or complimentary trips is to use the opportunity to test out experiences; if they meet our standards and we feel there is value for our readers, we will cover them. For further input about Maldives and Dubai trips arranged by WOW List Trusted Travel Expert Justin Parkinson, read these reviews of Justin’s trips written by WOW List travelers.

 

Galapagos sea lions and people in boats- covid CR Expedition Trips

Dispatch from a Galapagos Cruise: What It’s Like to Be on a Ship Now

Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos airport health checker Expedtiion Trips
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos La Pinter greeter CR Expedtiion Trips
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos La Pinta Panga covid CR Expedition Trips
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos lizard
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos sea lions cuddling
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos finch
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos sea lion and man staring at each other
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos cactus and landscape
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos La Pinta ship
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos La Pinta ship giving out wetsuits to passengers
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos tortoise
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos crab on sneaker Expedition Trips
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton
Galapagos sea lions and people in boats- covid CR Expedition Trips
Photo: Expedition Trips/Greg Overton

 

“This was one of my favorite trips to the Galapagos Islands.” That’s what WOW List Trusted Travel Expert Ashton Palmer told us on the phone after returning from Ecuador’s famous islands two weeks ago. “I felt safe. In fact, in many ways, I’ve felt that I was in more precarious situations at home than I was on this trip.”

For Ashton’s first visit to the Galapagos since the pandemic began, he chose a five-day itinerary on the 48-passenger yacht La Pinta, one of only a few vessels currently sailing the area and visiting Galapagos National Park (which reopened July 13). Residents of the U.S. are welcome, with some documentation and a negative Covid test, and as travelers return to the area, a few more cruise ships are expected to start up in November and December.

Ashton experienced the ship, the shore excursions, the entire security process, and three Covid tests—prior, during, and after the trip, all negative—so that he could report back on what it’s like to travel in the Galapagos now and in the coming year. Here’s what he had to tell us.

*This article is part of a series in which we will be following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

What was the process of getting to the Galapagos, and what were your flights like?

You have to get a test within ten days of visiting the country, and I was leaving on a Sunday, so I went in on the Monday before to make sure I had enough time to get the results. I drove to a testing place here in Seattle, and it took five minutes. Then I got the results in about 36 hours.

I flew from Seattle to Houston on United. Going through security was a breeze; it was really no different than pre-Covid, other than that you’re wearing a mask and they have plastic screens for people checking your documents. The flight was about half full, with no blocked seats. When we got on, they handed everyone a heavy-duty industrial sanitizer wipe that was doused in alcohol so you could re-clean the seatbelt buckle and armrest. They served drinks and packaged cookies. Everyone was required to wear masks—and everyone did.

I then flew from Houston to Ecuador. This flight was full, with every seat taken. They issued those strong wipes again when we boarded, and they served a packaged food item with drinks.

Did the airline check to make sure everyone had the negative test certificate?

Not before boarding. The only time United asked us if we had proof of our Covid test was onboard the flight to Ecuador. If anyone said no, that person was given a form and had to go to a different intake area when we landed and get an in-airport test [at their own expense] that can deliver a result within 15 minutes.

What was the process when you landed in Ecuador?

When you arrive, they make you fill out a questionnaire asking if you’re sick. It’s a few yes/no questions, and I’m sure everyone always says no to everything. They had health workers in protective gear who took our temperature and inspected our results, stamped them, and sent us on our way to immigration. The whole process—from getting off the plane to getting outside with our bags—took 30 minutes. It was streamlined and efficient.

But you have to get another test to go the Galapagos. How did you manage that once you were in Ecuador?

You have to get a test within four days prior to arriving in the Galapagos. If you were flying directly to the islands, you could potentially get your test at home, spend the night in Guayaquil [the transit point for the islands], and then the next day fly to the Galapagos, without needing a second test. But we had been in Ecuador for a while, so the hotel I was staying at had a private company come to give us tests. We paid about $100 per person, and they emailed us results the next day.

After that flight to the Galapagos, then there’s another transit to the ship, right? Was there another round of safety protocols?

On arrival in the Galapagos airport, they make you walk through disinfectant trays to clean your shoes, and they also sprayed our bags—and us, which is kind of a bizarre experience. It was a guy with a backpack on and he had something that looked like a leaf blower that sprayed a very light misting on our clothing. There was no residue or wetness on our clothing, and no after-effects.

We then took a 10- to 15-minute bus ride on which every other seat was blocked off and everyone was wearing masks. Finally, about six to eight people got into each Zodiac—or panga, as they’re called in the Galapagos—with masks on and went to the ship. Before we boarded, they made us walk through something like an airlock of ozone. They gave us sanitizer, and checked us into our cabins.

One of the concerns scientists have is about being in enclosed spaces with other people for extended periods of time. How much open space is on the ship? Do the rooms have windows or balconies that open? Are you eating indoors? What steps were being taken to minimize risk?

The cabins are spacious and very comfortable. You can’t open the windows in them, but the cabins are electrostatically cleaned multiple times per day. The staff also sprays public areas and the seats in the dining room.

Normally the ship offers one seating at mealtimes, but they broke it into two seatings, to allow for greater social distancing. They also sat people only with their traveling group or family.

There is no buffet: Every meal is ordered beforehand and brought to you plated. So at breakfast you scan a QR code and tell the waiter what you want to have at lunch. Then at lunch, you select your dinner, and at dinner you select what you want for breakfast.

There’s also outdoor dining on that ship, so we had a couple of meals outside, and they had an evening cocktail hour outside too. There’s also outdoor deck space, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get fresh air.

“Within a day, I honestly felt very comfortable—and that’s because everyone onboard had been tested.”

How safe did you feel?

Within a day, I honestly felt very comfortable—and that’s because everyone onboard had been tested. Before they leave home, all of the crew and staff are tested; then they have to do a 14-day quarantine in the Galapagos, and they get a second Covid test before being permitted on the ship. And they were told: If you want to work, you have to commit to a three-month contract, and you can’t go into town or port or anywhere that isn’t part of an excursion. So the ship has created a bubble. And the passengers they bring into it have been tested as well. I actually felt safer on the ship than on my flight from Seattle to Houston. Had anyone been tested on that flight? Who knows?

All over Ecuador, you cannot go into a hotel without getting your temperature checked; you can’t go into a restaurant without them giving you sanitizer. I did not see one person in Ecuador without a mask on, and that includes in the countryside and on children. There’s a $100 fine if you don’t wear one, and for Ecuadorians that’s a lot of money. So they’re on the ball.

I came to the conclusion that, when I travel, I can take the same safety precautions that I take at home: I can wash my hands, wear a mask and do all of those same things.

What were the shore activities, and how did they compare to pre-pandemic?

They were the same activities. You’re walking around the different islands and seeing the animals and going to the beaches and swimming and snorkeling. There were just a few differences compared with before:

First, the gear that you’re issued is all fully sanitized, and they also issued us brand-new snorkel mouthpieces.

Second, you are required to wear a mask, even when outside on the islands.

Third, it felt like we had the Galapagos to ourselves—and that was really magical.

It’s very quiet, and the wildlife is really taking over the islands. There are animals everywhere on the hiking trails! It’s like: Excuse me, baby sea lion, I need to come through this way. [Laughs.]

We had more flexibility too, because there weren’t as many people or as many ships coming through—whereas in the past we might have had a window of time and we’d have to be out of a spot in two hours.

Did they also create a bubble for your shore excursions?

We were always with the same group of people for excursions. For us, that was for language reasons: The naturalist spoke to us in English. But I think they were generally organizing the groups according to who was traveling together.

You said this was your favorite of all your trips to the Galapagos. Why?

It was the privilege of being able to travel again. Being in nature is my jam anyway, but gosh if there’s anything to make you appreciate some normalcy and the gift of travel, it’s the pandemic. We’ve all been through the ringer for a while, and I think just being in a place of natural beauty, sitting on a beach and feeling the water and the sand or seeing these beautiful animals, and being fully present with it—it’s magical. Why should it take having travel taken away from you to make you appreciate it more? I don’t know, but it does. And that made the trip really special.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Concept of airplane travel to exotic destination with shadow of commercial airplane flying above beautiful tropical beach.

Need to Fly Long-Haul? How to Choose a Safe, Smart Flight During Covid

Travel isn’t just my job; it’s my favorite hobby too. After Covid forced me to cancel three trips this spring and summer, I wondered when I’d get to leave the U.S. again. One of those cancelled trips was a tenth-anniversary getaway to the Maldives, the collection of white-sand atolls dotting crystal-clear turquoise waters in the Arabian Sea. The Maldives reopened to travelers in July.  I knew it’d be easy to socially distance at our private bungalow on the water’s edge. What worried me more were the long flights to get there: about 17 hours from New York, with a layover required somewhere. I recently rescheduled my trip to visit next week; here are the strategies I used that made me comfortable doing so:

Choose a flight where everybody boarding has just had a negative Covid test.

Many destinations that have reopened require travelers to be tested prior to arrival; some won’t even allow passengers to board an incoming flight until they have uploaded their test results or presented them at the airport. When the Maldives first reopened on July 15, they didn’t require pre-trip testing. It was only last month, after the government changed its policy and started requiring visitors to show recent test results on arrival, that I decided I was comfortable enough to go. I chose to fly via Dubai because the United Arab Emirates also requires a pre-travel test—as do most of the other destinations that are currently served by Emirates, are open to U.S. travelers, and don’t have more direct flights from New York. This same strategy is what made reader Jeff Goble comfortable traveling to French Polynesia (which also requires a pre-trip test, as well as a second test four days after arrival).

Choose an aircraft where you can avoid sitting next to a stranger.

My husband and I wanted as much personal space as we could get, but we couldn’t afford to fly business class. Most long-haul jets seat three or more passengers together in economy; while some U.S. airlines are blocking middle seats, foreign carriers haven’t followed suit. Happily, the 777s that Emirates flies on the routes we’ll be taking have a tapered design, so the last few rows have two seats side-by-side. Emirates charges for seat assignments, so I spent $550 to ensure that we wouldn’t be seated beside a stranger—even though I think it’s likely that the flights will be pretty empty. (On the other hand, I might be saving a bit of money by flying Emirates: Through October, they’re giving all passengers free coverage for Covid-related medical bills and quarantine stays.) Read Wendy’s additional tips about where to sit on a plane.

If you can’t fly nonstop, make your layover long enough to have some mask-free time.

I’d have flown nonstop to the Maldives if I could. But since I had to change planes somewhere, I wanted the opportunity to take my mask off after wearing it throughout a 13-hour flight. So that I can do just that, I’ve booked a three-hour stay at a hotel inside the Dubai terminal on the way to the Maldives, and two nights at a desert lodge near Dubai on the way back.

Keep in mind that combining countries on the same trip can make testing requirements even more rigid: In order to comply with the rules of both the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates, I had to find an in-person test with results returned in less than 72 hours. Were I headed just to Dubai, I’d only need an in-person test in a 96-hour window (which is much easier to arrange); if my only destination were the Maldives, I could have used a mail-in Covid test kit that returned results in 72 hours. After several hours of research, and hoping to get tested near where I’d be staying before the trip in upstate New York, I instead found a doctor’s office in Manhattan that returns results in 24 to 48 hours. So I’ll drive an hour into New York City to be tested on a Wednesday morning, receive results by Friday morning, and head to the airport that afternoon for my 11 p.m. flight. (Postscript: Just over a week before my flight, Emirates changed its policy and stopped requiring tests from some passengers transiting through Dubai; unfortunately, it’s too late for us to order a mail-in kit and receive results in time for our flight—and given the changing regulations, I’m still happy to be following the stricter protocols.)

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Dispatch from Kenya: What a Safari Looks Like Now

As countries around the world start to reopen to travelers—some even to U.S. residents—we want you to know how travel experiences in those places will differ from before and how to make them as Covid-safe as possible. So, in a new article series, we will be following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

First up: Julian Harrison, an African safari specialist who’s just back from an adventure in Kenya with his son Christian.  Because Julian felt his experience in Kenya was safe and delivered unexpected perks, he will be leading an exclusive, small-group trip back there in December, using his favorites of the camps and lodges he just road-tested. (If you’re interested in joining this trip, contact Julian via his WOW List page to ensure you’re recognized as a VIP. Here’s why.)

Julian Harrison just returned from Kenya, which is open to U.S. travelers.
zebras in Kenya savanna
“The benefit of being in Kenya right now: It’s just big, wide-open natural space without the tourists and the vehicles.”
infinity pool overlooking the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
One of the camps Julian checked out was the Sirikoi Lodge in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where he caught this sunset view over the infinity pool.
The seats at Doha airport were blocked off for social distancing, and passengers were required to wear face masks and shields for boarding and deplaning.
"Typically, in the Maasai Mara, in a day’s game drive, it’s not unheard of to see 100 vehicles. But right now, you’re not seeing other vehicles. It’s just you and nature."
Julian and his son were the only people scheduled on their Air Kenya flight to the Lewa Wildlife conservancy.
Safari lodges, like the ones at Mahali Mzuri Camp, are socially distanced by design, and all camps give guests temperature checks every day.
Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri Camp had a cute take on Covid signage.
Every building in Kenya is required by law to have hand-washing facilities and sanitizer outside.
“During our spectacular drive through large herds of wildebeest, we encountered only three other safari vehicles all day.”

Did you get a Covid test before the trip?

Yes, travelers to Kenya must bring proof of a negative result from a Covid test taken within 96 hours of arrival. We also needed to fill out a health declaration form online and undergo a health screening upon landing.

How did you get to Kenya, and what should we know about the flight?

Christian and I chose to fly over on Qatar Airways via Doha. Their health and safety protocols made us feel very safe:  Every passenger was given a face shield to wear when boarding and disembarking the plane, and the flight attendants wore protective gear over their uniforms with masks and safety glasses. The business-class cabin from JFK to Doha was perfect for social distancing, since it offered individual cabins with doors to shut. The cabins are not foolproof—because the walls don’t go as high as the ceiling—but you’re still not having that direct line of sight with other passengers.  For the most part, everybody stuck to the rules, wearing masks throughout the flight except when drinking or eating.

Did the airports feel safe?

JFK Airport was deserted, with virtually nothing open. In the lounge at JFK, there was no service at all: no food, no drinks being served, nothing. You just had the ability to sit in a comfortable chair (and every other seat was blocked off).

Doha was a little more happening, in terms of shops being open, but all public seating had a banner across every other seat that said “Do not use this seat.” They were good about that throughout, with middle seats blocked everywhere, including on the plane.

How did the health screening go when you landed in Kenya?

We lined up at a lean-to outside the terminal, where they checked our Covid-negative certificate; asked for the QR code we’d been given when we filled out the online health form; and took our temperatures. Once that was done, they let us into the building to go to immigrations and customs.

If you arrive without a QR code, you have to fill out the form and get that code while you wait in line. And if anyone were to show up with no test or a positive test, I assume they would need to go into quarantine. It’s unlikely that someone would have shown up without a test, though, because when we were checking in for the flight in New York, they confirmed our results.

What safety protocols did you find on safari?

Every safari camp and lodge—in fact, every building or structure, such as a supermarket—is bound by law to have hand-washing facilities and sanitizer outside the premises, and you must use them before entering and have a temperature check. And even while you’re staying at a camp, they check your temperature every morning. Safari vehicles are equipped with temperature checks too.

Also the staff and guides all get Covid tests and temperature checks on a regular basis. Meals at camps are taken in separate locations, to avoid being close to others.

How safe did it feel, compared to back home?

I actually felt safer in Kenya than in the U.S.  In the U.S. you can go anywhere as long as you’re wearing a mask, but in Kenya you can’t go unless you’ve washed your hands and had a temperature check.

And the level of infection is extremely low; it’s not huge numbers of people who have died from Covid. I think part of the reason the rate of infection in most African countries has been low is that the governments there are used to this stuff, because of viruses like Ebola. So as soon as Covid reared its head, they went into lockdown. They got on with it as soon as possible, to get rid of it.

Even South Africa, for years and years before Covid, every time you entered the country, you got a thermal scan and they checked your temperature.

Were you able to stay socially distanced on the game drives?  How?

Pretty much all camps have limited the number of people per vehicle, going from six people to four people. And wherever possible, they are giving individual groups their own vehicles, so they’re not with strangers.

All the vehicles I rode in were open-air—and that’s because of the properties I chose. (You usually get closed vehicles at lower-end properties or when you’re doing an overland circuit where you take the vehicle from Nairobi, visit several properties and then go back to Nairobi, because you don’t want to be in an open vehicle when you’re out on the road.)

How does the wildlife now compare to before the pandemic?

I wouldn’t say you’re seeing more wildlife but that you’re seeing it pretty much all to yourself.  Typically, in the Maasai Mara, in a day’s game drive, it’s not unheard of to see 100 vehicles. But right now, you’re not seeing other vehicles. It’s just you and nature.

For instance, in the Maasai Mara, at Mahali Mzuri Camp (owned by Sir Richard Branson), during our spectacular drive through large herds of wildebeest, we encountered only three other safari vehicles all day.

Later in the trip, we did a full day into Tsavo East National Park and did not see one other vehicle the entire day. That is the benefit of being there right now: You’re experiencing those parks like the early pioneers did, before tourism even happened.

What has the pandemic made harder?

Having to get the Covid test ahead of time is harder, I guess. And it’s harder that people are perhaps more nervous to travel because of the unknown. But that’s one of the reasons I went on this trip—to check it out for myself. And I felt pretty comfortable.

The general consensus I hear from travelers is that they are not all that concerned about being in Africa. It’s getting there—the airports and flights—that concerns them. But I think the airlines’ filtration systems are equipped that if everyone wears their masks and does the right thing, it’s pretty safe.

The other concern I hear is: What if I get Covid in Africa? What medical facilities are available? We automatically sign up all our clients for the Amref Flying Doctors service, so if anybody gets sick, we cover them, on top of their own insurance, for getting from a camp to a hospital in Nairobi. And the government has insisted that all the counties in Kenya must have a minimum of 300 safe Covid beds.

What did you learn from your own trip that has helped you build the small-group adventure you’re planning in December?

First and foremost, I learned that it’s a safe country to visit. Nobody can guarantee that somebody’s not going to end up with Covid, but in my opinion, if you do all the right things, I think it’s a low-risk, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel like a pioneer and see these landscapes and animals without tourists.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

laptop computer open on picnic table on beach, work from vacation concept

Working and Schooling Remotely? You Don’t Have to Stay at Home

For families with kids in school, the holiday season will look different this year. Many schools that students travel to get to—private schools, boarding schools, colleges—have decided to end on-campus instruction by Thanksgiving, thereby preventing the spread of coronavirus infection that could result from students traveling en masse back to campus after Thanksgiving and home again for Christmas only three weeks later. Of course, many children have been remote-schooling since August or September anyway and will continue to do so through the end of the year. This is leading some parents—those who are working remotely and can do so from anywhere—to consider a change of scene with their families for an extended time.

Some families are trading in their homebase not just for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for the entire six to eight weeks from mid-November through mid-January. They are seeking beautiful resorts, ranches, and wilderness lodges with private villas, cabins, and cottages in outdoorsy locations—and with strong Wi-Fi, good office and educational resources, and a ton of after-school options that will ensure everyone can get away from their screens to be outside, breathe fresh air, and enjoy new activities. And if they work with an expert, they can arrange special location-specific experiences too, such as snorkeling with a marine biologist or learning a second language with a native speaker.

Meg Austin, a trip-planning specialist on The WOW List who lives in Vail, Colorado, and specializes in ski, dive, and Caribbean vacations, has a name for these multi-week escapes: “Zoom Aways.” She has been helping families pull together safe and satisfying extended getaways, allowing for both work and play, mainly in beautiful settings around the United States. As someone who raised two daughters while working from home and who knows how taxing it can be to juggle multiple jobs at once, Meg is full of ideas. “Kids are going crazy,” she says. “At those ages, without the social aspect of school and the opportunity to get your wiggles out, there’s got to be a better way.”

Where to go for a “schoolcation”

Meg has been collaborating with beach and ski resorts in North America and the Caribbean to make these extended “schoolcations” rewarding. For example, Auberge Resorts Collection can provide tutors and dedicated caregiver services at their mountain properties in the American West. In Mexico, the Four Seasons Punta Mita offers a study buddy program, a tech hotline, and after-school sports classes. And if you book a two-bedroom suite at the Waldorf-Astoria in Park City, Utah, Meg can get you a free upgrade to a three-bedroom and turn the third room into an office.

Zachary Rabinor, a Mexico specialist on The WOW List who lives in Puerto Vallarta with his two young sons, is seeing a similar trend: Families wanting to rent private homes and villas in charming beach locales, some for months at a time. Since Mexico never closed to air traffic during the pandemic, he’s been doing this for a while now. “They’re more like relocations,” he says of this type of extended stay. “People are thinking, instead of going for a week between Christmas and New Year’s, why not go for a month? The working-from-home and virtual-schooling have removed any fetters of physical location.”

A state-of-the-art set-up

In addition to finding accommodations that support long-term stays—whether they be resorts, all-inclusives, or private homes or villas—the right trip planner can ensure that everyone in the family has what they need to do their jobs remotely. That can mean arranging for tech upgrades so that the Wi-Fi can support multiple Zooms, Google classrooms, and video conferences at once. “There’s intensive use of the internet now,” says Zach, “and the bandwidth needs to be different than what people would accept if they’re just on vacation.” To that end, it’s enormously helpful to use a travel specialist who, like Zach, knows which local internet companies to call, speaks the language, and can have someone on hand to make sure the work is completed to the families’ requirements.

A school support network

The work/school hardware is only part of the puzzle for a long-term trip; kids may need tutors, parents may need nannies—and often they need a combination of both.

The right trip designer can source that too, from a reliable pool of candidates; for example, a helper to get the kids ready for school in the morning and then take them out to the slopes for a few hours afterward, a babysitter to keep the family occupied while mom finishes a late-night meeting, or a Spanish speaker to teach everyone the local language.

Indeed, if the kids need local tutors in any subject, a travel specialist who is plugged into the area’s schools and the education community is a life saver. In Mexico, Zach says, “As you can imagine there are a lot of teachers who, because of the Covid situation, are on reduced hours; they’re looking for work and we’ve got it, so we are getting education professionals.”

Most important is to make sure that whoever you’re bringing into your vacation bubble is safe and following recommend hygiene protocols—and maybe even getting tested before they join you.

Extracurricular activities

On an extended school/work-cation, there are many opportunities for adventures outside of the classroom (or hotel room). The best ones won’t feel like school, but they may be just as valuable, or moreso. Because in addition to providing everyone a chance to get away from their computer screens and move around, these kinds of activities can give kids and grown-ups the chance to rebuild some of the social and recreational fabric that’s been missing after long months of lockdown culture. For example, lifelong skier and diver Meg can hook kids up with ski guides and SCUBA trainers; she can arrange for flora and fauna specialists to take them hiking, or a marine biologist to take them diving. Zach, a surfer, can set up surf lessons and find ways to integrate with local kids or sports teams. They can all do much more, of course: Hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, bird-watching, fishing, snowshoeing—all kinds of activities are available, and they can be enjoyed safely and privately.

Peace of mind and unexpected perks

In addition to helping families fulfill pre-travel requirements, such as Covid testing or health paperwork, ace trip designers assist with unusual logistics based on the latest rules, restrictions, and services of the countries or states their travelers are visiting. (For example, the Dominican Republic is providing all hotel guests with a free “travel assistance plan” of emergency Covid-related coverage through December 2020, whereas Costa Rica requires that travelers arrive with proof of their own medical insurance that covers Covid-related bills; see more in The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers.) And they will know if you’ll need an extended visa for a long-term stay and how to get one.

They’ll think of the day-to-day needs too, such as grocery delivery and safe housekeeping services. Want to bring your dog, but need a pet sitter for when you hit the slopes? No problem. Want a list of the best local doctors? Done. Meg is even arranging to have a Christmas tree in place for one family who will be spending the holiday out West. “If you dream it, I can make it happen,” she says.

As for pricing, WOW Listers can often negotiate lower prices even during peak holiday season. And they can secure free or discounted amenities that easily add up if you’re staying somewhere for a month or longer—daily breakfasts, for instance.

 

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Post Office cabin at Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia

How I Choose Hotels for Road Trips During Covid

We slept in this historic cabin in Spotsylvania, Virginia, just a few miles off I-95 and close to Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield.
Stevenson Ridge is a wedding and events property, but with no weddings or events happening, we saw nobody there during our overnight stay.
Stevenson Ridge has nine 18th- and 19th-century cottages and cabins set around a pond.
There's Tim relaxing in our cabin. That's a wood-burning fireplace.
In a pandemic, it helps to have a dining table for take-out food.
The hotel left us a doggie blanket, bowls, and treats for our dog.
There's a better view of the kitchen area.
Stevenson Ridge calls this cabin "The Post Office" because it was rumored to be an in-home post office.
Those steps lead upstairs to the loft bedroom.
Here's the loft bedroom.
We also really appreciated the hotel's contact-less check-in and check-out process. We felt safe.
Tim was very impressed with the 19-inch-wide boards, a sure sign of the cabin’s age.

 

A coronavirus-related change in my travel M.O. that won’t change back, once this pandemic is over, is how I choose hotels for road trips. No longer will I settle for soulless highway chains where I must wait in a lobby line, squeeze in close to others in an elevator, or sleep in a room with an iffy ventilation system and windows that don’t open.  Instead, I’ll choose old-fashioned inns with separate cabins or cottages. These give you a private entrance, windows and sometimes balconies that you can leave open for fresh air, a kitchen area and/or dining table for when you bring in a take-out dinner, and often a contact-less check-in and check-out process as well.  Researching hotels for road trips lately, I’ve been surprised by just how many such hotels with cottages or cabins exist out there. And I’ve been thrilled by how they can turn an otherwise tedious highway trip into an escape to a different world.

Here are three ways to find such places along your route (and I realize that these strategies might work better on the East Coast, where I am based, than out West):

Pinpoint historic areas you’ll be driving through and look for traditional inns there. Pull up your route on Google Maps and zero in on older accommodations near historic landmarks and parks. Such traditional establishments often have cottages, as well as outdoor dining on porches and in gardens.

Look at wedding venues along your route. There are many charming estates used for weddings that have a main house and separate cottages—and, because weddings and other events are not happening nowadays, these places are empty. You can look up wedding properties by state and region on websites such as theknot.com or wedding-spot.com.

Search for waterfront lodges and inns near your route. Look on a map app for any rivers, lakes, and other waterways—as well as marinas—you will be passing. You’ll often find hotels with standalone waterfront cabins, as well as outdoor dockside dining, with socially-distanced tables and a fresh breeze. Even if you’re not sleeping there, you can enjoy lunch al fresco with a view.

This past week, when I needed an overnight stop for a road trip south on I-95, I found a place that fit all three criteria.  I decided to look near Fredericksburg, Virginia—because it’s a historic city with several Civil War battlefields nearby.  I punched “historic hotel cabins cottages near Fredericksburg Virginia Civil War landmarks” into Google, to see what options might pop up within reasonable distance of my driving route, and found Stevenson Ridge, a few miles off I-95, near Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield.  It’s a wedding and events property, with nine cabins and cottages from the 18th and 19th centuries set around a pond.  I phoned the hotel, asked which cabin might be particularly suited to two travelers with a dog, and booked the cabin called The Post Office, rumored to be a former in-home post office.

Check-in/check-out was touchless from start to finish:  All the paperwork was done by email, our key was in our room when we arrived, and throughout our stay we never came close to, or even saw, another human being. The spacious and comfortable two-room cabin cost only $175 for the night (plus $25 for our dog) and was so atmospheric that we almost felt like we were sleeping in a museum exhibit. With our dog!

Enjoy the slideshow of what we discovered so close to a major highway, and if you have any similarly pandemic-friendly hotels to recommend near interstates, please share them in the comments so we all can benefit.

 

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hiker on boardwalk trail surrounded by green rainforest Olympic National Park Washington state

One Family’s Island Vacation: Socially Distanced in Washington State

 

This traveler got this trip by starting with this questionnaire.  For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


 

Kathy Gardner and her family managed to get a world away from their city lives this August. Based in San Francisco, she and her husband and their two teenagers had endured months working and learning from home; by the middle of summer, they needed time outdoors. So Kathy wrote to Ask Wendy, asking about the San Juan Islands, which had always been on her bucket list. We recommended that she consult with Sheri Doyle, trip-planning specialist for the Pacific Northwest. Sheri designed a two-week itinerary in Washington State, split between Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands—an itinerary focused on hiking, biking, kayaking, and the enjoyment of nature. “It was stunningly, stunningly beautiful,” Kathy told us on the phone soon after their return. We thank her for taking the time to tell us about her family’s trip and for sharing information that we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why made you decide to travel now and to Washington State?

Our daughter is getting ready to go to college next year, so we really wanted to take this time to get away in a safe, socially distant way. We’d never been to the Olympic Peninsula or the San Juan Islands, and the more we looked into it, the more it seemed it would be easy to stay away from other people and enjoy the beauty of that part of the country. Also, we wanted a short flight. [Editor’s note: The flight from San Francisco to Seattle is only two hours.]

Did you get tested pre-travel?

Yes, we are fortunate in San Francisco to have relatively easy access to Covid-19 testing, and so were able to have the test and see the negative results both before our vacation and then immediately after we returned.

How did the flight go? What precautions did you take?

We took Wendy’s advice seriously about how to fly in a pandemic, and we incorporated that advice with other advice from the CDC. We felt we were following all the rules. We chose Alaska Airlines, which I had read was doing well during Covid, and we thought they were fantastic. The plane was clean and spacious, and they kept to their word of keeping an empty middle seat and giving us the seats we asked for. Everyone was wearing masks the entire flight—we were hoping they would, and they did.

I had read Wendy’s article about picking seats and staying safe. And we did the whole thing: We got masks and goggles and gloves and had Clorox wipes, and we just tried to be really pragmatic about things. Having a short flight makes a difference too.

Where did you stay?

We rented a house close to Olympic National Park, but not in it. It was on the water, super pretty and an easy drive into the park. Then we spent three days on San Juan Island in another rental home, and a week on Lopez Island in another.

Lopez is low-key and a really nice community and awesome for biking. It feels like a place people go if they know about it, if that makes sense. We did one day trip to Orcas Island, which is fantastic as well. We loved it. We had really beautiful weather, and it was easy to be completely by ourselves.

We were never in a situation where we needed to be around other people, except on the plane, and even the airports were not full.

So you rented three different homes over two weeks?

Yes. Renting our own places was a criterion for us and, interestingly, hard to do. Houses were very booked up. So Sheri was hugely helpful in piecing together our places to stay.

The three homes were all very clean, and we were all by ourselves. We went to the farmers’ market to shop, like we would at home. We ate outside a few times at restaurants. We did a lot of hiking. Our main activities were hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddle boarding. The Olympic Peninsula is such a huge national park; we had just a couple days and barely scratched the surface.

How else did Sheri help?

Sheri was incredible—just so on top of things. She knows that anyone who wants to travel right now needs to be careful, so she has great ideas. Before we could even ask our questions, she gave us great advice about how to navigate the process.

I almost didn’t have to ask. She was like, “I know the questions you’re going to ask,” and she had the answers about socially distancing, about the ferries, about where to stay. Sheri could not have been better.

Now that you’re back, is there anything you wish you’d known before?

I’m just happy we went. Life is short, and our kids are growing. We made a really nice choice for our family. Our kids are going back to distance learning, and they were in distance learning since March 17, so it was so nice to be outdoors in a beautiful place and have some freedom and just drink it in.

We ended up getting a national parks membership this year. I feel like it’s a good thing to support our parks, and you can use it anywhere you go.

A note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now.

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

covered gazebo dock stretching into lake in tennessee at Blackberry Farm resort

How One Family Is Doing Multigenerational Travel During Covid

This traveler got this trip by starting with The WOW List. For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


 

In pre-Covid times, Susan and David Nethero traveled about once a month, both for pleasure and for work. They’d usually fly: India, Africa, the Caribbean. But in these times, the Atlanta-based couple has switched to locations reachable by car, as a safer alternative and so that they can spend time outside the stress of the city with their grown children and young grandkids. Until now, Mrs. Nethero told us over the phone, “The number of times we’ve taken road trips in the last ten years is maybe four or five—not many.” That M.O. has changed this summer. She and her extended family recently returned from two getaways that they tried to make as safe as possible. We were curious how they did it and what their experience was like.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to Susan Nethero for talking to us about her family trips and sharing information we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why did you want to travel now?

Eight of us were supposed to go skiing in March in Salt Lake, and that had to be canceled. Then we were supposed to go to the Turks and Caicos in May, and that had to be canceled too. So everyone was chomping at the bit to go somewhere. That’s why we went to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee in June. They had just opened back up again, so there were a few restrictions on services, but it was a great experience, and they accommodated us in every way. [Editor’s note: In fact, the Netheros enjoyed it so much that Susan and David are headed to its sister property, Blackberry Mountain, at the end of August.]

What did you enjoy most at Blackberry Farm?

I thought this was extraordinary: They arranged for private counselors for our grandkids because their usual camp was suspended—and they did that for free. The kids made tie-dye shirts and milkshakes and did really fun things. And at night, Blackberry Farm arranged for babysitters so the kids didn’t have to sit through a long dinner and drive their parents crazy. The babysitter took them out in a golf cart, introduced them to the cooks and everyone in the kitchen, and they made cookies.

And we did two experiences. First, we did a farm experience where we fed the goats and lambs and picked eggs out of the chicken hut. Blackberry Farm raises high-end dogs too, and they had a whole litter, so we got see these amazing puppies. We also did a nature experience, and that was even more fun: We put on tennis shoes and went in a stream with a naturalist. We saw baby trout and had little nets to catch crawdads and fish. Then we walked up the stream and they showed us wildlife all around the stream. Those kinds of nature experiences are always really illuminating.

They kept surprising us. For instance, when they brought our car back to us, it was washed and all vacuumed out.

When we came back from that trip, we thought: What are we going to do for Fourth of July?

Were you looking for another place you could drive to?

Yes. We reached out to a travel specialist whom Wendy had recommended to us to see if there were some attractive driving trips we could take on the Southeast Coast.

Within minutes we received about five different ideas. They recommended a place in the Florida Panhandle, but we had been seeing pictures of all these kids on the beach and we thought that looked scary. We wanted privacy. Another option was Sea Island in Georgia, but we’d been there before. Another idea was The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, but they didn’t have our dates available, housekeeping won’t come into the room to clean during your stay, and they were giving people time slots at the pool.

Then we remembered we had stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, one time, so we asked about it. And even though it was Fourth of July and it was last minute, they were able to get us an oceanfront suite.

Were you worried about going to Florida?

If you looked at where the coronavirus issues were in Florida, it was more in the south, west coast, and Panhandle, so we were isolating ourselves a bit.

Who traveled with you to Florida?

Eight total: David and me; David’s brother and his wife; our adult children; and two grandchildren (ages 5 and 1).

“The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you,” said Susan Nethero. Photo: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

What was the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island like?

You would have thought the whole place would be filled, given it was Fourth of July weekend, but it was not full.

At the hotel everybody wore masks. We felt completely safe, even though we were using the elevators. They had a spa and we walked in one morning and they were able to accommodate us, and we had one of the best facials we’ve ever had. Their adult hot tub and sauna were not open, but we understood that. They were just trying to be safe.

They had activities for the kids that were really cute, and overall we felt like the social distancing was pretty good, except it was hard at the pool. At the pool there were tons of kids and dogs—a lot of dogs; we were surprised. We used the beach quite a bit, and if we said we needed five lounge chairs, they’d have it all set up waiting for us, and they put a good amount of distance between groups. Even when we went in the water, we had space. They did room service and the rooms were immaculate. We did bike rides and there was no extra charge for the bikes.

They have a five-star restaurant, and it had a limited schedule, but they were able to get us in for a five-course tasting meal that felt like ten courses because they kept bringing us more stuff.

We had chocolate on our pillow every night, and another time the GM came over and talked to us about what it’s been like for them. The people at the Ritz can’t do enough for you. There wasn’t anything we asked where they weren’t like, “Sure, we can work that out.”

Did the dining and social-distancing measures feel safe?

For breakfast, they had a buffet set out, but they had people serving it to you, so that was a nice way to do it. They opened up an area so that more people could sit outside. On the Fourth of July, they attempted an outdoor BBQ, but when they got some weather reports and thought they might not be able to manage the flow of traffic, they canceled that. Instead, they set up a BBQ you could order from the table.

Every night they had s’mores down at the beach. It was not very crowded. There were a lot of children there too. I will say—and we experienced this at Blackberry too—that guests moved up the time of their eating because they ran out of things to do.

Guests wore masks at the Ritz. At Blackberry Farm they didn’t, but that was back in June, and we were outside and distanced so much there. At Blackberry, they had a family pool and spa pool. And whenever you walked into a building you put on a mask. The rooms at Blackberry are cottages—not attached to anything. So we took two side-by-side cottages that were joined in the middle for our daughters, and my husband and I took a separate cottage.

What are you thinking about next?

We did ask our WOW List specialist if she could look into the new Aman resort in Nevada. My husband and I are not worried about flying—although we certainly wouldn’t go to a hot spot like Los Angeles—but the Aman is another three-hour drive from either Phoenix or Las Vegas.

We would be glad to travel to the Caribbean islands, but they have restrictions and testing, and God forbid you end up there and you get tested and it turns out you have it. Do we want to get quarantined and stuck there? But it’s problematic in the U.S. too. Like, we even thought, let’s drive to New York—but it’s a long way, and they’re clamping down on visitors.

 

 

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

RV, motorhome, caravan parking next to a road in a parking lot in Alaska with spectacular, beautfiul background with lakes and conifer forest, blue sky and clouds

Thinking of Taking an RV Trip? Read This First

We’ve heard from a number of travelers who are wondering whether an RV trip in the American West will allow them to socially distance while seeing some of the most beautiful parts of our country. So we called WOW List candidate Dan Wulfman to get some up-to-the-minute intel. Dan has spent more than 25 years creating soup-to-nuts RV trips that include the vehicle rental, campground reservations, driving directions with interesting waypoints, and reservations for horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and more. In fact, Dan had been traveling by RV with his own family right at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when national parks were closing down and interrupting many spring breaks. Now that parks are reopening, Dan has been back out on the road to see what “open” really means for those traveling this summer and beyond.

Back in March, Dan advised all of his travelers who had trips booked in the coming months, or who were trying to plan something last-minute, to postpone for 2021. He’s actually recommending that they start planning those trips now, because campgrounds are already filling up for next summer in places such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Says Dan, “RV sales and rentals are exploding, but they’re not building any more beautiful campsites within walking distance of national treasures like Yosemite’s Half Dome, Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, or Grand Canyon’s…grand canyon.”

Dan took to his RV again in July, covering more than 7,000 miles and visiting eight national parks, and his experiences confirmed his cautious tack: His original campground reservation inside Yosemite was canceled by the park because it was deemed too close to adjacent campers. And he didn’t even know if he’d be quick enough to snap up one of the park’s limited day-use passes until he’d already spent two days driving there. In the parks he toured, Dan found mask use sporadic. “I’ve never been in a hurry to leave Jackson, Wyoming, before, but this time I couldn’t wait to move on,” he told us.

Here’s what else we learned that travelers should think about before hitting the road:

Many RV-friendly destinations are still off-limits.

While some parts of the country are starting to open up, stay-at-home restrictions are being lifted on a state-by-state—and sometimes county-by-county—basis; places that are open now may have to close if a second wave of COVID-19 hits. Many national parks are still closed, or have only reopened portions of their roads, trails, and services. And it’s unclear if social distancing is even possible at the iconic sites that so many RVers want to visit, from the boardwalk around Old Faithful in Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim viewpoints. Check to see if your intended destination is both open and welcoming visitors.

You may have to sleep in a Walmart parking lot.

If you don’t yet have reservations—and even if you do—your options for where to bed down each night will be limited: Many national and state park campgrounds booked up long ago for the high season, and few travelers are bothering to cancel their reservations, since they’re so hard to get but relatively cheap. Even some of the parks that currently allow day visitors remain closed for overnight camping. There are organizations that help you park on private land, but those too will be subject to local restrictions, which may ebb and flow over the course of the summer. And while some private RV parks are technically open, their fire pits, pools, playgrounds, and restaurants remain closed—so there isn’t much to do once you get there.

It’s hard for a novice to plan a successful RV trip at the last minute.

A scrappy, experienced RVer can probably monitor which parks and campgrounds have reopened, jump on whatever last-minute availability appears, rent a vehicle (options range from Cruise America‘s large fleet to platforms such as Outdoorsy and RVshare, which connect renters with private RV owners), and pull together a pretty good trip. But newbies don’t know which RVs drive like an SUV and which feel more like a semi truck, and will be far less prepared if things go wrong (as is likely, given the current circumstances). Sure, you can “boondock”—parking on open land without water, electric, or sewer hookups—but what happens if your holding tank overflows?

Don’t expect luxury.

Are you now wondering what a “holding tank” is? That’s where an RV stores the wastewater from the sink and toilet, and those tanks need to be emptied every few days. It’s not a messy process—you simply hook up a hose to a campground’s dump station—but there’s no butler who will come do it for you. On an RV trip, you’re also responsible for the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and of course the driving. This kind of trip is meant to be an adventure, not a day at the beach (unless you manage to find a campsite near a beach that’s open for sunbathing).

Activities that require anything but your own two feet may not be available.

Some of the companies that run the seasonal activities many travelers love to take part in out West—rafting, horseback riding, jet boating, canyoneering—are operating with reduced staff. This means that fewer tours are operating, and private experiences are in high demand.

Despite all of these caveats, having a private sanctuary that only you and your family enter is an appealing option to some of us who are ravenous to travel. Just keep in mind that undertaking an RV trip this summer or fall is going to require a generous dose of flexibility and a mindset that, whatever happens, you’ll simply be happy that you’re not still at home.

Ask Us About an RV Trip

 

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View from Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Can You Socially Distance at a National Park This Summer?

As parks across the U.S. gradually reopened this spring, some took measures to maintain physical distancing between visitors—Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks, for instance, now require reservations in order to limit the number of daily parkgoers. That’s a good first step, but there are additional strategies to utilize if you want to keep largely to yourself in the most popular parks. Remember that there are more than 10,000 national and state parks in this country. We’ve always recommended going off the beaten path, and these days that could be important not only for your enjoyment of the quieter back roads and emptier vistas, but for your health. Just be sure to read the CDC’s guidance on domestic travel, use “Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information” to find out about quarantines and restrictions in the places you plan to visit, and learn what’s open and closed in each national park via the NPS website.

Wake up early, and explore in the evenings too.

If you can’t bear the thought of skipping an iconic spot that’s on your bucket list—say, Yosemite Falls or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon—it will be essential to time your visit right. One traveler who visited eight national parks this summer told us that mask-wearing was sporadic and crowds common at top attractions and on popular trails, including Yellowstone’s narrow boardwalks. The earlier you get up and out the door, the fewer people you’ll see on the roads and trails. Know the typical flow of traffic in the park you’re visiting. Most people seeing Bryce Canyon National Park, for example, drive through it from north to south; if you start early, you’ll stay ahead of the crowds the entire day. At night, check out Bryce’s amphitheater by the light of the moon. It’s magical, and likely few people will be there.

Use the right park entrance.

Many parks have entrances that are less busy than others. In Yosemite, for instance, far fewer people approach from the east (a route that is open only in summer) than from the west. Be strategic about which entrance you use, keeping in mind that some may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions; you can find details on what’s open and what’s closed in each park via the National Park Service. Reader Amy Evers and her family chose the northeast entrance for their recent trip to Yellowstone, both because it’s the least-used access point into that park and because it’s the most convenient to wolf viewing in the Lamar Valley.

Don’t neglect state parks.

Near any national park, you’re likely to find one or more state parks that are nearly as spectacular, but less visited. Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, for example, has a landscape like nowhere else on earth, with spooky hoodoos shaped like toadstools and witches and alien invaders. These hoodoos (thin spires of rock with curvaceous profiles) are quite different from the ones that have made Bryce Canyon famous: The former have rounded edges, as if they’ve melted into shape, while the latter are more rigidly striated. But even my well-traveled, adventurous Utah relatives have never been to Goblin Valley. This part of southern Utah is so remote that the nearby Henry Mountains were the last range to be mapped in the lower 48 states, back in 1872.

Take the road less traveled.

Rather than sticking to the interstates, plot your route along smaller roads; even if it adds time to the drive, you’ll likely be rewarded with better views (and maybe emptier bathrooms at the rest stops). If you’re navigating between Utah’s Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon, for example, taking Scenic Byway 12 adds less than an hour to your route. The most spectacular section of this road runs from Tropic to Torrey, with several miles of pavement that cling to the knife-edge of a mountain ridge with gorgeous canyons spilling down on either side dotted with scrubby pines, earning it the moniker “the Hogsback.” Byway 12 also winds through Capitol Reef National Park (one of the country’s few national parks that you can visit for free, since the highway runs right through it). Do be cognizant of local residents’ feelings about outsiders, though; while some communities are ready to welcome visitors, others are concerned that such an influx could overload their meager health-care services.

Avoid spots where people tend to congregate.

That means avoiding the commercial areas and visitor centers, and generally limiting your time indoors as much as possible. Instead, pack picnics, research trails before you leave home, download maps to your phone, and forego the usual souvenir T-shirt shopping session. Another good reason to come prepared: The number of available rangers varies by park and could be much lower than usual, and their Covid-era duties could be curtailed too. We heard from a traveler that rangers in one park were stationed in open-air booths to help visitors from a safe distance, but in another were much harder to find—which meant there was no one to help when rules-flouting visitors set up camp on restricted grounds or brought dogs into off-limits areas

Choose dirt over pavement.

Many park visitors barely leave their vehicles, doing so only long enough to snap a photo and move on to the next marquee sight. No matter where you are, the farther you head down a trail, the fewer people you’ll see. And it’s a national park, after all, so it’s virtually guaranteed to be scenic.

Seek out private accommodations.

Read Is This Hotel Safe? for guidance on how to choose the cleanest place to spend the night. A number of ranches out West have standalone cabins or cottages that naturally lend themselves to social distancing, and they are devising ways to keep meals and activities as private as possible. One family of readers from the D.C. area took a July road trip to parks in the Northeast, and we’ve rounded up more tips and strategies if you’re thinking of taking an RV trip yourself.

If you’re interested in a luxury road trip to see national or state parks, Ask Wendy who the right travel specialist is to plan your trip.

 

 

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dad with kids on bikes in a RV campground

A Safe East Coast RV Family Trip During Covid

dad with kids on bikes in a RV campground
Ready for a bike ride at our campsite
Looking for wild ponies from our pontoon boat in Chincoteague
Looking for wild ponies from our pontoon boat in Chincoteague.
wild ponies in Chincoteague virginia
Wild Chincoteague ponies
kids playing in sand at beach in Chincoteague Virginia
Searching for treasures on the beach in Chincoteague
Chincoteague ponies at sunset in Virginia
Chincoteague ponies at sunset
young boy Building sandcastles on the beach in Cape Cod
Building sandcastles on the beach in Cape Cod
kids and dog in masks at MacMillan Pier Provincetown Massachussetts
Our crew on MacMillan Pier in Provincetown
whale breaching ocean in Provincetown MA
Whale off the coast of Provincetown
dad and kids playing in a park in Provincetown
Playing in a park in Provincetown (the stone on the left is a memorial to those who have died and treated victims of AIDS).
toddler digging in the sand on a beach in Cape Cod
Summer school: learning about the snails we found on the beach on the bay side of Cape Cod.
Seals in Chatham Harbour Massachusetts
Seals in Chatham Harbour (they congregate here to stay safe from sharks and to catch scraps the fishermen toss overboard).

 

RV rentals are way up this summer, thanks to their built-in social-distancing solutions to Covid-era stresses such as airplanes, hotels, dining, and public bathrooms. If you want a self-contained getaway, an RV adventure looks like an attractive option to a lot of travelers. That’s how the Mathis family felt too, and mom Andrea recently emailed us to share the how-to and where-to details of their summer road trip with their young kids, ages 2 and 5.

To avoid some of the pitfalls that novice RVers might encounter this summer, they steered clear of popular national parks where social-distancing enforcement varies greatly and where campgrounds might be too crowded for comfort (or sold out) and instead kept their itinerary simple and close to their home in Washington, D.C. They also found creative ways to enjoy their destinations while keeping themselves safe. Here’s what Andrea had to say:

“After debating the safest way to travel this summer, we came up with renting an Airstream trailer and driving to Chincoteague in Virginia and Cape Cod from our home in Washington, D.C. We have effectively been quarantining since March, so we moved our bubble into the trailer, which was self-contained and I could feasibly completely disinfect, unlike a house or hotel room.

We rented both the trailer and the truck we used to haul it. There were a few advantages to this (for us) over an [all-in-one] RV: we could park the trailer and just drive the truck around on day trips, and the ability to install car seats properly in RVs seemed iffy at best based on my research; hence our decision to go with a truck/trailer combo.

We spent tons of time outside riding bikes and playing on sparsely populated beaches (we were near the end of the Cape in North Truro). The towns we visited like Provincetown and Chatham were quite crowded, though mask compliance was mandatory and quite high, so we mostly stayed in our car when sightseeing there for safety. In Virginia, we found mask compliance much lower.

We were able to see a great deal of wildlife (wild horses in Chincoteague, whales and seals in Cape Cod), by chartering private boat tours (all of which were dog-friendly). It was just our family and the captain, who was masked and 10-plus feet away from us. We used Instacart to fully stock the fridge and pantry before we left, so we never had to go inside a grocery store; used the trailer restroom instead of rest stops, so we never had to use a public restroom; and found restaurant take-out procedures very safe and distant. We even found an old-school drive-in movie theater on the Cape, so we went to the movies in a safe way.

Our two little children and our dog absolutely loved living in the trailer. It was small but quite comfortable; better suited for more resourceful travelers, as we had hiccups like our dog getting sick on the long drive north and very iffy electrical power at our campsite on the Cape (a/c would cut off if too many lights were on, etc.). Like most of our family trips, I’d file it under ‘adventure travel,’ not ‘vacation.’  Wonderful just the same if you bring the right mindset!”

A note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter.  While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to Andrea Mathis for taking the time to share her experience with our readers; we know it will be useful to other travelers.

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

a couple kayaks through the ice in Alaska

An Alaska Anniversary Trip During Covid

a couple kayaks through the ice in Alaska
Kayaking, a bucket-list activity for Janette
couple fishing off back of boat in Alaska
Fishing at Whale Pass
couple on boat dock in alaska posing with fish from fishing trip
Our catch at Whale Pass
Covid testing tent at Petersburg airport Alaska
Covid testing tent at Petersburg airport
Coronavirus safety signs at Petersburg airport Alaska
Signage at Petersburg airport
traveler couple wearing masks in a float plane in Alaska
Wearing masks in the float plane
aerial view from airplane when Landing at Tutka Bay Lodge Alaska
Landing at Tutka Bay Lodge
a couple poses in the woods by a waterfall in Alaska
A waterfall hike
couuple in masks with luggage at airport
Before (leaving Houston)
couple posing on a boat in front of a glacier in Alaska
After (boating to a glacier)

 


 

This traveler got this trip by starting with this questionnaire.  For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


 

What do you do when you planned a 25th anniversary trip for May of 2020, and then a global pandemic hits? You postpone it and, when the remote Alaskan lodges you’ve got your heart set on begin to reopen, and the state starts to admit travelers with proof of a negative Covid test, you finalize the date, call in the experts, get your Covid test, and go. That’s what frequent WOW List travelers Janette and James Gill of Houston did. They made their special milestone trip in July, capitalizing on Alaska’s prime time for weather and wildlife viewing.

You might remember that we spoke to Mrs. Gill back in March, at the start of the pandemic. At that time, she was visiting her daughter, who was studying abroad in Rome. The family was supposed to take a trip through Italy, but as the country’s caseload soared and Lombardy went on lockdown, they had to divert their itinerary. A few months later, the coronavirus forced them to change their plans once again—and yet they still had a great time on their anniversary trip and can’t wait to return to Alaska. We called Mrs. Gill shortly after they got home from their adventure, to find out all about it.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. Thank you to the Gill family for talking to us about their trip and sharing information we know will be useful to other travelers.

Why did you choose Alaska?

We’d been there before and loved the open spaces, and the wildlife is amazing. The lodges are just so unique. We had stayed in the Winter Lake Lodge and this time we wanted to try its sister property, Tutka Bay Lodge.

Judith reached out to me a month or two into the pandemic to gauge how I was feeling. I said if the plane is flying and the resort is open and we’re not sick, we’re going—just because this is an expensive trip and something we’d been looking forward to all year.

What was the process of getting into Alaska, with the testing requirements?

Judith made sure I understood what was required. She let us know that we had to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travel. She sent me information on where I could go in Houston for the Covid test and walked me through the worst-case scenario if we didn’t get our results. This is the exact reason why we use travel specialists from WendyPerrin.com—for situations like this.

It ended up not being a problem because I was able to find someone [in Houston] to give a nasal swab test and results within two days, so we got the results during our Seattle stopover en route to Alaska. We were proceeding as if we were negative—and we were.

The Alaskans are very serious that no one who comes into their state is positive: They had Covid testing at several airports we went to. As long as the flight didn’t come from out of state, we didn’t have to keep showing the test, but we did carry the negative test with us.

You stayed in two lodges. Can you tell us about them?

We flew from Seattle to Ketchikan and took a float plane into the Lodge at Whale Pass, an amazing remote upscale adventure lodge. Mainly the focus there for us was fishing. We wanted to get remote because I love remote Alaska, away from cruise-ship passengers. Judith recommended it for the food too.

Only one other family was there when we were, and for dining we sat spaced out, but we had just gotten our negative test results and the other family obviously had too, so our masks came off the minute we arrived. We fished, went to see the beautiful glacier, and kayaked through the icebergs because that was on my bucket list. The lodge owners’ son was our boat captain, and they were both there. It’s a very cozy, family-run business. We stayed for three nights, and except for meals we were outside the entire time.

What was the second lodge and what activities were you able to do there?

Tutka Bay Lodge in Homer. To get there, we took Alaska Airlines to Anchorage. We had to spend one night in Anchorage, so we had made a reservation for dinner at one of our favorite places we’d been to before. Everyone around town had masks on; of course, we didn’t while we were eating. And then we had an early morning float plane out to Tutka.

We arrived fairly early in the morning. The weather was beautiful, the lodge was everything I imagined it would be, and I can’t wait to go back. They wore masks inside the common area, and there was another family that was leaving as we were arriving, so we were the only family there.

After lunch we hiked with a guide around the beautiful property and then went on a boat ride. The captain wore a mask, and we sat in the back in the open air so we didn’t wear any. Then we hiked, and that night we had a fantastic meal outside. The next morning, at about 6 a.m., we headed out on a bear-viewing adventure. We saw seven bears, a mom with her cubs, a red fox, and a couple of eagles in their nests with babies inside. It was just a fantastic day.

But that was the day you got the news about the restaurant you’d dined at in Anchorage, right?

We got back to Homer at about 2:30 in the afternoon and there was somebody waiting for us. They said, There’s some bad news: There’s an issue with the restaurant you dined at Sunday night: It has shut down because an employee has tested positive. They didn’t yet know which employee or whether that employee was even working when we were there. But the lodge made the safety decision that we would not be returning.

Kirsten, the owner of the lodge, got on the phone with us, and since they were unable to find a rental car for us, she very graciously offered to lend us her vehicle for the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Homer back to Anchorage. They packed all our stuff for us, along with lunch and snacks for the car, and brought it over by boat.

How did you feel?

I was very disappointed but, when you travel in a pandemic, you take that risk that things may change. Alaska is very clear about what happens if you get Covid while traveling: You have to quarantine on your own dime. It turned out, though, that the employee who had tested positive was a dishwasher who wasn’t even working on the day that we were there. So, rather than stay in Anchorage, we opted to head on home.

Tutka Bay Lodge very graciously offered to let us come back later for the unused portion of our stay, and Judith credited us back for the unused portion of the chartered flight that we didn’t use on the return to Anchorage.

[Editor’s note: To be clear, Mr. and Mrs. Gill were not exposed to the virus at the restaurant. They returned home more than two weeks ago and did not get sick.]

Despite the restaurant scare, was the trip worth it?

Absolutely, just for being able to be out in the fresh air and do all the activities we had planned. Everything other than sleeping and eating, you’re outdoors—and some of the meals were outside too. I felt a lot more comfortable being outdoors, but also I’m one who is going to live my life. I’m not going to live in fear.

 

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

outdoor porch dining area of a vacation villa at Chable resort in Mexico with green trees around

A Mexico Family Vacation During Covid

 


 

This traveler got this trip by starting with this questionnaire.  For a safe, smart, extraordinary trip, go to The WOW List, find the best destination specialist for you, then click his/her CONTACT button to reach Wendy’s questionnaire.


 

Charlie Myers and his family wanted to get away. But they had a few challenges facing them: First, they live in Florida, so they were likely to run into travel bans and quarantines in some U.S. states. Second, they didn’t want to be on an airplane for too long. Because of their location, they were able to look internationally—to Mexico.

We checked in with Mr. Myers after he, his wife, and their two school-age kids returned from their week-long excursion to Merida and the Riviera Maya, where they stayed in two different resorts, planned with the help of WOW List travel specialist for Mexico, Zach Rabinor. As a frequent traveler, a veteran user of Wendy’s WOW List, and a professional who works in the fever-screening technology industry, Mr. Myers had a lot of insight into what it’s like to take a family trip now.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. We are grateful to Mr. Myers for sharing his family’s experience with us and with you.

Why Mexico?

We were considering going on a trip internally in the U.S., but at that moment—the start of July—there were so many state regulations changing so quickly that it became unclear whether we’d have to quarantine for 14 days when we arrived in the places we were considering.

We are very well traveled, and Mexico seemed like a very simple trip from Miami, mainly based on the one-hour flight time. We didn’t want to sit in masks for many hours, so flying somewhere where you’re off the plane before you know it was appealing.

How did you narrow in on Merida and the Riviera Maya?

We were very nervous about flying and I’d recently been to the Cancun airport, and it was busy and I wanted to avoid that. Flying into Merida instead was a great recommendation from Zach. It was quiet and easy.

I’d been to the area, and I knew that it was going to be the right place for my family. If anything, it was slightly disappointing because a lot of the attractions that are fun for kids were closed. But we still managed to do day trips that felt adventurous and that the kids loved. We did quite a few excursions organized by Zach’s team that felt 100% safe.

What kind of activities did you do?

My family doesn’t really love beach trips; we live in Miami, so the beach is nothing special. My kids are really nerdy. They love museums and history and archaeology and cities. I thought the Mayan ruins would fascinate them—but, as it turns out, we weren’t able to see them. The cenotes were closed too. But Zach found us things that were open that we could go and see, like a fantastic trip into caves. Normally that would have been a touristy experience that I wouldn’t have enjoyed, but because of the restrictions, we were able to do a private trip.

How were the resorts?

Merida was a little underwhelming, if I’m honest, because everything was closed. The hotel itself, Chablé, had several experiences for the kids to enjoy, like chocolate making and a little farm with deer, and they spent some time doing local Mayan cultural immersions. They were simple and quick but still felt special, even though they were on-property. I can’t say enough good things about Chablé. We stayed in a private family villa. The staff were wonderful, the resort was beautiful, and they upgraded us. It was quiet, and there were only a handful of other people staying there.

Then we rented a car and drove to the Riviera Maya. I’m not as passionate about the Rosewood Mayakoba, but I chose it because it seemed right for the children.

In every resort, all of the staff was wearing masks. Not all of the guests were, because there was enough social distance, but the staff did. It was never an issue because Zach’s team helped select resorts that were spacious.

What were your concerns about the trip?

The concerns were obvious: Will my family be safe? Are we taking unnecessary risks by traveling? Will we be in certain situations that will be beyond our control? In terms of meeting those concerns, the recommendations that the travel specialists made helped—especially the first resort, Chablé, because it’s such a large property and the accommodations were stand-alone villas. It felt 100% safe. The safety protocols at both resorts and both airports, and even with the car rental, made me feel like they were taking it very seriously.

How did WOW List travel specialists Zach those concerns?

In non-Covid times, I probably would have done this trip without using a travel planner because it was a very simple trip. I’ve had a number of trips planned with WendyPerrin.com travel specialists, but a week in Mexico—I would normally do it myself.

But I am very glad I picked up the phone and spoke to these guys because their recommendations, especially Chablé, were not on my radar and made the trip.

In your trip review, you mentioned that they messaged with you while you were traveling?

They were super-professional, particularly during such a scary moment, and they checked in with us during the trip. We had a little bit of an issue with the car rental; it was a benefit to be able to text somebody who was immediately on the phone with the car rental agency to get it resolved very quickly.

This was one of the more simple trips that somebody could have planned for a family, but I still felt the benefit of having somebody there in case we ran into unknowns. We didn’t know what to expect. And when we were planning the trip there were some questions we had and some concerns whether the border would remain open; without their involvement, it might have led me to postpone the trip, but they were very reassuring that they had the correct information. And they were right.

What did you observe in terms of safety protocols as you traveled?

We found the safety protocols in Mexico were well in advance of anything we’d seen in Miami. They seemed much more together and on it than the U.S.

I’m in the fever-screening technology business, so I was very aware of it. At the airport they have fever-detection cameras, and they are checking temperatures everywhere you go, whenever we entered a property or the car rental place—and the car rental would only allow me to go into the building. It was more the consistency of every single place doing the same things to keep people safe. And all of that led to a layer of feeling confident that we weren’t going to get sick.

What was it like driving?

It was not the recommendation of Zach’s team to rent a car, but I wanted to do it. The health and safety precautions were present and consistent and felt appropriate.

We drove about four hours, and even at the gas stations they have the same protocols as elsewhere, so you couldn’t go into a gas station without somebody taking your temperature or asking you to sanitize. That made you feel very comfortable, and it wasn’t intrusive in any way.

What do you wish you knew beforehand (and therefore would tell other people)?

When we got to the beach at Rosewood Mayakoba, the kids’ club was actually open. There was a level of normality on vacation that caused a little bit of stress because we weren’t quite emotionally prepared for it and weren’t sure how to navigate it. Our kids made friends, and it felt fantastic to see them playing normally, but I think we were under the impression that all of these touch points were closed. So it was kind of challenging to navigate those moments on the spot, to try and understand what the appropriate thing to do was. I think everyone is facing these kinds of challenges we’re not really programmed to make. So that is something to consider: If you go to a resort, there will be situations that may not be compliant with social distancing, and they will be almost impossible to control. All that being said, I felt everyone who worked at the resorts went above and beyond to ensure that protocols were being met.

 

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Grand Prismatic Spring view at Yellowstone National Park

A Family Road Trip to National Parks During Coronavirus

Due to her hospital work schedule, Dr. Amy Evers, a frequent WOW List traveler, usually takes big family trips in the fall. But this year, when she came by some last-minute time off in July, a summer getaway suddenly became an option—and she and her husband and two kids felt that they needed it. They decided on a national-parks road trip from their home in St. Louis to Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. When she wrote to Ask Wendy to find out who could best help her pull together the details and arrangements for this July trip, we sent her to WOW Lister Melissa Ladvala. Then, when the 11-day itinerary was nearly settled, Dr. Evers’s sister and two nieces announced that they wanted to come too. With Melissa’s help and Dr. Evers’s own ideas (Wolves! Paragliding! Biking!), they ended up with a trip they’ll all remember. We spoke on the phone with Dr. Evers to hear all about their experience—and what it was like to road trip in the national parks during Covid-19.

First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. We are grateful to Dr. Evers for sharing her family’s experience with us and with you.

What kind of trip was it, and what transportation did you use?

I wanted it to feel more like an independent road trip than a 100% guided itinerary. We had two days with a guide in South Dakota, one with a guide in Yellowstone, and a lot of activities scheduled in Jackson Hole, but they were all separate entities.

My husband and kids drove back, but I flew [because of work]. I got an email from American Airlines saying it looked like it was going to be a full flight and if I was flexible I could change. But I couldn’t. And it was full.

The airport in Jackson was pretty busy, but in Chicago I had a three-hour layover, and the airport was not very full: I was easily able to find a gate not being used. The flight from Chicago to St. Louis was not full. I felt like almost everybody legitimately had their mask on. I didn’t eat or drink on the plane; I left my mask on the entire time. I ate in Chicago, but I had brought food with me, so I didn’t get anything at the airport. For me, the fact that everyone wore masks—I was happy.

Why did you choose these national parks for a family trip?

Firstly, I was thinking about where hot spots were and were not. Secondly, my family doesn’t really ever have a chance to do national parks because we almost always do family trips in November [because of my work schedule]. So this was the time to capitalize on going to parks that are farther north and are not hot spots.

What activities did you do, and how did you feel about their Covid-related safety?

During our guided days in Rushmore and Badlands, the van we were in had Plexiglas between us and the driver, and the guide used a microphone so we could hear.

In Jackson Hole, we did the alpine slide at Snow King. Everyone in line had masks on, for the most part.

At Teton Village, we went paragliding. They gave us a buff and had us wear it the whole time, even while paragliding. To ride up [to the launch point], the pilots don’t go in the gondola with you;, they ride a different one. Of course, when you’re going tandem with someone, they are literally right behind you, but we all had masks on—and there’s clearly good airflow when you’re flying through the sky [laughs]. Everyone loved it.

For white-water rafting, we had to have our masks on in the bus; it wasn’t packed, and the windows were open. On the rafts, people didn’t have their masks on, but we were outside and moving. There was one other family in the raft with us. The company used only their bigger rafts. Ours could have comfortably fit three people in a row but placed only two people in the row so you could be farther away from each other. We were far enough apart and outside, so I felt fine about that.

For horseback riding, it was only our family, so we did not wear masks. We were never really close to anybody other than when I went into the office (where I wore a mask, and the people in the office wore masks too).

When we went rock climbing [just with the family], we had two guides with us. We all wore masks while we were trying stuff on and when we were near the guides, but not when we were climbing because no one was nearby. We used a lot of Purell that day, and the guides were good about reminding us to do it because the ropes are used by other people. I’m not as worried about getting the virus from someone touching something than from someone coughing in my face or talking a lot. So I feel like it was pretty good. So far, knock on wood, everybody’s asymptomatic.

Apart from that, anytime there was downtime in Jackson, we took our bikes out on the many pathways and trails.

What were the accommodations like?

I wasn’t too terribly worried about staying in a hotel: Getting the virus from someone via droplets is more risky than being in a hotel and touching something.

Apart from the hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota, all of the accommodations were strict about wearing a mask. After South Dakota, we stayed in Cook City, Montana, a little town just outside the northeast entrance of Yellowstone, which is the least used entrance but the one closest to the Lamar Valley, where you can see wolves. And we saw wolves! Woo! I was so happy.

In Yellowstone we stayed at Under Canvas because we thought it would be fun to try glamping. Each family stayed in a separate tent.. It was a big hit with the kids. We brought four bikes so my kids could tool around and go to the common tent and get a hot chocolate and come back. They thought it was the best thing ever. At the restaurant, you used a menu from the clean pile and then put it in the dirty pile, and you had to order through Plexiglas, so it was a little more of a self-service feel, but it was fine. It was to minimize the number of servers coming to your table, and the servers all wore masks. For breakfast, you just picked up a grab-and-go baggie.

At our hotel in Teton Village, we had our own kitchen, and I felt totally fine.

What did you notice about how other states were handling the coronavirus situation?

In Wyoming, they were very strict in most locations. Most had masks available to use if you didn’t have one, and they allowed only one family in the elevator at one time.

In South Dakota, they definitely don’t seem to be taking Covid seriously. We experienced that before we even got to Rapid City (our base for Rushmore and Badlands). As we were driving to Rapid City, I ordered from a restaurant for pick-up. They didn’t have curbside pick-up, so I went into the restaurant to wait for the food. I was the only person in the entire restaurant with a mask on, and there was an older gentleman who straight-up harassed me: [Imitating the man with a tough taunting voice] “What are you a police officer?” Outside of that, no one harassed us for wearing masks, and in the hotel the staff wore masks—though the lobby of the hotel was busy. But I would say South Dakota as a state seemed to take it less seriously.

 

We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.

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view out of airplane window of Cancun Mexico with jet engine in bottom corner

4 Things to Know About Airline Miles Now

The coronavirus pandemic has raised a lot of questions about air travel: routes, rules, restrictions, refunds, how much to spend, where to sit, when to book. And not least of all: What about my miles? Frequent travelers want to know what the current airline industry landscape means for all those points and miles they’ve been racking up or have had to re-deposit back into their accounts due to canceled travel plans.

We invited miles-and-points expert Gary Leff to speak in our Zoom chat last week about air travel in 2020 and 2021. Gary reports on this topic every day at his View From the Wing blog, and he works directly with travelers at his Book Your Award flight-planning service.

Here are the four things he wants to make sure travelers know about airline miles now, in his own words:

1. Your miles are generally safe, unless the airline goes out of business.

“Even if an airline goes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the frequent-flier programs are incredibly valuable. They’re often the most valuable part of the airline. United Airlines was just able to raise private funds for an airline at the $5 billion level now, backing the loans with its frequent-flier program. People were willing to put up $5 billion knowing that there’s substantial revenue there. American, for its part, is expected to put up its frequent-flier programs as collateral for a $4.75 billion CARES Act loan. The Treasury Department considers it to be pretty good as well. So your miles are generally going to be safe, as long as the airline itself remains in business.”

2. It’s going to be a pretty good time for frequent fliers in the near- and medium term—until airlines recover and fill their planes again.

“For paid tickets, up until now, there haven’t been a ton of great offers. That’s largely because there hasn’t been an opportunity to really incentivize travel. The airlines haven’t been using their loyalty programs to really drive business. Concern for health is a binding constraint. Restrictions on international travel are binding constraints. Once the circumstances of the world change, we’ll really start to see deals and mileage offers. The fact that there are empty seats will lead airlines to use their primary marketing programs to encourage filling those seats.

I think that award availability will be pretty good for a while too. As the airlines recover and print more and more miles (and eventually they will, and seats will begin to fill up), those points that we’re all earning very quickly will probably become worth less in the future. So I think it’s a good idea to earn and burn miles within roughly the same time period—meaning, earn those miles and then use them in the near term, rather than saving them for the future.”

3. For travel in the distant future, it’s generally better to use miles or points than to pay money, unless it’s for the most exclusive accommodations or remote flights.

“One of the things that I really like about miles is their flexibility. Certainly ticketing policies have been more flexible recently than they have been in the past, but mileage bookings have long been very flexible. If you need to cancel, you can put the miles back in your account, usually for a modest fee. Hotel bookings with points are also often very cancel-able as well, so they give you a lot of flexibility and peace of mind. You make a booking, and then if things don’t work out the way that you want, you can change often at the very last minute. (But always check the cancellation rules when making a reservation.)

I like taking a wait-and-see approach on booking paid flights right now. To folks who may have booked far in advance in the past, I’m saying to them: Wait, hang on to your cash. Except for flights to the most remote places, planes aren’t completely selling out. Holding off is often a good idea.

For mileage tickets, though, you may want to book the best available flights you see today. Because planes are empty, you might find your ideal seat. If you find a good but not ideal seat, you can keep checking for availability to improve and then pay a modest fee later to improve your trip.

4. Schedules will change, and that could be to your advantage.

“Schedules are going to change, so don’t assume that the flight that you book today is going to operate exactly the same way ten months from now.

Because the schedules aren’t real, the one advantage of a schedule change is that you may book a sub-optimal schedule with miles, and most airlines—certainly U.S. airlines—will be pretty darn flexible in terms of giving you an alternative. I’ve often used schedule changes to improve my itinerary.

Mileage tickets are very low-risk. They often aren’t exactly what you want the first time out, but if what you booked has changed, the airline will usually open up revenue inventory. At that point, you won’t be limited to what was available as an award, and then you can kind of get the schedule that you would have wanted.”

 

 

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screened in porch looking out at the water, at Montage cottage hotel in South carolina

Family Trip Strategies for Covid-Era Travel

Hi everyone, Brook here. This week many of you joined us for a Zoom chat about family travel, a subject that’s close to my heart. I grew up traveling with my parents, and I started bringing my son on trips before it was even fun; in the early days it meant carrying a backpack filled with Matchbox cars, individually wrapping Dollar Store finds to get through a trans-Pacific flight, and juggling sightseeing with naptime. But those experiences molded my nearly-9-year-old, Zeke, into a traveler, and even a kid who was delighted to get a new suitcase as his big present last Christmas.

The early days weren’t easy, but now traveling is part of Zeke’s identity. And I decided it had all been worth it a few years ago when we were riding through the hilly outskirts of Medellin and playing a game I call “What’s similar, what’s different.” Usually Zeke’s answers would fall along the lines of “This pillow feels different from the one at home” or “This pizza doesn’t taste the same.” (I still regret not doing a photo essay of the pizzas Zeke has eaten in every country he’s visited, from Vietnam to Mexico to South Korea.) But that day in Colombia, Zeke said, “I know something that’s similar. People are people.” I caught my breath at the depth of his answer. Zeke was catching on to the most important lesson that travel could teach him: Wherever you are in the world, regardless of language or skin color or the clothes they wear, people are people.

That’s why I can’t wait to start traveling to unfamiliar places with Zeke again—when it feels safe to do so—and why I think those experiences are as important for his education as will be getting back into a classroom with his teachers and peers—once it’s safe to do that as well. I know many of you likewise love to travel with your children and grandchildren, and so we’ve compiled some tips and inspiration offered by our Trusted Travel Experts during a recent Zoom chat about family travel during the time of Covid. If you have travel questions or need further advice, we can answer if you write to Ask Wendy.

Seek out resorts with freestanding cottages or villas

screened in porch looking out at the water, at Montage cottage hotel in South carolina

Resorts with separate cottages, such as the Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, can help families stay socially distanced from other guests. Photo: Montage Hotels

“Resorts with your own cottage and your own kitchen and porch are appealing to families right now, especially a cabin on a lakefront or a villa on a relatively private beach. Many such hotels with freestanding cottages are sold out through August, but with some schools starting up again with remote learning only, I’m predicting that many families in cities with high infection rates—families with parents who can work from home and kids who will be learning online only—will leave town, make their base a resort villa or rental home somewhere remote and safe but with great Wi-Fi, and stay there until the kids’ school reopens for in-person learning.” —Wendy

Private yachts or charter boats offer built-in social distancing

Brook’s family took a private yacht trip in Belize and didn’t see any other boats for days.

“Our last trip was a private yacht in the Caribbean Sea off Belize, and it was a form of social distancing before we even knew what social distancing was. It’s the trip I can most imagine doing now. We had our own yacht, we barely even saw other boats on the horizon, we had no contact with anyone else.  In the Caribbean, there are hundreds of cays where you can anchor and have a picnic. Many have no population at all, and we chose to spend most of our time away from civilization entirely. Belize is opening up to travelers August 15 and has only 40 cases of coronavirus, so it’s a relatively safe place to be.  A private yacht would make for a great family vacation for Christmas/New Year’s.” —Brook

Hit the trails and cycling routes

small waterfall in a creek in a very green forest in Olympic National Park Washington State

The Northwest offers many beautiful outdoor parks, like Olympic National Park in Washington. Photo: Shutterstock

“Stay outdoors as much as possible: That is my biggest recommendation. In the Northwest we have a lot of places where you can be outdoors, hiking independently. So I’ve been helping people find trails that are off the beaten path and where you won’t encounter other travelers. Cycling is another thing you can do on your own.  As for activities like sea kayaking or whale watching, I’ve been arranging private excursions for just one family at a time.  For accommodations, look for a place with a kitchen so you don’t have to get takeout for every meal. And try to find a place with an outdoor area, so that if you do take out, you can dine al fresco in your own space.” Sheri Doyle, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Connect with your cultural history closer to home

“How do you do cultural travel in the era of Covid? We looked at the culture and history near us in northern California that we haven’t paid enough attention to and honored, then we culled it down to which places we could go to safely. My step-family is Native American but my kids don’t know that history. And a couple hours north from here we can camp on tribal lands and learn about the Native-American history that is a part of their history as well.” April Cole, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Sequester at a ski resort in summer or fall

“I live between Vail and Beaver Creek, so my backyard is the great outdoors.  If I were somewhere else, I’d be coming here, so this is what I’m doing for travelers: I’m bringing them here and renting them a villa in a ski resort because there are very few people here at this time of year, so they can enjoy all the outdoor activities, biking, hiking, fishing, rafting. You could easily get out with just your family and do that…. In Mexico, a lot of the Riviera Maya coastline on the Caribbean Sea is open, and the resorts are running at max 30% occupancy, so you can still feel that space and freedom. What most people are after is villas, private homes, and private boat charters—they want that space. Hotel Esencia is doing something interesting: They have villas, and they will give your children complimentary six hours a day of in-villa online schooling with a homeschool tutor.”­ Meg Austin, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Alaska’s wilderness lodges and private yachts

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge Alaska

Wilderness lodges are making efforts to keep guest activity groups safe and private. Photo: Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

“The best option for Alaska travel is a stay at one or two wilderness lodges or a private yacht adventure for families of six guests or less. The lodges are able to control the environment and are all following strict protocol for guests’ safety with mandated cleanliness, social distancing during meal times or staggered meal times or being able to bring their meals to their own cabins, any flightseeing is done privately, adventures are conducted privately for the families with their own guides, etc. Some lodges are also keeping the maximum number of guests to a much lower number than normal, to allow for social distancing. I also inform travelers what they can do to enter Alaska, in terms of mandates and advisories.” Judith Root, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

To prevent paying more for a lesser experience, postpone a Disney trip until 2021

“All four Florida Disney World parks are open now, and Disney has a new park pass system. You reserve the day when you will go into each park, and that’s their way of limiting capacity. Anybody over the age of two has to wear a mask. The parks are empty, so it’s a great time to go if you’re willing to take the risk, but people outside Florida don’t want to go: Florida is a hot spot, so you may have to quarantine for 14 days when you get back home. I’m not encouraging people to go in 2020 because you’ll pay the same amount but get one-third of the experience: There’s no meet-and-greet, no fireworks, no parades. People look for that magic, and it’s not happening now. I’m advising people to postpone until 2021 and see how things evolve.” —Michelle Allen, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Share your safety plan with the kids, for before, during and after the trip

“The kids and I just flew to Maryland. I hadn’t seen my sister and nieces for six months, and I felt that was worth the risk for us. One thing I didn’t think of ahead of time but it became apparent: The kids have been bombarded with the news and the scariness of the situation, so one of the biggest hurdles was convincing them that this was going to be okay. They wanted to know the steps that I was taking to keep them safe: They wanted to know the plan and that we were going to quarantine when we got home—that we weren’t putting our larger family at risk. They really wanted to know that I was doing our due diligence, so we had to sit down and have a conversation about how this was going to play out.” Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Be prepared to have to make advance reservations for Europe’s big attractions

Duomo Florence Italy

Many of Europe’s top sights will require timed reservations in order to prevent crowds and encourage social distancing. Photo: Brian Dore

“I know that when Italy is ready for U.S. citizens again, we will be able to arrange safe trips there. For now, there are a lot of rules for reopening to European travelers, and the rules change about three times a week. Before, people would go to Florence and buy a museum card and visit all the monuments. Now, you can’t do that; you have to make a reservation at each one. And, at museums and monuments, because everyone has on masks and is trying to stay apart, it’s very hard to hear your guide, so everyone is wearing headphones. There is a lot to do outdoors, and that’s great. Dining outside in the peak months has always been a possibility, and now a lot of piazzas are blocked off for that.” Maria Landers, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

Prep for the future family travel trend in Europe

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Maybe a self-drive trip through the small towns of Eastern Europe—like Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic—is the family trip of the future. Photo: Shutterstock

“Austria and the Czech Republic are already back up and running for local travelers. When they open to U.S. travelers again, the people on the ground will be ready with sanitizer and masks. I think self-drive trips will be a trend for family travel in this region. In the past, many trips were train-focused because of the ease of it, but I think we will see more families being game for driving. And we are finding stand-alone villas and accommodations that will work well for families.” Gwen Kozlowski, Trusted Travel Expert on The WOW List

 

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Two teenage boys with masks on in business class of a United airplane during coronavirus

Our First-Hand Accounts of What It’s Like to Travel Now

Like many of you, I am certifiably stir-crazy right about now. I live in New York City, and I haven’t ventured farther than six miles from my apartment in four and a half months—and that’s just on long walks. So last Thursday, I found myself in the same boat as all the other grounded travelers who showed up for our latest Zoom chat: eager to hear aboutthe essential trips that Brook, Wendy, and Wendy’s husband, Tim, recently took. Not only because I am starving for some vicarious travel, but also because I want to hear reliable first-hand accounts from people I trust—experienced travelers who pay attention to the kinds of details and questions I’ll have when I’m ready to travel again myself. That’s the whole point of our Zoom chat series—to cut through the noise and share the travel intel that’s most relevant to you…and, we hope, soothe some of that restlessness and stoke future dreams of safe adventures.

If you didn’t make it to our “What It’s Really Like to Travel in the U.S. Now” Zoom chat, we’ve collected some of the highlights and tips below. Don’t miss our next get-togethers. On July 16, we’ll talk about smart family travel (including some of our favorite past trips and what those might look like going forward); and on July 23, air travel experts will forecast the near-future of flying. Sign up using our RSVP form, where you can also let us know what other chats you’d like to see and how we can help keep your travel brain inspired until you’re ready to hit the road again. In the meantime, stay safe! —Billie

What it’s like: In the car

Sunrise in Spartanburg, S.C. Road Trip, Wendy Perrin Covid-19

Sunrise in Spartanburg, South Carolina, June 23, 2020

Wendy: “It used to be that on a road trip, the place you stopped to get gas was the same place you got snacks and used the restroom. Now those three things need to be done in three different places. The convenience stores attached to the gas stations had ‘mask required’ signs but no one complied. So instead we used the bathrooms at state welcome centers—they were clean, spacious, and often touchless. To get food, we went to drive-throughs or found out what restaurants were ahead of us on the highway, then we’d call ahead and do curbside pick-up.”

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What it’s like: At the airport

Two teenage boys walking through empty TSA airport security during coronavirus

The normally packed security lanes at Newark airport were empty when Tim flew. Note the social-distancing markers on the floor.

Brook: “I had to hand over my boarding pass and ID, I was not able to scan those myself. There were big jugs of sanitizer before and after, and all staff was wearing masks. It was easy to social distance at the airport. It didn’t have that empty apocalyptic feeling but it was noticeably empty, so it was easy to stay away from each other. I told my son to keep his hands in his pockets to keep him from touching anything.”

Tim: “At Newark airport we wore gloves because we knew we’d be going through security and handing papers to people. Once we got through, we took our gloves off because they’d gotten all sweaty. The airport reminded me of a casino at ten in the morning: Yeah, there are a few people there, but it’s pretty empty and not the same scene.”

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What it’s like: On the plane

Two teenage boys with masks on in business class of a United airplane during coronavirus

Because of the layout of this 787’s business-class cabin, Tim felt the last row was the safest.

Brook: “My parents bought us business class. That’s not normally how I travel, but we all felt the financial investment was worth it. My son and I flew United on a 757 with the upgraded Polaris class, so the seats were separate private pods. I originally chose the last row of the cabin to be farthest from the flight attendant and closest to the door. But when I got to the airport, I spoke to the gate agent (through Plexiglas) and had him move us to a row that was otherwise empty.”

Tim: “We also splurged on business class—in a United 787—and took the back row so we could be the last on the plane and the first off. We never walked past anyone; we just got on and got in our seats. We did not use the lavatory. We wore masks and also tried goggles. They didn’t work very well; they fogged up. So on the return flight we wore Face Shields in addition to the masks. Leaving the plane, everyone got up and wanted to leave at once. So even though the plane was only a third full, that final moment was problematic and made us uncomfortable.”

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What it’s like: Getting to/from the airport

empty Avis car rental lot at SFO airport San Francisco California during coronavirus

SFO’s normally full Avis rental-car lot had very few cars available.

Tim: “In California, we had reserved a rental car at SFO. There were five people in front of us at Avis, and two people behind the counter, and it took us an hour and a half to get our car. First they said they had no cars available. (Apparently they’re selling off some of their fleet.) Then they said it was taking longer to clean the few cars they do have. So factor in a lot of time when picking up a rental car. Also, leave more time for air trains; they may be running on a slower schedule.”

Billie: “I’ve taken five rideshare trips over the past few months in NYC. Four out of five times, the driver had installed a protective barrier between the front and back seats (usually a custom-fit Plexiglas wall, but one time it was a taped up shower curtain), and in every case, the drivers opened the windows and were patient while I wiped everything down before I got in. Lyft and Uber both require that passengers and drivers wear masks. If you’re not wearing one, the driver can refuse to let you in and cancel your ride; likewise you can cancel the trip for health safety reasons if you are not comfortable.”

What it’s like: At hotels

Flamingo Resort hotel clean and dirty jars for pens during coronavirus

The poolside bar at the Flamingo Resort separated used pens (for signing bar bills) from unused ones.

Tim: “For our nights in Santa Rosa, we picked an older hotel I’ve known for years (The Flamingo Resort) because it had an upstairs balcony with a sliding glass door, and we knew we could keep that open at night, to keep the room ventilated. I gave Charlie a pack of wet wipes, and he wiped everything down (the rental car too). The TV remote was already in a plastic bag, but we wiped it down too. We left the windows open, and did not have the staff come in while we were there. Having the balcony worked out well. We put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door the entire time we were there, and I would go find Housekeeping and trade in towels. Everyone inside the hotel wore masks, but around the pool everyone took them off and stayed socially distant. There were also about a dozen dogs around the pool, which was interesting.

Then we spent a week camping in the Mendocino National Forest. I was pleasantly surprised how militant they were—even at the little general store deep in the woods—about masks and social distancing.”

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United Airlines 787 Dreamliner Polaris business class cabin Flight from Newark to San Francisco during coronavirus Wendy Perrin boys

If You Have To Fly in a Pandemic, Here’s Where to Sit on the Plane

UPDATE ON JULY 19: It’s been 14 days since Tim and the kids returned from California, nobody got sick, and both kids tested negative for Covid-19. (Tim was not tested.)  This update does not represent a recommendation that people fly; I am simply reporting the outcome of my family’s decisions, as described below.

As you know from Steps to Reduce Your Health Risk When You Fly, the problem with flying nowadays is likely not the air on the plane; scientists say the HEPA filtration system generates hospital-quality air. The problem is the close quarters and the unpredictable behavior of other passengers.  While it may be impossible to know with certainty how empty or full a flight will be or whether there might be passengers who refuse to wear masks (note: major U.S. airlines require passengers to wear masks), it is certainly possible—if you need to make an essential airline trip (remember, the CDC advises against non-essential travel)— to choose an aircraft layout and seat location so as to mitigate your risk.

That was my goal when I had to book a transcontinental flight for my husband and two sons. They flew from Newark to San Francisco on United Airlines on June 25. Based on their experience, here’s my advice for picking planes and seats so as to lessen your risk:

Know which airlines will keep seats empty during your flight.

Back in April when I booked the flight and chose the seats I wanted, United was blocking certain seats to try to maintain some space between passengers. But I knew I could not count on those seats remaining empty. United offered no guarantee that it wouldn’t fill every seat if it could. And, in fact, United is now no longer blocking seats; this week, the airline’s communications chief, Josh Earnest, said that blocking middle seats is just a PR strategy and not a safety strategy, since it still doesn’t keep passengers six feet apart.

By contrast, Alaska Airlines, Delta, Jetblue, and Southwest promise to keep certain seats blocked through at least the end of July: Alaska says it will block middle seats and cap flights at 65% capacity through July 31. Delta says it will block all middle seats, and some aisle seats in aircraft with 2×2 seating configurations, through September 30. Jetblue is blocking seats through July 31: middle seats on big planes, aisle seats on small ones. Southwest says it will block middle seats through September 30.

American and United are booking their flights to capacity when possible. United says it will alert passengers beforehand if their flight is “expected to be fairly full.” If you want to change your flight, the airline will let you do so for no fee; if you want to cancel, the airline will give you a credit toward a future flight in the amount that you paid. (See the “Prioritizing Your Well-being” section here.)  I recommend calling the airline ahead of time to check how full your flight really is (as opposed to waiting for the airline to alert you).

If you’re going to splurge on a business-class seat, pick an aircraft model where that will make a big difference.

I wanted a nonstop flight (to reduce time in airports), which limited my options to Alaska, Jetblue, and United. On United.com, as I pulled up flights during the search process, I compared every plane on offer between Newark and San Francisco by clicking to find out the aircraft model and view the seat map. My goal was to put as much physical distance as possible between my family and other passengers, and if there was ever a time when I was willing to pay more for that, this was it, so I checked out all the business-class options too. I saw that United was flying a 787-10 Dreamliner with the Polaris business-class cabin. The seat design means that you get something akin to your own cubicle onboard. Here’s a 3-D, 360-degree view of the cabin, so you can see how each passenger is partially shielded and how there are many solitary window seats with no aisle seat next to them. (If you hold your cursor down on the 3-D view and scroll in a circular fashion, you can “tour” the cabin.)  And the seats were surprisingly affordable (this was back in April, when the coronavirus outbreak was peaking in New Jersey).

It was the combination of the seat design, the cabin spaciousness, the newness of the plane, my elite status with United, and the price—plus the fact that if I needed to change the flights, United would have the most other flights to choose from—that made this option the best for my family’s needs. (If you’re comparing flights and can’t easily determine the aircraft model, seating configuration, and other seat details via the website you’re using, you can do your seat research on Seatguru.)

teenage boys traveling in business class United flight with masks on

My kids had seats with protective barriers.

When choosing your seat location, consider all the factors that might protect you from other people’s movements.

After studying the layout of the seats in the business-class cabin, I assigned my family seats in the last row. Here’s why I wanted the last row:

  • Since the business-class lavatory is at the front of the cabin, there would be no foot traffic past them to/from the lavatory.
  • The other passengers in the cabin would be seated in front of them, facing forward, so if any of those passengers were to cough or sneeze, they would hopefully do so in the opposite direction from Tim and the kids.
  • The aircraft door is immediately behind that row.  This increased the probability that my family could board the plane last and not have to walk past already-seated passengers. (Boarding the plane last meant they could avoid standing in line at the gate.) They would also probably be able to disembark first.

Tim reports that we made all the right decisions and that the flight felt very safe, as did the entire airport experience. Newark airport was empty. In the TSA line, nobody touched anything. At each gate was a gallon jug of hand sanitizer. When they boarded the plane, they were given wipes so they could wipe down their seat area. Every passenger Tim saw onboard wore a mask. Every airport staffer and traveler he saw at EWR and SFO wore masks, although a few passengers at SFO had their masks at their chins as they spoke on their mobile phones.

United flight crew attendant with mask around chin

The purser was the only person Tim saw onboard whose mask was not covering his nose and mouth.

Tim reports that there were only two exceptions to his sense of safety on the flight: (1) The United Airlines purser wore his mask at his chin instead of over his mouth and nose. (2) At the end of the flight, passengers were in a rush to get off the plane and kept only about two feet of distance from one another when emerging from their seats and moving from the plane to the jetway.

Based on my family’s flight experience, we have a few more tips to share:

When I dropped Tim and the kids off at Newark airport, they wore goggles, but they’ll be trying out face shields on the return flight.

  • Consider wearing a face shield (in addition to a mask). It can protect your eyes or at least prevent you from touching your eyes with unwashed hands.  When I dropped Tim and the kids off at the airport, they wore goggles recommended to us by a friend who is an E.R. doctor. The goggles fogged up, though, so I’ve shipped face shields to the boys for the return flight.
  • Use the lavatory earlier rather than later.  As you know from Steps to Reduce Your Health Risk When You Fly, the lavatory is cleaner earlier in the flight.  My family’s goal was not to use the lavatory at all.  And they succeeded!  They used the airport restroom immediately before boarding and immediately after disembarking. (And they report that everything in the airport male restrooms was touchless.)  During the flight, they never left their pods; they stayed nestled down behind their privacy barriers.
  • Bring a sweater. They turned their air nozzles on for purified air throughout the flight, but those nozzles blast cold air, so it got chilly.
  • Bring food. Newark airport was empty, with restaurants and almost everything else closed except for one convenience store on each pier. Tim and the kids brought deli sandwiches from home, in case the food service on the flight didn’t happen or didn’t appear to be safe. As it turned out, everything served to them—including silverware—came wrapped in plastic.

 

Europe map with pins-1646756_1920 CR Pixabay

The EU Opens to Canadians and Australians, but not Americans

The European Union will open its borders to visitors on July 1, but not to travelers from the United States. However, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and 12 others all made the cut.

After several weeks of uncertainty (during which Portugal, Iceland, and Greece all planned to reopen to Americans, and then reneged), the EU formalized a plan and announced that residents from only a select list of countries will be allowed entry (entry is based on residency, not nationality). Everyone else is banned for now.

That list—published by the European Council and also agreed to by the non-EU countries of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein—approves 15 countries that have met certain health criteria, including a 14-day COVID-19 caseload count that’s close to or below the EU average, plus an evaluation of each country’s overall COVID-19 response (ie., testing, contact tracing, treatment, reporting, containment, and “the reliability of the information”).

The list will be reviewed every two weeks. As of July 1, residents of the following countries will be allowed to travel to the EU:

  • Algeria
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Uruguay
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
  • The Council counts residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican as part of the EU, so they’ll be allowed entry as well.

U.S. residents eager to travel can choose among several other countries and islands around the world that are not banning them (including England, which just relaxed its rules so that U.S. residents can enter the country as long as they quarantine for 14 days on arrival). For quarantine-less travel options, see The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers and What You’ll Find There for our regularly updated intel on those options. For more info about traveling within the U.S., bookmark “Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information.”

Canadians, Australians, and others allowed into the EU will find the world’s best Europe trip-planning specialists—those who can ensure smart logistics, no crowds or lines, and safe places to stay and eat—on The WOW List.

 

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stock photo of toy airplane on stack of masks and passport with a globe signifying travel during Covid

Steps to Reduce Your Health Risk When You Fly

Now that some countries are reopening to U.S. travelers, and require international flights to get there, we’ve asked health experts to outline the most important steps travelers can take to limit their chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus when they fly.

Starting with how you transport yourself to the airport, and ending with how you exit it at your destination, there are many tricky touch points to plan for. One factor in your favor, though, is that you’re not likely to encounter crowds at the airport or on the plane right away. According to Airlines for America, the trade association and lobby group for the U.S. airline industry, U.S. airline passenger volumes are down nearly 90%, and the TSA is screening 88% fewer travelers compared to this time last year.

That could change with time, however: Your airport could see a wave of restless travelers, or your particular flight may be the unexpectedly popular one. So it’s smart to be prepared.

Making the decision to fly

First, we want to be clear that the CDC and the U.S. State Department are still advising Americans to avoid all nonessential international travel. The CDC has this advice about the risks of contracting COVID-19 when traveling by planes specifically: “Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.” It also notes the difficulty of social distancing. So thinking carefully about whether to even take a trip is your first line of protection.

“The decision is important,” says Dr. Petra Illig, an aerospace-medicine physician based in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Illig was a CDC quarantine medical officer during the Ebola, H1N1, and MERS outbreaks, worked as regional medical director for major airlines, and currently serves as secretary of the International Airline Medical Association. “You have to decide: Do I really need to make this trip and are there other alternatives?” If the answer is yes, you do need to make the trip, then plan for potential pitfalls, like getting stuck at your destination, requiring hospitalization there, needing prescription refills, or not being allowed in when you come back home. Consider your contingency options and make sure you have all the necessary items with you in your carry-on: not just your medications (and enough to last in case you do get stuck), but also information about your medical status, physicians, allergies, insurance, and an emergency contact. “Plan for not coming back when you want to,” she says.

Getting to/from the airport

The best way to minimize your risk of exposure is to drive yourself to the airport and park there, says Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician based in California who also serves as vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee and who served as medical director of an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone during the 2014 outbreak. “The next best option would be to see if someone you know (preferably someone that you live with and have been around frequently—i.e. someone in your bubble) can drive you. Even if you do this, I would recommend wearing masks and practicing good hand hygiene, since being in the car is an enclosed space that potentially places you at risk.” If you have to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi, she recommends “wearing a mask, using good hand hygiene, and if possible having the windows down for air circulation.”

Checking in

Check in online whenever possible so that you don’t have to interact with any people or touch any kiosk screens. The same goes for checking luggage: Try not to.

When you do have to check in at the airport, be conscious of the things you touch and that other people have touched. “At the counter, don’t give your ID to the person: Try to handle it yourself,” says Dr. Illig. “Same with credit cards—try not to let people hold your card.” If you have to use a kiosk screen, wipe it down first, and then wipe your hands (or gloves) right after. “I already have my gloves on when I’m going into a place where I have to handle things,” she continues, “because I find it a lot easier to sanitize my hands if I’m wearing gloves rather than constantly washing my hands, which you can’t always do. I can vigorously use Lysol wipes on the gloves.”

Dr. Illig’s trick: Keep a Ziploc bag of wipes with you at all times. “But make sure it’s well sealed,” she cautions, “because the alcohol on them will evaporate quicker than the water in them. Just because the wipe is wet doesn’t mean it’s effective.”

TSA screening/baggage handling

Since you’ll be interacting with people, Dr. Kuppalli advises wearing a mask when you go through TSA screening. “Going through the Whole Body Image scanner should not pose any additional risk to people,” she adds. “However, if the screener has to do a pat-down or any additional screening, they may get close to you. The best thing you can do is protect yourself with your mask, and you have the right to ask the agent to wear clean fresh gloves and to wear a mask.”

What about all those shared surfaces you’ll have to put your bags on—conveyor belts, screening bins, and, at the other end of your journey, baggage-claim carousels? How much should we stress about those? “I wouldn’t worry about it,” says Dr. Illig. “You’re not going to lick your bag, so even if it comes into contact with something, it’s unlikely it will have enough particles attached to the handles of your bag [to transfer if you] pick it up and then touch your nose.” She explains that while we’ve all heard the reports about how the virus can be detected on certain surfaces for hours or days, that detection does not necessarily mean the virus is alive. “The testing we do now is for the genetic fingerprint of that virus on the surface. That doesn’t mean the virus was alive or can be infectious; it just means the RNA is still evident but the virus is most likely not capable of infecting a living cell. Plus it requires a certain amount of virus [to start an infection].”

Still, Dr. Kuppalli says she usually wipes down the outside of her bags after going through security, and then she washes her hands—because when touching luggage, that should be your main concern. “The most important thing to remember is that after handling your items, your hands will be dirty, so you don’t want to touch your mask, mouth, eyes, or nose,” she explains. “You want to make sure to clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap/water first. As long as you do that, you will be fine.” And remember: The TSA now allows you to bring 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in your carry-on, so don’t be stingy.

Waiting in the airport

The time when you’re waiting in the airport for your flight to take off seems riddled with traps. Should you avoid hanging around the gate? Is it safe to buy snacks or drinks? And what about using the bathrooms?

“I would avoid the crowded gate and food courts,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Instead, she suggests looking for an empty gate close to yours and camping out there until it’s time to board. She adds that buying food or drinks is probably fine, but be sure to wash or sanitize your hands before you eat anything.

“The place I get most nervous are the bathrooms: There you have to be ultra cautious,” says Dr. Illig, who suggests looking for one that’s not crowded and getting in and out as quickly as possible. “You want to think about everything you might touch, and try not to touch it.”

Dr. Kuppalli agrees: “The main concern are the high-touch surfaces that may not be cleaned as often or as well as one would hope. Wash your hands completely with soap and water for at least 20 seconds while scrubbing between the webs of fingers, under nails, and on both sides of hands.”

On the airplane

Let’s clear up a common myth first: The air on a plane is not a big cloud of germs; it’s not what makes people sick. U.S. airlines use HEPA filtration systems to generate hospital-quality air, and that air is cycled so frequently that infection risk is low.

“According to the WHO, research shows there is little risk of any infectious disease being transmitted onboard an aircraft because the aircraft cabin air is carefully controlled. Ventilation provides a total change of air 20 to 30 times per hour,” says Dr. Kuppalli. Even the CDC is trying to set the record straight with this information on its page about air travel: “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.”

In a recent essay for the Washington Post, Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that airplanes are rarely the source of disease outbreaks. He pointed to a study on the risk of infection posed by a person with tuberculosis to 169 other passengers. The answer: between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. And that’s without everyone wearing masks.

Nevertheless, the airline industry is still trying to better understand how coronavirus and other pathogens behave in cabin air—and what they can do about it. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Boeing and Airbus have started conversations with the FAA, the CDC, and a few universities to figure out and address in-flight risk factors. Those discussions could lead to academic research grants and studies that would inform the way airplanes are designed, maintained, and ventilated.

In the meantime, the air nozzle above your airline seat blasts purified air, so turn it on and position it toward you throughout your flight.

Other passengers

The air is not the problem. People are. “The greatest risk is really your distance to the next passenger,” says Dr. Illig.

Airlines are attempting to address that problem. Members of Airlines for America (A4A)—which include Delta, JetBlue, American, United, Southwest, Hawaiian, and Alaskan airlines, and which require passengers and staff to wear masks all the way through from check-in to de-planing—are trying out tactics such as back-to-front boarding, staggering passengers, and not selling middle seats. (Update: Several airlines have recently announced they’ll end this policy and sell planes to full capacity, including American, United, Spirt, Air Canada, and WestJet). Still, as Dr. Illig points out, even if the middle seat next to you is open, you’re still not a full six feet from the person in front of or behind you. “Therefore, it’s even more important to have everyone wearing a mask,” she says.

At this point, though, so few people are flying that crowded planes are unlikely to be an issue. If you feel uncomfortable because you’re seated close to another passenger, talk to the flight attendant about switching. If the passenger count is very low, the flight attendants might have to strategically space out the seating arrangements to keep the plane balanced (this happened on my own last flight, back in March).

There are reports that suggest that choosing a window seat provides a little extra safety, because it limits the number of people surrounding you. Window passengers are also less likely to get up during the flight to go to the bathroom or walk the aisle—times when you’d be exposing yourself to other people’s germs.

Wendy has been hearing from travelers who’ve decided to splurge on business- or first-class seats in order to reduce the number of passengers within their six-foot radius. They’ve assigned themselves window seats in order to reduce contact with people passing through the aisles (their specific airlines have blocked off the aisle seats next to them for now). These travelers have also assigned themselves seats in the last row of the upfront cabin, figuring that if other passengers in the cabin sneeze or cough, they’d rather be sitting behind those passengers than in front of them. Plus, in the last row (or the first), there are fewer people seated close to you.

Your seat area

Airlines are already upping their hygiene efforts (for example, member airlines of A4A are using electrostatic foggers for sanitization), but it’s a good idea to wipe down your seat area anyway: buckles and seatbelts, trays, screens, windows and window shades, armrests, overhead lights and fans, call buttons, and the overhead bin.

“I would mostly recommend that passengers do the things we have been recommending since the outset of the pandemic,,” says Dr. Kuppalli, “wear their masks on board so in case they are sick they don’t spread their infectious droplets to others; if possible, maintain their distance from others; wipe down their seats, seat buckles, tray tables and other surrounding high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes prior to takeoff; and use hand sanitizer before eating/drinking or touching their face mask.”

The bathroom

If it’s a long flight, you might have to face your biggest challenge yet: the tiny airplane lavatory. “The bathroom is definitely a place of concern just because it is a small, confined space,” says Dr. Kuppalli. “As the flight goes on, I would be increasingly concerned about it.” She and Dr. Illig have the same advice: Exercise caution, don’t touch anything you don’t have to touch, and wash your hands. “Whatever you touch is possibly contaminated, so I would wear gloves,” says Dr. Illig. “And if you can’t [use gloves], use a towel or something to touch any surface. Then after you leave the bathroom, don’t touch your face, and when you get to your seat, decontaminate your hands whether you’re wearing gloves or not.”

Arriving and exiting the destination airport

Depending on where you’ve traveled to, you might have to navigate passport control, customs, and baggage claim when you land. Follow the same precautions as you did when you departed from your home airport: Wear a mask, wear gloves, limit your interactions with people and shared items, maintain social distance (maybe wait for the impatient crowd around the baggage carousel to dissipate before you grab your bag), don’t touch your face, and—as always—wash your hands.

“I wish I had some cool secret or magic, but it’s just sticking with a pattern,” says Dr. Illig. “The problem is when people break the pattern, then they’re at risk for contaminating themselves. Follow the same steps, ingrain them into your brain.”

This article was originally published May 30, 2020. It has been updated.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Sunrise in Spartanburg, S.C. Road Trip, Wendy Perrin Covid-19

What a Road Trip During Coronavirus Is Really Like

A lot of Americans still don’t understand this virus. Especially the Americans you find in roadside convenience stores. Almost every convenience store attached to a gas station has a sign that says “Mask required,” yet almost nobody inside is wearing one.

That was my family’s main takeaway from our first road trip during coronavirus. On June 18, nine days after New Jersey’s stay-at-home order was lifted and 105 days after we had begun quarantining in March, Tim and the kids and I had to make a road trip to Atlanta (an essential trip for urgent family reasons).  We planned to stay in a bubble except for the time on the highway when we would need to leave the car. We did the full 14-hour drive in one day, leaving at 4 a.m. to avoid rush-hour traffic in as many cities as possible en route. We took I-78 to I-81 to I-77 to I-85 (a relatively rural and low-traffic route that we’ve driven many times). We did the same thing heading back north on June 23, again leaving at 4 a.m.

The farther south we went, the more traffic was on the roads, and the fewer people wore masks. Indeed, the main danger on our road trip, we discovered, was other people. Not only are a lot of people in roadside convenience stores not wearing masks, but they are not staying six feet apart. They brush past you in doorways, in the aisles, at the cash register. And the store managers don’t seem to care. We never saw any mask-wearing requirement enforced. In fact, some store workers didn’t wear masks either, and almost none wore gloves. Coming from New Jersey, where we live in a responsible community (a New York City suburb) that succeeded in flattening the curve and drastically lowering our infection rate (note the NJ graph here), the rules to follow to avoid spreading the virus have become second nature to us.  Tim was in Manhattan for doctor visits two days before our trip, and everybody he saw wore a mask.  We’ve grown accustomed to conducting all transactions in a touchless manner. So imagine my surprise when ungloved convenience-store employees took my credit card with their fingers. (I used a lot of disinfectant wipes on my card during this trip.)

In every state, gas was amazingly cheap—usually $1.75 a gallon. In a past life, we would fill up at gas stations and, while there, use the bathroom and buy food. Those days are gone. On road trips today, the acts of getting gas, using a bathroom, and buying food need to happen at three different places.

car, dog, Charlie, road trip, family Covid-19

My older son and our dog, Macy, had the second row of our mini-van all to themselves. Behind that gray hanging blanket blocking out daylight was my younger son, asleep in the third row.

Based on our experience, here are my five biggest pieces of advice if you’re headed out on a road trip soon:

1. Use the restrooms in state welcome centers.

They’re relatively empty, spacious, and clean, and a relatively touchless experience from start to finish, with few, if any, door handles. Do not use the restrooms in the stores attached to gas stations: It will mean navigating door handles or knobs and people who may brush against you in narrow corridors and stand next to you because there aren’t enough sinks to space yourselves out.

2. Choose hotels where rooms have private entrances and windows that open to let in fresh air.

You can look for motels where each room has a separate entrance onto the parking lot, but such rooms may not have windows that open. Your best bet may be older hotels that have either freestanding cottages or rooms with balconies where you can leave the balcony door open, letting in fresh air throughout the night. Look in areas where you might find historic inns or sprawling old-fashioned resorts with individual bungalows. Because we were driving with our dog, and the only pet-friendly rooms I could find along our route with the aforementioned criteria required a half-hour detour from the highway, we decided to forego hotels and just cram our drive into one day each way. In Atlanta, we stayed with family who, like us, had stayed safely at home for months.

3. For meals, use drive-throughs or pick up curbside.

If you have prep time, of course you can pack picnics and stop in picturesque areas to enjoy them. We didn’t have that kind of time. We packed a ton of snacks, but my two teenaged boys can get ravenous, so for hot meals, we either used fast-food drive-throughs or called ahead and picked up curbside from restaurants near the highway, using Apple Maps or Google Maps to find our best options a few miles ahead of us on the road.

4. Reconfirm curbside-pickup orders.

We ordered takeout 12 times in five days, and not once did we receive a correct order. Sometimes we ordered by phone, sometimes online, but every time, mistakes were made. It’s awkward to attempt to double-check an order that you’re picking up curbside—it isn’t feasible to look through bags and containers to determine if something is amiss—but at least you can, before driving away, look at the receipt to make sure that the order is yours and that the number of items in the bag matches the number of items you ordered. When my 18-year-old, Charlie, realized that a Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta had given him bags meant for a different customer, we had by that time encountered so many mistakes that he didn’t even bother returning to Longhorn to see if they could fix the problem. Instead, he called the phone number on the receipt, reached the customer who had been given our bags, and did a direct swap with the other customer.

5. Pack—and have available in the car at your seat—a supply of masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and tissues.

The tissues are for when you need to touch your face and you’re not sure your hands are clean enough (you can scratch your nose with a Kleenex), or in case there’s no toilet paper wherever you’ve stopped. And remember to put on gloves when you pump gas, especially since you won’t be washing your hands at the gas station!

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

A village street of Santorini is bright white and blue, with pops of pink bougainvillea flowers

Portugal, Iceland, Greece Will Not Open to U.S. Travelers Just Yet

A few weeks ago, we published this story with the news that three European countries—Portugal, Iceland, and Greece—would be opening their borders to U.S. travelers in June. Then one by one, each of the three countries reneged on those plans, citing safety concerns. As it stands today, U.S. travelers are not yet able to travel to Portugal, Greece, or Iceland. We will continue to watch and update as details develop.

Please note that the CDC still advises against all non-essential travel and the U.S. State Department maintains a global level 4 “do not travel” alert.

Greece

Until July 1, open to EU citizens and residents only. For dates beyond July 1, the Greek government has not yet decided which countries’ travelers will be admitted and under what restrictions. 

For more information, check with the U.S. Embassy in Greece and Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Portugal

Open to EU and Schengen state citizens and residents only. U.S. arrivals were originally supposed to be welcome starting June 6, but that date has been postponed, possibly to July 1. 

Continental Portugal: No quarantine required

Madeira: 14-day quarantine required

Azores: arrivals have choice of showing proof of negative test within past 72 hours, taking a test upon arrival and quarantining until a negative result is returned, or a 14-day quarantine.

If you were able to land in Portugal now, you’d see that certain safety measures and restrictions are in place across the country. Face masks and six-foot social distancing will be mandatory, and restaurant payment must be contactless, but museums, monuments, palaces, churches, bookshops, libraries, and beauty salons will all be open, along with restaurants, cafés, patisseries, esplanades, and shopping centers that are smaller than 4,300 square feet. Beaches are with restrictions. Taxis and rental cars will be available (as well as some public transportation options).

Look for the national tourism board’s “Clean & Safe” certification at hotels and tourist sites. To earn the validation, a company must sign a Declaration of Commitment to certain hygiene and cleaning processes informed by the country’s Directorate-General of Health. Participation is free and optional, and Turismo de Portugal will carry out audits of those who opt in.

Flights:

TAP Air Portugal, a Star Alliance airline, is running nonstop flights from Newark to Lisbon; later in July, flights to Lisbon from Boston, Miami, and Toronto are due to start up again. In an optimistic turn, the airline also plans to launch new flights later this summer from Boston and Toronto to the Azores, and from Montreal to Lisbon.

Iceland

Open to EU and Schengen state citizens and residents only.

Testing upon arrival or 14-day self-quarantine

Thanks to its small population (the lowest population density in Europe), Iceland was able to keep its COVID-19 count in check. As a result, Prime Minister KatrÍn Jakobsdóttir recently announced that the country reopened to travelers from with the Schengen area on June 15—with some rules in place:

Before arrival, travelers must fill out a pre-registration form, which includes a declaration of health, recent travel history, personal details, in-country contact info, and coronavirus status and possible exposure. At arrival, they can choose between 14-day quarantine and a covid test (no tests are required for children born in 2005 or earlier). Starting July 1, the test will cost each traveler ISK 15,000 (about $115), but in the two weeks before that they will be free.

Results from the test will be delivered in about 24 hours.  If a traveler tests positive, they will be required to self-quarantine; if they do not have a place to do so, the government will provide a location at no cost. The government will also cover medical examination and treatment. There is one big question that is still unanswered: how many tests will be available each day. Early reports suggest it may be as low as 500.

Flights:

Icelandair will resume its flights from the U.S. No other airline is flying to Iceland from the U.S. this year.

This article was originally published on May 29. It has been updated.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

pier walking bridge over turquoise water going to a small island with trees Agios Sostis Greece

These Are Places Where We’d Rather Be Social Distancing Right Now

Since the leading epidemiologists studying the coronavirus pandemic are still emphasizing the critical need for “social distancing” as a way to slow down community spread of the virus, we on the WendyPerrin.com team are still all working from home, staying off mass transit, helping kids with online classes, and limiting our outdoor activities and errands. Even as some states reopen restaurants, shops, beaches, parks, entertainment venues, and public events with restrictions and limited capacities across the country, we imagine many of you continue to spend a lot of time at home too and are feeling acute cabin fever as the weather gets nicer. So as an antidote to the anxiety and claustrophobia that’s going around, we’re sharing gorgeous spots around the globe where you can imagine yourself in blissful isolation, with little human contact and plenty of healthy fresh air. The best news? These places will be waiting for you in real life when it’s time to travel again. If there’s a relaxing place you’re dreaming about to help you get through this difficult time, please let us know in the comments below.

Fakarava island in french polynesia with canoe on turquoise blue water

Fakarava atoll, French Polynesia. Photo: Julius Silver/Pixabay

Northern Lights, Norway.

Norcia, Perugia, Italy

Islas de Rosario, Colombia

Islas de Rosario, Colombia, near Cartagena. Photo: Shutterstock

cracked salt landscape of Uyuni salt flats Bolivia

The Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia. Photo: Aracari

Matera, Basilicata, Italy: landscape at sunrise of the old town (sassi di Matera), with the ancient cave houses carved into the tufa rock over the deep ravine

Matera’s sassi, ancient cave dwellings, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo: Shutterstock

View to Lugano city, Lugano lake and Monte San Salvatore from Monte Bre, Ticino, Switzerland - Image

Lake Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland. Photo: Shutterstock

boy jumping in to ocean from a high dock in Belize

Belize. Photo: Tim Baker

red couch in clear turquoise water at Rojo Beach Bar in Belize

Rojo Beach Bar. Photo: Absolute Belize

Neist Point, Isle of Sky, Scotland

Neist Point, Isle of Sky, Scotland. Photo: Pixabay

puffins on green hillside on Westmand Island Iceland

The puffins of Westman Islands, Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Yoho National Park British Columbia Canada shutterstock_175148531

Yoho National Park British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock

dunes of Rub' Al Khali desert or Empty Quarter of Oman

The Empty Quarter, or Rub’ Al Khali desert, of Oman. Photo: Wild Frontiers

The Columbia River in Oregon

The Columbia River creates beautiful road-trip scenery in Oregon. Photo: Pixabay

aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef from an airplane

The Great Barrier Reef, seen from above. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays

the red sand of Chile's Atacama desert with tall mountains in the distance

The Atacama Desert of Chile has an otherwordly and beautiful landscape. Photo: Awasi

Giant's Causeway in a beautiful summer day, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Photo: Shutterstock

Namib Desert, Namibia

Namibia’s Namib Desert, on the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Shutterstock

Newfoundland scenery

Newfoundland scenery. Photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

overwater bungalows in French Polynesia at the Conrad Hilton Bora Bora

French Polynesia. Photo: Conrad Hilton Bora Bora

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli - Visitnorway.com

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli – Visitnorway.com

St Lucia beach with Pitons mountains in the background

These Caribbean Islands Are Reopening to Travelers in June

The U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia will reopen to U.S. travelers during the first few days of June, followed later this summer by Aruba and possibly the Bahamas. While large swaths of the world struggled with coronavirus outbreaks, many Caribbean islands were able to limit their number of COVID-19 cases and quickly contain community spread. Now, a few are preparing to get their tourism businesses back on track, with plenty of additional safety measures, of course.

Below are the opening plans, but keep in mind that the CDC still advises against all non-essential travel, and the U.S. State Department maintains a global level 4 “do not travel” alert. Also, flights to these islands are highly subject to change, warns Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge.

Antigua and Barbuda

Open to travelers June 1

Status:

As of May 1, the islands of Antigua and Barbuda had seen only 25 cases between them and three deaths.

Travel requirements:

V.C. Bird International Airport on Antigua will reopen for international and regional flights on June 1. (The first flight scheduled flight from the U.S. so far is American Airline’s Miami–Antigua on June 4.)

When visitors land at the airport, they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours, complete a health declaration, and undergo temperature checks. They must also have their own masks to wear in all public areas during their stay. Anyone arriving without a certified negative test result must either quarantine at their hotel for 14 days or pay to have an approved test administered locally. Read the government’s full travel advisory.

Hotels and activities:

All accommodations (hotels, resorts, rentals, villas) and transportation operators must meet cleaning and safety protocols and be certified by the islands’ health authorities in order to resume service. For example, hotel employees have to live on-property in order to limit their possible exposure to the virus, and taxi drivers will be given time to wash their hands at hotels between passengers. Government updates are posted here.

Flights:

American: from Miami (June 4)
JetBlue: from JFK (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 4)
United: from Newark (July 11)

U.S. Virgin Islands

Open to travelers June 1

Status:

As of May 28, the US Virgin Islands had 69 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths. About two dozen more tests were in progress on that date.

Travel requirements:

Visitors to any of the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) will undergo temperature screenings and may be asked to take a COVID-19 test. No quarantine is mandated, but they are asked to monitor their health for 14 days.

Hotels and activities:

The USVI government is keeping a list of open hotels, and all accommodations (including rentals) are required to follow sanitization procedures.

Restaurants and bars will be open with seating restrictions (so call ahead), beaches are open with social distancing rules, and taxis will be available but operating at 50 percent seating capacity. A document outlining info for leisure travelers is being kept up-to-date on the USVI governor’s website.

Flights:

American: from Charlotte (starts June 4) and Miami (ongoing) to St. Thomas; from Miami to St. Croix (ongoing)
Delta: from Atlanta to St. Thomas (ongoing)
United: from Houston to St. Thomas (ongoing)

St. Lucia

Opens on June 4 to U.S. travelers arriving by air only

Status:

St. Lucia suffered only 18 cases of COVID-19, and all of them recovered. As a result, it’s ready to get back to tourism on June 4. The opening applies to air travel only (seaports remain closed) and to U.S. travelers only.

Travel requirements:

Travelers must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken with 48 hours of boarding their flight. On arrival at the St. Lucia airport, there will be temperature screenings and luggage sanitization.

Hotels and activities:

About 1,500 hotel rooms are expected to be available, and each property must earn a COVID-19 certificate from the government before it can open. The process requires that they meet safety criteria in areas such as sanitization and social-distancing protocols. Guests can expect temperature screenings at meal times, limited-contact check-in/check-out, on-site nurse stations, physical distancing, limited services and activities, and they’ll only be able to use taxis booked by the hotel. Restaurants on the island will be open for take-out and delivery only, and your hotel can offer information on what activities are available. Once they’re on the island, visitors must wear masks in public, even in public areas of their accommodations. For a full explanation of all of St. Lucia’s rules and preparations, read the government’s helpful FAQ.

Flights:

American: from Miami (June 4)
JetBlue: from JFK (June 11)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 2)
United: from Newark (July 11)

Aruba

Tentative reopening expected between June 15 and July 1

Status:

As of May 29, Aruba has reported 101 cases, three deaths.

What we know:

Aruba’s government recently announced an intention to open sometime between June 15 and July 1. Once that date is finalized, they’ll provide more specifics about entry requirements, health-screening plans, and on-island safety protocols.

In the meantime, the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Department of Public Health have unveiled the Aruba Health & Happiness Code, a cleanliness-and-safety certification for tourism-related businesses and accommodations.

Flights:

Since the island’s official opening date is not yet set, this flight information is all tentative.

American: from Charlotte and Miami (July 7)
JetBlue: from Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, and JFK (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 5)
United: from Newark (July 6); from Chicago/O’Hare, Washington-Dulles and Houston-Intercontinental (July 11)

Bahamas

Possible opening July 1, according to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis

Flights to Nassau:

JetBlue: from Ft Lauderdale (June 11); from JFK and Orlando (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 1)
Southwest: from Baltimore (July 1)
American: from Charlotte and Miami (July 7)
United: from Newark and Houston (July 6); from Chicago and Denver (July 11)

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Hotels Adapt to the Covid-19 World with New Cleanliness Campaigns

Hotels around the world are introducing myriad branded campaigns to reassure guests that they’re taking steps to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak. Some are testing out robots as housekeeping staff or creating rooms that clean themselves. Most, though, are doubling down on the basics. From international five-star boutique brands to near-ubiquitous domestic chains, many hotels and resorts are announcing inspiringly-named plans to expand their cleaning procedures and re-evaluate guest interactions.

While opening dates, guest limits, and legal regulations vary by country and state, there are many similarities among these plans, such as more frequent overhauls of public areas, wipes and sanitizer stations throughout properties, sealed plated meals, digital check-ins, and the removal of pens, remotes, and other shared items from rooms. But the most notable commonality is that hotels want them to be highly visible to guests. The hope is that if visitors can see proof of cleanliness—and understand the steps being taken by staff members in that vein—they’ll feel reassured. That’s why most have branded their protocols with a strong-sounding name, partnered with globally respected public-heath advisers, and publicly detailed their plans on their websites.

Below, we’ve compiled many of the safety and sanitization programs introduced by major accommodation brands around the world. As of yet, there is no global certification process for cleanliness; however, some countries have introduced voluntary certification programs, and we’ve listed those too.

It remains to be seen how well any of these plans will actually be carried out at each individual hotel—so please let us know in the comments what you’re finding at these properties if you stay at any of them.

HOTELS AND RESORTS

Accor (which includes Banyan Tree, Delano, Fairmont, Orient-Express, Raffles, and Sofitel)

Th Accor group unveiled its newly branded ALLSAFE standard, developed in conjunction with Bureau Veritas (a 200-year-old international company that specializes in testing, inspection, and certification). A detailed description of the ALLSAFE standards are available on Accor’s website; they include measures such as providing guests with sanitizer, wipes, and masks; guest temperature checks; front-desk partitions; contactless check-ins; capacity limits in bars and restaurants when re-opened; and mandatory staff training at each property. Accor has also partnered with AXA insurance to provide telemedicine consultations and access to AXA’s network of medical professionals.

Aman Resorts

Aman has partnered with Diversey (a company that specializes in sanitation and maintenance products and services) to enhance its cleaning procedures based on guidelines from the World Health Organization, as well as from the local authorities at each location of their 37 international properties. The company promises increased staff training and thorough sanitization, although specific protocols may vary from property to property based on a country’s rules and guidelines.

Anantara

Anantara resorts are one brand in the Minor Hotels company based in Thailand, where the Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched a certification process (see below). These plush properties vow to up their sanitization efforts, social distancing plans, and contactless services (including airport transfers, check-in, dining, and fitness), and are consulting with Ecolab, a U.S.-based water, energy, and hygiene technology services company, on new procedures. In keeping with the culinary experiences and cooking classes that have long been a signature part of the Anantara brand, properties are also focusing on immunity-boosting cuisine.

Avani

Avani, like Anantara above, is part of the Minor Hotels group. In addition to digital check-in and check-out, Avani is setting up sanitization processes for luggage and incoming supplies. It’s also looking into sanitization technologies, such as UV sterilization and copper anti-viral coating for keys and other high-touch items, and HEPA-grade air purifiers. After room-turnover cleaning, each room will be sealed for a 24-hour waiting period before the next guest can check in. Avani has also said it will review its third-party partners (transport, tour services, etc.) to make sure they meet the brand’s standards. The number of guests at gyms will be limited and socially distanced, and there will be a mandatory waiting period between groups. As for staff, the procedures vary by country when it comes to frequency of temperature checks; in general, masks are required. In a lighthearted twist, Avani is encouraging its workers to decorate and personalize their masks, an initiative it is calling “Smile Through the Heart.” You can download a PDF of all the new rules in this AvaniSHIELD program here.

Cleaning of Canopy Hilton Hotel, Friday, April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Newton

Some hotels, like Hilton will provide post-housekeeping seals on doors and the ability for guests to open their rooms with their own phones. Photo: Will Newton/Hilton

Best Western

Best Western says it has been using UV sterilization wands to clean high-touch items in rooms since 2012, as part of its I Care Clean program. The COVID-19 upgrade to this plan is called We Care Clean. In addition to increasing social distancing in public areas and at check-in, the program outlines specifics such as: Removing unnecessary items like decorative pillows and bed scarves from guest rooms and instituting a waiting period of 24 to 72 hours between guests during which the room (and even its hangers) will be disinfected. Read the full plan from Best Western. Best Western is also one of several hotel brands that has agreed to follow the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s (AHLA) new initiative for best practices in the U.S. hotel industry (see USA, below).

Four Seasons

After repurposing the Four Seasons New York into accommodations for healthcare workers, the brand is implementing changes across its properties via the introduction of its Lead With Care program, with input from Johns Hopkins Medicine International. The details include a hygiene officer at each property, hourly cleaning of public areas, rooms disinfected daily, a-la-carte restaurant service with digital menus, health-focused employee training, and in-room amenities kits with masks, sanitizer, and wipes. The program is overseen by a special COVID-19 Advisory Board, made up of hotel leadership and representatives from Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

Hilton (which includes Conrad, Curio, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria)

Launching in June, Hilton’s program is called CleanStay with Lysol protection. As the name implies, the effort is in partnership with the makers of Lysol and Dettol (a company called RB). Staff from the Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team will serve as consultants on quality assurance, training, and new approaches. In addition to what’s becoming the standard safety upgrades (e.g. contactless check-in, guest-accessible disinfecting wipes in elevators and other high-traffic spots, more frequent cleaning of public spaces), Hilton will also introduce its CleanStay Room Seal on guest-room doors, to indicate to guests that no one has entered the room since it was cleaned. That cleaning is said to be upgraded too, with a focus on ten high-touch areas for disinfection (remote controls, handles, light switches, etc.) and the removal of amenities such as pens, paper, and guest directories. Hilton is made up of 18 brands, which have a total of more than 6,100 properties.

Hyatt (which includes Andaz and Park Hyatt)

Hyatt’s plan, called the Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, sees the chain working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to earn GBAC Star accreditation. This quality mark—overseen by a branch of ISSA, the cleaning industry’s global association—denotes facilities (hotels, medical facilities, planes and trains, schools, and more) that meet high standards for cleaning, disease prevention, professional training, and public safety. By September 2020, every Hyatt property is supposed to have at least one trained Hygiene Manager onsite to enforce these new protocols, which will include enhanced and more frequent sanitization, hospital-grade cleaning supplies, protective masks worn by staff, and social-distancing guides in public areas.

Langham

The Langham Hospitality Group’s list of safety steps includes more frequent disinfecting of public areas (especially elevator buttons, door handles, and handrails) and sanitizer dispensers or bottles added to high-traffic areas. They’ll also be taking temperature readings of all staff before each shift and requiring guests to fill out a form detailing their recent travels. In restaurants and bars, chefs will wear face masks and single-use disposable gloves, tables will be disinfected between diners, and all public surfaces (e.g., door handles, reception desk, credit card machines) will be sterilized every 30 minutes. Spas and fitness centers will implement disinfection every half hour, sterilization of spa equipment after each guest and again overnight, and temperature readings for all spa guests (along with a health declaration form), and there will be no more hot or cold towels handed out.

worker using electrostatic sprayer to clean hotel escalator for coronavirus covid safety

Marriott is one of several hotel brands introducing the use of electrostatic sprayers to disinfect high-touch surfaces. Photo: Marriott

Marriott (which includes Edition, Le Meridien, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, and Westin)

At its more than 7,300 properties around the world, Marriott says it will be using electrostatic sprayers to disperse CDC- and WHO- recommended disinfectants on high-touch surfaces and public areas, testing UV light technology to sanitize room keys, increasing social distancing by removing or rearranging furniture in lobbies, adding hand-sanitizer stations throughout properties, providing staff with gloves and masks, and offering contactless check-in and room service via guests’ phones. The initiatives will be overseen by the new Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, comprised of hotel staff and various experts, including an infectious disease specialist, a food microbiologist, a food-and-water-safety specialist, and the head of Purdue University’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management.

MGM

After closing its domestic properties in March, MGM Resorts will begin reopening on June 4 with the Bellagio, New York-New York, and MGM Grand and the Signature. The brand’s strategy is simply called the Seven-Point Safety Plan, and it outlines employee temperature checks and health screenings (and self-screening for guests); mandatory masks and PPE for employees and a request that guests wear masks in public spaces (provided free of charge); physical distancing through floor guides, Plexiglas partitions, and signage; heightened cleaning procedures, sanitization of high-touch surfaces, and the addition of hand washing stations; reviews of heating and air conditioning systems to ensure air quality; new response protocols if a guest or staff member is sick (in addition to medical personnel on staff); and digital amenities such as contactless check-in and digital food menus for guests’ personal phones. When it comes to how to keep guests safe in MGM’s casinos, they’ll be asked to limit their drinking and completely avoid eating—in order to minimize the time when they’re not wearing masks. You can read the full details of the plan on the MGM website.

handwashing stations at MGM Resorts hotels for coronavirus safety

MGM Resorts will install hand-washing stations like these mock-ups. Photo: MGM Resorts

Montage International

Montage announced a two-pronged approach to easing any covid-related stress a hotel guest might feel. In terms of housekeeping, they say they’re increasing the frequency of sanitization and deep cleaning for high-touch areas; incorporating electrostatic sprayers and UV wands into that effort; introducing social distancing design in restaurants, bars, lounges, gyms, pool areas, and other public areas; and providing hand sanitizer and facial coverings to all guests. The other prong is virtual medical care: Montage has partnered with One Medical to provide each guest with a 30-day membership to One Medical’s digital health services via video chats, messaging, and an app. (The hotel group’s U.S.-based staff will each receive a year-long membership.)

Omni 

The “Omni Safe & Clean” initiative follows CDC guidelines and American Hotel & Lodging Association recommendations (see USA, below). Those include contactless services, single-use room amenities, plated and individually sealed foods, public areas (including pools and spas) marked and re-arranged for social distancing, and housekeeping seals placed on rooms after each cleaning. Each of the brand’s properties is also supposed to adhere to local and/or federal mandates as required.

Rosewood

Partnering with Ecolab and Diversey, and following guidance from the CDC, WHO, and local authorities, Rosewood has rolled out its Commitment to Care Global Health and Safety Program. Lobbies, public bathrooms, elevators, and other public spots should see increased cleaning and disinfecting, and air filters and air conditioning systems should get more frequent treatment too. Rosewood is exploring new sanitization technologies such as electrostatic sprayers, foggers, and ultraviolet-UVC light. When legally allowed, guests and staff will have their temperatures screened when they enter the hotel. On the inside, guests will benefit from contactless services (check-in/check-out, in-room dining) and receive amenity kits with face masks, wipes, and sanitizer.

Sandals

Sandals beach resorts have instituted Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness, an 18-point plan that starts when guests land at the airport: The usual Sandals and Beaches private arrival lounge will now have hand sanitizer and complimentary mask, and the private-vehicle transfer will be stocked with more PPE and sanitized between trips. When they get to the resort, guests will have their temperatures checked (anything 99.5 degrees or less gets you the green light). From there, they will see assurances of cleanliness such as daily replacement of all linens, post-cleaning seals on the doors, and bellmen/butlers who spray disinfectant on both sides of door handles when leaving the room. Bathrooms will be cleaned every half hour, restaurants will have hand sanitizer at entrances, pool chairs will be sanitized daily and separated by six feet or more, and guest temperatures will be checked again before they can use the spa or fitness centers. If anyone is not feeling well, there are medical personnel onsite.

Shangri-La

Following recommendations from the CDC, Shangri-La has posted a list of the ways it is approaching COVID-19 safety. Some examples: Each guest’s laundry will be handled in individual packaging, public washrooms are cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectants, guests are asked to fill out health and travel-plan forms, incoming luggage is disinfected, temperature screenings take place at entry points, limos are disinfected between each use, special disinfectant floor mats are placed at entries to clean people’s shoes, and all pools, whirlpool baths, saunas and steam rooms are closed.

Wyndham

Wyndham is one of several hotel brands working with the ALHA (see USA, below) to create and follow best practices for the U.S. hotel industry. Specifically, they have drawn on the expertise of Ecolab, a US-based water, energy, and hygiene technology services company, and the CDC to launch its Count on Us program. This means that all of Wyndham’s 6,000 U.S. properties should be introducing measures such as handing out wipes with room keys at check-in, placing complimentary travel-size hand sanitizer in each room, providing more frequent cleanings, and increasing social distancing in public areas.

VACATION RENTALS

Airbnb

In April, the home-sharing service announced it would be launching two tools that hosts can use to safeguard their rentals for guests. Both are optional. One is the Airbnb Cleaning Protocol, a learning and certification process for hosts that recommends enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Guests will eventually be able to identify the listings enrolled in this program via a call-out on the website. Hosts who don’t opt into the Cleaning Protocol can use the Booking Buffer, which enables them to block out a 24- to 72-hour waiting period between guests. (The CDC recommends a 24-hour waiting period between guests.)

VRBO

Similar to Airbnb, the vacation-home-rental service VRBO is trusting its hosts to provide safe environments for their guests. To make that easier, VRBO (which is owned by the Expedia Group) is providing hosts with info on cleaning and disinfecting based on information from the WHO and CDC and created in consultation with the Vacation Rental Management Association (a trade association) and Cristal International Standards (a quality-control company for the hotel industry). Hosts can then showcase their cleaning processes and safety measures on their listings pages (e.g. if they use disinfectant to clean or if check-in and check-out is contactless).

GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS BY COUNTRY

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism just announced a “safe and clean certification program” for tourism businesses including hotels, malls, and more. The specifics and standards of the process have not yet been released, but hotels will be the first group to undergo certification, followed by other tourism attractions and organizations.

Britain

Although Britain isn’t ready for travelers yet (and Prime Minister Johnson recently announced a 14-day quarantine for incoming visitors), its national tourism arm, Visit Britain, has already announced it is developing a quality mark to denote hotels and other tourism sites that adhere to certain COVID-19-related safety standards. What those standards will be has not yet been decided.

Portugal

The national tourism board of Portugal, Turismo de Portugal, launched a “Clean & Safe” certification for hotels and tourist sites on April 24. To earn the validation, the hotel (or other company) must sign a Declaration of Commitment to certain hygiene and cleaning processes informed by the country’s Directorate-General of Health. Participation is free and optional, and Turismo de Portugal will carry out audits of those who opt in.

Singapore

The Singaporean government has created the SG Clean certification. Hotels, restaurants, hawker centers, shopping malls, and cruise terminals that adhere to a list of criteria will earn the quality mark, and many already have. You can see a full list of all certified establishments at sgclean.gov.sg.

Thailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced a certification plan called “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA.” To earn the certification, establishments must adhere to COVID-19 safety standards set by the Ministry of Health and other official public-health institutions. The process and criteria are currently being established and will focus on ensuring hygiene and sanitation while also maintaining local culture and interaction between communities and tourists.

USA

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the industry trade group for hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and hotel management companies. Based on input from the CDC, the hotel industry, and experts in medicine, science, and public health, the organization launched the Safe Stay initiative, a set of suggested standards aimed at making U.S. hotels safe for guests. The best practices include enhanced cleaning methods, social-distancing policies, and the use of approved sanitization supplies. Although Stay Safe is a voluntary program for now, you can check the AHLA website to see which hotels are choosing to adopt it. The ALHA’s goal is to change U.S. hotel industry norms and create an official certification process.

 

This article was originally published May 22.

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empty beach and pier at Sandals Montego Bay

Is This Hotel Safe? Smart Things to Ask About Before Making Plans

By this point in the coronavirus lockdown, the thought of getting out of your house for longer than the time it takes to go to the socially distanced supermarket probably sounds like pure heaven. But the prospect of checking into a hotel may not be exactly the Eden you’re dreaming of. The good news is that all over the world, hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals are starting to roll out concrete plans and procedures for making their properties as safe as possible, and we expect these efforts to set a new standard for the industry…eventually.

In the meantime, if you are starting to think about a future trip, whether it’s for this summer or next year, there are questions you’ll want to ask the hotels you’re considering so that you can make an informed decision about how comfortable you’ll feel during a stay. Here are five areas to investigate before making any hotel plans:

Rooms that open to fresh air

When Wendy had to take an essential road trip from New Jersey to Georgia (as detailed in “What a Road Trip During Coronavirus Is Really Like”), she looked for hotels where fresh air could flow freely through the rooms. “Your best bet may be older hotels that have either freestanding cottages or rooms with balconies where you can leave the balcony door open, letting in fresh air throughout the night,” she wrote. “Look in areas where you might find historic inns or sprawling old-fashioned resorts with individual bungalows.”

Contactless guest services

Check-in. Room service. Requests for more towels. During any hotel stay, there are so many points of interaction between guests and staff—so make sure the hotel you’re choosing has options for avoiding or limiting these. Some, like Marriott, are going so far as to enable all of these services via your own phone. Others, like MGM Resorts and Accor hotels, are installing partitions at the front desk.

Masks, gloves, wipes, and sanitizer

Not only should you check if the hotel staff are required to wear masks and gloves (and whether they are provided with that equipment), but also check if these items are available to guests too. Four Seasons is introducing in-room amenities kits with masks, sanitizer and wipes. Wyndham hotels are handing out wipes at check-in with your key and stashing complimentary travel-size hand sanitizers in each room. Still others will make masks available for free when guests ask for them; so find out the policy and whether that equipment is actually in stock before you arrive.

Public areas

You’re likely to see more hand sanitizer and wipe-dispensing stations in hotels’ public areas (MGM Resorts properties are even adding hand-washing stations)—and that’s what you want. It not only shows that the company is making an effort and following established public-health recommendations, but it makes it easy for guests and staff to comply—and that keeps everyone healthier. You’ll also want to find out how your hotel is handling potentially crowded areas, such as the front desk (Are there partitions? Social-distancing signs and marks on the floor?), fitness centers or spas (Are they open? If so, are guests being temperature-checked before entering? What is the disinfecting process between users?), and elevators and public washrooms (How frequently are they being cleaned, and with what materials?). Don’t forget to ask about shared cars that are being set out for airport transfers and other guest chauffeur services. Shangri-La hotels disinfects limos between each use and limits the guests who can share a ride. What is your hotel (or the third-party service they use) doing in that regard?

Guest-room cleaning

Your hotel room will truly become your sanctuary in a group environment like a hotel, so find out how it’s being safeguarded for you. How often will it be cleaned? With what type of materials and technology? Hilton has started using a CleanStay Room Seal on room doors, to reassure guests that no one has entered the room since it was cleaned. In many hotels, the whole cleaning process has been upgraded too, with a focus on sanitizing high-touch areas and items (remote controls, handles, light switches etc.); the removal of amenities like pens, paper, and guest directories; full changes of linens every day; the testing of UV sterilization wands; and possibly even electrostatic sprayers to disperse disinfectant. Ask for details about what your hotel’s cleaning staff will do in your room.

Restaurants and bars

Depending on the country and state, a hotel’s restaurants and bars may or may not be open—so that’s your first question. If they are open, how is the hotel handling food safety? Four Seasons, MGM, and many other hotels now have digital menus accessible from your own phone. If a restaurant is open, it will likely have capacity limits, and you’ll want to ask how that will work and whether they’ve rearranged furniture to keep people apart. Ask about the kitchen staff too: What protective gear are they required to wear, and what new safety procedures have been implemented to keep food safe? We’ve heard of properties offering plated meals in sealed packaging, more packaged to-go options, and expanded room service menus and timing. Keep in mind that not all hotels are closing their buffets and breakfast rooms, and that while they are likely reconfiguring how those communal dining areas work, the decisions will vary by location because of local, state, and country regulations.

Pools and beaches

Pools and beaches are two of the biggest draws for a warm-weather getaway, especially if you’re traveling with kids. And the good news is that the current CDC advice says, “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.”

So first things first: Find out if they’re even open, because some hotels are keeping those public areas off limits. If the water areas are open to guests, inquire about the safety precautions being taken. For instance, at Sandals resorts, beach and pool chairs are being placed six feet apart and sanitized every morning, and again after guest changeovers. Will the hotel you’re considering do something similar? Ask them about their plans to handle social distancing, the sanitization of chairs, and interactions with pool/beach attendants. Are they limiting the number of guests who can use pool or beach areas at one time? And if so, how will reservations work for those slots? Keep in mind that access to public beaches, and whether you can actually sunbathe or linger on them, is dictated by state, county, and local directives, so research the latest info on state and locality websites.

Be a smarter, safer traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Closeup of passports and white airplane background the sea

Flight Deals Abound For Fall and Winter Travel, But Is It Smart to Buy Now?

It seems like airfare deals are everywhere these days, but so are the uncertainties about air travel. Refund and cancellation policies are changing all the time, routes and services are being cut left and right, and some airlines may not even exist when we finally make it through the pandemic and economic crisis. And on top of all that, there are big questions about how and when airplane travel will even be safe again.

Still, the good news is that (a) airlines are indeed offering some lower pricing, and (b) there are experts who follow this complicated industry closely and can help the rest of us navigate the mess. One of them is Brett Snyder, whom Wendy often recommends to her WOW List travelers for help booking and monitoring their flights. As founder of Cranky Concierge, Brett specializes in finding the smartest routes and fares and in solving flight delays and cancellations. We called Brett at home in California to talk about current airfare deals and what travelers need to know before taking advantage. If you’re even considering purchasing airline tickets for the future, read this first.

There seem to be airfare deals for travel at the end of this year and going into next year. Should I be buying tickets now?

There are deals to be had if you’re comparing to previous years. For travel around the holidays, you might not find the cheapest of the deals, but fares are still much cheaper than they would be in another year. But the big question is whether you’ll be able to get there.

Are the deals better for economy or business class?

It seems much easier to find cheaper fares in coach. Some airlines have cut business-class prices a little bit, but the deals are not as widespread across the board.

So is this a good time to splurge on premium-class fares?

It can be. In regular times, premium fares can be really low if you book far enough in advance, and in many European/Asian markets fares look to be pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in the past.  The one place we’ve seen great deals is South America.  There are fares under $1,000 in a premium cabin to some spots right now, and that’s amazing.  So you just need to look around and see what’s out there.

Are mileage-award flights discounted too?

They are not discounted, but there is more availability than you would normally expect to see, especially in coach. And for international flights, there are more seats available at the lower-point options. For airlines where the awards are tied to the dollar amount of fares, like with JetBlue or Southwest, then if the fares are cheaper, the point equivalent is also lower.

Is it better to buy a ticket for a domestic flight than international?

You have a safer chance of a flight happening if it’s within the U.S. The issue with international flights is that you don’t know what other countries—or what our country, for that matter—will allow in terms of quarantine and rules. So I would be hesitant to buy an international ticket right now. For domestic flights, airlines pretty much across the board are allowing you to change any ticket you buy without a fee.

Is it better to buy tickets for far in the future?

With most airlines you can’t buy tickets more than 330 days to a year in advance, so for the most part, you can’t buy any tickets beyond February or March 2021 at this point. There are always schedule changes when you book any flight far ahead, and the volatility is higher at this point because nobody has any clue what the landscape will look like in two months, let alone a year. So find out the refund or credit rules when you buy.

If I see a good deal should I jump on it or wait?

Once things stabilize, I expect we’ll see good deals to coax people out into the world again. So I don’t really see a reason to buy a ticket now, unless you find a particularly good deal.

But there’s nothing wrong with looking around right now. My wife’s parents always fly to us in California for Christmas, and I found some airfares that were pretty cheap, so we’ve been thinking about buying them.  Worst case, we can use the credit for flights to somewhere else. But a trip like that has a little more certainty to it in that you’re not relying on a destination or resort to be open. You’re really just relying on the ability to leave your house. So, visiting friends and family—that’s probably the best type of trip to plan right now because there are fewer variables.

In the meantime, if someone does want to book a flight, what are the most important things they need to be aware of?

There are a few things I would point out:

For the most part, if your flight is not canceled, you can’t get your money back, if you have a non-refundable ticket. A lot of people just assume, Oh, there’s a virus I should be able to get my money back. That’s not how it works. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it’s not.

What they are doing is allowing you to make changes and waiving the change fee. Obviously, if you had a ticket to Florida and now you want to go to Europe, you have to pay the fare difference—but at least you can make the change.

They’ve also extended how long those credits are valid for. You might be able to travel into next year or the following year, depending on the airline. That’s a nice perk for people who don’t want to travel, even if their flights are still going.

If your flight is canceled or the schedule changes, you really need to check with the airline because the rules vary greatly. For example, Delta will give you your money back if the schedule changed more than 90 minutes; United requires six hours. Worst case, you’ll be able to use the credit in the future, so it’s not like you’re going to lose the money entirely.

Finally, if you bought through a third party, do your own research on what you’re entitled to. Things are changing quickly, and some places we’ve dealt with have had no real interest in doing what they’re required to do. They may say you can’t get a refund, when in reality you can. So if you’re not getting the answer that you like, you can do your own research. Or you can sign up for the Cranky Concierge Refund Hunter and we’ll figure out and track your options, no matter where you bought the ticket.

snowy landscape of mountains and lake in Torres Del Paine National Park Chile

The Trips We’re Dreaming About to Get Us Through

It’s a proven fact that the anticipation of a pleasure trip does wonders for a person’s sense of well-being. Not only is this boost of happiness backed up by nearly every person who has ever looked forward to a vacation, but it’s also confirmed by scientific studies. Isn’t it nice when the thing you love to do turns out to be good for you?

For now, though, the thing that’s good for all of us is to stay home—and yet we can still simultaneously benefit from some much-needed optimism about the months to come. That’s why we’re inspired by these frequent travelers who are planning adventures for the future, tapping into the joy that travel brings them in order to give themselves something wonderful to daydream about during this difficult stretch. (And, at the same time, they’re making an investment in the locations, the locals, and the small local businesses that will need so much of our support to recover.)

What about you? What places and people are you eager to visit, near or far, when the world is ready for us again?

A Month in Uganda and Ethiopia, January 2021

Ethiopia - bleeding-heart baboon

A gelada, or “bleeding heart” baboon, in Ethiopia. Photo: Paul Callcutt

“My wife and I are retired and live in the Hamptons full time. We like to go away for a month or two every winter to get away from the cold weather. Over the past few winters we’ve traveled to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Myanmar, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. We were in Kenya and the UAE last year, and we wanted to go back and see more of the real Africa, not just the safari type of Africa. Plus we’ve always wanted to see the gorillas and chimps. Having just returned from Antarctica this February, we needed to book our next winter trip. So we looked on Wendy’s WOW List, contacted Cherri and started planning two weeks in Ethiopia and two weeks in Uganda for January 2021. Coronavirus kept getting bigger and bigger, but we thought: It’ll be gone by next winter, and if it isn’t, we’ll postpone it. Will we lose some of our deposit? Maybe? But we have to have something to look forward to. I’m optimistic. I have to be planning something or else I’m just wasting time waiting. I can’t just wait; I have to be moving forward.

When we firmed things up on our itinerary, and Cherri asked for a deposit, I asked if the on-sites would consider taking a reduction in the deposit because I do still have some concern. She said, let me ask—and yes, they were willing to take less. I like supporting them and keeping them going, but I also would like to have some consideration back on this end because I may end up losing my deposit.

What do I mean by “seeing the real Africa”? To me, it means meeting different people, eating their food, sharing activities together, learning about how they live so I can learn from them and enrich my life, and hopefully, give the local people a little something of myself as well. On our itinerary, we’re going to meet with local tribal people several times, we’re going to have lunch with the chief rabbi of Uganda, and I’m hoping to arrange with Cherri to do some charitable work with schools as well. I’m hoping and expecting that coronavirus is going to be history by the time we’re ready to go. Is that wishful thinking? Well, I’m an optimist. Will I travel if coronavirus is still rampant? No, I’m not going to put myself or my wife in jeopardy. I’m pretty risk-averse although my wife and I like to travel off the beaten path. I remember going to the Soviet Union in 1980 when nobody traveled there at that time, Bhutan just after it opened to tourism, Sri Lanka just after the war ended, and most recently to the Rakhine province in Myanmar. People would always ask why are you going there? I said for fun. They thought I was crazy. Am I?”

—Ron Klausner, Southhampton, NY

Journey to Antarctica over New Year’s

National Geographic Explorer ship in Neko Harbor, Antarctic. Photo: Aabby Suplizio

National Geographic Explorer ship in Neko Harbor, Antarctic. Photo: Aabby Suplizio

“I thought, I’m going to look around for what I’m going to do when this turns around, and Antarctica has always been on my list. I had seen in The New York Times in January about how to do Antarctica either by cruise or by fly-cruise. I was intrigued by the fly-cruise option, so I naturally went to The WOW List and found Ashton, and I set up a call with him to sort out my bias that flying and getting over the Drake Passage and avoiding the turbulent water is a more comfortable way to do it. I learned from him that yes, it is, but that those ships sell out immediately because there’s a very small window when the seas are okay to go, so you have to book this 18 months in advance—and I wanted to do it for this coming Christmas. [Laughs.] So that instilled great urgency in me, because there was scarcity.

I felt bad about talking to Ashton, who’s in the hot zone of Seattle, while he had customers he had to help get home. But he immediately called his contacts and found one cabin available and had them hold it until he and I had our conversation a couple days later. I wanted to do the trip when there was a prime possibility for calm waters and best conditions, and so in the midst of this pandemic, Ashton was able to make this happen. His extreme knowledge from having been there more than 50 times, and his knowledge of the ships and suppliers, just cut through it super fast. So in a conversation with him for maybe an hour, I came away with great confidence that I was in the hands