Published in our twice-weekly newsletter on 1-24-22. For travel updates straight to your inbox, subscribe here.
Smart timing is everything
For all you cooped-up families desperate for an interesting trip abroad and wondering whether to try for spring break or wait till summer, the big question to ask yourself is: Can you bear the risk (however small) of the students in the family testing positive before the flight home, needing to isolate in place, and missing a week of in-person school? Those of you choosing spring break typically have a two-week break and are traveling during the first week only, or you can live with remote schooling in isolation (been there, done that). Those of you waiting for summer should choose early summer, when a possible quarantine wouldn’t interfere with the return to school.
I say the risk of having to isolate abroad is small because, of the thousands of travelers whose trips we’ve monitored during Covid, we’ve heard of only two cases of testing positive before the flight home. Both were just before New Year’s—one in Iceland (and most of the traveler’s family members who tested negative flew home without her), and one in Belize (where the resort provided a free stay for the asymptomatic quarantine). Nobody was a minor, and nobody missed school. My own students and I (pictured above in Turkey last summer) wish you the best with your decision, and for spring-break ideas, read about the cool things that the families below did during the Christmas/New Year’s school break! —Wendy
Just back from a safari
“It brought back memories of…breathtaking treetop scenes from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. But this time, it was live and we were filming!”
“Initial discussions with Cherri and her team began in July 2021 to further investigate if 2021 would be the year to go on safari. What Covid hurdles would we encounter? How would we handle a trip cancellation if a family member tested Covid positive days prior to departure? Where is the best place to see the Big 5? She and her team answered those questions (and plenty more!) enabling us to explore Kenya for 15 days. Cherri’s team guided us from the beginning and insisted on three key items to avoid possible trip derailment and an immense financial disaster.
1. Transportation: Due to Covid country entry requirements regularly changing with little notice (the U.S. changed their entry requirements two times after we booked our trip in July), Cherri recommended a direct flight from JFK via Kenya Airways. This smart strategy limited us to only one Covid test when leaving the U.S. and avoided the possibility of additional tests for connecting international flights and airports. Cherri also recommended limiting our travel to one country, Kenya, to again avoid additional, costly Covid tests in order to enter another African country.
2. Insurance: Cherri highly recommended we purchase Trip Cancellation insurance and evaluate the optional CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason) endorsement. Granted, the policy was expensive and the CFAR endorsement only indemnified me for 75% (industry standard) of the total trip cost, but it provided peace of mind as the Delta and Omicron variants raced across the U.S. with me and my family as potential targets!
3. Health & Safety: Cherri recommended bringing paper copies of all travel documents: Covid vaccines, health insurance cards, Trip Cancellation policy, Covid test results, passports etc. and not rely on my phone as the only document location. This strategy enabled us to move through airport check-in quicker than others because Kenya Airways wanted to review paper copies and not documents on a phone. Cherri’s team also coordinated our return Covid tests at Saruni Mara with a Kenyan doctor prior to leaving. The day following the tests, results were emailed to me at Giraffe Manor, our final stop, and the staff was instrumental with printing the lab report with the QR Code which was required in order to board our flight home.
The accommodations recommended by Cherri were superb. The hospitality was warm, the bush guides were knowledgeable, the food was excellent and the facilities were immaculate and regularly wiped down to eliminate any threat of a virus. A special shout out to Sasaab and Saruni Mara for going above and beyond by arranging meaningful visits to local people! Cherri’s tip to bring some candy and small gifts for the village children as an icebreaker was all that was needed for smiles, giggles and an insider’s view of the locals’ homes and lifestyles.
I cannot forget to note the sleeper of the trip: Governors Balloon Safari. My husband and I were skeptical of this bucket list item, envisioning being stuffed in a basket with other random tourists prior to sunrise. Boy, were we wrong. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia overtook us as we rose high above the trees of Masai Mara, spotting elephants, giraffes, hippos and buffalo in their natural habitat for the hour ride. It brought back memories of our 1970s childhood: Sunday nights, the entire family parked around the vintage RCA console television, spellbound by the breathtaking treetop scenes from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. But this time, it was live and we were filming!
How could I conclude without mentioning the game drives, the true meaning for the trip? Our guides had us up early for good reason. We regularly viewed big cats over kills every morning. Breakfast in the wild was a chance to pause and reflect. Night drives were full of excitement as we watched the drama of life and death unfold again. Africa, as revealed by Cherri’s team, is truly the ‘trip of a lifetime!’” —Beth Nury
Just back from the ancient world
“Tour leaders and Egyptologists were all awesome—helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and organized….”
“We had an epic family trip to Egypt over Christmas and NYEve break! Jim and his team set up this trip perfectly—and with very little input since we were too busy. We entrusted them to prioritize and plan our limited time in Egypt, and they did it quickly and brilliantly. The tool they use to share itinerary drafts and the final documents and suggestions were fantastic! When we faced some issues or had changes, they were quick to support us. When we had to cancel one of our group due to Covid, they tried to get as much $ back as possible. Scuba diving the Red Sea was a bucket list item for me and we pulled that off as well (even though it was a little cold). Tour leaders and Egyptologists were all awesome—helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and organized. St Regis in Cairo, Sonesta Star Nile cruise, and Savoy Sharm el Sheikh were all great choices too—especially NYEve party!” —Bernardine Wu
Just back from sun and fun
“The staff all wore masks and we spent most of our time outside…”
“We have just returned from a trip to Playa del Carmen and enjoyed a fabulous week at the Palmaia, House of Aia. What a gorgeous resort with a beautiful beach just 45 minutes to an hour south of the Cancun airport. Our trip was planned by Zach’s team. They arranged private transportation to/from the airport and our hotel accommodations. We had two beautiful rooms for our family of five and enjoyed the ocean views from the 3rd and 4th floors. This was a trip for just relaxing, so we didn’t plan any excursions. We enjoyed the beach and pools—a perfect vacation. The staff all wore masks and we spent most of our time outside, which made it feel more comfortable. The hotel is an all-inclusive serving top-shelf drinks, and the food was mostly vegan (though you could get seafood and meat at a few restaurants). The most delicious food we have eaten on vacation. We plan to return!” —Michele and Ken Krisko
FAMILY TRAVEL SOLUTIONS
International School-Break Trips During Covid: Safe, Easy, and Fun
Safe, easy, delightful, international school-break trips, even during Covid? These families did it. Here’s how.