Of the thousands of you who arranged international trips via our WOW system last year during Covid, many of you said in your trip reviews that it was the best trip of your life and that you felt safer overseas than you do back home. This was not just dumb luck. It was the result of careful orchestration of the pandemic-travel experience by people with the expertise and connections for navigating the new international travel landscape. Based on everything we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, if you’re looking for the best travel experiences in 2022, here’s my advice:
Let your timing dictate where you go. Flexibility regarding choice of your travel destination is key. Smart windows for travel will differ by country, as the factors that help determine a destination’s Covid-safeness (e.g., local vaccination rate and type, availability of open-air dining, optimal conditions for outdoor activities, etc.) fluctuate. When you know when you’ll be able to travel, write to Ask Wendy, and we can recommend where you’re likely to have the best experience during that window.
Embrace last-minute opportunities. Given how quickly the travel landscape keeps changing, the next smart opportunity may come sooner than you think, so be ready to jump. (My family, for instance, is ready to jump because we’ve already ordered, and received, the mail-in PCR tests and at-home antigen tests we’ll need for our next international flight, even though we haven’t chosen our destination yet.) Fair warning, though: Last-minute arrangements are a bad idea for popular countries such as France, Greece, and Italy that are seeing sky-high demand (and consequent sky-high pricing) for spring/summer/fall 2022.
Favor travel to countries that require vaccination and/or a negative test for entry. So many of your trip reviews mention you felt safer in the foreign country than you do back home, thanks to local protocols and private, Covid-safe arrangements. Even the international flight feels safer because everybody onboard is vaccinated, or has just tested negative, or both. If you choose the right country at the right time, you’ll get better service, fewer tourists, and a more rewarding experience than in crowded, understaffed resort areas in the mainland U.S.
Stick to one country per trip. With entry requirements in constant flux, every border crossing introduces the possibility that something could go wrong and ruin the rest of your trip.
Fly nonstop, if possible, to reduce time in airports and avoid more requirements.
Don’t discount a country because you’ve already been there: It’s easy to get a trip that’s completely different from your last trip to that place if you use a WOW List local expert. Just ask your fellow travelers who made return trips in 2021 to Belize or Croatia or Morocco or Italy or Tahiti or Greece or….
Give yourself something to look forward to. Anticipation of a trip helps your mental health. If prepaying for a trip, protect yourself financially by using the right WOW Lister and/or buying the right travel insurance (and using a credit card to purchase your trip; here’s more on that). A WOW Moment is something to look forward to as well, so if you’ve traveled with us recently, don’t forget to submit your trip review within three months of your return date so you’ll earn WOW Moment credit for that trip. Here’s how to get a WOW Moment.
Remember that you must test negative before boarding your flight back to the U.S…
Especially if you’re traveling with kids, you will want all family members to test negative the day before your return flight. So, even if sickness caused by Covid is not a concern for you, it’s still critical to travel in a way that avoids infection. See 5 Testing Tips for an Easy Return to the U.S.
…and for that reason, make your last hotel a good one.
On the off chance that you test positive at the end of your trip, make sure you’re staying somewhere comfortable, ideally with private outdoor space that you could access while isolating.
Keep checking back, and reading our newsletter, for smart trip ideas now (you’ll find more here) plus answers to your most pressing Covid-related travel questions. There are a ton of would-be travelers out there who could use our help de-complicating the new international travel landscape, so please share our newsletter with your friends. Billie, Brook, Kristine, and I wish you safe and extraordinary travels this year! —Wendy
We’re Here to Help
As a travel journalist and consumer advocate for the past 30 years—first as Condé Nast Traveler’s advice columnist, then as TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate—I’m all too aware of the travel concerns that need to be addressed as a result of this pandemic. For many trips, you’d be wise to use an extremely well-connected, extremely knowledgeable, destination-specific, trip-planning specialist who can act as your local fixer. You’d be even wiser to find and contact that trip planner via The WOW List, which is the first step in my WOW approach to trip planning, created by popular demand from my longtime readers. It’s the approach used by the travelers who are submitting these trip reviews and getting benefits including priority status, VIP treatment, my advice from the start of your trip planning, and the chance to win a surprise, custom-designed WOW Moment on a third qualifying trip. It all starts when you tell us about the trip you want via the questionnaires on The WOW List. —Wendy
This article was originally published January 2, 2022. It has been updated.