Holiday travel for U.S. residents will be very different in 2020. No doubt about it. With the exception of small or expedition cruise ships, vacations by sea are essentially off the table for the rest of 2020 (depending on how the CDC rules on cruising when the current No-Sail Order ends October 31). But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a great escape over the holidays.
While some folks have sworn off travel altogether since the COVID-19 pandemic became front and center in the U.S., others have managed vacations or business trips by car or plane, whether close to home or international. For example, a great many U.S. citizens have safely traveled to the Maya Riviera or Cancun areas of Mexico over the past weeks, while others have taken advantage of our uncrowded national parks. Even Disney and Universal have re-opened their theme parks, and you may never find them less crowded than now. However, with a recent spike in virus cases nationwide, the choice to travel over Thanksgiving and Christmas could be a difficult one this season. But with some advanced planning, some tolerance for risk and knowledge of health and safety protocols in place for your chosen destination, it’s indeed possible to enjoy a great escape this holiday season.
Personal Health and Safety for the Group. Before deciding to travel, take into account your own health and that of your companions. The elderly and those with underlying health problems should consider staying home. Plan on keeping your group small – just a few close friends or family – and keep any gatherings small. Above all, no matter the presumed safety of your destination, wear masks and maintain social distancing whenever possible.
Research Your Destination. U.S. cities as well as foreign countries are at various stages of re-opening to visitors and will have different Covid-19 regulations in place. Before making plans, do your homework and learn about local testing and quarantine rules and how these will affect your destination and your own home town. Build flexibility into your vacation plans in case of last-minute changes.
Read official destination travel guidelines. Go to the health department or visitor’s bureau website for your destination or visit the CDC’s COVID Travel Page and learn what the protocols are and what travel restrictions are in place. Do they require testing in advance? Do they require a period of quarantine before or after arrival? What precautions are in place for the hotel or resort? Plan ahead to avoid disappointment or, worse, being turned away for not following the rules.
Have a Talk With Your Travel Companions. Before handing over that credit card, have an honest discussion with those you’re traveling with. If it’s just you and your significant other, it’s not too great an issue. However, if you’re traveling with people you don’t live with, discuss where you’ve been and those people you’ve been in contact with recently to determine risk factors. If possible, consider a 14-day quarantine before departure, especially if you are regularly in contact with elderly family members. Determine what steps you’ll take to remain healthy and avoid getting sick.
Know The Airline and Hotel Booking Policies. If you’ll be traveling by air, review the airline COVID policies and protocols regarding social distancing, mask wearing and other safety precautions. Also understand their cancellation, refund and change policies. For example, for a temporary period of time, many airlines have become more flexible, allowing refunds or future flight credits for cancellations due to COVID. Likewise, hotels and tour companies have their own policies in place, some more foregiving than others. Pre-screening requirements may be in place, as well, necessitating completion of an on-line form in advance of departure.
Choose Hotel Stays Over Family Stays. Whenever possible, book a hotel rather than rooming with family. The less chance of introducing the virus to others, the better.
Consider Travel Insurance. Even if you’re the type to through caution to the wind, this might be a good time to take another look at travel insurance. Be aware, though, that all policies are not alike, and some may not cover cancellations or changes due to pandemic. Review policies carefully, and contact the insurer with any questions before purchasing.
Book with a travel professional. Travel during a pandemic presents many challenges. Weeding through hotel, flight and tour protocols, guidelines and terms & conditions can be overwhelming and confusing. Trust in a travel specialist who can help guide you in the right direction, will know the current conditions of a particular destination, the best way to get there, and help keep you safe and healthy.