Traveling in the Time of Coronavirus
By Maka Boeve

Wanderlust is strong right now.  Although it was for the common good, the stay-at-home orders and sudden halt in traveling felt like being “grounded.” As restrictions are adjusted, questions arise as to what exactly is safe and how to return to some sense of normality.

With the spread of the coronavirus all over the globe, balancing the enjoyment of travel while maximizing safety is crucial. Temperatures are now taken prior to boarding a plane. There can be additional screenings, sanitizing procedures, boarding protocols, mask requirements and capacity limits. Social distancing is the norm. 

In some regions, either a negative COVID-19 test result or a 14-day quarantine is required before entry or travel. There are also limits on tickets sold and overall number of tourists permitted into certain areas at a time. It’s critical to check on local updates.  

On a positive note, hotels and hosts are excited to offer stellar service and express gratitude to welcome customers. Hospitality is in full force, and travelers are treated as returning friends and honored guests. 

“Preparing now for future travel is critical,” emphasizes Sandy Haddick of Dreams are Forever Travel. “It is a good idea to make sure that your passport is at least six months or more from expiration.” Due to government agency delays, passport applications are running several months behind.

“Go ahead and book,” Haddick encourages. “Right now, airlines are being lenient about making changes without charging a fee.” It’s predicted that soon there will be a travel boom, and then the costs will likely go up substantially. 

Taking a mental health break is a great strategy after the stresses of the past few months. Sometimes it’s important to remember that it is as much about the journey as it is the actual destination. Traveling is a way to both physically and mentally broaden horizons.

Nature often serves as a refuge for those that need to take time to literally smell the flowers. This is a great period to check out the many national parks that are now open and free. State trails and remote regional attractions are excellent for escaping large groups. It’s also fun and educational to explore what is often overlooked closer to home.

Some international “bucket list” sites can now be savored with fewer crowds. Empty airplanes plus flexible bookings have started to draw people back to the less-crowded airports.  Trains offer an alternate choice for both regional and long-distance routes. Car trips, with a fun playlist, tons of snacks and flexible rest stops, now rule in domestic travel. Large cruise ships are working on phased re-entry plans, but there is an increased interest in small river cruising, houseboat rentals and sailing charters. 

Navigating new travel policies and procedures will require voyagers to be proactive and know requirements and their options regarding refunds, waivers and re-bookings. Travel advisors will become increasingly important in the future.  

“Professionals will take care of you,” promises Judith Zavala, a local representative with Cruise Planners and American Express Travel. “They can also save vital time.” She stresses, “Things are constantly changing. Therefore, always get travel insurance.” Zavala calls these times “delicate” with so many uncertainties; however, things can still be done safely with cautionary measures.

Private tours will also be in higher demand. Trips may need a greater level of customization to ensure specific requests. Undoubtedly this will result in an increase in prices. However, traveling can be more appreciated and the experiences will be considered unique, meaningful and special.  

Planning a trip can bring happiness. For many, the enjoyment starts way before the travel actually begins. Zavala reiterates, “Remember, the best part of a vacation is the anticipation!”