And how it can hopefully prepare you for your next adventure
This past July, I flew to the Bahamas with my husband and our 2 teenage boys. We stayed at Bahama House, a privately-owned boutique property and MOJO partner located on Harbour Island. Our trip was originally scheduled for May of this year, but due to COVID, was cancelled and rescheduled to late July.
As a family, we were extremely grateful for the opportunity to pull this trip off. In lieu of gifts, this travel experience was our holiday gift to everyone.
As a travel professional and advisor, the adventure served two additional purposes. It allowed MOJO to lend support to a key travel partner and their local staff during a time of need. It also allowed me to learn, first-hand, how COVID has changed travel in order to better plan and advise our clients on future travel.
The six key lessons were:
- PLAN AHEAD WITH COVID TESTING— At the time of our departure, The Bahamas required a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 7 days of departure. Since then, many international locales and even some US states have cut that lead time in half (sometimes requiring rapid testing on the spot at the time of entry). Be sure you’re crystal clear on specific testing requirements for the country/state you’re visiting prior to finalizing your travel plans. Additionally, many locales require specific types of tests. (The Bahamas, for instance, would only accept a PCR test — no rapid Antigen tests). As a surge of cases were happening in our state in July (near the time we were scheduled to depart) we had trouble obtaining the correct test in time and as a result, had to push our flight back by 3 days. (Fortunately we were still able to make the trip work, however, if you have a very tight travel window, you want to be aware of this). For this reason, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase a flexible “Cancel for Any Reason” supplemental trip insurance policy to protect their investment against the unexpected during these uncertain and ever-changing times.
- ORDER A MAIL-IN COVID TEST OPTIONS (IF TIMING IS AN ISSUE) — If you find yourself unable to obtain an in-person test in time, a route we found effective was to order a mail-in COVID test kit. Typically results are guaranteed within 24-48 hours. 2 companies to reach out to are: https://www.letsgetchecked.com/us/en/ and https://thecovidconsultants.com.
- STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH CURRENT TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS — Frequent border closures and re-openings, mandatory health visas and ever-changing quarantine requirements are the new norm. Here’s where it really pays to work closely with a trusted travel advisor who is up-to-speed with the latest information and can help you make an informed decision. The last thing you want is to end up spending your entire vacation quarantining in a hotel room or getting turned away at the border because you didn’t provide proper entry documentation. (For instance, we had no issues entering the Bahamas. However, the day after we left, the Bahamian government announced it was re-closing the borders and all subsequent flights were grounded.) Be aware of any potential issues so you can plan accordingly.
- EXPECT AIR TRAVEL TO LOOK A LOT DIFFERENT – If you haven’t flown during COVID, expect some major changes. Namely, you are required to wear a mask at all times (both throughout the airports and flight). A number of major US carriers have temporarily blocked middle seats and overall cabin occupancy has been reduced. Full cabin service has been suspended. In its place you are provided with individually-bagged snack items and bottled drinks. Cabin air is constantly filtered and replenished throughout the flight. With all of these precautions in place, we felt very comfortable on our 3-hour Delta flight from Atlanta to Nassau however, make sure you understand the specifics ahead of time so you can make the decision that’s right for you.
- ANTICIPATE DELAYS UPON ARRIVAL — Build in extra time if you have to make transfers or connections once you arrive at your destination. The added health and entry requirements can add up to longer customs and immigration lines.
- KNOW THE LOCAL RULES —Every country will have different laws from your hometown. The Bahamas, for instance, required that masks be worn at all times whenever traveling outside of your resort if social distancing could not be observed. A fine or jail time could be enforced for anyone not obeying these rules. Restrictions continue to change frequently, so when in doubt, please consult your travel professional for the most up-to-date information prior to arriving at your destination.