In addition to owning Zoom Vacations together, Bryan Herb and I are also good friends. Of course when we are hanging out socially, our conversations often go to travel. Recently during one of our conversations over too much wine, we were discussing my personal experiences traveling during Covid. We realized it could be helpful content for our travelers who are trying to navigate the current travel sphere.
Bryan: We have both been traveling during Covid both for personal as well as while leading trips for Zoom Vacations. What is a misperception that you think people have about traveling during these times?
Joel: The biggest misconception is that it’s unsafe to travel or that we should not travel at all. Understandably, the CDC and State Department notices are all worst-case scenarios. They never say, “you should not travel to country XYZ because it is a Level 3 infection rate, UNLESS you will be traveling with a small group of vaccinated, tested, and vetted individuals in a bubble” or “although country XYZ as a whole is showing a Level 3 infection rate, if you travel to a small resort where all staff are vaccinated, wear masks, social distance, then you will be safe”. We do have guests traveling right now who were initially concerned about traveling but they have traveled without any issue, and have mentioned how glad they are that they did travel following our preparatory advice.
Bryan: What is the hardest part about traveling during the pandemic?
Joel: Knowing what the testing and traveling protocols are for each country. I spend a lot of time making sure our travelers have the most current and accurate arrival and departure travel, testing, visa and health declaration information.
Bryan. That is for sure. Keeping up to date on the latest travel protocols for various destinations has definitely kept us busier than ever. Have you seen travel change since the Omicron variant emerged?
Joel: Yes somewhat. Obviously more testing, more masks, more social distancing, and everything is so much more clean than before. As an out-and-proud germaphobe, I hope the cleanliness trend continues.
Bryan: What are some benefits of traveling during covid that wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a global pandemic?
Joel: There are many, but by far the biggest benefit can be summed up in two words: Less crowds! While traveling to Egypt, I noticed that the sites seemed less overrun by tourists. There were plenty there, just not as many as before. Also, everyone I encountered seemed very friendly and appreciate to be working. So the service was attentive and genuine. Also, as I mentioned earlier, things are also more hygienically safe than ever.
Bryan: I have noticed this during the trips I have led as well. I just led one of my favorite trips to Peru in our history, and it was during the pandemic! It seems that for a lot of people the concern about being quarantined is the main hurdle for international travel. Do you have any tips for assuaging this concern?
Joel: Use common sense and take the recommended precautions. You probably will not get Covid from touching a doorknob. But if you go to a circuit party and make out with 50 people, well chances are you might catch something. Don’t get me wrong I have had lots of fun at circuit parties in my day. I am not a prude. I think you get the idea.
Bryan: Ugh, commons sense. That part. OK, so what are you personally doing to stay cool and calm while traveling during a time that is a bit uncertain?
Joel: Follow the rules and recommendations. And go with the flow. Don’t expect pre pandemic levels of service and amenities. I am of the school that prefers to travel than to stay home even if things are a bit off compared to what I was used to. For instance, while I prefer wine served in a real glass cup over a plastic cup, I still rather travel and deal with the plastic cup. Hotel rooms do not get serviced quite as often as they used to. But I find that they are more thoroughly cleaned than before when they do. So, things balance out.
Bryan: In my recent stay at Belmond Cap Juluca, my room was serviced twice a day. It was impeccable. OK, last question: are there certain travel experiences or even certain destinations that you think are a comfortable option during this time? Are there any travel experiences that you are avoiding?
Joel: Living in the cold Midwest, travel to the Caribbean right now is a great option. We have booked a lot of clients there. Basically all the actives are outdoors – beach, dining, yoga, pool, bootcamp, biking, etc. I was recently at Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla and Belmond La Samanna St Martin and could not have felt safer or more glad to be out in the sunshine getting real vitamin D into my system.