COVID Testing for Travel
Many countries and some states now require proof of a negative COVID test before being allowed entry. Requirements and tests are constantly-moving targets! While we can’t provide information for every location here, because it would be outdated so quickly, we do want to provide a list of questions you should be asking to make sure you fully understand the situation if you are traveling to a country with COVID testing requirements.
What kind of test is required? The primary tests out there are the PCR test and the rapid test. Some destinations allow either test; some require the PCR test. Make sure you know what kind of test you need. There are also some other tests, such as the antibody test, a saliva test, and an at-home test. Generally, these are not acceptable for travel.
When do I need to take the test? Most destinations will give you a number of hours between when you need to take the test and when you can travel. The key here is knowing if the hours refer to the time you depart on your first flight or the time you land in the destination. For a long flight, this can make a big difference. You will need to schedule your testing so that you have time to complete the test and get the results before you board the aircraft. With the length of time it is taking some areas to complete testing, this can sometimes be a challenge.
Will there be testing options at my destination? Some countries and states offer COVID testing in the airport when you land. Make sure you understand whether this is mandatory or optional, as well as the costs associated with it.
How do I submit my test results? Each destination has a different method for ensuring that you are COVID-free when you arrive. Some require you to upload your test results to a website before you depart. Others require you to have a piece of paper in hand when you land. You may also need to complete a government health questionnaire and/or meet requirements for health insurance.
How much does a COVID test cost? If you are being tested because you show symptoms or have been in contact with a COVID-positive person, your testing will likely not cost you anything. If you are being tested for travel, your testing will likely cost $100+.
Where can I get a COVID test? CVS is the largest nationwide company offering COVID testing for travelers. CVS pharmacies in the Charlottesville area, as well as other companies, are able to conduct these tests for you. You may want to discuss this with your primary care doctor.
What happens if I show up at my destination without proof of a negative COVID test? Each destination has different processes in place, but most of them require a 14-day quarantine of some sort. Make sure you understand what can happen if you don’t have your test results in time, if your test results do not meet with the time requirement, if you have not followed the correct processes, etc.
One last note: make sure you also understand COVID testing requirements that aren’t necessarily related to a destination. For example, some airlines, cruise lines, and other tour operators are requiring negative COVID tests. The questions will be helpful for these circumstances too.
For more interesting news on COVID testing, check out this article about an app on your phone that can hold your COVID test results and standardize the worldwide processes for COVID testing requirements. While it’s not standard yet, this or something like it could become standard practice in the future as the tourism industry seeks ways to get people traveling again.
As always, here at Globe Travel, we are happy to help our clients understand the requirements for their travel.
Long Fall Weekends
If you weren’t able to go on your annual vacation this year, you’re not alone. One trend we’ve been noticing is people taking long weekend trips as getaways rather than one big vacation. Staying closer to home, driving, and trying to avoid crowds are all priorities for those looking for a nice long weekend of escape.
The beauty of doing this in the Fall is literally the natural beauty of the changing seasons. There are some gorgeous trees out there right now. If you’re thinking that a weekend getaway might be good for you, then it’s time to go—while the weather is gorgeous, the trees are putting on their annual show, and the crowds have thinned.
Here are some suggestions for destinations that we think are just perfect for the months of October and November. They are generally within driving distance of Charlottesville, offer an opportunity to unplug and can give you plenty of space.
* The Omni Homestead, VA: An upscale country resort, this place has amenities galore, such as a fantastic spa, golf, trail rides, hiking, fishing, archery, and more. If you want to see peak colors, you need to go ASAP.
* Hershey, PA: The sweet smell of chocolate lets you know you’ve arrived. Hershey Park is open most weekends in October and November. With a variety of accommodations and activities, a weekend here could be whatever you want it to be: an upscale, relaxing getaway or a fast-paced, kid-friendly break from the ordinary.
* Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC: This gorgeous hotel offers exceptional service, a subterranean spa, and golf in a quiet mountain setting. Asheville is a wonderful small city with lots of opportunity for outdoor activities, such as hiking and leaf peeping. Go right away for peak colors.
* Ocean City, MD: This normally crowded and busy summer beach city is quiet and slow this time of year. I just returned from Ocean City, and it was glorious. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for spending time on the beach, the boardwalk was nearly empty, and we got all the best beach food with no waiting in lines (fries, caramel popcorn, fudge, and ice cream). There is also outlet shopping, golf, and delicious dining in the area.
These destinations are perfect for a long weekend, and they all take advantage of the Fall season with natural beauty and/or fewer crowds. And they’re easy! You won’t need to fly to get there. We can help you find excellent accommodations in all of these locations, as well as some activities that will give you a chance to enjoy the very best of the area. And if you think you might prefer to rent a car rather than put miles on your own, we can help you with a great car rental too.
Let us know what you’re thinking for a Fall weekend destination, and we’ll help you make the most of your limited time in a special place!
Bonjour et Merci
I’ve been lucky to travel a lot. Ever since that first trip to France with my French class in high school, I’ve been traveling the world. Over the past 30 years of international travel, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the way we travel. Airport security. The euro. Luggage with spinner wheels.
One of the aspects of travel that is very different—but at the same time, very much the same—is language. When I first started taking French, I did it because I thought it would be helpful to be conversational in another language if I was ever lucky enough to travel outside of the US. And sure enough, my French has come in handy many times! In fact, I am very proud of the fact that I was able to hold up my end of a French conversation with a very nice Belgian lady on a train. Her first language was Dutch; mine was English; but we found that we could have a conversation in French and make ourselves understood. (Making yourself understood was always the measure of success in my high school French class.)
No matter what country I traveled to, I found it always helped to have two words in the local language: hello and thank you. These two words, along with some charades, got me around Europe for a semester in college. They got me good service at any restaurant. They got me a kind smile in shops. And they got me where I was going with taxi drivers.
In my more recent travels, I’ve noticed that most people in even a slightly touristy area speak some English, and they love to try out their English on visitors. (In fact, I think English has become something of a common denominator of languages. I will never forget the day I was in an Italian department store, watching two German women shop for clothes. When the German women needed to find a fitting room, they conversed with the Italian store associate in English.) As I practiced my hellos in the local language, I found that people often responded with “hello” in English! Yes, they could detect my English accent and wanted to practice their English on me.
Consequently, for modern travel, I have amended my rule of thumb to learn hello and thank you in the local language. My new rule of thumb is to try to say hello well enough that the person I say it to responds in the local language—and does not respond in English. I first practiced this in Todi, Italy. I had noticed that local residents were friendly, both with each other and with visitors. I started listening intently to the accent when they said Buongiorno to one another, and I did my best to copy it. I practiced a few times, initiating buongiornos with people I passed on the street—and usually I got a “hello” in return. Finally, after a couple of days of practicing, I finally did it: someone responded to me with Buongiorno! I was so proud of myself, and I couldn’t help but reflect on my conversation with the Belgian lady on the train all those years before, when she complimented my French.
The Seventh Continent
Maybe you read about Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 trek to the South Pole. Maybe you’ve been to 6 continents already. Maybe Antarctica is a bucket list destination for you. No matter the reason for your interest in Antarctica, it is one of those destinations that fascinates and inspires so many travelers.
Located around the South Pole, Antarctica is a challenge to reach! The easiest way to get there is by cruise ship. There are no hotels and no permanent residents of Antarctica, so you need to go with a tour operator who brings all of the supplies you will need. There are two main types of Antarctica cruises: a sail-by cruise and a cruise with landings. A sail-by cruise is most common among large cruise lines with large ships. As part of a South American itinerary, they cross the Drake Passage and sail by the continent so that travelers can see it from the ship. Travelers will not get off the ship and actually step onto the continent.
The second type of cruise is an expedition cruise. These are most often done on smaller ships that come with all kinds of gear to permit travelers to go ashore. Days in Antarctica are filled with landings and explorations around the continent. Only 100 people are allowed off the ship at any time, so you will be able to do the math based on the number of people on a ship to know how much time you may be able to spend on the continent.
While Antarctica is a large place, the most common destination that travelers visit is the Antarctic Peninsula, a small peninsula of land outside of the Polar Circle that is closest to South America. Most travelers will depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, considered to be the gateway to Antarctica. Your cruise ship will depart from there, cross the Drake Passage, and then do a sail-by or do landings that explore the peninsula and other areas close by. There is also an option to fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to a small airfield in Antarctica and then board a ship there. No matter how you choose to go, you will experience the continent while based on a ship.
When choosing an Antarctica itinerary, you should consider what kind of trip you want (sail-by or landing) and what other places you may want to visit while you are in the area. For example, you may be able to combine a trip to Antarctica with other locations in Patagonia and/or islands such as the Falklands or South Georgia. Crossing the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica can sometimes be a challenge due to notoriously rough seas, but most everyone who has done it says the reward is worth it!
What can you expect to see? The answer is white. It is a land of ice and rocks. There will be no vegetation, because nothing can really grow in the cold, dry, and windy environment. Perhaps the biggest draw for most people is the animal life. You will see whales, birds, seals, and lots of penguins. Experts estimate that 78 million penguins call Antarctica home. You will see them, be entertained by their antics, and smell them!
If you do an expedition cruise, you can expect to use kayaks or zodiacs to land ashore once or twice per day while you are in Antarctica. These small vessels allow you to truly experience the grandeur of the continent as you sit at sea level with icebergs towering above you. You will probably see some of the icebergs calve, you will follow penguin tracks in the ice, you will watch penguins frolic and swim at the edge of the sea, and you may even get to do a polar plunge off the back of your ship. Talk about a bucket list item! Your ship will also be staffed with all kinds of scientific experts who will lead your daily expeditions and offer seminars to prepare you for what you will experience. Basic polar gear is usually provided by the ship, but you will need to bring plenty of warm layers and some specific gear if you choose an expedition cruise.
The season for Antarctica cruises is November through February, when it is “summer” in that region. The days are long. In fact, if you are there on December 21, you will have 24 hours of sun.
Inspired to cross this item off your bucket list? We would be thrilled to help you make that happen. Begin thinking about whether you want to do a sail-by or an expedition cruise. With that basic goal of your trip, we can then help you narrow it down to a cruise that will be right for you, giving you the experience of a lifetime that you are looking for.
Details and Recommendations
Getting there: Antarctica is far away! Plan to allow a lot of time to get there and return. In fact, many people will spend a couple of days in Ushuaia before boarding their cruise ship. You will likely travel first to Buenos Aires and then to Ushuaia. There is very little, if any, time change, so while these flights are long, they tend to be less stressful on the body than flights east or west.
How long: Expedition cruises generally run 10-14 days; sail-by cruises are often part of a larger South American itinerary and generally run 14-18 days. This includes time to cross the Drake Passage both ways. You should allow a minimum of 2 weeks by the time you add in travel to and from South America. If you do a longer cruise that takes in more of South America and/or the islands, then plan on 3 weeks total.
Don’t miss: This opportunity! Going to Antarctica is something that very few people have the opportunity to do. Whether you do a sail-by or an expedition, if you can work it into your plans, do it. And when you are presented with opportunities on an expedition cruise, take them. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t miss anything!
Contact: Globe Travel at 434-390-8233 or firstname.lastname@example.org to help you find the right Antarctica experience to meet your travel goals.
All About All-Inclusives, Part 2
Last week, I wrote about what’s included at an all-inclusive resort. This week, let’s dig a little bit deeper into this topic and talk more about this unique and popular vacation style.
What are the benefits of staying at an all-inclusive resort? The biggest benefit is that an all-inclusive tends to be a stress-free vacation. When you know what the vacation is going to cost up front—and when almost everything is included in the price—you are more likely to keep your vacation in budget. No budget stress! Another stress reducer is that everything is in the same place and easily accessible. You don’t need to drive to find activities or restaurants in an area that is new to you.
Is this a good vacation for my children/grandchildren? Yes, an inclusive can be a great multi-generational vacation! Kids love all-inclusive resorts because they generally have fantastic pools, lazy rivers, beaches, and more. Some even include special kids’ activities with staff members who specialize in keeping children entertained. One important note: all-inclusive resorts are generally sub-categorized as adults-only or family-friendly. You’ll want to make sure that you are booking a family friendly resort if you intend to bring kids. If you aren’t bringing children/grandchildren with you, you should decide if you want an adults-only environment or if you prefer a family-friendly environment.
Where can I go if I want to try an all-inclusive resort? Most all-inclusive resorts are found in the Caribbean, especially in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Because they are so popular in the Caribbean, all-inclusives are an excellent option for those seeking a tropical vacation with lots of relaxing on the beach or at the pool. In the US, there are only a couple of true all-inclusive resorts. You are more likely to find resorts where you can add on a meal plan or where you might have access to on-site included activities.
Is there a resort or a brand that you recommend? Yes, we definitely have our favorites! But before we can recommend a resort, we want to know more about what kind of vacation you want. Adults only or family friendly? Luxury or no frills? Attentive service or more independence? Lots of activities or lots of serenity? Exciting nightlife or quiet and calm? Beach or pool? Food quality or food quantity?
If you’re ready to give an all-inclusive a try, we’d be happy to recommend something that we think is the perfect fit for your preferred vacation style and destination. With so many options to choose from, there is an all-inclusive for everyone and for every budget!
All About All-Inclusives, Part 1
One of our clients’ favorite vacations is to an all-inclusive resort in a tropical destination. There are so many advantages to staying at an all-inclusive resort. We thought it would be fun to highlight some information about this popular way to travel, for those who haven’t yet tried an all-inclusive resort.
What exactly is included in “all-inclusive”? At a minimum, it includes accommodations, 3 meals a day, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), activities, entertainment, and gratuities. Some resorts include premium activities such as golf and motorized sports, airport transfers, and private butler service. When booking an all-inclusive vacation, make sure you understand exactly what is included.
What are the accommodations like? Just as in any resort, there are a variety of room categories available, such as standard view, ocean view, ocean front, pool view, and even over-water bungalow. Amenities often vary based on the room category. For example, higher categories might come with butler service, individual plunge pools, swim-up access, or complimentary mini-bars. Accommodations are often spacious and luxurious to ensure a superb experience.
What is the dining experience like? All-inclusive resorts generally offer multiple dining options for guests. Not only are all meals included, but snacks are also available. There will often be a buffet, quick service/snack options, and at least one nice table service restaurant. There may be specialty dining options, such as a chef’s table or themed meals, which may be included or may come with a small additional charge. Most resorts cater to guests with both local dishes and international cuisine. Beverages are also one of the inclusions at an all-inclusive resort. This will include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but know that some premium alcohol may require a surcharge.
What is there to do at an all-inclusive resort? Each resort will offer different activities, some of which are based on the resort’s location. Most resorts offer non-motorized water sports such as paddle boarding, snorkeling, and swimming. There are often cultural activities, such as cooking demonstrations and dance lessons. You’ll also often find fitness options, like classes, a gym, or organized sports. Some resorts may offer enhanced activities for an additional fee; in other resorts, these premium activities may also be included. Examples of premium activities are golf, scuba diving, motorized water sports, and local excursions.
Now that we’ve reviewed what is included in an all-inclusive, next week we’ll look at some more details about what you can expect at an all-inclusive resort so that you can determine if this might be a good vacation style for you to try.
Using Your Future Travel Credits
As 2020 travel plans have changed, many people, including a lot of our Globe Travel clients, have taken advantage of travel suppliers’ future travel vouchers. While they go by a lot of different names, the concept is the same: you leave your money for a cancelled trip with the travel supplier, instead of getting a refund, and you can apply that toward a future trip with the supplier. Suppliers often offered an incentive to travelers of 10-50% additional as part of the voucher.
As we’re starting to think about redeeming these vouchers, my biggest tip is that you read the fine print. Actually, you should have read the fine print before you accepted the voucher. Each one comes with terms and conditions.
* For cruises, sometimes the voucher can only be applied to the cruise fare but not to airfare, taxes, port fees, etc. If this is your situation, you may want to consider upgrading your cabin so that you take full advantage of the value of your voucher.
* For airlines, the voucher is often considered a “waiver.” This means that the airline will waive the change fees for you to change your air schedule. In some cases, this offer is only valid one time. If you get a second ticket using your waiver and you have to cancel that trip, you may be subject to penalties for changing the ticket a third time.
* For escorted tours, you may have the option of using the voucher or of rebooking the same trip for the price you had planned to pay in 2020. You should do the math on this one. If the tour company has increased the price on the trip in 2021, is it better financially to lock in the 2020 price or better to take the voucher with the incentive (10-25% usually) and pay the higher 2021 price?
* For trip insurance, you may be eligible for a voucher if you haven’t made a claim against the policy for a trip you didn’t take. In this situation, you may be able to get a voucher for the amount you paid that can be applied to a future trip.
In addition to understanding the details of the value and conditions of your voucher, you also need to know the timeline you have for using the voucher and whether the voucher is transferrable to someone else. If you have to use the voucher “within one year,” does that mean one year from the date you were planning to travel or one year from the date you purchased the trip? Make sure you have the documentation and understanding of all of the conditions for using your voucher.
These are just a few examples of scenarios we have come across as we’ve been working with our clients. Rest assured that when you work with a Globe Travel adviser, we will work with you to understand the conditions of the voucher and the appropriate procedures for redeeming it. We will make sure we maximize it so that you can get the most out of the vacation you lost in 2020. Just another example of the services travel professionals provide and why working with us is a great idea!
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