Surviving and thriving during surreal travel times

To say that we are experiencing surreal times during this global pandemic is an understatement. With restrictions, and travel bans, changing daily, our passionate hearts, and our educated brains, are in a battle of “to book or not to book.”

With so many hurdles, travel experts say recovery will be slow and that about 90% of potential hotel guests will only travel domestically. According to AAA, about 70% of Floridians say they are most comfortable traveling in their cars. The Wall Street Journal reports the pandemic fueled an explosion with Airbnb globally, as people are flocking to popular destinations within 300 miles of driving distance of their homes.

SWEET TRAVEL DREAMS

Covid-19 can’t take away our dreams. The Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 will go on. But the logistics are unknown.

The Cannes Film Festival will not take place this May and we are praying it will not be canceled but so far the good news:  the most famous of all festivals will take place after all from July 6 to the 17th.

Where will you go?

Travel & Leisure magazine listed their bucket list hot spots in their World’s Best Awards: Florence, Istanbul, Rome, Lisbon, Porto, Seville, Krakow, Barcelona, Siena and Madrid. The world’s largest hotel operator, Marriott International, reports that 94% of their hotels worldwide are open and that travel demand is improving.

What’s it like traveling to, and from, Europe these days? Hauke Andresen talks of wearing a mask for 18 hours during his journey from his home in Germany to Tampa International Airport to get to the St. Pete Beach office of SEASALT Properties where he is a partner. Would he do it again? “I’d wear a mask for 36 hours just to get back to the Florida sunshine,” he joked. It helped that his flight had empty seats next to him on United Airlines.

BUCKET LIST SAFE-POD OR BUBBLE TRAVEL

John Harvey, owner of Opulent Africa, a high-end specialist safari company says they have been experiencing something new this year he calls “pandemic bubble travel.” Many of Opulent Africa’s clients are choosing to travel in small family, and friends, groups, booking exclusive use of camps and lodges. This offers a high degree of flexibility and gives everyone a greater sense of “safety” in these times of Covid-19. “Taking exclusive use of accommodations, and chartering small planes for the group, means that our clients can enjoy their safari in total isolation from other travelers with the added luxury of having an entire private reserve to themselves.” He says this greatly enhances the whole experience, particularly the wildlife viewing.

TROPICAL ISLANDS

Travelers say quarantine rules are a big factor in making a Caribbean Island vacation decision. Puerto Rico, Aruba, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands are on the list of most-booked destinations. So are the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. In St. Kitts and Nevis, a Covid-19 test is required for entry three days before arrival. Travelers must stay in one of the islands’ approved accommodations for the first 14 days. Those staying less than 14 days are required to take a test 72 hours before departure. Costa Rica opened to all Americans in November with no need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, but you do have to buy insurance.

WINTER SKI SEASON

Covid-19 confusion continues. Different rules. Different countries. Italy, Germany and France did not open their Alpine ski lifts over the winter holidays.

In America, the ski season is huge. How to operate safely is consuming government officials. Vermont imposed quarantine requirements for incoming travelers. Ski areas require masks indoors, and outdoors, and many will ban the sharing of lift seats with strangers. All ski resorts have complicated individual plans. Some resorts are eliminating group lessons and requiring advance tickets. Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado have new technology for how guests buy, and retrieve, lift tickets and passes. Big Sky Resort in Montana will have “self-choice” lines that skiers can ride with family groups. Jackson Hole, Wyoming will restrict ticket sales based on the uphill carrying capacity. They have thermal imaging cameras around the resort to check guest temperatures.

Grab your pod of closest “Covid-safe” family, or friends, and book an adventure of a lifetime called heli-skiing. Colorado’s Silverton Mountain has prices starting at $11,990 for a group of four to eight people. A private chopper transports you. No sharing with strangers. The “uphill trend” continues says Nick Sargent, president of Snowsports Industries America. Resorts like Cooper Mountain, in Colorado, have introduced educational, guided, uphill tours for private groups this season.

CAMPING OR GLAMPING

Having been inside so long, we are craving outside adventures. The founder of the American Glamping Association, Ruben Martinez, says last summer’s revenue was up 250% through his booking site Glamping Hub. For really glamorous, and luxurious, accommodations, check out Aman Resorts and AMangirl in Canyon Point, Utah. Big Cedar Lodge, owned by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, put up seven tents on a 4,600 resort in the Missouri Ozarks.

HOTEL ESCAPE

Hotel companies are going to new lengths to get visitors back. Marriott International said they would allow guests to check-in at 6 a.m. and stay as late as 6 p.m. Some resorts have children’s programs, and supervised activities, while grown-ups work in the room.

CRUISE SHIPS

Cindy Cockburn

The CDC reports change weekly but right now we are told itineraries can’t be longer than seven days and most cruises will be at reduced capacity. Socially distanced dining (no buffets) and masks will be required. Carnival Cruise Lines Royal Caribbean paused all cruises through the end of February. Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are paused until March 31.  ♦

Cindy Cockburn is a St. Pete-based writer, featuring resorts, spas, restaurants and destinations from Switzerland to San Francisco. She has covered events from the Cannes Film Festival to Art Basel and worked as a public relations and special events consultant for over 25 years.

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