We at allé have been doing a lot of thinking about the future of travel and what part we plan to play in it. At home, we’ve all been taking care to socially distance, wear masks and protect ourselves and those in our community that are the most vulnerable. Like most of our clients, we’re all getting the itch to get out and explore more, get back to traveling, and we’re certainly feeling tempted by the low prices that are now available on flights and hotels around the world.
But we also find ourselves wondering: is traveling in today’s world, especially when coming from a global COVID-19 hotspot like the U.S., a reckless abuse of privilege? Even if you CAN travel, say tomorrow, SHOULD you? This is something we’ve discussed throughout the pandemic as a team, and also with our beloved partners on the ground at the destinations we work with – from Porto, Portugal to Moorea, French Polynesia.
The answer we found: there’s no clear cut answer.
In some places, like tiny islands with no access to hospitals or medical care (think Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico), it’s a resounding “please stay home and don’t come visit us”. Even though the island relies on tourism as its main source of livelihood, it also doesn’t have much access to medical care, and locals feel that travelers would bring with them an increased risk of COVID-19 infection to a local population that isn’t well equipped to handle it.
Other destinations, like Croatia, have made the calculation that the economic devastation of missing tourists for the summer would be greater than a COVID-19 outbreak, and continue to proceed “business as usual”; for better or for worse, time will tell.
Meanwhile others, in destinations like Colombia, feel that their government has dropped the ball on management of the pandemic, that too many lives have been endangered as it is, and that officially reported numbers simply cannot be trusted.
It’s complicated; as is everything in 2020.
Personal choice: you decide what you’re comfortable with, we’ll make it happen
At the end of the day, after a lot of soul searching and discussing as a team, what we’ve arrived at is this: the decision to travel or not is a deeply personal choice – one that each and every individual needs to make on their own, weighing their own risk tolerance, health history and global view. Over the past few months, we’ve all become experts (whether we like it or not) at making really hard decisions and having tough conversations, and the decision to travel or not is no different.
I liken it to the decision to send your kids to school or not. The “right” answer is different for each family. Some families have at risk family members at home, or a parent that isn’t working – making virtual learning an attractive option. Other families have restraints that make virtual learning impossible. We all make decisions that make sense in our unique contexts, and we’re all doing the best we can, given the circumstances.
We at allé aren’t epidemiologists, we’re also not State Department officials or safety experts – we recognize this. We do our best to keep up with all the available information from reputable sources; it changes frequently, and it’s our job to keep up. Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future, nor do we have the ability to confirm with 100% certainty whether something is safe or not.
What we are exceptional at, if I do say so myself, is taking each individual client’s preferences and crafting around them. And our plan is to continue to do exactly that. We promise we’ll never judge you for your decisions; instead, we’ll plan your trip to perfection, as we always do, whether it be to a neighboring state in the U.S. or to the remote islands of French Polynesia.
Any travels planned by us in this COVID-19 era will always adhere to local guidelines – be it COVID-19 testing on arrival, face masks, social distancing and the like, and be respectful of both local rules and regulations, as well as local populations. We’re not saying COVID-19 isn’t a big deal or “who cares, just travel” – instead, we recognize that it’s nuanced, and we’re learning how to live in a nuanced world.
So say you want to travel, and you’re a US citizen, where can you even go?
This is an ever changing list, and honestly one I never, ever thought I would have to maintain. Here’s where things currently stand (as of writing in mid-October)
- Domestic US travel
We live in a huge country, and there is so much to explore domestically. I’m definitely guilty of overlooking incredible places locally and instead always running to the other side of the world – somehow, places that are further away always seem more exotic? Take COVID-19 as a good reminder that it’s not always the case. For example, Acadia National Park is unreal beautiful, and Autocamp has the most stunning luxurious camping options in the country.
As of October 15th, almost all of the Hawaiian islands are now open for travel, with proof of a negative COVID-19 test- where you get that COVID-19 test is currently under discussion, so stay tuned there. It’s no secret that our favorite Hawaiian island is Kauai, followed closely by Maui. More on our favorite spots in Hawaii.
Many of the Caribbean islands (Bahamas, Aruba, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St Barts, for example) are allowing US citizens with some caveats, often in the form of proof of negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. Please be sure to update yourself on each country’s current status as far as travel before you look at any travel purchases- things move fast! With the current list as it is, my personal top picks would be the Dominican Republic (NOT Punta Cana, check out the Samana Peninsula instead) or Aruba.
- French Polynesia
With some precautions and proof of a negative COVID-19 test, travel to French Polynesia (home of infamous Bora Bora) is now open, even to Americans. Bora Bora is great, but we love Moorea island and there’s even more off the beaten path island goodness to explore on islands like Raiatea and Taha’a.
- Costa Rica
Not open for all Americans just yet, for now Costa Rica is limiting entry to Americans from certain states- State IDs will be used to prove state of residency. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Costa Rica, and I’ll add the bonus tip that our absolute favorite corner of the country is the Nicoya Peninsula, home to Nosara, the cutest surfing town there ever was.
Questions to ask yourself and what to take in to consideration
- Is my workplace OK with me traveling?
Some U.S. based employers have put a ban on international travel for team members. Check in with your HR department and make sure you won’t be breaking any rules, in case you go international.
- Is my destination OK with me visiting?
A no brainer. Please don’t break the local rules, even if you can sneak around them, don’t be that as*hole.
- Will I need to self quarantine when I return home?
Of course this doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker if you work from home at the moment! Just something to take into account.
- Do I have easy access to COVID-19 testing prior to departure and when I return home?
COVID-19 testing is still not at a very easily accessible place all across the country. For example, where I live in New York City, it’s super easy to get a test. I know that’s not the case elsewhere, so plan ahead.
- Will I easily be able to be respectful of local restrictions, socially distance, wear masks, etc
It goes without saying, even if you’re allowed somewhere, you should still plan on social distancing, dining outside on a patio or doing take-out as much as possible and in general, doing things like hiking and laying on a remote beach, instead of visiting packed museums or restaurants.
- Will my presence make life more stressful or difficult for locals in this already difficult time?
Again, even if you’re allowed, is the destination really struggling to get COVID-19 cases under control? Are the local resources already spread too thin? If yes, then please, stay home.
How can we at allé help you with your future travel?
- Remote work trips
If you’re working remotely, may as well do it in a beautiful place! We have quite a few clients finding the silver lining of this moment in time and using it to plan long-term, live-like-a-local trips. Of course, you don’t need the same kind of in-depth planning that you usually do in this case, so we have a special rate for planning these kinds of trips- contact us to learn more.
- Ask allé if you’re in the beginning phases of thinking about travel
We love doing ask allé travel consulting calls, great for clients who enjoy planning their own travels, but are looking for local and professional guidance from travel planners who know their destination. These are great for when you’re starting to think about your future trips.
- Planning for future trips in 2021
Ah, yes! What we’re really, very good at! Seriously though, we’re so excited to get back to planning your travels in all their detail-filled goodness. We know it’s a different world than it ever has been, and we’re big on protecting your financial investment and planning smart- so even if, for some reason, COVID-19 related or otherwise, your trip comes around and you can’t travel, you can cancel without a big financial loss.
Our two cents, for what it’s worth
For the average client, we recommend thinking of travel for Spring 2021 onwards. We’re super optimistic (with good reason) that by then, there will be growing access to a vaccine, and that there will be plenty of bridge-protections, like testing prior to travel, to make traveling far and wide a possibility again.
Protecting yourselves and enjoying the planning and getting excited aspect – it’s going to be a long winter! Planning travel is fun (trust me, I do it for my job and I still find it fun!) and research shows that a big part of the enjoyment that we get from travel is from the time leading up to the travel itself – the anticipation, the preparation and excitement. We’re recommending planning today to travel later to get us all through that winter hump, but doing so by only booking elements of your trip that are fully refundable, just in case.
If wanting to get away in the winter, think close to home (unless a high risk tolerance), and think in terms of easy to cancel. This is generally very easy to do these days, with airlines, hotels and well, everyone, touting “cancel up until the day you travel” policies. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it over again: do not book or commit to any element of your trip that can’t be canceled the week before you travel. COVID-19 has taught us all that staying nimble and flexible isn’t a want, it’s a need.
Be conscious of what your presence means to the local community and work to mitigate your impact in terms of public health. Be respectful and leave a positive impact. We used to talk about this all the time in terms of environmental impact (don’t litter) , cultural impact (don’t be an as*hole), but now let’s talk about it in terms of public health. If you’re a visitor, and you’ve made the choice to travel, and local rules ask that you wear a mask: wear the mask. If you’re asked to stay off the beach: listen. Please don’t put locals in an uncomfortable situation with your presence.