Travel agents: now it’s a good (and safe) time to travel, with tons of bargains available
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If your travel bug has been biting hard lately, you can feel confident that you still have options for taking a vacation.
Although it seems counterintuitive, it’s a good time to travel and, providing you select the right area and follow all the protocols, safe both for your health and your travel plans.
Amy Jarvis, owner of The Travel Store in Fayetteville, Liverpool and Sylvan Beach, said that although the travel advisories are subject to change, at present, the Caribbean is her go-to for clients.
“Right now, for people who want sun and beach, most of the Caribbean is open,” Jarvis said.
Most of the islands maintain a protocol for testing, screening and quarantining. But travelers should be aware that the time length between when they took their COVID-19 test and their arrival varies by island.
Though her plans to lead a group on a European trip have been put off until June 2021, Jarvis can still direct travelers to domestic venues.
“You can travel to some parts of the U.S., depending on the day of the week that our governor decides to let us go to certain places,” she said wryly. “Every day, it’s something new. We work around it. The airlines are waiving all the change fees. If I book you and they decide you can’t go, I can change you to a different destination or date and they don’t charge a change fee.”
During these turbulent times, travel agents and their clients get creative. In lieu of European river tours, many of Jarvis’ clients opt for U.S. river tours.
“They do social distancing and make sure everything is clean and done properly,” she said. “They’re also only doing tours in states where monuments and things are actually open.”
While it seems that the pandemic has ruined travel, social distancing can mean a more tranquil, less hurried vacation, as many beaches and resorts have occupancy rates of only 30%. Air travel is less crowded as the airline industry is trying to keep passengers safe, too. Instead of sitting three abreast, the middle seat was vacant, allowing extra room for everyone.
Encountering fewer travelers also means less hassle at the airport.
Tracy Hogarth, owner of Blue Zaria, a travel agency in Syracuse, said that Iceland is currently open, among other venues, though travelers should expect to pay for testing upon entry to the country and four to six days later, plus a quarantine.
“Most places are asking for that,” she said. “Most are asking for international medical insurance, like Thailand, and requiring you have available ‘x’ number of dollars in case you have to be hospitalized.”
Hogarth has delayed her next international trip until April 2021, as her trips are between seven and 10 days. If her group must quarantine for 14 days, there’s little point in going.
At this point, she recommends travelers to focus more on staying home and exploring local areas for safety’s sake, especially if they have any risk considerations for coronavirus.
Like Hogarth, Richard ONeil, owner of Travel Choice International in Syracuse specializes in travel for older adults. All of his trips planned for this year have been canceled.
“If you’re planning day trips or overnight trips for seniors, plan in advance as far as where you want to go,” ONeil said. “Check the websites to see if they’re open and call them. In a lot of cases, things have changed since they posted on their website. It’s important to call ahead.”
William Louer, certified travel counselor and owner of Advantage Travel in Syracuse, encourages anyone attempting travel to “take beyond the normal cautions they need to take based upon where you’re traveling once you leave the 48 states. Check the websites of where you’re going. Look at it five or six more times as things change weekly.”
Using a travel agent can make the process easier. Travel agents specialize in knowing just what is open and what the travel protocols travelers need to follow.
“We have to know the specifics of the country you’re going to,” Louer said
Even with travel in New York, it’s vital to use a travel agent or check with destinations to ensure you understand their COVID-19 policies before planning a trip.