Leaving Quarantine Life-Travel Now
For months I have been dreaming of hearing this again, “Thank you for flying the friendly skies.” I can hardly wait to hit the road, book a trip, take a plane ride, and look at something or somewhere different. During the pandemic traveling outside the United States was banned. Now travelers are rushing out their doors. I started planning a trip expecting to find great deals, easy booking, and excellent service. I thought that many people might not want to take the risk to travel anytime soon but, I was wrong; after being locked down, people can’t wait to get out!
The excitement of traveling somewhere now comes with additional stresses. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking about traveling safely on a plane in an enclosed area with many people I don’t know for a long time who might be contagious. Thinking is it wise to travel out of the United States with the rising Delta Variant? What will happen to me if I get Covid abroad and cannot leave the destination? Will I have to take a Covid test to be able to get on the airplane? Should I plan to wear my mask all the time even though I am fully vaccinated?
Also, what will the weather be like where I am going and how many pairs of shoes should I pack?
The plethora of questions that come with traveling has become complex. How can you continue your wanderlust life in peace and get great deals? To get some insight, I reached out to one of my favorite clients Karamel McCoy who owns Women Travel Abroad, a boutique travel company that caters to women over 35 who like luxury travel.
My Interview with Karamel McCoy, Owner of Women Travel Abroad
How long has the Solo Travel Movement been in place?
I would say 15 years, it got popular in the last ten years, and a solo traveler doesn’t necessarily mean traveling by themselves. It just means that they are not going with someone who they know. I think people misconstrue those two things. The solo traveler who goes by themselves; not with anyone, no companion and rough it in various countries and then there’s a solo traveler who says, I want to go. I’m just going with people who are not my people or that I know.
People are saying I’m tired of waiting on my best friend who doesn’t have the money. I’m tired of waiting on my husband, who doesn’t like to travel. I’m tired of waiting on my kids to grow up. I’m tired of waiting on having a million dollars in the bank. I want to go and see something different now.
Why do most people fear traveling alone?
They’re all kinds of rumors out there about various cultures as if they live entirely differently than we do in America. I always have to tell Americans, the women who traveled with me, hey, listen, you know, everyone in the world goes to the restroom as you do, everyone in the world has to lay down in a bed as you do to sleep. We all do the same things. It may look a little different, but it’s still the same. I must dispel rumors like I don’t want to pee in a hole in the ground.
One of my favorite stories is with an American woman; we were in Germany eating spaetzle, a German dish, and she says, oh, this doesn’t taste anything like spaetzle. It is awful; in America, it tastes different. I’m like you’re in Germany. That stuff you’re getting in America is not how spaetzle tastes. So those are the kinds of things that I like to dispel.
What are the benefits of solo travel?
You get to travel your way and not someone else’s way. You are not meeting someone else’s expectations because they are organizing the trip or expect you to take care of them — that kind of goes out of the window. At Women Travel Abroad (WTA), we leave it up to the traveler to decide when to opt-in and when to opt-out.
Should people take any special precautions when traveling alone, especially women?
Absolutely. As a woman, you must be mindful of where you’re traveling and not be naïve. I often tell my travelers to be cautious about the cash they’re flashing around and where they use their credit cards. If it’s a place where it’s reputable, and you feel like it’s okay, but if it’s a street vendor, we’re probably not going to use our credit cards there.
The Pandemic, Covid, and Travel
How has Covid changed the travel industry?
It’s upside down. People are leery about going on a cruise ship, and the cruise industry is taking a terrible nosedive. The airlines have grounded half of their fleets, and flights change all the time. For example, I’m going to Morocco for the first trip that Women Travel Abroad has taken out of the country since December 2019. It was crazy trying to get the airfare. The airlines are changing the flight times every other day. I found out that we couldn’t fly directly. We couldn’t fly through Europe to get to Morocco, which is what you typically do. I had to fly directly to Morocco. So that means I had to buy a domestic flight to get to JFK in New York and then take a JFK flight directly to Morocco.
Hotels have taken a considerable beating. Travel insurance has changed; the rates have doubled. Resorts offer COVID tests upon departure.
If you have the vaccine, you can travel to Africa no problem without a COVID test, but that’s not the case for those who don’t. You must have a negative COVID test within 48 hours.
Ms. McCoys’ insight holds true; according to Barclays, the travel industry will likely never be the same again and marked by bureaucracy; Travelers may face a period of persistent disruption as governments maintain restrictions to limit the spread of the virus. Vaccines will likely be the visas of the future, but questions over which doses a traveler has received and how long ago may still trap them in a web of border controls.
Travelers want to protect themselves during the pandemic. Is air travel considered safe? Many people are afraid of getting the virus through air travel or in the airport.
If you are super scared or have anxiety about making a trip, you should not make it, period.
My advice is if you are feeling uncomfortable, do not go until you think you can go. You’re spending quite a bit of money and a lot of time and energy towards going somewhere. Airports are packed these days; people are traveling. Wear your mask and use your sanitizer. As soon as you get out of the airplane, go to your hotel, shower, clean up, and move on.
You must be flexible. If you’re traveling with me to Morocco, I’ve told my travelers a hundred percent; you’re going to need to be flexible. You will also have to take responsibility for whatever that looks like in terms of your travel. So, if you get to Amsterdam and say that you can’t get to Morocco because they changed your flight while you were flying, you will have to own that and understand it as the luck of the draw for traveling during such a monumental time.
What is the most innovative thing that you have seen in the travel industry since the pandemic started?
You can get the COVID test in the airports for your departures and arrivals.
In some countries, they call it the gold standard, which means that the hotel has been vetted and cleaned to the specific standards of the CDC guidance or their respective disease control departments. In Mexico, if you travel there and get COVID while you’re there, they will allow you to stay at the resort on them while you’re recovering. They’ll bring you food every day until you get a negative test and can fly back to America.
Where should travelers check to get the best information regarding the infection status in different parts of the world when traveling?
The state department is a great resource. A lot of the state department is up to date. However, you must be country-specific and region-specific. When I check to travel to Morocco, Marrakesh may be okay to travel to but, Fez may not be right now. So, you want to be mindful of that. The other website is the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which has up-to-date information about COVID and its status in various parts of the world. Not just COVID even, but also other infectious diseases that are affecting different regions of the world.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, is a great resource. The top priority resource for any place that you’re going to travel to is the country’s tourism department in which you’re traveling; that’s where to get your information.
After Covid is under control or gone, what lessons, systems, or standards do you think will become a mainstay?
I think that we’re going to see lasting effects of the pandemic for quite some time. For instance, rental cars usually cost around $100 a day in little small places, but now it’s up to 200 a day to rent a car. Hertz had to file bankruptcy because they had so many vehicles in their fleet, nobody was driving, and they became cash strapped. They had to sell off a lot of their fleet. So with less supply and more demand, prices rose.
Travel prices have skyrocketed or almost doubled. A typical trip to Hawaii usually costs $2,800 to $3,200. For me to take somebody there for the six days, like we typically do, I think it is now $4,400. So how bad do you want it? I think that’s going to be the key. The people who are going to be traveling in the near future will be the ones who have the money to travel. You won’t see many younger travelers like you once did because things were so cheap and easy. I think that it’s going to be more of the established folks who will continue to travel outside of the country.
How far in advance should people plan their trips these days?
I just announced a trip to Hawaii., it’s happening in December. Right now, it’s July, so five months typically. I tell people to book in advance six months but prepare for the changes to happen. That’s what I’m telling everybody and kind of go with the flow. If you can be a spontaneous traveler, that’s even better.
Climate Change and Travel
Have you seen any effects of climate change in person, and how can people travel more responsibly?
Yes. When someone says that I don’t get it or don’t see it open your eyes. I can’t even imagine how you couldn’t. It’s affecting our travel to Iceland. It’s affecting travel to various pristine places like Machu Picchu, where they’re going to start placing orders to get there. The Galapagos Islands are trying to keep the natural habitat and limit any travel to those places.
When we go to a place like Machu Picchu or Belize, I tell my travelers when we’re using those foreign shampoos and foreign soaps and introducing them into an ecosystem that is not used to it; you are affecting that ecosystem. I want my travelers to be mindful of those things. Depending on which trip we’re going on, I always make sure that I give them that information and educate my travelers on the place we are going to. All of those things matter.
What are your top 3 predictions for travel in 2022?
It’s going to be more expensive in 2022. You’re going to have to be mindful that customer service or available services will be limited in the places you’re visiting. Americans won’t be welcome in all areas around the world like you once were.