Next year is lining up to be a record-breaker for the travel industry, better even than pre-pandemic levels.
But the travel landscape has changed so much in the last two years, in some unexpected ways. And as an industry, we need to band together to make sure the experience is what people are expecting.
On the plus side, the travelers that have hit the road over the past year are experiencing some of the world’s most desirable destinations like never before. Shorter lines, VIP access, and in some cases the best deals ever. But then there’s the process of traveling itself – the new nuts and bolts of transportation in the age of COVID-19 – that every tourist needs to be aware of.
Here at AAA, our travel advisors are SmartDepart certified to help members navigate these ever-changing protocols, taking the guesswork out of planning that next adventure.
I just returned from an amazing family vacation in Turks and Caicos. And even though I’m a travel-industry professional with 20 years of experience, I must admit, the process was still daunting.
Like many countries, Turks and Caicos requires travelers to apply for travel authorization. What does that mean? Prior to heading to the airport, you need to upload the following documents for review: a negative COVID-19 test from an accredited laboratory, taken within 72 hours of your scheduled arrival; proof of medical/travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical costs including quarantine coverage; and a completed health screening questionnaire.
Once you upload your documents, you wait for clearance – in this case a green check mark to show that I am TCI Assured.
When you get clearance it’s a huge sigh of relief. Still, a traveler could do everything right and not get that green check. While my family and I were checking in our bags at the airport, we had a family on each side of us that did not have the proper documentation to board their flight. Imagine the letdown, planning, packing, and then arriving at the airport to be denied boarding.
Or the shock on some tourists’ faces when they get a positive COVID test and are forced to cancel at the last moment. The scenario isn’t wildly uncommon and brings us to my next point: The importance of trip cancellation insurance, one of the most overlooked and misunderstood methods of protection.
Many people think they don’t need trip insurance, given how much the regulations are in flux. Sure, airlines and travel suppliers have some of the most flexible terms but that does not cover everything. Travelers figure it won’t be a problem to make a change at the last minute — after all, it’s not like the world’s airports and hotels are bursting at the seams these days.
But look at the airline industry to see how important it is to have trip cancellation insurance. Staffing shortages and flight-pattern changes have led to many unexpected re-bookings. Without trip insurance, there’s a chance you won’t get your money back.
Trip cancellations and interruptions can come with a lot of additional stress and expenses. Travel insurance will give you that peace of mind and help you with those added costs. So, all you need to do is a little planning — an ounce of prevention — to save you from the potential of many headaches. Working with a trusted travel advisor is the key.
It may sound overwhelming at first but the pay-off is immense. Locals are so happy to have tourists back in their country that you’re treated like royalty. And they try to make the whole process as easy as possible.
When I arrived at my hotel, a rapid COVID test for my return trip had automatically been booked with an on-site nurse for 72 hours before my departure. For places without an on-site nurse, a hotel in London for instance, you’ll receive a list of nearby clinics and pharmacies to make an appointment when you arrive.
As we packed up to leave Turks and Caicos, we had the same feeling as we’d have any time we came back from vacation in the past: Where are we going next?
And as any traveler knows, nothing makes that return journey more enjoyable than planning your next adventure.
Need help planning your vacation or have questions about traveling? Our Travel Advisors are here to help.
Chuck Nardozza is managing director of travel sales at AAA Northeast.