Two of the biggest travel holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are just around the corner, and travelers are debating whether they should meet up with friends and family. An infectious disease specialist encourages everyone to assess what they consider is an acceptable amount of risk in their lives, and follow precautions accordingly.
Holiday Travel Tips From an Infectious Disease Specialist
From Getting a Flu Shot to Quarantining Before Gathering, Catherine Le, MD, Says the 2020 Holidays Are All About Reducing Risk
Newswise — LOS ANGELES (Nov. 19, 2020) — With the two biggest travel holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – around the corner, many are debating whether they should gather with family and friends as usual.
“There is no easy solution,” says Cedars-Sinai infectious disease specialist Catherine Le, MD. “When my patients ask me if it’s safe to travel or spend time together with loved ones, I talk to them about risk mitigation and encourage them to find what they consider is an acceptable amount of risk in their lives.”
This year is coming quickly coming to an end, and there are some hopeful signs for travel and Globe Aware volunteers. This includes more widely available testing, safe destination openings without needing travelers to quarantine for long, and new vaccines on the horizon.
11 Trending Destinations for 2021, According to Internet Searches
Expedia’s 2021 Travel Trends report breaks down the most-searched destinations.
November 11, 2020
BY JESSICA PUCKETT
As 2020 winds to a close, there are hopeful signs for travel amid the pandemic: Tests for COVID-19 are more widely available, destinations are finding ways to safely reopen without needing travelers to quarantine for two weeks, and a vaccine might finally be on the horizon.
On November 9 it was announced that one of the candidates for a Covid-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, was over 90% in preventing volunteers from contracting the virus. This is great news for Globe Aware, our communities & volunteers, and look forward to safe travels in 2021 for everyone.
How a Covid-19 vaccine could change travel for good
Julia Buckley CNN 16th November 2020
It was the good news that gave the world hope.
On November 9 it was announced that one of the candidates for a Covid-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, was over 90% effective in preventing volunteers from contracting the virus.
The beleaguered travel industry immediately got a boost, with airline and cruise company share prices rallying, and tour operators seeing upticks in searches and bookings for 2021. Finally, it feels as if vacations might be in our future.
But will travel post-vaccine go back to how things were, or has your vacation been irrevocably changed?
For starters, it’ll be a while before we know the answer to that, says travel specialist Dr. Felicity Nicholson, lead doctor at Trailfinders Travel Clinic in the UK.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before things come back to some degree of normality, but it’ll take quite a long time,” she says.
“At the moment, travel is way down the pecking order of vaccination.” She says that countries will first be looking to vaccinate the vulnerable, then healthworkers and keyworkers, before making inroads into the general population. That’s not to mention the practical issues around the transportation and storage of the Pfizer vaccination, meaning that if that’s the one that wins the race, it could take even longer to distribute.
“We should be encouraged but understand it’s unlikely to be as rapid as governments are suggesting,” she says.
“If they can find a way to transport it properly (it needs to be stored at minus 70 C, or minus 94 F), it could be early next year before things start to get going. Countries whose economies are based on tourism will be desperate to get people back and moving, but most people (in the travel industry) aren’t hopeful that things will really pick up until the fall of 2021.”
And don’t assume that once a vaccination program starts rolling out, you can jump on the next plane, whether or not you’ve had it. Nicholson reckons that proof of vaccination might become advisory, or even mandatory, for destinations.
An international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) — which travelers must carry to enter certain countries which mandate a yellow fever vaccination, or to exit those with high polio risk — could be the next addition to your travel kit.
“I think we’ll have a formal certificate, either online or on paper, showing that you’ve been vaccinated at a recognized, accredited clinic, as we do for yellow fever,” she says.
“It’ll be the destination demanding it — and that could be everyone.
“Most countries where there’s a vulnerable or older population will certainly be demanding proof because we know how devastating the disease can be.”
Making up for lost time
So, you’ve had your jab, and are carrying your certificate — what next?
Well, you might be off on the trip of a lifetime, according to tour operators.
John Bevan, CEO of Dnata Travel Group, which owns brands Travelbag, Travel Republic and Netflights as well as trade brand Gold Medal, says that there’s been a noticeable uptick in bookings since news of the vaccine was announced.
And of those who can afford to go abroad next year, many are splashing out, he says, with the average booking value increasing by about 20% this week, compared to pre-Covid times. “People didn’t get a vacation this year, so they’re treating themselves. They’re booking higher category rooms, and we’re seeing more family groups, too,” he says. Netflights just took a booking for a group of 19 people to go to Dubai for Easter 2021.
Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury tour operator Black Tomato, agrees.
“People have desperately missed the chance to travel, and want something to look forward to,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘That first trip, I’m going to make it special’.”
The demand for something out of the ordinary is so strong that in October the company launched a new lineup of once-in-a-lifetime trips, Journeys to Come — anything from seeing the solar eclipse in Patagonia to swimming with whales under the midnight sun in Iceland. “We wanted to create something to make people say, ‘That’ll get me through these challenging times’,” he says.
Interestingly, in what he thinks might be a “Biden bounce,” Bevan says his brands have seen a triple-digit growth in trips to the US for next year, from May onwards. The Maldives and the UAE are other popular destinations for Europeans wanting to escape next year — he earmarks Dubai in particular as a destination that’s working hard to get tourists safely back, and also predicts the Caribbean will do very well.
However, he thinks Australia and New Zealand will be off-limits until the last quarter of 2021.
Marchant says his clients are starting to look towards Asia — although he thinks that the typical country-hopping trip through Southeast Asia will be off the cards for a while, because of the bureaucracy of testing and certificates at every border or on every flight.
“Instead of hopping around, I think people will just go to a couple of places and really immerse themselves, and I think that’s really positive,” he says. “There’ll be a shift in how people enjoy places — it won’t be just box-ticking anymore.”
For the same reason, he thinks that multiple weekend breaks will be replaced by longer, two-week trips.
Bucket list safaris
However, it’s not all plain sailing yet. According to Nigel Vere Nicoll, president of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), the trade body for travel to sub-Saharan Africa, the biggest problem with travel in 2021 won’t have anything to do with a vaccine — it’ll be to do with flight availability.
This is particularly the case for this part of the continent, which has just three main international hubs: Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Johannesburg. South African Airways, based at the latter, are currently not flying, while Kenya Airways is hoping for a cash injection from the government. Ethiopian Airlines, however, is expanding.
“From there, you have to get an extra flight and domestic airlines have cut back,” says Vere Nicoll. “And airlines won’t increase flights unless they’re sure there’s enough business. It’ll take time but we have to support them.
“The vaccine is a very, very exciting step — the first brick in rebuilding everything — but I can’t see it rolling out until the middle of next year.” For what it’s worth, he doesn’t think African countries — which have emerged relatively unscathed by the pandemic — will mandate the vaccine for travelers.
Safari destinations have been particularly hard hit by the collapse of tourism, with poaching on the rise in national parks, and economic devastation for those working in lodges.
And “grossly unfair” travel bans from the likes of the UK government — who impose a two-week quarantine on travelers coming from any African country, most of which have seen under 1,000 deaths from the virus, compared to the UK’s 50,000 — haven’t helped.
And yet, Vere Nicoll says that the future could be bright for those looking for the holiday of a lifetime. “The Great Migration was better this year than it has been for years, and there are great initiatives going on — people have used this time to get tourism ready for when we come.” And, of course, a safari trip is largely outdoors.
Champing at the bit to get to Europe
Are there any destinations which have been so marred by the virus that we won’t want to go there for a while?
Despite the US heading up the league table of Covid-19 deaths, from John Bevan’s data it appears that visitors are keen to get there — he thinks that could be optimism regarding the Biden administration’s pledge to curb the virus.
But he warns that Europe, which has been in the center of the pandemic, may not be so attractive to travelers from countries who’ve controlled it better.
However, Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), disagrees.
“The response to being told you can’t do something is to want to do it, so if you’ve not been to Europe for a year, you’ll want to go to Europe,” he says.
“You’ll never see it this empty, you’ll never see prices this competitive, you’ll never have this experience again. There’s real latent demand.”
He says that tour operators are already looking at a relatively good year, with plenty of trips postponed from 2020 to 2021, and search engine data showing big interest in travel to Europe from other continents.
And with numbers not expected to recover until 2022, the continent will be emptier than it has been in many of our lifetimes.
However, he warns that “there’s no momentum in the market” — nobody traveling to Europe and inspiring people to follow them. Post-vaccine, it’ll all hinge on the airlines to lay on flights, and the destinations making sure they’re ready to go. “Cities bounce back fairly quickly but it may not be that straightforward,” he says.
Even with a potential vaccine, John Bevan thinks that the travel experience itself will have changed — particularly at the airport, where he thinks airlines will move to a largely touchless experience.
On board, he thinks the Covid-induced rule of deplaning row by row will continue — and that’s a great thing.
“I flew on EasyJet to Greece in August and it was immaculate — they made us stay seated till the row in front had got off, and there wasn’t that horrendous bunfight. It was so calming,” he says.
And at the other end, he thinks the restrictions on buffets, with staff doling out the food, will stay “till people feel more comfortable.” Ditto keeping our personal space — “I think we’ll be more careful for a long time,” he says. “I can’t see us hugging or shaking hands with people we don’t know for quite a while.”
Flexibility is here to stay
One good thing to come out of the pandemic? Flexibility. Many deals on offer for 2021 are fully flexible, and it looks like that will continue, at least in the short to medium term.
“The industry has handled the refunds (from earlier in the pandemic) with various degrees of effectiveness, and I think the consumer is going to be far more mindful of what they’re booking and what they expect,” says Tom Marchant.
“Suppliers should be able to offer flexibility, and the customer will expect transparency.”
Under a new policy, Black Tomato is offering a full refund up to 30 days before departure on most new bookings — and although Marchant won’t be drawn on how long that’ll last, he says, “I don’t see it as a flash in the pan.”
Bevan agrees, and reckons flexibility is how the industry will recover. For the traveler, he says, the flexibility that airlines are currently offering means that there’s “not a huge amount of risk” for those wanting to book. His only caveat — he advises would-be travelers to book as soon as they see a deal with flexible terms, because airline capacity will still be low in 2021.
A wakeup call for us all
Other upsides might emerge from the pandemic, too.
Dr. Nicholson thinks that the resources poured into the vaccine effort will benefit the fight against other diseases — and predicts better vaccinations for viruses including Ebola.
And she thinks travelers’ own attitudes towards health while on the road will improve.
“People are much more aware of infectious diseases now,” she says, adding that, before the pandemic, the number of travelers who booked a pre-trip consultation was pretty low. “Before, they might have gone abroad without consulting anyone. (If the vaccine is mandatory) they’ll have to come in for a consultation and we can talk to them about other risks in that destination.
“In western countries, we tend to be cavalier, but perhaps people will respect how serious viruses can be now.
“Everyone’s had a wake-up call and learned about virology, and that can only help.”
Different Air Travel Options for Thanksgiving Holiday
Airlines in the U.S. are trying to be as varied as possible. They are offering potential travelers different options to fly during the upcoming all-important holiday season that starts Nov. 23 with Thanksgiving week.
US Carriers Offering Varied Options for Thanksgiving Holiday Travel
RICH THOMASELLI NOVEMBER 10, 2020
U.S. airlines are trying to be as varied as possible, offering potential travelers different options to fly during the upcoming all-important holiday season that starts Nov. 23 with Thanksgiving week.
The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s has always been lucrative for the airlines, and many – United included – are hoping it continues to be just that in the face of a new surge of coronavirus cases across the country. Many carriers are projecting that the week of Nov. 23 will be its busiest since March, according to Fox Business.
United, in fact, says it’s adding more than 1,400 domestic flights during the week of Thanksgiving.
But it’s more than that. JetBlue is adding 25 flights from the New York Cita area to Florida, California and markets in the Caribbean including Port-au-Prince, San Juan, Santiago and Santo Domingo. American Airlines told FOX Business Monday that the carrier will also increase its flights from Nov. 24- 25 and Nov. 28 – 30.
“During the Thanksgiving holiday, we will increase our flying by approximately 15% compared to the rest of the month, from an average of 3,500 flights to more than 4,000 flights,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Fox Business.
Delta will also be increasing capacity around the holidays with over 3,800 peak-day flights during Thanksgiving.
Air travel has been picking up since dropping in April to just six percent of what capacity was at the time last year. it is now slowly on the rise but still only had 40 percent, and could use the much-needed boost that holiday travel would bring.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that customers continue to gain confidence in booking travel, in response to expert medical research on the safety of air travel and Delta’s multi-layered approach of cleanliness, space and safer service through the Delta CareStandard,” a Delta spokesperson told FOX Business.
In addition, United will also monitor last minute bookings in the event that the company needs “to swap in larger aircraft” to accommodate for the last-minute demand.
December is the holiday season, and there are plenty of places you can visit to slough off the stress of the year and immerse yourself in feel-good festivities. This includes the Globe Aware location of Puerto Rico.
Best Places to Travel in December
Destinations to consider for this winter, or to be bookmarked for next year.
BY MARK ELLWOOD October 30, 2020 CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER
December is the holiday season, and there are plenty of places you can visit to slough off the stress of the year and immerse yourself in feel-good festivities. If frosted trees and mulled wine leave you cold, there are several warm-weather getaways we’d suggest, including Caribbean nations reopening after closing their borders for much of 2020.
If you’re staying domestic, check entry requirements at each state you’re visiting—and what your home state guidelines are when you return. If you’re comfortable traveling overseas, make sure to check the CDC guidelines on your destination. Remember, as well, to update your travel insurance, ensuring that the coverage you have will apply during the pandemic, whether it’s a standalone policy or insurance that’s bundled with one of many travel-focused credit cards. And if you’re not quite ready to travel yet, bookmark this list for a potential getaway next year.
The British Virgin Islands
Three years ago, much of the BVI was devastated by the arrival of Hurricane Irma, the first of two category 5 hurricanes to tear through the Leeward Islands that fall. No wonder, then, that it took more than two years for many of the resorts to rebuild—only to find themselves stymied by pandemic-related border closures. On December 1, though, the country reopens to foreign visitors again, following protocols that the government is still workshopping at the time of writing (check for updates here). Once there, you’ll be able to indulge at one of the ultra-luxury resorts, many of which sit on their own private islands. Richard Branson’s Necker Island is arguably the most famous, freshly reconstructed with an emphasis on sustainability. New wind turbines join the existing solar farm so that the resort runs on 90 percent renewable energy. Even the staff uniforms are made from recycled plastic. It’s also available now on a non-exclusive basis, for groups renting eight or more rooms; before it required a total buyout. Traveling solo or in a couple? Consider booking an individual room at Guana, the 850-acre island close to Tortola, instead.
Locals claim that this Caribbean island has the longest holiday season in the world, lasting a full two months. Christmas celebrations kick off the moment Thanksgiving has wrapped and continue well into January, usually capped by the San Sebastian Street Festival. But since there’s no visa required, no currency difference, or even roaming charges, why not move here and work remotely for a stint? On weekends, you’ll be able to explore some of the island’s al fresco spaces, from the El Yunque National Forest (now accessible via reservation, to prevent overcrowding) to ToroVerde Adventure Park. Hop on a 30-minute ferry from the east coast town of Ceiba to Vieques, where you can plunge into the bioluminescent bay or sunbathe on black sand at Playa Negrita. However long the stay, all visitors must follow COVID-19 safety protocols, as mandated by the local tourism authority: requirements are outlined here.
St Louis, Missouri
St. Louis has embraced its role as one of America’s yuletide capitals ever since it was serenaded by Judy Garland at the end of Meet Me in St. Louis more than 75 years ago. The Polar Express-themed train ride at Union Station will feature a visit with Santa this year, although the trains will remain stationary in 2020 to help maintain social distancing; if you go, book a spot at one of six pancake breakfasts with Santa this December. The $187 million makeover of the grand terminal has seen the waiting room and its surroundings reborn as an upscale hotel from Curio Collection by Hilton. Meanwhile, a historically protected section at the back has been repurposed as a family entertainment complex, complete with the city’s first big wheel (take a turn for a great view of the Arch on the horizon). Don’t miss the St. Louis Aquarium, either, and its main draw, Lord Stanley, an incredibly rare, naturally blue lobster rescued from the boiling pot to live here as unofficial mascot.
The Hamptons, New York
Forget summer—that’s amateur hour in the Hamptons. Insiders head to the tip of Long Island off season, when it’s quieter, calmer, and frankly, far more glamorous. In winter, most parking permits at the beaches are effectively suspended, so you can explore the coastline freely. Dress warmly and wander the deserted Georgica Beach in East Hampton or Southampton’s Coopers Beach, where the dunes are fringed by grand old mansions. It’s a smart time to go surfing if you can stomach the cold, too; conditions are often more consistent on good days, even if those are less frequent than at peak season. Montauk, of course, is the surfer HQ and the opportunity to surf Point Break at Montauk Point is a winter-only bonus, as it’s reserved for fishing much of the year. Go wine-tasting at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard; it’s renowned for rosé but also makes some hearty reds, ideal for chilly winter evenings. Among the hotels that remain open year-round, the pick of them is undoubtedly Gurney’s Montauk, which offers heated igloos for up to four people in exchange for a $25 donation per head to local charities. New York’s Executive Order 205 mandates 14-day quarantine for arrivals from a rolling list of states with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. It is regularly updated here.
South Lake Tahoe, California
After carefully adjusting activities to allow for social distancing, resorts are beginning another season in late November. North Lake Tahoe is charming, if a little sleepy, but the southern rim of the lake is livelier and more energetic. It’s equal parts après-ski and mountain runs—all of them operating in safe ways, thanks to the careful efforts of local authorities, outlined here. Tube Tahoe is a new asset this season, focusing on family-friendly runs from Tahoe Paradise Golf Course. For grown-ups, there’s also an ice skating rink at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort, complete with a mobile Veuve Clicquot bar to toast the season after you kick off your skates. Edgewood’s an ideal base for overnighting, too, as it’s close to Heavenly Mountain, one of the best ski complexes, with almost 100 runs across four base facilities. The 235-acre, 154-room resort sits right on the waterfront; get up early, and take a brisk morning stroll along the area’s only private beach.
Hawaii acted swiftly in the early days of the pandemic, aiming to tamp down its case levels by enacting a stringent 14-day quarantine on any visitors to the island, whether American or international. After careful consideration, it has lifted that regulation, albeit with testing protocols in place (find the latest requirements here). Just in time, too, as whale-watching season kicks off in December. By one estimate, two thirds of the North Pacific humpback population will be on the move, and there’s nowhere better to glimpse them than the shallow ‘Au‘au Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Hawaii’s outdoorsy appeal is only re-emphasized in the pandemic era, with the chance to take bracing hikes—the Pipiwai Trail is a four-mile long cardio workout—as well as explore places like Hamoa Beach on the east coast, which is a family-friendly place to swim. The best overnighting option, of course, is the number one resort in Hawaii per this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards: the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, set on 15 waterfront acres with direct access to Mokapu Beach.
Curaçao has allowed Americans to visit for some time, but there’s been a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival. That changes in December, when Tri-State residents (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut) can skip that process by providing a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of traveling. In response, flights are restarting from the area: United’s first direct from Newark on December 7, and JetBlue out of JFK two days later. A rugged, outdoorsy island, Curaçao is set up for social distancing, with plenty of options for bikers or hikers to choose from. (Head up to the peak of Mount Christoffel for a view of Venezuela on a clear day.) There are beaches, too—this is the Caribbean, after all—most of them cove-like and tucked away. Ditch a resort and follow the local habit of camping on the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao, just eight miles off the main island’s southeast coast. A short boat ride away, you can pitch a tent on the beach or string a hammock between the trees; even better, the snorkel and scuba diving is top tier with its sparkling coral and underwater caves.
Death Valley, California
There are only eight Gold Tier International Dark Sky Parks in America, denoting a location so free of light pollution that the Milky Way is visible with the naked eye. One of them is Death Valley, where the dry air and isolation make it seem like the universe is right on your doorstep. Stargazing isn’t the only after-dark activity here, either: Take a moonlit horse ride, or dip in one of the pools filled by natural springs that keep the water at a balmy 84.5 degrees, even on a crisp winter night. You’ll find those pools at the Oasis at Death Valley, a sprawling, multi-site resort built here in the 1920s and once popular with Golden Age A-listers like Clark Gable. It underwent a $100 million dollar renovation barely a year ago that upgraded its room amenities significantly. For families, the rooms that open directly onto the outdoors at The Ranch at Death Valley are particularly appealing. At the time of writing, there are no regulations restricting out-of-state visitors, but always check the quarantine mandates for when you arrive back in your home state. Though it’s located in California, the best access point by plane is Las Vegas, a two-hour drive away.
There’s a newfound energy in Oklahoma’s second largest city—and one that doesn’t rely on oil. Recent additions include a neon sign park, nodding to its place on the iconic Route 66 (the longest drivable stretch slices right past Tulsa), as well as upgraded dining, including a 10-course tasting menu at FarmBar, the restaurant offshoot of a local farm and dairy. For the holidays, head to the Winter Wonderland at Tulsa’s fun park, Gathering Place, masterminded by some erstwhile Disney Imagineers. Oklahoma did not issue comprehensive pandemic-related guidelines, but Tulsa’s metropolitan authority has mandated mask-wearing and social distancing; read the full Tulsa Safely protocols here. Tulsa is keen to turn one-time visitors into long-term locals, so if you’re curious to make it a permanent home after a trip, check out Tulsa Remote, a program that incentivizes at-home workers to move here with a $10,000 grant.
Machu Picchu, located in Cusco, will officially reopen its doors to international travelers, under a series of health rules and protocols. Our Globe Aware Peru program offers a separate tour to the famous Inca grounds, but requires booking ahead of time.
Peru: Machu Picchu reopens its doors to national and foreign tourists
The emblematic Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, located in the Andean region of Cusco, will officially reopen its doors to national and foreign tourists today, under a series of health rules and protocols —after being closed for almost eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expectations caused by the reopening of this tourist jewel was so colossal that it caused entrance tickets —valid for local and national tourists thru November 15— to sell out fast.
The emotion —without any doubt— is immense, because tourism in Machu Picchu will officially resume, after a first attempt in July, which was discarded since coronavirus infections continued to increase in Cusco —the region hosting the citadel.
Since Machu Picchu opened its doors for tourism purposes in 1948, it had only closed for two months in 2010, when a flood destroyed the railway from Cusco.
The numbers registered in Machu Picchu —declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 9, 1983— were impressive.
Before the pandemic began in Peru last March, between 2,000 and 3,000 people used to enter the citadel per day and in high season up to 5,000.
That month, on the last day of visits, 2,500 people were registered in the area.
According to the protocol established to prevent the spread of COVID-19, daily access to the world wonder will be limited to 675 visitors per day —30% of the total authorized number in a normal season.
Visitors must enter the archaeological park in groups of 8 guests —including a guide— and must comply with social distancing of 1.5 to 2 meters.
Likewise, each sightseer must wear a face mask, avoid crowds, and have his/her temperature measured to verify that he/she do not have a fever, as part of the biosafety protocols at this stage of the new normality.
The official reopening ceremony will kick off today at 6:00 p.m. (local time).