Earlier this month, I was invited to speak about travel via Zoom video call with future residents of The Mather Tysons, a modern community for ages 62+ that is under development in Tysons Corner. I am a huge fan of their sophisticated, amenity-rich concept that embraces living well in so many facets.
Let me tell you, the audience on the Zoom presentation was very well-traveled, with inspiring travel experiences from Bhutan to the Galapagos and many places in between. The questions asked at the end of the presentation were also very thought provoking. Since many of these same questions are on a lot of travelers’ minds these days, I wanted to share them with you, along with my answers in greater detail.
1. Where is it safe to travel to now?
I’m always wary of advising on whether a particular destination is “safe.” At any time, there is a level of risk when you leave your home. Whether you are comfortable with or how you manage a particular risk calculation is a very personal question. I advise my clients to review the State Department’s travel guidance, as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel health information. Both of these official sources maintain websites with country-specific information that is updated regularly. Of course, you also need to take stock of your personal health and other factors that are individual to you, as well as where you are coming from and the current world situation.
That all said, I know people want to hear information on specific destinations that are currently open to travelers, so here are some that stand out:
[Note 12/4/2020: The CDC updated their COVID-19 risk assessment levels this week, essentially eliminating Level 0, and thereby bumping up the numbering of the other levels. These are the new CDC assessment designations: "Level Unknown - COVID-19 unknown," "Level 1 - COVID-19 Low," "Level 2 - COVID-19 Moderate," "Level 3 - COVID-19 High," and "Level 4 - COVID-19 Very High." As case numbers both in the United States and abroad change daily, and because of the change in CDC assessment designations, the below listed levels have changed. Using the new CDC designation system, Bermuda is now a Level 1, Saint Lucia is 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is 1, and Tahiti/French Polynesia is 4. No doubt these country designations will continue to change, though I will leave this article here as is for future look-back purposes.]
Close to the East Coast, Bermuda currently has no CDC travel health notice ("COVID-19 risk is very low"), and has reopened to visitors. Not surprisingly, Bermuda has laid out precise COVID-19 entry and travel protocols that must be strictly followed to help protect the health of Bermuda's residents and visitors.
In the Caribbean, the island of Saint Lucia has set up defined, thorough travel protocols and has maintained fairly low infection numbers (they rank at a Level 2, “COVID-19 risk is moderate"), per the CDC). Saint Vincent and the Grenadines currently ranks at Level 1 ("COVID-19 risk is low") per the CDC's system; their traveler testing and quarantine requirements are quite strict for travelers arriving from the U.S. and other designated countries.
Though COVID-19 cases have seen a recent uptick there, I applaud The Islands of Tahiti for the thoroughness and consistency of their health protocols since their reopening in July. The Tahitian tourism sector has also coordinated a strong effort to provide travelers with additional flexibility in case travel plans need to change.
Hawai’i has implemented new travel protocols under their program, “Safe Travels Hawai’i.” These protocols include the requirement of a pre-travel COVID-19 NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) from trusted testing and travel partners. A negative test result now means that you may enter Hawai’i without being subject to the state’s 14-day quarantine program. Of course, while in the islands, you must adhere to local health guidelines.
Lastly, I would suggest that now is a good opportunity to be a tourist in your own town.
2. Where can one go for a getaway within driving distance of the Washington, D.C. metro area?
There are plenty of fun or luxury getaway options within driving distance of D.C. I have compiled a downloadable list of some favorite close-to-home ideas here.
3. What exactly is an electrostatic sprayer and how does it work?
Electrostatic sprayers are being used by some airlines, hotels, and other venues to sanitize spaces, in addition to more traditional cleaning and disinfecting methods. The sprayers are typically shoebox- or larger-sized portable units with a sprayer nozzle (they have a bit of a "Ghostbusters"-inspired look).
By applying a positive charge to the disinfectant solution as it passes through the nozzle, the electrostatic sprayer disperses a surface disinfecting product throughout a large space or in a space with many surfaces to clean. Thus electrostatically charged, the fine mist of disinfectant is attracted to negatively charged surfaces, allowing for a quick and thorough application of the disinfectant. At Delta Airlines (who have shown themselves to be a leader in innovating for greater cleanliness), for example, electrostatic fogging is being performed before every flight.
4. When will travel truly return?
This is a hard question, but I do have some hopeful predictions for the coming year. With a new emphasis on health and cleanliness, the travel industry has made significant advances in health-promoting measures as the world awaits more news about effective vaccines. In my opinion, the better we follow the latest public health guidance, testing, and health and safety protocols, whether at home or when traveling, the sooner we will see travel’s big comeback. I have no crystal ball, but my hope is that next spring will see a robust return to travel, and I am optimistically confident that next summer will be very positive for international travel.
My advice for now is to continue to dream about, plan, and book future travel, but with flexibility built in smartly. I strongly recommend that you work with a certified, caring, and knowledgeable travel advisor (ahem!) who puts your interests first. Additionally, I suggest good travel insurance to protect your investment and provide coverage in case of the unexpected.
5. Why the name “Bluetail Travel”?
I get this question surprisingly often! There are a few reasons. First, my husband’s first flying squadron in the Air Force had blue tail flashes on the planes. Second, I absolutely love the color blue (and what it stands for: trust, stability, the color of the ocean and the sky) and had to have it in my company name in some way. Third, the motif of a fish swimming away, swishing its tropical blue tail as it goes off in search of a new adventure speaks to me: it’s a nice image for travel. If you look closely at Bluetail Travel’s “B” logo, you will see the incorporation of some of these ideas.
There were a couple more questions during the Zoom call that had to do with one of my favorite topics, packing, but I will dedicate a full article to that fun subject next month. Until then,
Happy Travels Always,
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Photo credits: Woman on swing and globe photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash, photo of airplane wing by Ross Parmly on Unsplash.