Northsiders ready to start traveling despite Covid requirements
Jackson area residents are beginning to travel again as destinations begin to reopen and COVID-19 vaccinations continue across the world, report local travel agents.
“At VIP Travel, we are seeing more people considering the idea of taking a much-needed vacation and comfortable booking travel throughout the world,” said Joanne Wilson, owner of VIP Travel in Jackson.
According to a recent Virtuoso survey, more people are willing to travel now than just a few months ago. The travel survey revealed that 100 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds and more than 50 percent of those 41 years and older are ready to hit the road, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals be fully vaccinated to travel internationally. International travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants, according to the CDC.
Keep in mind that anyone returning from an international destination to the United States is required by the CDC to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the three calendar days of departure or documentation of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recovery for all passengers two years of age and over prior to boarding. Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery.
Tonya Morgan Barber of Madison was among a group of 68 people who celebrated their students’ graduation from Madison-Ridgeland Academy with a trip in May to the Dominican Republic, where they stayed at the resort, Dreams Macao Beach Punta Cana.
“With the Dominican Republic, you don’t have to have a Covid test for entry,” she said. “You just fill out an immigration form and health screening. We did that before and got a QR code on our phones to use. Customs went superfast.”
Barber, a Virtuoso certified travel advisor, planned the trip and handled details for the group. Their resort offered the COVID testing they need to return to the U.S., she said.
“All of the people we encountered during our trip helpful, kind, patient and made it a wonderful experience to be there,” she said, noting that everyone she came across seemed happy that travel was open.
Morgan said she also planned a trip for a group of graduates from Jackson Prep to the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory southeast of the Bahamas. Travelers in that group had to submit online proof of negative COVID tests and travel insurance to get into the country.
Many resorts offer complimentary, on-site COVID-19 testing for the convenience of their guests, said Vickie Greenlee, owner of For Travelers Only in Ridgeland.
“A lot of the suppliers like Delta Vacations won’t represent a hotel unless they have testing available,” she said.
While a traveler who tests positive for the virus would face a delayed return to the U.S., that’s not a situation Greenlee is aware of that any of her clients have faced. Barber said she has not heard of any of her clients testing positive for the virus and facing delayed returns.
Worth noting: The State Department announced that passports that expired on or after Jan. 1, 2021 will be honored for re-entry into the U.S. through Dec. 31. The coronavirus pandemic caused consulates and embassies across the globe to cut back staffing and led to a backlog of passport service appointments.
Keep in mind that travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico does not require a passport because they are part of the U.S., Greenlee said.
Because rules and regulations change daily and vary from country to country, using a travel agent to book a trip can be especially useful, agree Wilson, Greenlee and Barber.
Mexico and the Caribbean are among popular choices primarily because of the less rigorous requirements in traveling to these destinations, Greenlee said.
All-inclusive resorts in Cancun, Mexico are especially popular with Jackson area residents celebrating high school graduations, she said.
“Cancun is beautiful, clean and nice,” she said. “You can take a direct flight from Dallas or Houston to Cancun.”
Travelers to Mexico will need a passport and must complete a health declaration form but there are no testing or quarantine requirements for entry, Wilson said. Visitors should anticipate health screening protocols upon arrival, including temperature checks and may be asked to complete additional health questionnaires by their hotel or resort, she said.
Many of the Caribbean islands have different sets of rules and protocol before entry to their countries, Wilson said. Several of the islands require proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days prior to arrival and a completion of a health questionnaire that has to be uploaded and returned to the tourism board at the country being visited.
Greece and Iceland reopened early to travelers and are popular destinations, Greenlee said. Greece is allowing quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travelers who can provide results of a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.
Iceland has proven so popular with travelers that it’s nearly impossible to visit because it’s tough to book accommodations, Greenlee said. “I have a couple wanting to go see the Northern Lights but everything was booked.”
Greenlee recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the lobbying efforts of the American Society of Travel Advisors for the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act , which would set the framework for Alaska cruises to restart. President Biden is expected to sign it into law.
Restarting cruises to Alaska would not only help Alaska’s economy but also that of Seattle, where many cruises originate, and travel agents, she said.
Welcomed news, Wilson said, is that much of Europe will open to fully vaccinated travelers just in time for summer travel. It has been over 15 months since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and borders have been closed to non-essential travelers.
Not all European countries are open to travel just yet, and you will have to wait a bit longer to visit some popular destinations, she said, but travelers can start the planning process in anticipation of these countries opening their borders in the near future.
Current travel requirements to open countries in Europe include proof of vaccination against the coronavirus as well as a negative COVID-19 test result taken a few days prior to travel.
France targeted June 9 as the date for its reopening to Americans, Wilson said. Top attractions such as the iconic Louvre Museum and Paris' famous cafes have already reopened with the Eiffel Tower and other popular sites set to open later this summer.
Italy has reopened to U.S. leisure travelers who arrive in the country on a COVID-tested flight, Wilson said. Travelers must get tested before departure and again on arrival, regardless of vaccination status. They will not have to quarantine but must take an antigen swab test within 48 hours of arrival.
Spain was scheduled to reopen to all vaccinated travelers on June 7, Wilson said. American Airlines is already operating daily flights to Barcelona and Madrid.
United Kingdom arrivals must provide a negative test taken within the past 72 hours, and complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK, Wilson said.
The United States is currently on the United Kingdom's "amber" list, which means even fully vaccinated visitors are required to test negative for COVID-19 before travel, book and pay for day two and day eight COVID-19 travel tests to be taken after arrival and complete a passenger locator form.
Barber said many of her clients have pushed back trips to Europe to 2022 to ensure the countries are fully open. Her travel plans include Spain in 2022 and Greece in 2023.
Cruise lines have begun to make plans to resume operations out of a U.S. port, Greenlee said.
The Celebrity Edge is set to sail out of Port Everglades in Florida on June 26 for a seven-night cruise around the Caribbean. Celebrity will require passengers over the age of 16 to be vaccinated fully against COVID-19. Starting in August, that mandate will extend to travelers 12 years and older.