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From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

I miss traveling.

I haven’t spent this much time at home in over two decades. It’s had to know what’s right to do at the moment: can we fly somewhere? Drive? Is it best to just stay home, or is it important to get into new surroundings if only for your mental health? I can’t answer these questions for you– it an individual choice we all must make ourselves.

Of course, people are traveling. That’s why I’ve been reaching out to a few travel experts who’ve embarked on trips in the last few months. Whether by car or air, their boots on the ground experience give insight into what it feels like to travel right now. From embarking on a cross-country road trip, to Disney World and the beaches of Bora Bora, here’s what it’s like to travel in the Covid era.

 

Darric Terry – The Travel Hunk

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Darric Terry, traveler and television host, explores the world, engrossing himself in the vast culture and thrill-seeking adventures that every country has to offer.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

Are you currently in Bora Bora? I’m so jealous! What inspired that trip?
Yes! I’m currently on the beautiful island of Bora Bora. There are actually a couple of reasons that we chose to go on this trip. First of all, I wanted to go somewhere that I’ve never been before, more specifically an island overseas. Another reason is, if I’m going to jump back into traveling after being on hiatus for six months, I wanted it to be somewhere beautiful and exotic. Somewhere that people daydream about going; a fantasy world if you will. When you add in the rich history and culture of the French Polynesian people, it made a lot of sense that the destination I was looking for was Bora Bora.

What were you most nervous about when traveling internationally?
The one thing I was nervous about was the unknown. Even though I did my research online and tried to prep myself to the best of my ability, it’s a gamble during these times. I had no idea how crowded the island would be, or on the flip side, how empty it would be. We also had no idea which excursions and adventures would be available for us until we got there. But just like before, no matter how much you research and prep, you never really know what obstacles you’ll come across on an actual trip.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

What was the flight experience like?
My experience was very pleasant! We booked our flight through Air Tahiti Nui and to my surprise, the flight was pretty empty. Traveling both ways, we had an entire row to ourselves which made me feel very safe. On top of being very friendly and helpful, the flight crew was on top of their safety measures. They made sure that everyone wore a mask the entire time, which can be difficult on a seven and half to eight-hour flight. You can tell that the airlines are trying to make traveling as safe and convenient as possible.

In what ways was preparation different for this trip than usual?
Preparation for this trip was much more detailed than it would normally be. What I mean by that is, we are very spontaneous when we travel. Sometimes we will change our location at the last minute due to weather or any other complications. For this trip, we had to make sure the country would allow Americans and we did background checks that met regulations for the island. Specifically for the airlines, we needed a Covid test within 72 hours of flying, travel insurance and we filled out a health form for Air Tahiti Nui.

What safety precautions did you take?
Safety is always a top priority when we travel. We made sure that everyone had an up to date covid test as well as self-quarantining for a minimum of two weeks. Once we were on the island, we made sure to practice social distancing to keep ourselves, and the native people, safe.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

What precautions were taken at your destination (for example, hotels, parks/sites, beaches, etc.)?
There were quite a few precautions in Bora Bora. First of all, there was hand sanitizer available everywhere that we went. Whether we were at the hotel, on an excursion or even at the airport, hand sanitizer was always provided to us. Masks were required in all public places, including the beach. Another smart precaution was the mandatory Covid test five days after we arrived on the island. You could tell that the health guidelines in Bora Bora were not only in place for themselves but for tourists as well.

Were the crowds normal or was it empty? If empty, was it a nice empty or an eerie empty?
The crowd was non-existent which has both pros and cons when you’re traveling. It was nice as far as filming goes, almost like a private shoot. There was a lot of space to film and you didn’t have to worry about being in the way of other tourists. Yet, it was eerie because Bora Bora is known for its romantic, honeymoon type energy and over the top adventures. It was almost like Vegas without experiencing the busy strip.

As tourists, how were you received by the locals? Warmly… or not so much?
As a tourist, this is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. No matter where we were on the island, everyone was smiling. Whether it was poolside, at the bar, or in the middle of the ocean, Bora Bora was filled with laughter and joy. The French Polynesian people opened their culture to us and treated us very kindly throughout our entire trip.

Were you able to do and see everything you wanted, or did you feel limited?
It’s fair to say that we did most of what we wanted to do. Understandably, the more intimate activities having to deal with the culture were not available. So while we did a lot of outdoor activities, I would definitely like to go back to enjoy the culture a little more. Maybe take a cooking class or do some one on one dancing classes!

Advice for anyone considering travel right now?
Be patient and respectful. While you are just visiting, this is home for a lot of people and not just a vacation. As a tourist, we need to take into consideration that a lot of experiences may not be available and that we may need to come back. Also, follow the pandemic guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing. This not only protects your health, but it also protects the people who have welcomed you to their home.

 

Rob Taylor – 2 Travel Dads

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Rob Taylor is the founder and lead journalist for 2TravelDads.com, the original LGBT family travel blog. Focusing on travel as a form of education, 2TravelDads showcases brands and destinations that are ideal for families of all kinds.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

Your family recently visited Disney and Universal. What inspired those trips?
Living in Florida and watching COVID precautions roll out and not take effect across the USA, we were really concerned with Disney and Universal reopening. Reopening while health and safety is a paramount concern could really only be done well or risk it all. We wanted to share with those who feel like traveling whether or not they could both FEEL comfortable and actually see the precautions being put in place. Disney absolutely has taken closure and reopening seriously, and to us, it’s set a standard for what we expect from any destination or brand right now.

What were you most nervous about when traveling?
Honestly, the most nerve-wracking thing about traveling right now is other people. Whether it’s in a theme park or visiting our local beach, we don’t know how seriously others have taken health concerns and if they are practicing social distancing as the norm. Whether we are directly impacted or not hasn’t affected how we operate, but if we’re going to spread a sickness to others unknowingly, that’s at the heart of what we do and where we go.

In what ways was preparation different for this trip than usual?
At the beginning of Covid, we did a cross-country relocation, as well as local travel here in Florida. We’ve been very germ-conscious. We’ve always been clean people, but it really seems that our outlook on other people’s potential germs and how we interact with them has changed. Before our cross-country move [from Seattle to St. Augustine], we made sure to be well-stocked with sanitizer and cleansing wipes, as well as disposable gloves.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

We also bought a camping trailer. What?! Yes, we have since stayed in a few hotels, but when we first did the cross-country drive, we weren’t comfortable or confident staying in hotels. We planned overnight stops, seeking out minimally crowded tourist destinations (in case we wanted an interesting pause), and even planning the amount of snackage the kids would need. As time has passed, we’re more comfortable out and about, but looking back at our actual relocation, I feel like we prepared properly for the current state and amount of knowledge we had at the time.

What safety precautions did you take?
Since we’ve started traveling locally, we are pretty cautious in our travels. We research in advance before we do a day or overnight trip, including digging through social media to get first-hand accounts of what people experience on-site. As we read others’ stories and take each account with a grain (or two) of salt, we adjust our own plans. We’ve changed which days of the week we travel, what times we arrive at certain places (especially for paddling and outdoor experiences), and even what local hot spots we avoid if we want to get dinner out.

What precautions were taken at your destination (for example, hotels, parks/sites, beaches, etc.)?
The most common precautions we’ve seen, from rural gas stations to 5-star theme park resort hotels, has been visible sanitation practices. You won’t see somebody following behind everyone with a spray bottle of bleach, cleanliness and sanitation practices are much more prevalent. It’s become extremely clear when a business or lodging has taken extra steps to be even more sanitary. *A note to all those working in public facing workplaces. We see your efforts to sanitize and make things safer for all, so thank you.

From Florida to Bora Bora: What travel is like right now

Were the crowds normal or was it empty? If empty, was it a nice empty or an eerie empty?
Ahh, the crowds. We had a moment this year where we were alone, walking through a field towards Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. I stopped and let out a sigh and thought “There’s nobody here. Amazing.” And that feeling wasn’t a feeling of being lucky to be someplace iconic with no one else. It was a feeling of comfort and safety, we could relax and not be at risk. That feeling was newly nice, and also hit me as exceptionally sad.

We did have some eerie moments, too. As we drove through Moab, UT, the gateway to Arches National Park, the silence and flashing neons, “CLOSED,” were surreal. It made me realize how deeply visitors keep so many people employed.

On the flip side, I might even call it the selfish side, experiencing Disney World upon reopening was truly wonderful. Walking down Main Street USA with 1/20 the normal number of visitors was magical. Wandering from land to land, not stressed about wait times or crowds, was amazing. A privilege. While so many are out of work and the economy is uncertain, access to a luxury experience like Disney was a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t eerie despite being empty, but felt extra special. And maybe we were just extra grateful to be able to enjoy Disney World, a slice of life before COVID-19 hit.

As tourists, how were you received by the locals? Warmly… or not so much?
In New Mexico, I found, I swear, the only gas station left in the USA that isn’t a pay-at-the-pump. I realized that travel during a pandemic felt like a betrayal… I had a moment where a local lady in rural New Mexico clearly knew I wasn’t from around there. She let me know how she hoped out-of-towners wouldn’t flood them and put them on the news. Even though we were traveling through out of necessity, I still felt like I wasn’t welcome in that moment. And that’s okay. This lady was sharing her own fears without a filter and I got it.

As we’ve started traveling more around Florida, it’s been hit and miss about whether or not visitors are welcome. For most of the state, tourism is the life-blood and without it, communities can’t sustain themselves. The message from local governments and tourism boards is to proceed in the mindset of health and safety for all. However, many people showing up in our town and at our beach act like Florida is immune to the dangers of the pandemic. We, and many others around the Southeast, are happy to welcome visitors and ensure that travel happens safely. That said, a lot of individuals openly share their resentment regarding mask mandates and social distancing. Having experienced the gamut of views and actions, I still can’t gauge how locals feel about travelers.

Were you able to do and see everything you wanted, or did you feel limited?
Our oldest had one request this year, and that was to visit Four Corners Monument where Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona meet. He was so excited. And it was closed.

There’s a saying that when Disney closes you know it’s serious. Well, when they closed so did many other entities. We quickly changed 97% of our plans for 2020, including our cross country road trip. This year has had a lot of disappointment in the realm of big plans and not getting to follow through. In Utah, we couldn’t visit any state parks because they were restricted to locals. In Texas, we couldn’t go hiking because we couldn’t get the website to work to reserve our entry spot.

Here in Saint Augustine (home), we haven’t been able to visit either of our National Park sites because they’re still closed. Telling friends and family about our iconic city and not being able to share it has been frustrating. But I get it. And I stand behind all of these changes, precautions and courses of action. Please don’t take my recount as a grand complaint, because it’s not.

Advice for anyone considering travel right now?
I want to travel so badly, but we’re keeping our family close to home and quarantining ourselves between outings. We’re doing that out of respect for others who may be compromised or not as healthy as we are. If you want to travel during the pandemic, be smart. Not just smart about your own health, but about the communities you visit and the people you’ll see when you get home. Living in a city where tourism is the life blood, I want visitors having a great time and experiencing America’s Oldest City. I also don’t want people rushing in to party and then going home to share vacation stories with grandparents and passing on an invisible sickness.

If you’re choosing to travel right now, I would strongly recommend drive-to destinations. You’ll be able to control much of your own environment, including how you interact with locals. I would look at short getaways over one- to two-week trips during which a lot of things, including travel restrictions, might change. The pandemic era is seeing the rebirth of the road trips and the weekenders. Lean into small travel escapes so that someday soon we can be welcomed back into the broader global travel experience.

 

Valerie Joy Wilson – Trusted Travel Girl

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Valerie Joy Wilson is a travel journalist, host, photographer, and the founder of Trusted Travel Girl. Whether you are traveling on a backpacker’s budget or have money to spend, Trusted Travel Girl will provide you with the insight on where and how to travel like a local instead of a tourist.

Trusted Travel Girl

You traveled both to New York City and Cancun in the last few months. What inspired those journeys?
I had coronavirus in early March and I knew I had antibodies, so I felt very comfortable traveling. Also, it was just really difficult to stop travel completely. I knew my audiences were thinking about traveling and were really looking for some information on what it was like in the current climate.

What was the flight experience like?
My first flight was in May. I went home to visit my family two months after having COVID. The requirement to wear a mask on board had just been recently enforced as a rule, and I felt comfortable, but it wasn’t nearly as strict as it is now. Even when I changed planes in the Charlotte airport, masks weren’t required back then and it was really shocking.

Flying has come along way in just the last couple of months. Everyone on board and in the airports is trained with proper procedures and they are enforcing them. Airlines have been cleaning the planes better, and I feel really confident in the safety of air travel in regards to the virus.

What were you most nervous about when traveling internationally?
I didn’t know what to expect, and so I was a little nervous about the flight. Would there be empty seats to stay socially distant or would the flight fill up? It was full, but I still felt pretty comfortable.

What was very impressive was how incredible of a job the Cancun area and most of Mexico was doing. There were temperature checks everywhere, luggage was being sprayed and sanitized before it was put in shuttles to the hotel, then the hotel would sanitize luggage. They would even sanitize the bottom of your shoes. The hotels and every store and restaurant had a temperature check. Hand sanitizer stations were plentiful, and it was just a very impressive experience overall.

In what ways was preparation different for these trips than usual?
It wasn’t too far off from normal. I always have hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes in my bag to wipe my seat and sanitize on flights. However, now I make sure I don’t just have a regular mask, but I have a N 95 mask. I also bring a face shield, and pack a trash bag to throw all of my clothes in that I wear on the plane. I separate them the moment I get into my hotel room.

I’m also just more aware of surfaces I touch. For example, the bins when going through TSA, and making sure I wash my hands right away after going through security.

What safety precautions did you take?
An N95 mask, Lysol wipes, and a face shield are all crucial for me to bring. I make sure that I take precautions and social distance, which means meeting less people than normal while traveling.

What precautions were taken at your destination (for example, hotels, parks/sites, beaches, etc.)?Hotels have been waiting 24 to 48 hours to even send in housekeeping between guests— so depending on where you are, by the time you check into your hotel room, chances are no one has been in it for several days. It’s nice to feel that if there was the potential for exposure, it’s gone by now. I stayed at the Conrad New York downtown several times since coronavirus started. They are using the Hilton clean state program as well as providing masks, hand sanitizer and a package of Lysol wipes to all guests. Most hotels are providing masks and wipes to guests as COVID an entity kit.

You will often see temperature checks, luggage sanitizing, and even mats you walk on to sanitize shoes depending on where you are.

Were the crowds normal or was it empty? If empty, was it a nice empty or an eerie empty?
JFK was strangely empty, as well as some hotels. It hasn’t been eerie in hotels and airport, but it’s been very strange to see. The subway in New York City was a bit eerie, as its previously been unimaginable to be the only one at a subway station or on the train.

As tourists, how were you received by the locals? Warmly… or not so much?
In Mexico, tourists were received very warmly! Many areas in the world rely heavily on tourism to support the economy, and everyone has felt the impact of travel halting. Hotel staff was very grateful to have an income and have a job in most places. So, tourists are greeted warmly and it’s a sense of “we’re all in this together.” Everyone is just doing their best to keep themselves and each other safe and trying to stay upbeat!

Were you able to do and see everything you wanted, or did you feel limited?
Travel is definitely limited to an extent. Not all activities or museums or restaurants are open. For example, while I was in Mexico it wasn’t possible to visit the Mayan ruins or Chichen Itza.

Advice for anyone considering travel right now?
It’s 100% possible to travel safely right now! If you feel comfortable, I highly recommend you take baby steps and get out there. Maybe start with a road trip or a trip within the US before you go international, but, everyone around the world is trying their best to keep themselves and their guests and travelers safe.

My biggest advice is to just do everything you can to protect yourself. Bring an N95 or KN95 mask (which are generally reserved for healthcare workers, but it’s really great to have one for the flights) and a face shield. If somebody is sitting next to you on the plane and not abiding by protocols it’s important to stand up for yourself and nicely ask them to put on their mask or alert a flight attendant. You have to be your own best advocate right now. Also, make sure that you’re respecting others. Make sure your social distancing and wearing your mask and doing your part to protect everyone else.

Travel does not have to be scary right now, but we have to use best practices and common sense and we can keep ourselves and the people around us safe and have an amazing travel experience despite the virus.

Have you traveled during Covid-19? What was it like? Share in the comments!

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From embarking on a cross-country road trip, to Disney World and the beaches of Bora Bora, here's what it's like to travel in the Covid era.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. In late July I took a 2 week road trip down to the LA area with my son and his girlfriend to look at colleges. We packed our own food, and all the places we stayed at had kitchens, and were part of our time share program. They all did curb side check in and text check out.. We had masks, gloves, and 2 liters of hand sanitizer. We stopped at beaches and had picnic lunches along the way on hwy 1 & 101. We knew that at any point we could turn around and head home. If any of us felt uncomfortable we’d leave, head home or back to the car or hotel. I had lots of vitamins from our naturopathic doctor to help keep us healthy. We had a great time and it helped my son figure out what college he wants to go to.

  2. Like Rob, I went to Disney this summer and we had a great time. Lots of protocols in place to ensure travelers were safe. I stayed in 7 hotels (across all the major brands) and felt safe, and clean. I drove from NY to FL in June and at that time many people were not wearing masks in the Southern states like GA and SC. When we drove home in August, that had changed. I am doing my first international flight (Antigua) in a few weeks. I am excited and have only heard good stories. Good tip about changing clothes after the plane and I might look into getting an N95 mask as well! Great article and I hope that folks do start to travel again.

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From Florida To Bora Bora: What Travel Is Like Right Now

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