"It was very challenging," said Daria Westerfield, the owner of River Oaks Travel. "We were basically devastated with all of the cancellations."
The agency is starting to pick back up again and Westerfield attributes that to more people getting vaccinated and feeling better about flying or driving. She says the time to book for summer travel is right now, and urges travelers to take advantage of the flexibility some airlines are offering with reservations.
"We clearly see a lot of demands," she said. "I cannot give you the numbers, but if we are comparing to 2019, it's not the same. But comparing to 2020, it's a huge difference."
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Her agency is constantly monitoring travel restrictions in both the United States as well as international destinations. Her clients receive updates on changes, needed documents and restrictions during the planning process and throughout the trip.
She has these five tips for anyone trying to coordinate their own travel:
- Select a destination that suits your needs: With COVID-19 restrictions varying across the United States and the world, travelers should research their destination and know what to expect. Westerfield says many are choosing to stay in the United States and visiting places like Hawaii, Colorado and Florida. As for international travel, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Caribbean top the list.
- Travel insurance: Westerfield highly recommends purchasing some sort of insurance that can have you covered, especially if there are any issues during international travel. She warns, currently, a negative COVID-19 test is required for anyone entering the U.S., so precautions should be taken if a test comes back positive and you must quarantine. Some insurances will cover these types of scenarios.
- Stay flexible: All plane tickets, car rentals and hotels should be as flexible as possible. Westerfield recommends, at the very least, ensuring cancelled reservations will provide a credit. The best option, according to her, is being able to get a refund for cancelled plans.
- Understanding the U.S.'s travel restrictions: Right now, the United States is requiring a negative COVID-19 test for any travelers re-entering the country. This could become problematic if you or anyone in your group tests positive and must quarantine. Having a thorough understanding of the rules and risks before booking a trip is very important.
- Consider a travel agent: With travel restrictions changing daily, having a travel agent may provide peace of mind. Westerfield says her agents are tracking the changes and alerting clients of what they need to know before, during and after their trip. For example, she says their agency is only working with international properties that are following COVID-19 safety protocols and offering up testing on the property for guests.
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