Dear Travelgirls…

Renee Werbin and Stephanie Oswald Langlois founded Travelgirl magazine during the months after 9/11, when a new world of travel was evolving. They remember what it was like to navigate the constant changes at that time, and they’re ready to do it again with you as we face this next chapter: travel during the time of COVID-19. Here are a few of your questions answered.

Q: Should I cancel my fall vacation, and if so, what do I need to know?
A: Travel has been adversely affected by COVID-19 with the temporary closure of many resorts, hotels, recreational sites, cruises and tours. Our industry is far from recovered and many destinations are not accepting international visitors at this time. These factors and the increase in COVID-19 cases make it difficult to predict fall travel. If your fall vacation includes a trip to the beach or a cabin in the mountains you can probably plan on going. Travelgirl recommends you take your own beach chairs and umbrellas to the beach. A wealth of hotels and destination sites throughout the U.S. have instituted policies to keep travelers safe; go online or call ahead to see what protocols have been put in place. Several resorts in the Caribbean are now open for business but it’s imperative you check ahead, as the pandemic is forcing changes at an unprecedented pace. Less than three weeks after opening, The Bahamas announced they are closing all airports and seaports to travelers from the United States. Several states within the country are requiring citizens of certain other states to quarantine for 14 days after arrival, and and other states are requiring COVID-19 test results within a few days of travel. 

Q: When will we be able to cruise again?
A: The cruise industry is reeling from the devastating effects of COVID-19. Several lines are selling ships and the once very profitable industry is singing the blues. It’s difficult to determine when we can safely cruise again. Ships are notoriously crowded making it difficult to social distance at sea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned passenger cruising in U.S. waters until October 1, due to the rise in Coronavirus cases and many cruise lines have cancelled all sailings throughout 2020. For health reasons, we cannot recommend cruising right now, but stay tuned as this prolific industry identifies ways to keep passengers safe while sailing. We’re confident that in the not too distant future there will be policies in place to maintain safety, while passengers enjoy all the amenities and the unparalleled atmosphere of life at sea.

Q: What’s the best way to make sure your hotel room is clean?
A: Whether it’s your hotel room, your RV or your rental car, the smart decision right now is to pack sanitizing wipes with you and wipe surfaces clean yourself. You may also wish to bring along your own pillowcases and a sleep sheet; there are plenty of options available online at multiple price points. There is still much about this virus that we don’t know, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. When you enter a hotel room, be sure to wipe down the TV remote, the phone, closet/drawer handles and the bathroom faucets. Remember that the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol — and keep in mind that if you’re flying, current TSA carry-on rules allow each passenger up to 12 ounces of liquid sanitizer.

Q: I’m flying for work on an airline that isn’t separating passengers, what should I do?
A: If you must fly and your air carrier isn’t practicing social distancing make sure you wear a mask that protects you; take a look at or purchase an N95 mask. Wear disposable gloves on board and take a few extra pairs in case you head to the restroom; change your gloves when you come out. Don’t eat on board; keep that mask on and try to stay calm. If a nearby passenger appears ill, request a seat change. Once you’ve done all you can, relax and enjoy the flight.
   Also, if you have any doubt regarding your own health, respect others and seek treatment before getting on a plane. If your health is compromised for any reason, it’s probably wise to avoid airports and airplanes at this time.

Q: I have an international trip planned for 2021 and my passport is expired. Is there anything I can do?
A: To say that passport services have been slowed up by COVID-19, would be an understatement. At press time, no U.S. passport agencies are in phase three of reopening. During both phases one and two, appointments are limited and only available for life-or-death situations. The best way to see where things stand is to go to the U.S. State Department website: As of Monday, August 3, six passport agencies and centers were in phase two of reopening, and 12 were in phase one. In phase three, appointments will be restricted to travelers with departures happening within two weeks.

Q: What’s the status of the REAL ID deadlines?
A: The rules regarding when you’ll need your REAL ID vary by state. However, since a national emergency was declared because of COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline. It was October 1, 2020, but the updated deadline is October 1, 2021. So if you don’t have yours yet, you still have time.

Do you have a question for the travelgirls? Post it on our Facebook page, or send it to our twitter account @travelgirlmag

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