After a day trip to Boston this summer, Richard Fink tested positive for the coronavirus, despite the fact that he wore an N95 respirator and practiced social distancing. As he plans a fall vacation to New Jersey and New York, he’s guided by that experience.
Fink, a former MIT biological safety officer who lives in Andover, Massachusetts, says, "The best you can do is to be cautious wherever you go."
As travelers look to their fall and winter trips, they’re trying to do just that — and a whole lot more.
"We’ve entered a different phase," says Eugene Delaune, an emergency medicine physician in Alexandria, Virginia, and a senior medical consultant for Allianz Partners. " With the rollout of vaccines, we are seeing more people making vacation plans."
"If you don’t have your fall or winter vacations planned, it is going to be a challenge securing one," says Tim Derdenger, an associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
"Travelers should consider purchasing travel insurance that includes coverage if you contract covid while traveling. It’s also important to book with a reputable travel company," he says.
Insight and its sister company, Luxury Gold, added a well-being director to its tours. This additional staff member helps cut through the red tape, navigating coronavirus protocols and testing requirements for guests during the trip. The staff member also checks that all hotels, restaurants and other venues that guests visit meet health guidelines.
Most insurance experts are unanimous. A "cancel for any reason" policy, which costs between 10 and 12% of your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses, is the way to go. Look for a policy that refunds at least 75% of your costs. (Some only refund half.)
If you go for a standard travel insurance policy that covers named perils, make sure it covers everything. "We advise anyone who wants to travel now or in 2022 to purchase a trip cancellation plan that does not exclude losses related to covid-19," says Bailey Foster, vice president of trip insurance at Trawick International.
Jodi Kennedy Gaffey, founder of the destination management company Epicurean Concierge, is telling clients to be as adaptable as possible.
"Also, don’t wait until the last minute to secure documentation required by your destination," she says.
Most of the same principles of planning a vacation during the early days of the pandemic still apply: Adhere to safety protocols, steer clear of crowded places, and if you’re at increased risk, consider postponing.
A critical area of concern is younger travelers, says Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. "I hope that by the time winter break from school is upon us, the coronavirus vaccines for kids ages 5 to 12 will be approved for emergency use authorization," she says.
Until then, Nachman advises parents to be extra cautious about their travel plans. Organize indoor activities with care, and be mindful of the adults and their vaccination status and medical conditions.