Editor’s Note: The US State Department advises that travelers consult country-specific travel advisories via their website or consult the CDC’s latest guidance. Before you make any international travel plans, check these sites first.
After months of lockdown and isolation in Barcelona, lawyer Alberto Merlo was ready to travel and reconnect with friends, many of whom live abroad.
His regular vacation companion, Jason Miller, owner of the travel company The Accomplished Traveler, is a New Yorker. In an ordinary year, the two would have months of back and forth dialogue about where they wanted to go.
“The world was at our fingertips, and it was hard to narrow down the choices and finalize a destination,” says Merlo.
Then came the pandemic.
“We were looking to travel in August and had a hard time finding a country we were both allowed to visit,” says Merlo. “And if we were allowed in, we needed to find a country where we didn’t have to quarantine. Let’s just say it wasn’t that easy.”
The new travel game plan
Traveling to meet up with friends and family who live in other cities or countries has always been a logistical challenge. The upside, of course, was a fantastic vacation with loved ones, making memories that last a lifetime.
During this pandemic, any kind of traditional multi-city vacation planning been nearly impossible – but it is a bit more doable as destinations reopen.
First you need to know the latest in border restrictions and quarantine rules.
And probably more importantly, you need to gauge your risk tolerance – as well as that of your travel companions. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading Covid-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.”
Are you covered by medical insurance if you should fall ill while traveling? Are you OK with the possibility of being trapped by unexpected border closures or other restrictions? These are not small things to consider.
How they did it
As Merlo and Miller planned their August getaway, they were focused on finding the best possible destination: As a US citizen, Miller was unable to travel to Spain, so meeting up there was out. The same rule applied to Merlo if he visited the United States. In fact, the EU travel ban meant that Miller wasn’t allowed to visit most European nations, at least not without quarantining. Merlo wasn’t as limited but also ran into roadblocks.
The common options were few and far between, but then the duo decided on Croatia – a country that allows US citizens to travel there if they present a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of their arrival. As a European Union resident, Merlo was able to enter Croatia without any restrictions.
“We had to do our research, but it was worth the effort,” says Merlo. “We traveled along the coast to cities like Dubrovnik and had an incredible time.”
Following their weeklong trip, Merlo went back to Spain while Miller flew to Istanbul to meet another friend, this time from Chicago. Turkey is also welcoming US citizens, even without a Covid test, and for Miller and his friend, vacationing in the country together was an obvious choice.
“Illinois is on New York’s quarantine list, and it’s crazy that my friend wouldn’t have been able to visit me there, but we could meet in Turkey,” he says.
Quarantines and border closings
To Miller’s point, US residents are discovering that international border restrictions aren’t the only impediment to finding destinations for reunion trips. With different quarantine rules between states, a domestic getaway isn’t straightforward the way it may have been in a pre-Covid world.
Take the case of Rebecca Alesia, a Long Island resident and adviser with the travel company SmartFlyer. Her in-laws live in Puerto Rico and were planning to fly to Florida in July to pick up her sister-in-law’s family. The group would then drive to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where Alesia and her husband, along with their son, would meet them for vacation. Following the trip, her in-laws planned to come to New York, where they also have a home.
Their trip got sidestepped when New York Gov. Cuomo put South Carolina on the state’s quarantine list, which meant that Alesia and her in-laws would have to isolate when they came back to New York.
“We scrambled to find an alternative and ended up renting a house in Pennsylvania for two weeks because the state wasn’t on any quarantine list,” says Alesia.
Turkey and Mexico emerge as go-to countries amid restrictions
Limitations for travel in the United States has led to determined travelers meeting up in a handful of countries abroad where all parties involved are allowed in.
Miller, for one, is among the unknown number of people who are reuniting with friends and family in Turkey – a country that most foreign nationals can enter without any restrictions.
Also, Turkish Airlines, while operating at a reduced capacity, offers nonstop flights from nine cities in the United States to Istanbul including Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Within Europe, the airline offers flights between Istanbul and more than 30 cities.
Karen Fedorko, owner of Sea Song, an Istanbul-based luxury travel company that sells trips to Turkey, arranged Miller’s trip and says that she has been busy planning reunion trips for friends and couples to the country who live all over the world.
“The fact that Turkey is open makes it popular right now as a common meeting ground,” she says. “It’s also affordable when it comes to meals and shopping, which makes it even more attractive.”
In addition to Turkey, Mexico is in demand for travelers reuniting with loved ones from different locales.
Zachary Rabinor, the founder of the Mexico travel company Journey Mexico, said that his business has planned more than 30 such trips since mid-July. Most travelers live in the United States and Canada, he says, and are interested in stays at villas, especially in Cabo San Lucas, Journey Mexico’s top selling destination in the country.
In Punta Mita, Mexico, Palmasola, a nine-bedroom, 25,000 square-foot beachfront estate, has been booked solid since July for weekly stays, says Lillian Aviles, the director of sales and marketing.
The fall and winter season are also largely booked. “Our guests are all groups of friends and family who are reuniting after months of not seeing each other,” she says.
Danny Peykoff, a Newport Beach, California, resident and entrepreneur, stayed at Palmasola in August with 15 family members including his wife and children, his in-laws and their kids, who live in Las Vegas. Everyone flew to Mexico on a private jet and enjoyed a week of swimming, fishing, golfing and relaxing.
The group was celebrating his father-in-law’s 70th birthday.
“We wanted to do something spectacular and looked at going to Bahamas, but travel is restricted there,” says Peykoff. “Mexico is easy to get to and open. Being at Palmasola was just amazing and a great way for us to bond and celebrate a birthday as well as the world opening up again.”