If you've been stuck home for months, you might be itching to travel again this summer, especially as more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lesley Sawhook, a Cincinnati-based travel agent at Exclusive Travel Partners, saw her business crater last year as pandemic lockdowns and anxiety canceled hundreds of clients' trips.
In 2021, however, she said people desperate for a vacation are ringing her cell phone daily and telling her they are ready to book summer travel.
"Some of our clients have already had COVID-19, and they have antibodies, so they feel safe traveling," Sawhook said. "Some have underlying health conditions, and they are not safe to travel. So it all depends on your personal situation."
Parts of the Caribbean are now open
If you feel safe booking this summer, Sawhook said many tropical destinations will welcome you.
"Barbados, Jamaica, Aruba, some of the islands in Hawaii or Mexico, they are all accepting travel right now," she said.
However, many islands under French and British flags are not yet taking American visitors, so she says it is important to speak with a travel professional instead of just booking a plane ticket.
Sawhook also cautioned you may need a clean COVID test to fly home from the Caribbean or Mexico.
"Heaven forbid you do test positive, a lot of (resorts) will put you up for free for the quarantine period, which is good to know," she said. "But there are some that are not."
Destinations not to visit yet
Canada is still closed to American tourists, except in emergency circumstances.
And although you technically can book an airline ticket to Europe now, Sawhook said Europe is still a no-go for most people due to severe COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns overseas. You may have to hole up in a hotel for days once you arrive.
"If you are planning to go to Europe, this summer is probably not your summer," Sawhook said. "I am telling my clients, 'Let's move everything to 2022.'"
Theme parks good, but...
If you are playing it by ear, you might be thinking you will see how bad COVID-19 is this spring, and then plan a road trip.
But Sawhook has a caution, especially if you are thinking of visiting a theme park.
"A lot of people plan last-minute trips, and what they don't realize right now is that theme parks are operating at limited capacity," she said.
She has been to Disney World in recent months. The best things are the small crowds and short lines due to its limited ticket sales, she said.
But if you are thinking of visiting Disney World or Universal Studios, Sawhook suggests you first reserve your tickets and dates so you are not locked out.
And remember, Disneyland and all other major California parks are still closed, so she recommends holding off on on California trips that involve theme parks or movie studio visits.
What about cruises?
Finally, if you are itching to cruise, she suggests waiting to book anything for this summer.
Cruise lines have just pushed back U.S. departures for the third time, from January to April, and even late spring sailings are not guaranteed.
"In order to start sailing, they have to do test sails, and they haven't even started doing that yet," she said.
Book now before fares rise
If you are on the fence, Sawhook suggests you go ahead and book a trip while airfares and hotel fees are still low.
But she suggests using a travel professional who knows the various COVID restrictions is probably a good idea this year.
The most important thing, she said, is to make sure you'll be allowed to cancel in the event something doesn't feel right or you test positive for COVID.
That way you don't waste your money.
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