After a two-year hiatus, travel is back on the menu for many. With COVID-19 restrictions easing and positive cases relatively low in the Twin Cities, comfort levels have risen and locals have begun to quench their thirst for travel.
“The industry is reporting a rebound to travel since the pandemic began two years ago,” said Melissa Rosdahl, an Eden Prairie-based travel advisor for Ciao Bambino. “I am seeing a pent-up demand for leisure travel, especially for families, who want to experience the joy of exploring destinations and creating memories, both domestic and internationally.”
Stateside, Rosdahl said that outdoor-centric destinations like Hawaii, California, Alaska and Florida are popular. “We are seeing a rise in adventure travel, which includes activities such as biking, hiking and glamping,” she offered, adding that those who seek her services are also looking to visit national parks, dude ranches and family resorts.
Internationally, Rosdahl is seeing interest for Europe — especially France, Spain, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom. She has also noted a rise in “bucket-list” trips — African safaris, Antarctic expeditions, the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand and other exotic destinations.
Nancy Tyra-Lukens is among those Eden Prairie residents that hopped a plane to Europe in March. Tyra-Lukens and her husband Jeff traveled to Paris and Spain. “Going on this trip was very much a last-minute decision,” she said. “We watched as COVID stats were going down, mask restrictions being eased, and decided that it might be a good time to go.
“Two weeks later, we left (the Twin Cities),” Tyra-Lukens continued. “We are never that spontaneous.”
Fred and Patricia Baumer are headed to Ireland in May — a trip that has been put off twice since the pandemic began. But in March, the Eden Prairie couple found themselves longing for a “sun getaway,” so they decided to head to Jamaica. “It was a blessed getaway,” said Fred.
Both groups chose their destinations in part because of their COVID-19 precautions. The Baumers said they were not only interested in finding a non-stop air destination to reduce their potential exposure, but also wanted a resort “that demonstrated in their advertising that all staff were vaccinated and masked, and provided COVID testing for the return to the U.S.”
Tyra-Lukens said that France required proof of vaccination and a booster to enter the country. She added that proof of vaccine was required to get into all restaurants, hotels and museums at the time.
In Spain, the couple joined a tour in Barcelona that they had specifically selected because it required all travelers to be vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the trip’s start. The tour also had “strict mask rules for the group.” They also liked that their guide would help them obtain a COVID-19 test for reentry to the U.S.
Keeping up to date
Rosdahl said when planning an international trip, it is important to be aware of country-specific COVID-19 guidelines. “It is vital to regularly check official country embassy websites for the latest guidance as to vaccination/booster requirements, vaccination pass requirements, masking protocol and any testing required to enter the country.
“This is a very fluid situation and it is crucial that people are up to date with that information before and during travel,” Rosdahl added.
Rosdahl advised travelers not to forget about requirements for testing to reenter the U.S. “Many people bring their own COVID tests with them, but these tests must be airline carrier compliant,” she said.
Travelers who test positive for COVID-19 while out of the country will be required to quarantine before reentry, resulting in added expenses. “I always strongly encourage travelers to purchase travel insurance to protect their travel investments.”
Brave new world
Despite the extra hoops to jump through, both the Baumers and the Tyra-Lukens are glad they took the plunge to travel. “It was a wonderful trip, and we really needed to get away,” said Tyra-Lukens. “I am happy we went.”
Both trips also provided a unique perspective of how other countries are dealing with the pandemic.
In Jamaica, the Baumers reported that everyone was required to wear masks indoors, and they always received a squirt of hand sanitizer upon entry.
Tyra-Lukens noted that while Spain was less vigilant than France about checking for proof of vaccination, an abundance of antibacterial stations in Barcelona were being utilized more than she had seen anywhere else.
“About half of the people on the street” in Barcelona were still wearing masks outdoors, Tyra-Lukens said. In Paris, it was another story. “Masks were widely worn,” she said.
“I think overall, people were still being very cautious,” added Tyra-Lukens.
“People are ready to travel and are excited to explore the world,” said Rosdahl. “With careful planning and expertise, people can make their travel dreams become a reality.”
Editor’s Note: One of the people quoted in this story is Nancy Tyra-Lukens, chair of the EPLN board of directors.