If you’ve got a serious case of cabin fever, you’re not alone. March marks a full year since anyone in the U.S. could travel without concern over COVID-19, and many Americans are itching to go somewhere.
But where to? Normally, March is borderline late for booking summer travel. This year, much is still unknown, including the most important question: Which countries will be open for travel?
As of late winter, U.S. News and World Report said that more than 50 countries were available, including a number of tropical locations like Bermuda and the Bahamas, plus popular destinations like Costa Rica, Chile, French Polynesia, Ireland, and Jamaica.
In most cases, travelers needed to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure (time frames varied) and in some cases, you will need a travel authorization letter. Some countries had additional protocols once tourists arrive, including quarantines, health screenings, or random testing.
If you’re making plans for summer, consider purchasing travel insurance, as countries may change their travel rules at the last minute. Also, visit the U.S. State Department’s website, which provides risk assessment by country, from Level 1 (take normal precautions) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control website also has guidelines for travel.
Most countries also have their own websites devoted to travel guidelines, or you can check their embassy websites.
China travel is out this year, but you can still prepare
Maybe you’re dreaming of your vacation to the ancient cities of China.
The bad news is that travel restrictions make it unlikely to arrange this year, but you’ll have plenty of time to plan for a trip of a lifetime to a country that offers a dramatic contrast to many western countries.
Most travel advisors recommend hiring a reputable guide or participating in a tour, and there’s a reason for that.
Language is a major issue. You can try learning some Mandarin, the most widely spoken Chinese dialect, on a language app. But people spend decades learning to actually communicate in Mandarin. It’s not like learning Spanish. At least English speakers know the alphabet. At a minimum, some words are familiar. But Mandarin has five different tones, so the word ‘ma’ can mean mom or horse. For English speakers, even distinguishing the tones may elude them for years. So, while you can try language apps, they might only give you a command of some basic words, which might be helpful.
Although Mandarin is the oldest continuously used language, every part of China has different dialects. Your collection of Mandarin words may not be understood by everyone.
Even hand signals are different. You can hold up your index finger to indicate one. But be sure not to bend it, because that might mean eight to the person you are speaking to. Or it might mean one. Just depends on where in China you are.
Be careful about taking pictures or videos. If you see a demonstration of some sort, walk away. Never take a photo.
No matter where you go, always carry the name and address of your hotel in Chinese characters on a slip of paper, even if you have a guide. You must also carry your passport everywhere, so make absolutely sure you have digital copies and photocopies of all your documents.
Beware of the traffic. In a country so fond of rules and behavior norms, traffic in China (and many places in Asia) is weirdly chaotic. Don’t trust the green pedestrian lights at crossings. Look before you walk.
Taxis must be hailed from a marked taxi stand. Be sure the meter is on and get ready for a wild ride, according to Intrepid Travel.
Finally, right now, the only people who can travel are in the diplomatic service, airline crews, people from China with family, and people who are going to China to work. A negative COVID test is required, along with a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Vaccine passport may boost travel industry
The global travel industry is still reeling from worldwide coronavirus travel restrictions.
According to CNN, the world remains largely locked down, and if the current travel restrictions continue, 2021 demand could recover to just 38 percent of 2019 pre-pandemic levels. While this would represent an improvement over 2020, when international travel demand was just a quarter of the previous year, it’s still a devastating number for the travel industry.
One proposal for easing travel between countries is the so-called “vaccine passport,” which would provide documentation for individuals who have been vaccinated. President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order requesting that government agencies assess whether paper and digital vaccination documents would be feasible, according to the New York Times. Advocates hope that vaccine documentation would allow travelers to move without the need for quarantines, testing, and other restrictions.
According to the Irish Times, some airlines have already suggested that vaccine passports might eventually be required if they wish to fly. The bureaucratic hurdles are appeared steep, however, as individual countries are likely to set their own rules. But even in the early stages of vaccine passport development, it seems likely that travelers will carry their documentation in a digital wallet or as a paper QR code that can be scanned.
In an interview with the New York Times, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, says that consistent rules are necessary to restart the tourism economy.
Tourism accounts for approximately 10 percent of the global GDP and a similar share of jobs, according to CNN, making the recovery of the travel industry all the more vital for the world’s economic health.
4 tips for traveling alone
One of the joys of retirement is the freedom to travel more often. In particular, taking a trip alone allows you to explore what and where you want on your own terms. Here are some tips for first-time solo travelers.
1. Test it out close to home
Before you book a month-long holiday on the other side of the world, go on one or shorter trips in your region. This will give you a sense of how you feel when you’re alone for several days in an unfamiliar location.
2. Start with “easy” destinations
Until you get accustomed to traveling alone, visit places where you can communicate in the local language, and easily access tourist attractions by public transportation.
3. Opt for a cruise or group tour
This type of trip can ease feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. You can choose from an array of packages and itineraries and select whether you want an all-inclusive experience or a more open-ended one with multiple city stops and free time to explore.
4. Connect with people
Travel provides you with the opportunity to interact with interesting people and make new friends. Whether you’re among tourists or mingling with the locals, be open to making new connections.
For help planning a vacation that meets your interests, needs, and budget, be sure to speak to a local travel agent.
5 bucket list trips for motorcyclists
If you’re looking for the perfect stretch of road to ride your motorcycle, twists, turns and beautiful vistas are a must. Here are five bucket list-worthy roads to travel by motorcycle at least once in your lifetime.
1. Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
This route combines winding forest roads with awe-inspiring coastal views, making it a perfect choice for motorcyclists who want to connect with nature. Although you can complete the trail’s 185 miles in a day, the area’s abundance of beautiful campgrounds might tempt you to slow down and savor the journey.
2. U.S. 129, North Carolina
If you’re looking for a thrill, this route is for you. Known as the Tail of the Dragon, this challenging road packs 318 curves into just 11 miles as it winds through the Deals Gap mountain pass along the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee.
3. Icefields Parkway, Alberta
You’ll want to take your time riding the 141 miles between Lake Louise and Jasper, where majestic wildlife and striking views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains abound.
4. Blue Ridge Parkway, United States
Do yourself a favor and ride at least part of this national parkway through North Carolina and Virginia in the fall. Its 469 miles connect the lush forests of two national parks: The Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah. There’s no shortage of scenic vistas on this route.
5. San Juan Skyway, Colorado
Experience some of the most stunning scenery the United States has to offer along this 236-mile loop. The road’s twists and turns are exhilarating to navigate, but be sure to also stop and explore some of the historic mining towns on the way.
No matter which route you choose for your next motorcycle trip, make sure your bike is in prime condition and that you check the weather forecast before you leave.
How to prepare for a multi-day motorcycle trip
Careful preparation is the key to having a successful motorcycle trip, especially if you plan to spend several days on the road. Here’s what you should do before you embark.
Inspect your bike
Make sure your motorcycle is running smoothly before you hit the road. The last thing you want is for it to break down when you’re far from home. Pay close attention to the:
• Tires. Check the pressure and make sure the tread isn’t worn down.
• Brakes. Look for signs of corrosion and listen for squeaking or grinding sounds.
• Suspension. If your bike doesn’t handle well, bring it to a mechanic.
• Headlights. Make sure they’re not cracked or burnt out. Don’t forget to check the brake lights too.
• Fluid levels. Change the engine oil and if necessary, top up the transmission, coolant, and brake fluids.
If this is your first ride of the season, get your motorcycle inspected by a professional to make sure it’s in good condition.
Plan your route
Hitting the open road without a plan is spontaneous but also reckless. An itinerary helps you manage your time and ensure you can reach each destination before nightfall. You should also book your accommodations in advance since hotels and campgrounds can fill up fast, especially during the summer.
Finally, don’t forget to prepare your body for the long hours of riding ahead. Take a few shorter trips beforehand with all of your gear so you can get used to the weight and build up your stamina.
Summer staycation – Be a tourist in your own town!
You don’t have to venture far to make the most out of your summer. In fact, there are several advantages to remaining close to home. You’ll save money on transportation and accommodations, contribute to the local economy, and feel more connected to our community.
Summer is the perfect time to soak up the sun at local parks, campgrounds, or to learn something new at nearby museums, art galleries, and historical sites. You could also lower your handicap at the golf course, browse through local boutiques, and outdoor dine at nearby restaurants. Also, be sure to check out the shows, festivals, and performances taking place right in our town later this summer.
This summer, why not play tourist in your own town? Simply consult the Royal Examiner or visit the visitor center to put together a list of places to go and things to do. Check out the website ‘Discover Front Royal’ for things to do in our community.
We’ll be back open soon, so start your plans now.