Remember when revenge travel became a thing? We couldn’t wait to slip our toes into the warm sand, sip a tropical cocktail and post our swoon-worthy images. Take that, Covid. While some borders have opened up, travel restrictions and requirements are constantly changing, and hotels and rentals cars are sold out. So, what’s a weary traveler to do? We sat down with Greenwich native and founder of Master Travel Michelle Orr to find out how she’s been saving vacations one traveler at a time.
GM: What challenges are your clients encountering as they plan to travel in these “interesting” times?
MO: Where do I start? Space is a significant factor. With so many people having travel credits from 2020 and rebooking trips and the pent-up demand for travel due to the whole world spending a year inside, travel demand is unprecedented. Additionally, with so many countries being closed, there’s limited inventory.
The second challenge is the airlines. Flight schedules are constantly changing, even after you’ve booked. When I went to Italy in July, Delta changed my schedule five times. And most of those were not changes that could be traveled—like a thirty-minute layover. So I needed to call. Twice, the wait times were nine hours without a callback feature. When there was a callback feature, they called me at 3 a.m.
GM: What horror stories have you seen when travelers don’t understand the regulations or don’t have the proper forms when traveling?
MO: The most common issue is missing flights. Even if you’re prepared, the person in front of you in line might not be. When people get to check-in without the proper documentation, they hold up the entire process. Sometimes they argue, making it take longer. Even worse, when they miss their planes, they go to the counter to rebook. Because the airlines are short-staffed, the lines are longer than usual. So, if you’re the person who gets to the airport last-minute, you will miss your plane.
It’s important to know that if you’re traveling to a destination with Covid protocols, you can’t bypass check-in with an airline app. All travelers must check in and show paperwork, even if you᾿re not checking luggage.
When leaving Rome recently, I arrived at the airport three hours before departure. By the time I reached my gate, the plane was already boarding. Despite leaving plenty of time, I almost missed my flight. There was a line to check your antigen test, then a check-in line, and even though I was flying first class with a priority check-in line, there were three groups in front who had missed their planes, because they did not have the proper paperwork.
GM: What factors should people consider when they’re planning international travel?
MO: Look at the history of the destination this past year. Did it open and close multiple times? If so, I would avoid it. If the country has been committed to receiving foreigners consistently, they probably have protocols in place that are working well.
Also check how long the destination’s been open to tourism. If it’s been open for several months, you’re probably good to go. But if you choose to go to a country that just opened, the experience may not be what you expect. It can take several months for hotels to get their staffing in order, restaurants to rehire people, and markets to start selling wares that would interest tourists.
GM: Any disasters you’ve helped clients avoid?
MO: A new client had booked her dream wedding and contacted me to help with the final details. The destination where she was set to have her wedding had changed its rules due to Covid—no alcoholic beverages could be served after 3 p.m. and there was a 6 p.m. curfew. The celebration would have been dry and shut down by six. It was just eight days before her wedding, and she did not know about the new rule, but I did.
I managed to move her entire wedding to another location, a luxury villa that accommodated her wedding and was right on a beach in the Caribbean. My air department moved everyone’s airline tickets. We put her in contact with the wedding coordinator at the new resort, who did more in seven days than the other resort had done in three months. mastertravel.org
RULES TO FLY BY
Look at Your Passport
If it expires in one year or less, start the renewal process—now. Most international destinations require six months of validity after you arrive in their country, and renewals take up to four or five months.
Check Covid Protocols
Talk to your doctor about a Covid-19 booster. Some countries like Croatia only accept tourists whose last shot was within nine months of travel.
Read the Small Print
Read the fine print on everything, especially what your travel agent has sent you. Travelers to specific destinations must complete paperwork forty-eight hours before departure. No, they will not make an exception and allow you on the plane because you forgot to read it.
Make a Backup Plan
Rules are changing faster than TikTok trends. The destination that’s open today could be closed tomorrow. To ensure you don’t miss out on your vacation, book a Plan B. A good travel advisor can help with this.