March and April are bringing a whole slew of new travel updates, and most of them are on the bright side. Many countries are loosening restrictions on travel, opening up borders, and welcoming business and leisure travel once again. While travel is back in many locations, it looks slightly different from a few years ago. So we thought, who better to talk about travel, than our own Lindsey Warner, Director of Operations at NDTO? She is an expert traveler who recently returned from the Gulfood show in Dubai, UAE, this February, where several ND companies showcased their specialty crop offerings. We are happy to report that everyone on the mission made it back safely with only a slight weather hiccup (blizzards in ND, go figure?). But, she admits, she never really stopped traveling throughout the pandemic, she just took many more precautions domestically and internationally. Here are some of her tips and tricks for traveling for those of us who are out of practice.
Plan ahead but be flexible. As a professional planner, Warner does know a thing or two about travel and trade missions, but, with so many unknowns, she says, don’t forget to leave some room for flexibility. Be as flexible as possible, as the world is seeing so many changes with flight delays, alternate routes, and the limiting of overall flights, changes in your travel plans should be expected. “Because of all the flight issues, it is an even better reason to plan ahead,” says Warner. Some airlines with recent fuel prices and global instability issues have taken to reducing flight frequencies by as much as 5-10% says Fortune Magazine. These delays are being seen at airports of all sizes as staffing shortages are an increasing issue for delays and cancellations.
Working with a travel agent can relieve some stress. “They will assist in so many ways and are well-versed in what is needed for international travel and help keep the documentation straight,” explains Warner. Travel agents have been in high demand with changing rules and regulations across the globe and are skilled at navigating many of the stressful parts of planning and logistics for travel. Many agencies have seen a significant increase in their business starting in mid-2021 as CDC gave the green light for vaccinated travelers. These agents may also recommend travel insurance. While it may have seemed unnecessary in the past, travel insurance can save a lot of money if you test positive for COVID-19 on your trip. “Be sure the travel insurance is comprehensive and covers any changes specifically due to COVID-19,” clarifies Warner, and rightfully so, as not all insurance is created equal.
Keep up to date with changing restrictions from country to country. Whether you are working with a travel agent or not, it is best to stay up to date on travel restrictions. While restrictions are lifting in many locations, it is still wise to keep informed about your destination country’s rules and regulations. COVID-19 did teach us at least one thing – the world can change quickly, and so can each country’s travel restrictions. Many sites tout real-time information, but the destination country’s website should be checked regularly and followed closely. Warner also recommends Skyscanner, with a variety of tools that can help you assess your options and updates.
Keep your vaccination card handy. Even if you don’t think you will need it, it is good practice to keep a copy or photo of your vaccination card on your phone available. If the situation changes quickly during your travels, it is best to be prepared with proof of your status if needed. There are also many businesses and events that require proof of testing or vaccination record for entry. A card from the CDC may not be enough for some locations. Each country can set up its own guidelines. Some countries require a digital version with a QR code; others require uploading your information before leaving your home country. Doing your research and looking at each country will be your best way to see which documents are required.
With this dynamic environment, it is even more essential to have a good plan for traveling internationally, make sure you have considered the hiccups that may pop up, and be flexible when they do. Overall, traveling can be challenging even without a pandemic looming, but Warner did have some general advice as well. “For any travelers, COVID-19 or not, my best advice is to be keenly aware of your surroundings.” She goes on to say, “be a conscious traveler and fully aware of the situations you are putting yourself into, especially if you are traveling alone.”
We had to ask our globe-trotting teammate what is the one thing she won’t travel without? “A travel yoga mat,” she explains, “traveling is stressful, and it is so easy to get out of a routine. The yoga mat is a great reminder to at least stretch.”
There it is, some great suggestions to get you on your way to traveling again, be it for business or pleasure. As we move out of isolation and into more “business as usual”, it is exciting to travel again, but also requires more planning to ensure you can travel safely and without incident.
Resources and References:
New York Times: Make Way for the Travel Agents. Again.
Skyscanner: COVID-19 travel updates and restrictions
The Washington Post: How to Use Vaccine Passports for International Travel