Hello, everyone! My name is Autumn Hope Ingram. I am a 26 year old resident of Greenbrier County, a wife, and a mom to an awesome eight year old. In addition to those things I am a fully certified, licensed and bonded travel agent, as well as the owner of Travel with Hope. I was born and raised in Alleghany County, Virginia but have called Greenbrier County home for the past two years and have loved every minute of it.
Every month we will be doing a column in the magazine called “Dear Hope” where readers may contact me with a travel question. I will select a few to answer in the magazine, so please feel free to reach out to to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first question I’m sure everyone is wondering is:
How has COVID-19 affected travel?
Of course COVID has affected travel tremendously. For the longest time the only people that were really traveling were essential workers when they absolutely needed to. However that did not stop others from booking travel for future dates, which a lot of people are still doing. With that said, I traveled to St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands at the end of November 2020, Orlando, Florida at the end of December 2020 for 8 days and 3 of those were spent at Universal Studios Orlando, and just a couple of weeks ago I was able to spend 6 days in Saint Lucia at the Sandals resorts for a work trip. Every time I traveled, airports were full, flights were full or nearly full, theme parks were reaching their reduced capacities, and there were A LOT of safety guidelines in place. When I traveled to the US Virgin Islands and to Saint Lucia I had to present a negative COVID test at the airport before being allowed to pass through TSA and to board the planes. The US Virgin Islands only required a negative rapid test, whereas Saint Lucia required a negative PCR test no more than 5 days prior to your arrival date. Everywhere I’ve traveled to has required a facemask, sanitizing or hand washing right before entering a business, and to maintain social distancing as much as possible. Returning to the US from Saint Lucia I did have to present another negative COVID test at the airport in order to be able to re-enter the US. Each country’s entry requirements may have a slight variation, so that is most certainly one thing to keep in mind when traveling.
I like to recommend several things to anyone that is considering traveling. Check the requirements for where you are planning to travel; whether it is domestic or international travel. Get travel protection/insurance because if something comes up and you need to cancel or change your trip, you’ll most likely be able to get future travel credit or a refund. Lastly, use a travel agent. When COVID hit a lot of online travel agencies’ (i.e. Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity,etc) phone lines went down because so many people were trying to get through to see what they needed to do about their trips. Travel agent services are at no additional cost, or at least mine are, and we have direct access to whichever vendor/supplier we book with.
So yes, travel does look a little different right now, but with the safety guidelines in place and the vaccine a lot more people are comfortable traveling again. I encourage you to do so also, whether it’s visiting a local state park, traveling to a different state, or an international trip. If you’re not ready to travel just yet, I most certainly understand, but I do recommend booking your future trips now because the deals are AMAZING!
Thank you for reading! I look forward to hearing from you soon! -Hope