Written by: Jessica Burke
When the world shut down a year ago to curb the pandemic, leisure travel as we knew it became a thing of fond memories. Many couples cancelled or postponed their honeymoon plans with no idea when they’d be able to travel again safely. Over the last year we’ve learned more about the virus and how social distancing can decrease spread. Now, thankfully, we also have vaccines widely available that are proving very effective in protecting those who receive them. Traveling both domestically and abroad is now something more people are considering. But what destinations are available for US citizens? Do you have to be fully vaccinated to travel out the country?
NOW spoke recently with the author of the best selling book “Say Yes to the Honeymoon” and travel advisor Shannon Cunningham of Paradise Vacation Escapes to find out common misconceptions about travel and where engaged couples can currently honeymoon or run away to get married. Let’s jump right in!
“There’s a pent up demand,” says Cunningham. “People have been stuck at home and they’re ready to go. People are starting to feel more comfortable traveling.” Because of this, Cunningham recommends that couples start planning for international honeymoon destinations nine months to a year in advance.
If you didn’t think travel was an option for you and your wedding is in the next few months, don’t fret – there are still options available to you. “You can still plan something, but do it as soon as possible,” advises Cunningham. “Make sure your passport is valid, meaning it doesn’t expire within six months of your return date.” Many countries will not accept a passport that expires within this window.
Also, expect delays getting a new or renewed passport. It’s taking the passport office around 12 weeks to issue a passport currently. “If you’re getting married within 6 months, the first thing to do is send off to get your passport renewed; second thing: call your travel advisor,” says Cunningham.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
“Some people think they can’t travel out of the country unless they have the vaccine, but that’s not true,” says Cunningham. “Certain places are open for US citizens. You can go to Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia. Some do require a negative Covid test within 5 days to enter the country; each one is different and it’s always changing. That’s one of the reasons why travel advisors are a hot commodity.”
In addition to staying on top of ever changing regulations for travel and the various requirements for entering each country, Cunningham travels frequently to resorts around the world so that she can advise her clients which properties will suit their needs.
And it’s not just traveling out of the country you have to be concerned about. International travelers should expect to have to take a covid test within 3 days of your return to the US. Many all-inclusive resorts that Cunningham recommends are administering the test at low or no cost to their guests and accommodating guests who test positive for two weeks of quarantine, complete with room service!
Some countries, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are offering insurance for travelers.
If you’re working with a travel advisor like Cunningham, you can often get insurance through them as part of a travel package. If you need to outsource insurance, Cunningham recommends Travel Insured International. “There are certain plans you have to use to get the covid coverage,” advises Cunningham. Be sure to read the policies diligently.
POPULAR (AND CURRENTLY AVAILABLE!) DESTINATIONS
“Honeymooners are doing Cabo, Riviera Maya in Mexico, and St. Lucia is hotter than ever,” says Cunningham. “And Hawaii is, hands down, going crazy right now.”
A popular, and possibly unexpected, destination that is open for US travelers is Greece, though a vaccine is required. Croatia and Iceland will also be opening soon according to Cunningham. If warmer climates are more your vibe, Costa Rica is welcoming travelers. “I went to Costa Rica in January and the flights were full,” says Cunningham.
Exotic locales aren’t the only option for travel either. “Believe it or not, there are some cruises that are set to set sail in June of this year,” says Cunningham. “I just booked two cabins this week with Royal Caribbean that’s sailing out of the Bahamas. You do have to have the vaccine for that though. The whole crew is going to be vaccinated and all the passengers have to be vaccinated, and they still have to take a covid test.”
Miami, South Beach, and the Florida Keys are popular locations that will get you that Caribbean feel. “A lot of couples are doing Blackberry Farms in Tennessee,” says Cunningham who adds that Arizona and the Rocky and Smoky Mountains have also been popular destinations.
Whatever location you land on for your honeymoon, Cunningham emphasizes the need for patience. “Have patience however you’re booking your travel,” she says. “The travel industry took a really big hit and many resorts and airlines laid people off and they haven’t fully hired back all their staff.” The wait times for responses can be lengthy, especially if you’re planning your own travel.
“Yes, you can probably book your honeymoon yourself, but in the long run that’s something you really don’t want to do because of the headache if something happens,” says Cunningham. “You need to have that added support.” Cunningham notes that her clients have her cell phone number and can contact her directly for assistance while traveling, something you won’t find with online booking sites.
If you’re ready to get started planning your dream honeymoon, Cunningham offers a free download on her website paradisevacationescapes.com. Visit today and download her guide: 30 Questions to Ask Before Planning Your Honeymoon.