Dear Explorers! 11/10/2020
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
We all want to go on vacation but some are hesitant to travel! Here is my first flight outside the US in 2020. The experience was easier and less stressful than expected!
By: Anne Heintz
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Our social media expert, Natalie wrote an article for this site about her experience getting the 12 month Barbados Welcome Stamp. It included her step by step story with a bit of quarantining which is required by the island.
I, too have now traveled internationally for the first time since Covid. I was invited to visit a collection of villas on the south coast of Jamaica. I’ll be writing more about that later this month, but for this column I want to focus on the travel process. Many of you have questions. Perhaps my experience will provide some answers.
Jamaica requires you to fill out a health form in advance, submit and receive an authorization which you must print up and show at the airport of embarkation and arrival. They also require either a Covid antibody test or Covid 19 PCR negative test within 10 days of arrival. Interestingly enough no one ever asked to see my results which you were to also print up and show as above. However, the other people on this trip, all from other departure points all had to show theirs at both points.
Due to being on the road right before leaving, I ended up getting a PCR test with 48 hour results. It was much easier than I thought it would be and seamless.
Starting November 1st, Jamaica now requires you to purchase “end to end” travel insurance for a price of $40 per person. This provides visitors with emergency medical and crisis response services through firm Global Rescue. Policies will cover services including case management, transport logistics, field rescue, and evacuation for medical emergencies including Covid 19.
I was scheduled on a nonstop flight from BWI to Montego Bay. It was a mid morning flight on Southwest. I arrived about two hours early. Checking my bag was reatively easy, so I had time on my hands before boarding.
I am HAPPY to report that it pretty much looked like a “normal” Wednesday morning at BWI airport. Although the airport was not packed it was humming! Everyone was wearing masks, distancing and use of hand sanitizer seemed the norm.
The restaurant I sat in had a polite announcement over their sound system every few minutes asking people to keep their mask on when not “actively” eating or drinking. I got the sense, although a new way of life, that those who want to travel are adapting and complying so they can get on with their lives and on to wherever it is they are going.
The boarding process was both seamless and reassuring. Passengers were boarded in groups of ten. The groups were called up from their seats rather than being asked to line up in advance. This allowed for greater social distancing and was very efficient.
Per Southwest guidelines, all middle seats were left empty. This flight was about 2/3 full, which means we were flying at nearly full capacity under the current conditions. As I’ve been saying since September, people are traveling. They’re just not talking about it the way they used to!
Here’s something important. At no point did I feel uncomfortable about getting on this flight. The crew was efficient and friendly. The cabin smelled fresh and clean. Southwest does a great job.
I had an uneventful 3 ½ hour flight. For me, part of the journey is hearing snippets of conversations on airplanes from those seated within close proximity. Why are they traveling? Are they vacationing? Visiting family? Have they been before? Expectations?
There was a guy seated in front of me who was talking to a flight attendant about his quarterly trips to Jamaica. He comes down for a week and volunteers his EMT services at a free walk-in health clinic in a remote part of the island. He’s made over 30 trips and just loves it. The flight attendant offered that she flies the route quite often. While it’s a “turn around” and doesn’t stay she has become friends with some of the gate agents. She brings things for their kids that are not easily obtained on island.
I love hearing these heart warming stories! Time to accentuate the positive and goodness in humanity.
The arrival process in Jamaica was realtively easy, but also a good example of how a good Travel Advisor can make things less stressful.
Our hosts for the trip were kind enough to treat us to the Club Mobay experience at the airport. What is that you ask? Its basically a “guardian angel” who greets you just outside of the jetway and assists you through an expedited immigration process. This is especially important now that you have to go through health screenings in addition to passport control.
The Jamaican government has medical staff in place to check your temperature, fill out additional forms about where you will be on island, phone numbers,etc. There were three different points during the process where hand sanitizing was required.
My checked bag had also been sanitized before I picked it up off the conveyor belt. All good reassuring stuff!
On my return trip to the Montego Bay airport I was again impressed by all the protocols in place. There was airport authority staff at all entrances requiring you to be masked and sanitize your hands before you could even walk in the terminal.
After checking in at a kiosk I had to then check my bag at the counter. Again another hand sanitization point. There was airport staff at each station using a sanitizing spray for all luggage before it was sent off on the usual conveyor belt to be seen at your final destination.
The rest of the process is pretty similar to a usual trip through security with another hand sanitization station and social distancing added in. Honestly my hands were parched by the time I boarded the plane, but so what!
One other small thing to note. After going through security, I went to join some of my cohorts in the Club Mobay Lounge. I had time to grab a drink and carry on some fresh food they had prepared for me. A quick pit stop in the restroom found an attendant cleaning the stall and countertop after each person’s use. Last time I saw something like that was aboard a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok 30 years ago! I was just missing the vanda orchid on the hand towel!
Sadly, as I’m sure you all know by now there aren’t nearly as many international flights currently operating. The good news is that there was no waiting to get through customs at BWI for those without Global Entry. There was another flight arriving from Cancun, but our captain assured us that we would get there first. I was out the airport door in about 15 minutes from the time I arrived at customs, got my checked bag and made it through final immigration.
Here's the biggest thing you should take from my experience. I never felt uncomfortable or at-risk at any time. Everyone was wearing masks and doing their best to stay physically distanced. Plus, anyone traveling to Jamaica had been recently tested.
When you feel comfortable and need to satisfy your “wanderlust” it is actually a great time to do so! Crowds aren’t around which makes things so much more enjoyable. You know where to find me!
**Anne Heintz is an independent travel advisor based in Washington, DC who always has her bag packed. She loves the fact that the journey creates memories and connections for her clients. She is affiliated with Worldwide Travel Associates in DC and Tzell Travel in NYC. She is the co-founder & namesake of TravelAnne.com. Anne can be reached at Anne@TravelAnne.com