Guide to U.S. Travel in 2021
As COVID-19 still looms large over the travel landscape, we’ve answered your questions about traveling in the United States in 2021, how road trips might be the perfect way to travel and what All Roads North is doing to give our clients peace of mind in these strange times.
I feel like I’m seeing U.S. travel pick back up again…is it safe to travel now?
That’s the million dollar question and, in all honesty, the answer will be different for each individual. The COVID-19 virus is present in many communities within the United States and confirmed cases are increasing in many areas. While the risks associated with COVID-19 can be mitigated to a certain extent, they cannot be avoided and indeed the act of travel – the very movement and encounters that make it so rewarding – can increase the risk of infection.
We have delivered many successful trips this year and there is a portion of the population that will be comfortable with, and indeed longing for, the joys of travel, especially when appropriate social distancing measures are observed. However, clients should carefully assess their own tolerance of the risks involved in taking a trip and take appropriate precautions. Certain people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and should strongly reconsider travel.
We’re perhaps a little biased but we believe that a luxury American road trip can be a great way to travel at the moment and our team of Destination Specialists are on hand to walk through your travel plans so that you can make an informed decision.
How is All Roads North designing road trips differently during the COVID-19 pandemic?
With all of our journeys private and fully customized to each client, we’re already well suited to handle these challenging times. Our intentional model of working directly with all the different component pieces of your trip (hotels, guides, etc) gives us full control to shape each itinerary so that it is exactly right for each client – the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all mentality that prevails in mass market travel.
To ensure the optimum experience, we’re taking COVID-19 into consideration in the following areas:
Itinerary Design: With every trip fully customized, we can structure an itinerary that perfectly matches the needs of each client; whether, for example, that means avoiding major cities, minimizing one night stops or avoiding commercial air travel.
Accommodation: Your Destination Specialist’s knowledge of our partner properties and All Roads North’s meticulous attention to detail have never been more important. From general layouts and room entrances to check-in and dining options, we have the information to make the right choices for your trip.
Our wide portfolio of partner properties means there are a range of options in most locations, including stand-alone cabins, cottages or private homes, that better allow for social distancing. In addition, our partnership with Exclusive Resorts gives our clients access to their network of vetted private residences.
Experiences: The local experts and guides that you spend time with during your trip are a core part of the All Roads North travel experience and it is important to note that we have always operated the vast majority of these on a fully private and exclusive basis.
However, we are re-evaluating each experience and making adjustments in some places where necessary. For example, that might mean meeting guides at trailheads rather than sharing vehicles or obtaining fishing licenses online rather than in-person with your guide. The requirements of each guide may also differ, from mask requirements to temperature screenings. There are certain experiences that can only be delivered in a group setting, such as museums, concerts or attractions such as Alcatraz, and we are reassessing their suitability in each case.
Dining: This is perhaps the area that has been most badly impacted by the pandemic and is also a daily component of our itineraries. Providing our clients with personalized restaurant suggestions and making reservations where required has always been a core part of our service. We’re adjusting these recommendations to take account of what is open and seating arrangements (indoor/outdoor etc), as well as local dining restrictions.
For clients that may not be comfortable dining in restaurants, we have great options for private chefs to provide in-home or even in-hotel dining, as well as local delivery and take out options. For those preferring to cook themselves, we can also arrange to have groceries pre-stocked in your accommodation prior to your arrival.
Restrictions: As outlined below, we’re taking into consideration the complex web of local, state and national restrictions as we design each itinerary. While All Roads North will provide guidance, it is first and foremost the client’s responsibility to review orders and guidance by state and local government bodies, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), to confirm their eligibility to travel to and stay at the destination, as well as potential quarantine or testing requirements for both their home and destination state.
Communication: How we communicate with you, our client, has always been fundamental to our service and is never more important; from really listening to your preferences in the trip design phase to clear and detailed itinerary proposals and Journey Guides, our goal is to make sure that your itinerary is right for you and that there are no surprises. Unlike a faceless corporation or booking engine, your personal Destination Specialist is always available by phone or email to discuss your trip.
If I do decide to travel, where are the best (and most safe!) places to go?
One of the silver linings of 2020 has been the surge in interest in domestic travel within the U.S. and, in particular, people embarking on road trips. This is our speciality and we’ve long been beating the drum for the United States as a highly rewarding destination that can offer luxury travelers an enriching experience that can deliver as much if not more as other far flung places. So while some international travel may be off limits in 2021, this presents a golden opportunity to explore the United States like never before.
In terms of specific destinations, this will depend on a number of factors, including state level travel restrictions (see below), but in these times it is clear that our clients are still prioritizing what they always have: privacy, exclusivity and getting away from the crowds.
With social distancing becoming an added factor, we’re currently designing itineraries that might focus less on major cities, where crowds are harder to avoid and many of the major draws (museums, galleries etc) have been more impacted by the pandemic. Instead, we’re opting for journeys that touch on wilder, less populated landscapes,allowing us to escape from Zoom and reconnect with nature; perhaps Montana’s Glacier National Park, Northern Maine or the canyon landscapes of Southern Utah.
Are there any places in the United States that I definitely can’t go? What travel restrictions are in place right now?
We’re constantly monitoring the changing and complex web of restrictions that are impacting travel to and within the United States; from international and country-level restrictions down to state, city and county levels.
International Travel Restrictions to the United States
With some exceptions, individuals who have visited the following countries in the past 14 days may not enter the United States:
- The European Schengen Area
- United Kingdom
- Republic of Ireland
Source: CDC (NOV 2020)
In addition, international travelers must also consider outbound travel restrictions and return quarantine requirements. For example, the United Kingdom is currently advising against all but essential travel to the United States (FCO advice) and Australia has currently banned all overseas travel (AUS government advice).
As we have seen elsewhere, our hope is that travel bans and quarantines will be lifted and replaced with testing requirements, and ultimately certificates of vaccination, as we move into 2021.
Domestic Travel Restrictions within the United States
We’re closely monitoring the fluid travel restrictions that are in place in each state and taking these into account as each itinerary is designed.
The key state level restrictions that need to be considered apply to both your destination, as well as your home state, where return quarantine restrictions might apply.
As of writing (Nov 2020), the majority of U.S. states do not have blanket restrictions (either testing or quarantine) and those that do require quarantine on arrival are allowing travelers to waive the quarantine if they receive a negative COVID-19 result within 72 hours of arrival.
States that require quarantine with no testing waiver currently include New Mexico, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, D.C., California and Washington.
New York will waive a full 14 day quarantine with a negative test 72 hrs prior to travel and an additional negative test after 3 days of instate quarantine.
Specific state restrictions can be found here.
Tribal Areas: Many tribal lands and parks have been badly impacted by the pandemic and have strict restrictions in place. For example, the Navajo Nation, including Monument Valley, is currently closed to visitors. Many of the New Mexican pueblos are also closed to visitors.
You can donate to the Navajo & Hopi COVID-19 Relief Fund here.
Okay. Count me out for travel in 2020, but when should I start planning my 2021 trip?
As soon as possible!
While many hotels in major cities have been badly impacted by the pandemic with dramatically reduced occupancy, many of our favorite hotels, ranches and resorts have been incredibly busy in 2020 and finding availability for our clients has been difficult.
Similarly, the major national parks have also either seen high visitor numbers (Yellowstone saw more visitors in July 2020 than July 2019) or have restricted visitor numbers (Yosemite & Zion). The result of both has been the same availability constraints we would see in a normal year, if not greater.
With so much uncertainty we know it can be hard to make concrete plans but we’d strongly advise that clients start to make plans nine to twelve months in advance if possible; this is especially true if you want to visit a major national park or a popular region in peak season e.g. New England in the Fall or Jackson Hole in midsummer.
If you’re planning a trip at short notice, don’t worry. We’d still love to hear from you and can often leverage our relationships to deliver a great trip.
Are hotels and properties in the U.S. even open right now?
Yes, the majority of our partner properties are now fully up and running but will likely have changes to their operation due to COVID-19, such as reduced occupancy rates or minimum night stays. Where we have seen greater disruptions to hotel operations is in major cities, but there still are many great spots that are open.
Is it more sensible to take a road trip rather than flying during COVID-19?
Not only can a carefully planned road trip be one of the safest modes of travel during the pandemic but it is also the quintessential American journey.
Everyone will have a different level of comfort to flying commercially during the pandemic and, while there are reports to suggest that some of the risks may be more nuanced than they initially appear, we certainly understand why people would want to limit or avoid flying at the moment.
For our international clients, we can tailor itineraries to ensure that flying is minimized by having a direct flight into a major U.S. hub rather than a connection. For our clients in the U.S., there are many great options that involve no flights at all.
Our private aviation partners can provide the best of both worlds and your Destination Specialist can share options if requested.
What happens if I plan a trip with All Roads North, but then have to cancel the trip?
Given the uncertainty with regards to travel at the moment, our goal is to provide as much flexibility as possible and we want to give you the peace of mind to enjoy your upcoming travels rather than worry about whether it will go ahead.
Rather than apply a blanket approach to every client, we’re tailoring our standard terms and conditions based on the specifics of each client itinerary, as our ability to amend our existing terms are largely driven by the terms we are held to by our partners, which will be different for each trip.
The areas where we’re offering added flexibility:
- Reduced upfront deposits to confirm your trip
- Reduced or eliminated cancellation penalties
- The ability to postpone your trip with a 100% credit where possible
Looking beyond the fine print of terms and conditions, we’re proud to have built our business on the trust and loyalty of our clients and we’ll do everything we can to minimize the impact of travel disruptions during these unprecedented times.
Should I get travel insurance for my trip and will it cover COVID-19 cancellations?
To protect yourself against cancellation costs in certain circumstances and to offer coverage for incurred medical expenses, we STRONGLY recommend purchasing a travel insurance policy.
While we’re seeing travel insurers change their policies to meet the demand of travelers during the pandemic, typically the pandemic is now no longer an ‘unforeseen’ event and, for most insurers, is no longer a covered reason for cancellation.
However, many policies will offer cancellation benefits in the event that you contract COVID-19 and are unable to take your trip or have your trip interrupted due to contracting COVID-19. Some policies will also extend coverage to include the imposition of a quarantine in your destination.
For additional peace of mind, many insurers offer the ability to upgrade your policy to include Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR), which will cover a significant portion of the non-refundable trip costs in the event you want to cancel your trip for non-covered reasons.
What responsibilities do I have as a traveler during the COVID-19 pandemic?
While you are exposed to COVID-related risks while traveling, please also be aware of your potential impacts on the small communities you may travel through on your trip. Physical distancing, using a face covering when you’re close to others outside of your travel unit, avoiding crowded places, and not traveling at all if you have symptoms are all important precautions.