I apologize that I haven’t posted for a few weeks, but after reading this post you will understand why. Just when I thought things might be opening back up, I have once again been struck by the COVID travel curse. If you follow my blog closely, you are probably aware of my plans to visit Egypt, Jordan, and Israel this autumn. Needless to say, the Delta Variant has thrown me a curve ball, and once again I have a change of travel plans for this year. For the past several weeks I have been busy changing my current plans and making new ones.
As annoying and as frustrating as this change of travel plans has been, it isn’t all bad news on the travel front. This experience has really put my travel planning prowess to the test and I am happy to report that I have passed the test with flying colors. Because of all the careful planning that I did up front, moving my international travel plans to a future date caused me a minimal amount of stress and absolutely no money. In addition to sharing my new travel plans for this autumn with you, I also want to pass on to you some of the valuable lessons that I have learned thru this experience.
|COVID-Travel Restrictions and What Needs to Change|
Update on My Egypt, Jordan, and Israel Trip
While technically the countries of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel are all open (or soon to be open) to travelers, we have decided to postpone our tour until the Spring of 2022. The balance for our tour was due at the beginning of September and there are just too many unknown variables that are still in play. Most notably, the travel restrictions for visiting Israel have been constantly evolving and have required a varied degree of quarantine upon arrival. I don’t think I am the only traveler who is hesitant to spend a lot of money to travel overseas, only to have to sit in a hotel for a week before being able to explore.
While recent news suggests that these quarantine restrictions might be easing a bit, we didn’t want to risk having to change our plans last minute and miss the opportunity to explore other places this autumn. So, as excited as I am to visit Egypt and the Middle East, that adventure will have to wait until June of 2022. A change of travel plans just made sense for us all things considered. Luckily, we were able to adjust our tour and our flights with minimal frustration and no expense, which has made this sour pill a little easier to swallow. I learned quite a bit about contingency planning throughout this process, and I am very excited to share some of the lessons I learned with you.
What I Learned Thru my Change of Travel Plans
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught travelers anything, it is both the need for patience and the need to always have a contingency plan in place. I am still working on mastering the whole patience thing, but I am happy to report that I have learned quite a bit about contingency planning over the last few years. I fear the days of planning a trip and then not having to worry about those plans until your travel date approaches are over. Instead, they have been replaced by a lingering anxiety about which countries are open, which countries are closed, and what travel restrictions you will need to navigate to explore outside your country’s borders (or in some cases even within).
One of the most important lessons that I have learned while planning international travel during the COVID era is to never assume anything. Instead, always anticipate a need for a change of travel plans. Ask questions, and then when you think you understand, ask some more. Before I booked my tour of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, I did an extensive amount of research on how we would approach this trip. I looked at a number of different tour companies as well as touring the countries on our own. The one thing that stood out to me almost immediately was that the logistics involved in coordinating this trip on my own would be immense.
LEVERAGE TOUR COMPANIES
Even in a normal year, I think it would make a lot of sense to offload a lot of the logistical work of planning a trip like this to a tour company. In the COVID era, it really was a no brainer. The tour companies that operate in these countries have access to far more information on the direction of travel restrictions and are much more capable of working out the logistics of testing between travel from country-to-country. Not only will they help coordinate testing before travel between the countries you are visiting, but they will also help coordinate the testing required to get back home.
UNDERSTAND TOUR CHANGE AND CANCELLATION POLICIES
I looked at quite a few tour companies while planning our trip to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. When deciding which company to use, one of the most important factors for me was what would happen if there needed to be a change of travel plans. If I could give you one piece of advice to take away from this article, it is that you should ALWAYS ask up-front what the tour company’s change and cancellation policies are. Never, ever assume that you know. After doing my research, we decided to use Tour Radar for this trip, and I could not be more happy with that decision.
They are very up front with their change and cancellation policies. They charge no fees for changes or cancellations and they facilitate communication with the local tour operators that they use so that you can understand their policies up-front as well. Tour Radar does not pay the local tour operators any money until your tour is complete, which means that you don’t have to worry about a local operator folding its operations and losing out on your down payment.
Should you decide to change tours, Tour Radar will even let you use your down payment for a cancelled tour towards a new tour if you want to change course. I cannot say enough nice things about this company. They have been spectacular to work with every step of the way. They took most of the stress about a change of travel plans off my plate, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.
ASK THE AIRLINE YOU USE WHAT ITS CHANGE POLICIES ARE
In addition to making sure that you understand your tour company’s change and cancellation policies, you should understand your airline’s policies up-front as well. Many airlines are doing all that they can to be flexible with passenger travel plans during the COVID era, but you should never assume anything. If there is a change of travel plans, you need to know if you can reschedule your flights and what fees they will charge. Once again, I am reminded of why I continue to use Delta Airlines for most of my national and international flights.
While I have had minor disagreements with Delta (and virtually every other airline) in the past over minor policy changes, they really do go above and beyond to take care of their passengers. For our trip, we were able to change all of our flights (including two rewards flights) with absolutely no fees. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have a relationship with an airline and know that they value your business and will take care of you.
UNDERSTAND THE TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY YOU PURCHASE
The last lesson that I learned that I would like to pass on to you is to do your research before purchasing a travel insurance policy. It would be nice if you could purchase travel insurance and not have to worry about reading the fine print, but that isn’t the world we live in. Thanks to a wonderful guest post by Michael Mota of Money.com, I had a better understanding of travel insurance when I started planning my trip. In case you aren’t aware, most travel insurance will NOT cover the cost of your trip should it get cancelled because of COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
If you are purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself from losing the money you put down on booking a trip, you should make sure you are crystal clear on what your policy will and will not cover. Unless you purchase a policy that will let you cancel for any reason, do not assume that your policy will cover your trip cost should the COVID travel restrictions prevent you from traveling. Because of Michael’s guest post and his explanation of travel insurance, I knew enough before planning my trip to know that I couldn’t just rely on travel insurance to cover me. I had to do my homework on the tour companies and airlines as well.
|Have a Back-up Plan for your Travel Plan|
My New Plans for This Autumn
As sad as I am about the change of travel plans for my Egypt, Jordan, and Israel trip, I am also very excited about some new plans that I have made for this autumn. Early next month, I will be returning to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona to do some more exploration. In case you haven’t noticed, Southern Utah is one of my favorite places in the world. I have been doing a bunch of research over the past few weeks and I have charted out several incredible back country hikes and lesser known places of interest that I am planning to explore. Here is a list of just a few of the places I have on my itinerary:
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Goosenecks State Park
- Leprechaun Canyon
- Reflection Canyon (overnight hike)
- Alstrom Point (Glen Canyon viewpoint)
- Forest Gump Point (Monument Valley viewpoint)
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument
In addition to in-depth visitor guides and Instagram content that I plan on producing for each of these destinations and more, I am also working on a very comprehensive back country backpacking guide that I hope to share with you soon. I have accumulated a wealth of information about back country backpacking from other travel adventurers over the years, and I really want to start passing some of that wisdom on to you. So look for that content in the very near future!
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