I’m writing this month’s column from my suite at the Sandals Royal Plantation Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Yes, you did read that correctly – I did travel to Jamaica this November. In this column, I’ll share my experiences and some important takeaways for today’s traveler.
In many ways, the travel experience has not changed, yet it has also been transformed. Health and sanitation protocols – like the ones you experience daily at stores and restaurants – are now the norm. Everything, from airplanes to transfer vehicles to deck chairs by the pool, is constantly cleaned and sanitized. Social distancing is practiced everywhere: in airports, on planes, in restaurants, and even on beaches and in pools. Staff wear masks at all times, and guests wear them indoors (except, of course, when dining) and anywhere distance can’t be maintained. Based on my experience in Jamaica, guest compliance is very high. In fact, it feels in many ways like you’re at a well-managed and safety-conscious public venue in Minnesota.
Jamaica, like several of the many destinations currently open to American travelers, requires a negative COVID-19 PCR test before travel. Upon arrival at the airport, travelers are individually screened by a health worker who reviews the test results, takes a temperature reading, and asks additional screening questions. Sandals Resorts also takes guest temperatures upon arrival. In addition, both the airport and resort staff reinforce the importance of compliance with Jamaica’s health protocols during the arrival process.
A great advantage to staying at a deluxe boutique resort like Sandals Royal Plantation is the sheer amount of space and privacy afforded to each guest. With only 74 suites – and a butler to serve each guest personally – personal space is never a concern. There is plenty of room by the pool and on the beach to distance from other guests, and much of the resort is either outdoors or open air – even the restaurants all have terraces. There isn’t a crowd to be seen anywhere. That’s a great reason to choose a boutique resort in normal circumstances, and an added bonus in today’s environment.
Despite the careful attention to health and safety on my flight and here in Jamaica, as I noted, the key elements of the travel experience – the key reasons we travel – have not changed. Even a mask can’t hide the warm Jamaican welcome from the incredibly hospitable and kind staff at Sandals. Dining options are plentiful and varied, and Sandals’ chefs excel in the kitchen, in particular, they make the local dishes like jerk chicken sing. The sun is still shining (well, I’ll admit that we haven’t had the greatest weather this week!), the ocean is warm and calm, and it’s easy to decompress and relax by the pool or on the beach.
We all understand intuitively that getting away on vacation is an important component of our overall health, and I know I’ll be returning home refreshed and recharged.
In short, it is indeed possible today to travel mindfully and safely to many of our favorite vacation destinations, with more reopening over the next month. The best brands – airlines like Delta and resorts like Sandals – have carefully designed and implemented new protocols to help keep both travelers and locals safe. Travelers willing to embrace these new aspects of travel will find that the same world, full of wonder and discovery, awaits them. A knowledgeable travel adviser can help you navigate this new world to make sure that your travels are safe and that your vacation investment is well protected.
Where to next for me? I’ll keep you posted. Until then, for those ready to travel, bon voyage!
Ted Blank is a luxury travel adviser with Travel Leaders.