One of the joys of traveling is to meet like-minded travelers, share experiences together and return home knowing you made new, life-long friends. But meeting new people has become tricky in this time of COVID-19, and spending quality time with them — having drinks or dining together — even trickier. One way to remain social on vacation is to invite friends and family from your personal bubble to travel with you.
Many of us already have this bubble in place. It usually consists of a handful of your closest friends, some extended family members, and maybe even your neighbors or co-workers. These are people you know well and trust that they are following enough safety guidelines to warrant spending time together during the pandemic.
Some travel providers are now offering packages and discounts specifically for bubble-groups traveling together. This gives you the opportunity to reconnect with both your love of travel and your loved ones, all while feeling safe and comfortable in your personal bubble during your journeys.
It’s a similar concept to what we see happening across the country with professional sports teams, colleges and universities, and even essential workplaces. Once you are within your safe travel bubble, you can enjoy your travels without having to constantly worry about health and safety risks. Here are a few simple steps to get started.
Find your bubble group
From local family, friends and neighbors who share a similar focus on health precautions to remote relationships — whether distant family, girlfriend getaways, golf trips or college roommates — looking to replace zoom fatigue with meaningful time together, there’s no better way to disconnect from reality and reconnect with relationships than to plan a trip together. And with work from anywhere and distance learning, it doesn’t take a special occasion or holiday to spend that quality time with people who matter most in your lives.
Whether you are single, a couple or a family with kids, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is to change your scenery and take a break from our current reality. Getting away on vacation and connecting with family and friends is the perfect escape.
Set some ground rules
Before you start planning travel, make sure everyone in your travel bubble group understands the ground rules that are in place to keep everyone safe and healthy while together. Establishing this upfront provides peace of mind to everyone in the group and avoids any surprises or disappointments later on in the process.
Start out by having an open, honest conversation about what the expectations are for the entire group. It’s important to cover personal preferences on items like social distancing, use of masks, personal space – hugs or high fives – and understand both how they are living their lives at home and what they would be comfortable with while traveling in a bubble group together. For example, at home people may not be comfortable eating out at restaurants, but while traveling with proper precautions and among the bubble group would that attitude change? It’s important to understand if anyone in your bubble group has any underlying health conditions and how they may impact both their ability to travel and the rest of the group.
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Agree on a destination and resort
Once you have your bubble group established and have agreed on common values, it’s time to settle on the location of your trip. It’s important to review the entry requirements for various destinations to understand if there are any rules or restrictions you need to meet. Even within the U.S. and Canada, there are local state or city rules that should be understood before you start planning.
All airlines are flying a reduced schedule compared to pre-pandemic times, so non-stop flight options and flight times may be more limited. For a destination like Cancun, there are a growing number of flights from 30+ cities across the U.S. and Canada, but for other more remote destinations or islands in the Caribbean it’s best to check flight access first.
Think about the style of travel you want with your bubble group. Even within destinations today the types of activities and focus of the traveler is very different from what it used to be. If you are looking for high energy, crowded nightclubs, concerts and festivals, you just aren’t going to find those right now (thankfully!). If you want outdoor options and open spaces, make sure the destination you pick offers those types of activities.
Most destinations and many individual resorts have put occupancy limits in place to protect social distancing guidelines, which means hotels may only be operating with 30-50% of the rooms filled. Some destinations focus more on all-inclusive resorts, where you have a bubble within a bubble knowing that everything you need is self-contained in the resort complex. Other destinations have more traditional hotels, some with multiple restaurants and others which require you to go out for meals and activities, which may be more limited. And if you pick a suite, condo or vacation home with a kitchen, think about meal prep and supplies.
Space has become the new luxury for many travelers, and there has never been a better time to ‘up-size’ your room. Instead of a standard hotel room, consider upgrading to a multi-room suite. If you are traveling with multiple families, look at renting out an entire multi-bedroom villa, or coordinating with your hotel to get all of your rooms together in one pod on the same floor or building.
Pre-test before travel
To ensure that everyone in your bubble group is COVID free before traveling, many groups take extra precautions in the 14 days prior to travel to avoid risky exposure in their local communities. Everyone in the group should agree to making small sacrifices to increase their precautions leading up to the trip to avoid any last-minute disappointments.
It is common for bubble groups to all agree to be COVID tested prior to travel to ensure that everyone traveling together has a negative test result. In most communities, testing is free and results come back in 2-3 days, which only adds to the confidence that everyone you are traveling with is safe within your travel bubble. Some destinations have entry requirements that travelers are either fully vaccinated or have a negative covid test before arrival. Best to check with your travel advisor for the most up-to-date requirements for the destination you select.
Enjoy your travels together
With these pre-travel precautions in place, you can have increased confidence that the people closest to you during your trip are all within your safe travel bubble – taking proper precautions, traveling with a negative COVID test result and agreeing on common ground rules while traveling together. Having this assurance will allow you to leave the worries of lockdown behind and enjoy the time you spend together.
If everyone in your group has followed pre-travel precautions, you are relatively safe to socialize within your bubble group. Play games, hang out, eat meals, sing and dance, toss a ball and enjoy conversation and in-person together time! After all the preparation and planning relax and enjoy your vacation.
While traveling, keep up safe healthy practices just as you would at home. Avoid crowds, wear masks in public spaces, wash hands or use sanitizer often, socially distance from other non-bubble travelers and consider doing a daily health check with your travel bubble.
If you are traveling to an international destination, the United States currently requires a negative COVID test result within 3 days of travel for all international arrivals into the US. Most major resorts in popular tourist destinations across Mexico and the Caribbean now include free on-site COVID testing, making it easy and convenient to meet this requirement.
In addition to sharing memories of time spent together, it is important that the group maintain contact in the week following travel to share any updates on personal health situations. As an extra measure of caution, many bubble groups will also agree to COVID test 3-5 days after returning from travel to ensure a full end-to-end focus on safety.
Ready to go?
There is no better way to coordinate your group of bubble buddies than to work with one of our expert travel advisors. From helping to pick the right destination and resort to fit your travel style, to coordination of flights and local transportation for friends coming from near and far, a travel professional can help guide you through the changes impacting travel today so all you have to do is relax and enjoy the trip!
To plan your bubble vacation, contact your travel professional today.