From the Field: Q&A On Travel During COVID Times
You’ve been dreaming for months about your upcoming bicycle vacation. And yet, we know you have questions and concerns about traveling and bicycling in Europe as COVID numbers continue to rise in the U.S. So, we thought it would be helpful to hear from a few customers who recently returned from tour. Please meet Kevin M. and Peter P., experienced ExperiencePlus! customers who agreed to offer their perspective of life on tour by answering the questions below.
Kevin pedaled the Portuguese Camino: from Porto to Santiago de Compostela from July 31- August 7, 2021 with his wife Margaret. Peter pedaled Secret Bavaria Plus! the Austrian Alps from August 1-11, on August 11, 2021, with his wife Patti, brother Charlie, and sister-in-law Nancy. Coincidently, Kevin, Peter and their spouses have all been traveling with ExperiencePlus! since 2017.
Want to chat with Kevin or Peter about their experience? Let us know and we’ll connect you!
What concerns did you have prior to the trip?
Peter: The main concern was travel – planes and trains over Covid. I would say that Germany and Austria felt safer than the US in terms of compliance with mask rules, and the like. Restaurants generally did a great job either seating us outdoors or in secluded places indoors.
Kevin: Our primary concerns revolved around COVID prevalence and mask compliance in the places we were traveling as well as mask compliance in the airports and on plane flights. On the first point, mask compliance and attention to COVID test results and vaccination status were taken very serious in both countries, especially Portugal. We felt safer on the trip in Portugal and Spain than at home in the US. Airport and flight compliance was excellent on the international flights and airports, and pretty good but not as good in the US, as would be expected. We were also worried that the trip route and activities would be negatively impacted by COVID, which was not the case.
How were those concerns addressed before your tour and throughout it?
Peter: The outfit and the leaders were very conscientious about distancing and keeping us apprised of the rules and safety protocols. They made it easier and led by example.
Kevin: Margaret called Maria Elena just before our trip for reassurance given the travel warning just issued by the State Department. She reassured us about the EP COVID protocols on the trips and that also the tour had started in country already and was going fine without disruption of any of the activities other than wearing masks and eating more outdoors when possible. We felt comfortable going after that.
How did COVID impact your touring experience?
Peter: Much of Germany was less traveled by persons outside of the EU and as a result, sites were far less crowded and more enjoyable.
Kevin: Other than wearing a mask much of the time (not a big deal) and worrying about what would happen if our exit COVID test was positive, no impact really. I would go again in a heartbeat.
What were some of the highlights of your trip?
Peter: The ride from Landsberg to Füssen was memorable, riding into the Alps on a perfect day. It may have been the best ride of my life.
Kevin: Visiting the wonderful city of Porto, some of the historic hotels (like the Parador fortress and the San Francisco), the spectacular Portuguese and Galician coast, excellent food, our terrific guides, all of the small villages with historical buildings, and travelling the Camino route to Santiago and receiving my Pilgrim certificate.
How different did it feel to be on an ExperiencePlus! trip now compared to during non-Covid times?
Peter: Anyone traveling had to take more precautions. If travelers are prepared to do that, outdoor activities such as riding and visiting outdoor sites is safe and enjoyable, especially after enduring lockdown.
Kevin: Mask usage and more outdoor dining or government mandated reduced dining capacity which could reduce restaurant choices in tourist areas. That did not seem to be an issue on the meals together. We visited all the historical sites and rode the same route that we would have had there not been COVID.
What advice or recommendations do you have for other travelers as they plan their tours to/from Europe at this time?
Peter: Stay apprised of ever-changing rules and protocols, but don’t let precautions be a deterrent – unless of course things get worse and travel is declared unsafe. Listen to the scientists.
Kevin: I would recommend getting fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine if possible and using a hospital grade procedure mask rather than cloth mask for better protection (Air France for example requires them). I would bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer although there were hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere we visited. When choosing entrance and exit cities to visit before and after the trip, avoid staying in hot spots and look for hotels with good reviews on COVID hygiene.
We send a special thanks to Peter and Kevin for sharing their insights. Our COVID-19 Travel Planning Instructions webpage lists everything you need to know about entry and exit requirements for the countries where we travel, including re-entry to the United States.