How to Handle Honeymoon Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you’re planning your “I dos,” you may be wondering whether or not it’s safe or ethical to travel for a honeymoon during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given how quickly everything is changing, this uncertainty makes perfect sense. Guidelines are fluctuating constantly, and conditions have changed multiple times, even over the course of reporting and writing this story.
MEET THE EXPERT
Sarah Brook Austin is the managing director at Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited, a boutique travel consultancy with an emphasis on luxury and adventure travel.
Alexandra Stockton is a travel agent at Smartflyer with more than ten years of experience in the luxury wedding and corporate event industry.
Katie Jacobson is the founder of Ever After Honeymoons, a concierge-style luxury honeymoon planning service.
The experts we spoke with were in resounding agreement on one key point: travel is an exceptionally personal choice right now. There’s no right or wrong answer—every couple will need to make the choice for themselves as to whether or not they feel safe enough traveling.
Sorry that we can’t give you a clear “Yes, it’s okay” or “No, stay home" answer. What we can do is give you the information to help guide you through the process so you can make the best decision for you and your partner.
What to Consider When Deciding If You Feel Comfortable Traveling
“Everybody’s comfort level is different right now,” explains Katie Jacobson of Ever After Honeymoons. Some couples still aren’t comfortable leaving the house to go to the grocery store, while others feel comfortable enough with the safety precautions put in place to travel. “Everything has some level of risk right now,” says Jacobson. “A lot of my clients who had big international honeymoons planned for this year have moved them to next year and are opting for shorter local trips this year.”
Couples should start by assessing their own comfort levels: Where do you fall in this spectrum? If you’re in the first category, it’s unlikely you’ll change your mind and feel comfortable traveling in the next couple of months. Instead, you might want to set your sights on planning a luxurious honeymoon a year or two from now. If you feel comfortable navigating safety protocols, you may feel comfortable taking a honeymoon now. If you find yourself in the middle ground, Jacobson suggests, “Maybe try something that’s in a couple of hours driving distance that they’re more comfortable with.”
Echoing how personal travel decisions are, Alexandra Stockton of Smartflyer says couples should also consider personal circumstances when weighing the pros and cons of honeymoon travel. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you have grandparents or elderly relatives you see regularly?
Do you or your partner have preexisting conditions?
Are either you or your partner essential workers whose livelihoods might be interrupted if you test positive?
How Honeymoon Trends Have Changed
Prior to the pandemic, Italy was the hottest destination. That’s not the case anymore, as border closures and concerns about pandemic levels have crossed international travel off the list for many honeymooners-to-be. “The logistics of international travel being more complicated has made domestic travel more popular,” says Sarah Brook Austin of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited.
Many couples who planned for international destinations have switched their focus to domestic travel. Combine that with many hotel properties limiting occupancy to fifty percent, and couples may find it more difficult to book some destinations. “Amangiri in Utah is basically impossible to find a spot at, and Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain have been super hard to find space at as well," says Stockton.
There’s been a rise in popularity for honeymoons in Jackson Hole, too. “I love a dude ranch vacation,” Stockton adds. “I think it’s honestly one of the most fun vacations you can go on, especially if you like to stay busy or you’re traveling with family.”
Many couples are opting for drivable destinations, where they can rent a private property or stay for a shorter time. Destinations that lend themselves to time spent outdoors have spiked in popularity, too. “So many people have spent months inside their homes during covid. They’re just craving that time outside,” Jackson explains.
Less popular has been the Pacific Northwest, which was ravaged by fires in late summer. Many couples who had planned to travel to Napa, for example, have canceled their trips. The flip side? With fire season behind us and travelers deterred, Napa has become a more ideal destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway where they can escape the crowds. With so many wineries, there’s a vibe for every couple. Plus, choosing to travel to destinations that need support can help bolster the economy while you enjoy a little R&R–two birds, one stone.
More Simple Itineraries
Wherever couples choose to go, Jacobson says there’s one common denominator in pandemic travel: people are slowing down. “So often couples come to me and say, ‘We want to go to Italy for two weeks, and we want to go to these 20 different places,'" she says. "I’m always having to be like, okay, let’s slow it down, let’s pace, let’s really enjoy each place. I’m always trying to get people to really take in the places that they’re visiting and enjoy each place.” Now? Jacobson says safety concerns have nudged couples to naturally take her advice. She’s seeing more couples choose a single destination and stay for a full week or two, prioritizing rest the way they might have prioritized variety in the past. Safety concerns have nudged couples to naturally take her advice.
How to Plan With Changing Guidelines and Protocols
If you decide to plan a honeymoon during the pandemic, you can expect the unexpected when traveling between countries and also between states. "It's important to monitor the government website of the location they’re traveling to, as well as go by the CDC guidelines,” Austin advises.
States and countries are managing guidelines and protocols as cases fluctuate: England, which had reopened for the summer, is now in its third lockdown; many states have changed their mask protocols more than once; and, effective January 26, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require air passengers entering the United States to present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival (see more information here).
This is affecting the way couples plan and it’s highlighted the benefits of relying on a travel advisor for honeymoon planning. “I’ve been telling my friends being a travel advisor is almost like reporting on the news right now,' Austin admits, adding that she tries not to sway her clients one way or another. “We’re saying ‘here are the facts,’ and our clients make their own decisions based on that.”
What to Expect When Traveling
If you choose to travel during the pandemic, you’ll also want to plan for the trip on a more granular level than you might have in the past. Talk to the concierge a week or so before your trip to find out what you’ll need to book in advance. Some properties are requiring reservations for the pool. Many group excursions or drop-in activities have been canceled. Instead, you may have the opportunity to book private excursions, but you can expect limited availability.
You can also expect temperature or wellness checks at the venue or hotel. “There probably won’t be that legendary breakfast buffet,” Austin says. Restaurants and other activities will operate at a limited capacity. The up-side of these limitations? It gives couples a chance to enjoy travel without the crows.
If you do travel internationally, you should prepare for longer wait times with customs and immigration. You’ll also need to meet the safety guidelines of the country you’re visiting. Many require negative COVID-19 tests within a certain time frame prior to travel. Austin says, “That negative test is now just as important as having your passport.”
The experts urged couples to practice patience. “Service may not be as strong because many hotels have had a hard time staffing during the pandemic,” Austin explains. To that point, Stockon encourages travelers to tip people more if they're financially able. “Most of the people in hospitality, even if they’re still working, have had their hours cut," she says. "There are different circumstances that have changed their financial situations. Anything you can do if you’re able is really nice.”
What to Consider When Sharing Your Trip on Social Media
Sharing your honeymoon bliss on social media isn’t as simple as it was pre-pandemic. “Obviously, document your memories,” Stockton says, “But also be in touch with the reality of what people are facing right now.”
“This is a really hard time for so many people in so many ways—a lot of people have lost their jobs, and a lot of people have been really financially impacted,” Jacobson says. Instead of posting photos of a lavish trip on Instagram, couples might want to consider sharing their photos with a smaller circle instead, or you may want to print an album now and save the social shares for later.
If you do choose to post travel photos to your feed, be mindful that your followers may not be aware of the safety precautions you’re following, especially if you’re photographing around them. Austin shares this advice from her own social media: “In addition to sharing room tours and property tours, I’m sharing the safety protocols and requirements of the destination that I’m traveling to so that my followers can be educated while I’m traveling."