Back on the Road – What We Have Learned
As COVID-19 case rates increase in the USA and other parts of the world, we have received many calls from travelers wondering if we will cancel their upcoming trip. Since June 2021 we have run three very successful tours that traveled through Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Austria. Based on the experiences of our tour leaders, customers and staff on the ground in Europe, we are confident we can run safe and fun trips. We learned a lot during these three tours and want to pass on the knowledge, as well as share insights on how we’ll continue to safely operate our tours.
Proof of vaccination
- All hotels and establishments in the regions where we have run tours, as well as other countries including Italy and France, have accepted the CDC card as proof of vaccination.
Obtaining the EU Digital Certificate (or country equivalent)
- In Germany, Austria, Portugal and Spain, travelling with the CDC certificate was always accepted in place of the EU Digital Certificate.
- Many customers chose to not get the EU conversion, but those who did in Germany found it fast – 15 minutes at most – and easy to do in pharmacies (we hope other countries will soon make this possible).
- We also recently received instructions for how France is helping foreign travelers get their Health Pass/QR code BEFORE they travel. We created this information page for anyone traveling to France. Please note, as of right now these instructions for the French pass are only for people arriving in France before August 31, but we expect updated information for September travelers to follow.
Social Distancing and Traveling during the day
- Due to the inherent nature of being on a bike and away from crowded places, our travelers felt safe while moving from town to town.
- Masks are required when you enter establishments in town and knowing that those mandates were in place made some of our travelers comment that they felt “safer” since it was just understood that you wore masks inside.
Group meals and activities
- Our goal is to eat outside for as many group meals as possible and that has proved to work well for everyone.
- When we do need to eat inside, restaurants are adhering to local regulations (separate rooms or sufficient distance between tables).
- We are booking group-related activities, such as wine tastings, as a private group and adhering to local mask and distancing requirements. We divide into smaller groups as necessary.
Tour Leader Vaccination Status
- Circumstances surrounding vaccine availability differ from country to country. The youngest of our tour leaders have not been eligible to receive their first vaccination until recently.
- We are working very hard to make sure all our tour leaders are vaccinated. In the rare circumstance that they are not fully vaccinated they will be keeping a health or Green Pass updated with testing requirements (every 24 hours).
Local COVID Restrictions
- We are following all local covid regulations and these have not impacted how we run the trip.
COVID-testing logistics for return trips
- Tour leaders are coordinating COVID testing at the end of each tour. For example, in Spain we had a lab come to the hotel. In Germany, we made appointments for people who were flying back to the U.S. directly after the tour.
- If you are traveling more than three days after the trip, we can help you plan for the test for when you return.
- Self-test kits also work, but be sure to read the requirements for this option in the United States Re-Entry section of our COVID Travel Planning Instructions.
If you were to test positive at the end of the tour
- You would be subject to a 10-day quarantine until you test negative, per CDC recommendations. Travel Insurance will cover costs for trip delay and any needed medical coverage. However, please note that your coverage may include a capped amount that won’t truly cover a full 10-day quarantine. so you might want to check with your travel insurance before departure.
Interpreting Travel Advisory Levels
- The CDC and State Department have placed most of the world in a level 3 and 4 travel advisory. We have seen this before (in fact most of the world was at a Level 4 advisory when we restarted tours in June).
- We have talked to our insurance representatives (traveler and commercial liability) and to various industry professionals to understand what these advisories mean. What we learned is that they have zero regulatory weight and do not affect travel insurance. Of course, we take these advisories into consideration as we evaluate tour feasibility.
For many of us travel is a way to heal and renew and right now it feels like with the right spirit and some flexibility this is a great time to explore the world. If borders were to close or quarantine requirements put in place for travelers from the USA or Canada we would of course re-evaluate whether we can run tours.
If you are thinking of taking or are booked on a trip this fall, we’d love to answer any questions you might have. For a firsthand Q&A interview with two recent tour participants, see this companion blog post.