by: Heidi Bloomer

 

Paris, France is a popular bucket-list destination.

Paris is so special because it is celebrated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and filled with renowned attractions. My family and I were excited to check it out for ourselves and cross it off our own “must-see” list this summer. It was a first visit to France for all of us and my 30th country! We enjoyed leisurely days of sleeping in, biking under gorgeous  skies, seeing famous sites, experiencing the culture and shopping galore.

From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, and everything in between, we agreed. Paris has something for  everyone.

FLIGHTS:

We originated from Chicago, IL and flew Delta from ORD to Detroit and then onto Paris. Delta is our preferred airline and our loyalty throughout the years has paid off so many times. We still had several global upgrade certificates banked from COVID days. We used them on this trip to enjoy perks of convenient in-flight food and good sleep! For the return flight, we all flew Air France, a partner of Delta, directly back to Chicago. This was such a treat. Delta and Air France have consistently delivered us excellent customer service and we will continue to make them our preferred airline for travel.

ARRIVING, LUGGAGE, ACCOMMODATIONS:

We arrived on a Monday morning and decided to take an Uber into the city. This ended up being a bad idea in that it took two hours due to the morning rush-hour traffic. We couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3 pm, so we used an app called Nannybag. This is a super cool concept. People are available to “nanny” your bags - at malls, restaurants, shops - for a nominal fee per hour, while you wait for accommodations. Most hotels will allow you to keep bags onsite until your room is available, but this was especially useful to us this trip because we were staying at an Airbnb without that option.

For this trip we decided to keep things simple by staying in one location the entire duration of the trip (six days). This allowed us to unpack once and just enjoy. Our Airbnb was neat - and super economical compared to the hotels available during this time of peak season.

ACTIVITIES:

We booked a private guide through Boutique Bike Tours. Our guide, Marie, was amazing. We leisurely biked the city streets for hours and snapped pics at all the must-see spots. Boutique Bike Tours offers small group and private tours. I would highly recommend to ensure you don’t miss a single hot spot.

We did a one-hour river cruise, complete with champagne, as well! This provided an alternate view of some of the same key spots. There are a variety of boat tour companies available and each vary in length, time of day, and amenities. Choose the one that suits you and Bon Voyage!

Of course, we went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa. The lines were extremely long and it turns out this is a relatively small painting! We snapped a pic from afar and called it good. The Louvre is huge! A person could easily spend days there and get lost.

If going up the Eiffel Tower is a goal, book ahead! We booked a few weeks before our trip and only had one option available that worked for our schedule. We ended up with a 9:30 pm slot which turned out to be incredible. We saw a lovely sunset and by the time we came down the tower was lit up and sparkly. Dreamy!

SHOPPING:

There are many French products including beauty care, purses, accessories and clothing, which are much less expensive when purchased in France. Be on the lookout for your favorite French brands (e.g., Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier) as you just may need to make shopping a priority!

FOOD:

We ate some amazing cuisine. The restaurants 6 New York and Junglii were two of my favorite  places. We also had our pick of at least a dozen cafes within a few steps of our apartment. The whole family enjoyed coffee and fresh pastries each morning. My husband and I connected each evening over champagne. We only made a reservation at 6 New York - otherwise it was easy to walk in and find seating everywhere else.

DISNEY IN PARIS:

This was a non-negotiable activity for our family. In addition to achieving so many travel milestones on this trip we now have bragging rights of visiting all the Disney parks in the world.  

Tickets: We booked ahead of time and picked the days as well. This is a current requirement due to COVID and park capacity. We chose two, one-day/one-park tickets: Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios. There is also a “Disney Village,” much like a smaller version of Disney Springs in Florida, which is connected to both parks and the train station. The Village offers additional shopping and dining options.

Transport: There is an option to book your visit with bus transport to and from the parks. We  added this option but would highly recommend against it. The bussing is only offered one time each way, takes 50 minutes (without traffic), and involves lots of waiting. After one time of using this option, we voted to take the train for the other three trips. This proved to be inexpensive and easy!

Accommodations: As noted above, we stayed at our Airbnb in the city. Staying at an official Disney-branded hotel is always a fun experience, but we did not feel it was necessary for us this time around. Note: The main Disneyland Hotel is closed for renovations at this time anyway.

Fast Passes: The main tickets include entry into the park. You’ll want to download the app and  link your tickets ahead of time. Many of the rides have individual fast passes you can buy on  your app, after you enter the park for the day. The cost per person, per ride, seems to vary  depending on supply and demand on that day at that time. If someone from your group doesn’t want to go on that ride, you can uncheck them and avoid paying for their slot. The pass assigns  you a timeframe of one hour for that ride. If you have an active pass, you must wait until the timeframe has “started” to order another one. We utilized a mix of regular wait times and Fast Pass. We were able to get through seven rides at Disneyland from 10 am - 4 pm, including a break for lunch and a parade: and four rides at Walt Disney Studios from 10 am - 1:30 pm including time for our lunch. If you don’t need to go to every ride or event and are ok doing some Fast Passes, you could totally do both parks in one day. If you’d prefer not to pay for the Fast Pass and/or you want to hit up everything - then definitely allow for one day in each park.

To sum it all up, our stay felt short, and we left knowing there was so much more to experience in this renowned city of love and all over France. Our family appreciated all that we did get to see and look forward to returning. Nous aimons Paris!

by: Heidi Bloomer

 

Spring Break 2022 brought my family and me to Europe, with first stop on the itinerary: London, England! 

Food 

We ate well… very well. A lot of restaurants are closed for business on Sundays. Businesses that remain open typically break mid-day between lunch and dinner. This is something to note especially if traveling with children, or partners who like to eat on schedule. Darjeeling Express is number one on my list to highlight. Chef and Owner of Darjeeling Express, Asma Khan, was the first British chef to feature in Netflix’s Emmy nominated Chef’s Table. The restaurant offers three eight-course dinner tasting menus, lunch a la carte and Sunday brunch. Reservations highly recommended to secure a coveted spot. We were able to visit on a special “Supper Club”  evening, where Ms. Khan spoke to the patrons – it was very rewarding!

For an authentic and upscale British dining experience, try the “Fish and Chips” at Gillray’s Steakhouse. We came upon this gem because it was conveniently attached to the Marriott where we stayed, but also came recommended by the concierge as the perfect place for pre-theatre dining. Gillray’s had instant menu appeal because of their commitment to using locally sourced farm ingredients. Diners also enjoy a quick and quirky history lesson via original  satirical political cartoons displayed throughout the restaurant. James Gillray, the restaurant’s historical namesake and “father of political cartooning,” created these cartoons.

Activities 

My daughter and I saw Mamma Mia. The whole family saw Wicked. (This was the second time seeing Wicked for my daughter and I because we love the story so much!) My ten-year-old son loved the London Eye. Maybe because it reminded him of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel back home in Chicago. We booked a “tour guide” through Tours by Locals (Elizabeth) from 9 am to 3 pm one day. She was knowledgeable and kind. She went at our pace and took time to understand and highlight the things we were interested in. My son asked at least 100 questions. I’m quite sure he learned enough to cover History/Social Studies for at least a semester. The world is truly our classroom.

Lodging 

We stayed at the Marriott County Hall – and if given the chance, I would be happy to stay again.  This hotel has family rooms as well as spacious king and double rooms. It appeared recently remodeled but maintained the integrity and vibe of the historic building. The location and proximity to an array of famed attractions can’t be beat.

Safety and COVID restrictions 

Compared to other trips I’ve taken out of the USA over the last year, this one was a breeze for  COVID with easy-to-navigate COVID protocols. That doesn’t mean I didn’t check daily leading up  to the trip to verify I hadn’t missed something. I typically check the airline info page as well as find a local government page for the country and specific area we are visiting. This time all countries on our itinerary, as well as the transit city (Amsterdam) accepted our (USA) proof of vaccination cards and didn’t require COVID testing. We voluntarily tested the day before we left  just to be respectful – and we tested the day before our return to the USA per protocol. The USA accepts an antigen test – so we tried the “self” kit that is proctored this time. This promotes increased flexibility by allowing us to take the test on our own instead of having a local agency come to our hotel or going to a local facility.

Next on this itinerary: Finland!  

Piercing blue skies. Untouched white snowscapes contrasted by patches of majestic pine forests waiting for visitors to lay the first snowmobile tracks. Air so clear we could see Russia in the remote distance.

The inspiration behind our trip to Finland came from the fact that my daughter’s BFF from our ‘Shanghai Days,’ lives in Helsinki. (My family previously lived abroad in Tokyo, Japan &  Shanghai, China.)

These two besties last saw each other in January 2020 and never got a proper goodbye due to our abrupt move back to the US. They have been diligent at staying connected despite the time zone difference and social calendars of two teenagers. They schedule calls, prioritize check-ins via text, and just generally make a beautiful effort to stay friends. It was such a joy to be able to reunite them in person. They are already planning their next reunion in the US.

I love the concept that travel can turn someone’s ordinary into your extraordinary. Friendships like this one are beautiful examples of that.

Food 

All I’ll say is that we tried Reindeer (their main source of protein/meat in Finnish Laplan) and it was delicious!

Activities 

We met Heather, the owner and operator of Heather Helsinki’s Tours for a history/food tour. We lucked out again with another knowledgeable and sweet soul. We like to include some element of “formal” learning in all of our travels with the kids, so they have a richer appreciation for the places we visit.

Then we headed to Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. This was definitely a once in a lifetime bucket list experience. I hate the chill of winter and even I was able to get lost in the surreal moments and forget about the cold. We met many local families and business owners, enjoyed delicious local food, snowmobiled, went dog sledding, went for a reindeer sleigh ride and slept underneath the stars in a glass igloo.

If you know my daughter, you’ll know she did her research on the care of all the animals that work for these experiences – including the reindeer, huskies and horses. These magnificent creatures are all so beautiful and well taken care of. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Northern Lights this trip (bad timing and uncooperative weather), but this just gives us an excuse to visit and try again!

Lodging 

Apart from the arctic resort, we stayed at the Hilton Airport Hotel Helsinki which was beneficial  due to being an airport-hotel location. Rooms and food were what you would expect from a convenient stay with a reputable commercial brand. We also stayed at the Hilton Strand Helsinki a couple of nights which offered great location, solid dining options and rooms that were on the small side but nice and met our basic needs.

Our hearts (and minds) are full of wonder given the new experiences, massive history lessons and family time over this Spring Break vacation.

by: Heidi Bloomer

During the month of April we had the opportunity to spend quality family time in St Thomas, USVI, for a long weekend with my parents and my brother and his wife/kids. This was a welcome break from the long stretch of never-ending Midwest winter this year. A great time had by all and super relaxing. Another place added to the “would definitely return and recommend,” list!

Food:

Ultimate Chef Services of the USVI was amazing. They come directly to your Villa and cook custom menus with authentic fresh flavors of the Caribbean. This is a perfect option for a group. We also had some yummy beach bar food and treated ourselves to some delicious meals at both the Caribbean Fish Market and one of the most famous beach bars in the islands -- Iggies Beach Bar.

Activities:

We chartered a boat to accommodate four adults and three kids with Local Legends. It likely could have fit two to three more people on it, if needed. Apply sunscreen liberally as the boat offers minimal shade. Captain Kyle was an excellent host and driver. We cruised around St. Thomas and St. John’s, stopped three times to snorkel in crystal clear waters and made it to Lime Out - a famous floating taco spot on the water! Local Legends also does charters to the British VI, but we opted out due to short stay and knowing it would have added a layer of complexity due to current COVID-19 protocols. The highlight was definitely visiting Lime Out for lunch! Documented as a “Top 100 Things To Do In The World,” by Time Magazine - it is a taco floating bar in Coral Harbor, St. John, USVI. The drinks were tasty as well! Captain Kyle got us there safely from St. Thomas. We devoured the tacos so quickly there was no time for photographs. You’ll have to visit yourself to see (and taste) their  deliciousness!

We visited Coki Beach (local, beach bar, beach side food & beverage service with music), Magen’s Bay (big, empty in the morning, but cars lined up to enter by noon, limited food  service, quieter/family friendly), and Secret Harbor (small beach, sort of rocky so wear water shoes, with a nice restaurant (Sunsets) on site, and a dive center with a snack bar). We navigated each with ease and felt safe and comfortable with each of them. During our stay, the weather was perfect - 82 and sunny every day – with random five to ten-minute showers (mostly at night).

Lodging:

There are a plethora of Airbnb options scattered throughout the island. We choose to stay in the Red Hook area. Villa Mirino was a five-bed, four-bath house that easily slept ten people, plus could probably accommodate two to four more (if kids), as well as a pack-n-play and/or a crib. The lanai was huge, and the views were stunning. The grill and pool area were awesome! When traveling with multiple generations and staying for a shorter time, it really makes a difference to have access to a private pool and amenities. Nap attacks happen quickly in the Caribbean and you want to crash somewhere easy and breezy.

Safety, COVID And Other Logistics 

COVID: USVI currently requires a test up to five days prior to your flight for unvaccinated travelers.  If fully vaccinated, no testing is needed. Simply fill out a travel application form a few days before traveling and you will get a QR code to use. When you land in the USVI, you will get a temp check at the airport, show the QR code scan you received, and you’ll be on your way. To  travel back to the mainland, no testing is needed. However, the check-in process at STT airport is generally horrible and inefficient. I recommend arriving a minimum of two to three hours before your scheduled flight.

Also in regards to flights, I noticed that flights were frequently late going to and from the island from all points of origin. If you have connecting flights to make I would suggest building in a decent layover time (one-and-a-half to two hours) to ensure you don’t have any issue with making layovers.

In April, masks were still mandatory at the STT airport, but were not mandatory at anywhere else on the island. When we returned from our trip we got to experience being in the Atlanta airport as the federal mask mandate in airports was officially lifted. What a site to watch people slowly take off masks as the “mask required” signs were being taken down. Another moment in history for the books.

Car Rental: Amalie Car rental was amazing. Easy to book online via email. What I liked the most was their personal service. Someone met us right outside baggage claim and got us all set up into the car. It was the most efficient activity at the airport and only took about 15 minutes max.  Upon return, they met us on the curb of the airport check-in desks and we were off in 30 seconds! While one might think the island would be walkable, it’s not. Getting around was definitely easier in a car. Taxis are not as popular, there is no Uber, and depending on where you stay -- walking is a maybe. Know before you go: Roads in USVI are not marked well,  especially in residential areas and you drive on the left side of the road. Perfect for the adventurous soul!

If you’re interested in Southeast Asia travel packages and are looking at Thailand, our travel coaches can tell you what it’s like to go there right now — and what COVID-19 regulations may still be in place there.

The specifics:

Here are the details of what you need to know to enter Thailand now and what to expect if you test positive for Covid19 while traveling.

Entry requirements:

Conditions:

Fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no less than 14 days before traveling

If unvaccinated / not fully vaccinated- Have a COVID-19 RT-PCR test result issued no more than 72 hours before departure (attach on Thailand Pass only)

Documents:

Passport

Certificate of Vaccination

Insurance with minimum coverage of $10,000 USD

COVID-19 RT-PCR test result issued no more than 72 hours before departure (If unvaccinated / not fully vaccinated)

Travelers must register with Thailand Pass to upload required documents prior to arrival! 

To register with Thailand Pass follow this link: https://tp.consular.go.th/

Required during stay:

No testing requirements during stay

Masks are generally required inside all buildings - regulations vary, but travelers should expect mask requirements everywhere as the norm.

If you test positive for COVID-19 during your trip in Thailand:

A traveler would only test for COVID-19 if they are experiencing symptoms and need to be treated for COVID-19. If this is the case, if you have booked a trip through us, we can assist you with a transfer to the best local hospital to continue care for you. As all travelers are required to have insurance coverage that covers medical care for COVID-19, your insurance carrier will be informed to support the financial obligations of your COVID-19 care needs.

 

Now that you know the specifics, here’s the info you should know about what it is like to travel in Thailand at this time.

Thailand is fully open for US travelers that comply with the post-pandemic entry and travel requirements as outlined above.

As the country has opened up, the main highlights such as the Grand Palace, Elephant Nature Park, Night Markets, local restaurants - are open and everyone on the ground is working really hard to make sure that the experience of the visit is as good as ever.

Hotel wise, luxury properties are up and running at the caliber which one would expect at that level. These properties had investment through the pandemic and were able to hold on to a lot of employees, which has really helped in the quality remaining high.

Budget hotels and properties (3 stars and under), are struggling right now to come back online and have the quality of service they offered before. We expect these properties to see improved quality and more staffing in the next few months as travel rebounds, but at this time, we’d recommend guests look within their budget to see if they can stay at a higher level hotel for a more consistent quality experience.

Air travel within the country is also seeing an impact, with less frequent departures. Again, we expect this to adjust over the next few months as demand increases.

In these first few months we all need to extend our kindness and patience as everyone emerges from closed borders. Office teams are proactively expanding again and refreshing their knowledge in readiness for excellent service, but responses may remain a little slower than pre-pandemic times at present whilst everyone ramps up again.

 

If you have any questions about travel in Thailand right now, or for travel in the upcoming months - book a free 30 minute travel coaching call today!

Planning on taking a trip to Vietnam? Our travel coaches give you insight into what it's like to travel there right now, and what COVID-19 regulations may still in place in that country.

The specifics:
Here are the details of what you need to know to enter Vietnam now and what to expect if you test positive for COVID-19 while traveling.

Entry requirements:
Valid passport
Proof of port entry and exit
Valid Entry visa issued or e-visa issued
PC-COVID app installed on your mobile phone - link here: PC COVID app
Health declaration submitted. Use the link: https://tokhaiyte.vn/
Travel/medical insurance purchased with a minimum liability cover of $10,000USD valid for COVID-19 treatment
Proof of negative COVID test result, either from RT-PCR/RT-LAMP (within 72 hours of arrival) or rapid testing (within 24 hours of arrival) certified by the competent authority of the country where the test is performed. *Note, children under 2 years old are not required to be tested.

Required during stay:
Self-monitor health for ten days after arrival
Notify health authority if you have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID during your travel in Southeast Asia:
If you have booked a trip through us, we can assist you to inform the local authorities and hotel team. You can self-isolate (stay in your room, or designated hotel area), and we will coordinate with the hotel team to care for your needs and itinerary changes as required. Once a negative PCR test result is received, you can continue on with your trip. If there are serious symptoms needing specialist medical assistance, then we will coordinate with the hotel and authorities to transfer you to the best local hospital to continue care for you.

 

Now that you know the specifics, here’s the info you should know from a travel expert about what it is like to travel in Vietnam at this time.

Vietnam is fully open for US travelers that comply with the post-pandemic entry and travel requirements as outlined above.

As the country has opened up, the main highlights such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Night Markets, local restaurants - are open and everyone on the ground is working really hard to make sure that the experience of the visit is as good as ever.

Hotel wise, luxury properties are up and running at the caliber which one would expect at that level. These properties had investment through the pandemic and were able to hold on to a lot of employees, which has really helped in the quality remaining high.

Budget hotels and properties (3 stars and under), are struggling right now to come back online and have the quality of service they offered before. We expect these properties to see improved quality and more staffing in the next few months as travel rebounds, but at this time, we’d recommend guests look within their budget to see if they can stay at a higher level hotel for a more consistent quality experience.

Train travel within country is also seeing an impact, with less frequent departures. Again, we expect this to adjust over the next few months as demand increases.

In these first few months we all need to extend our kindness and patience as everyone emerges from closed borders. Office teams are proactively expanding again and refreshing their knowledge in readiness for excellent service, but responses may remain a little slower than pre-pandemic times at present whilst everyone ramps up again.

 

If you have any questions about travel in Vietnam right now, or for travel in the upcoming months - book a free 30 minute travel coaching call today!

by April Cole

In 2006, Andrea was working in Cambodia running Journeys Within Tour Company and B & B and she had done such an incredible job of creating the best travel experiences in Cambodia, she was named to the Conde Nast Top Travel Specialists List. The list at this time was said to be harder to get onto than getting into Harvard. For her to have just started Journeys Within a few years prior, this was an especially great honor for a travel consultant.

When she was named to the list, she knew that she needed to ensure that the level of guest experience was elevated, and decided to open a US office as a travel coach. That’s where I came in ; ) Andrea hired me to support the travel expert business on the US side, while she split her time between the US and Cambodia - and our business journey evolved from there. Since that time, we have gone through a few iterations of names and even ownership - but our team, our tour experiences and our commitment to creating trips worthy of being named as the best by Conde Nast Traveler - has remained the same.

Why am I blogging about this now? Well, because for the 16th year in a row for Andrea and for the 5th year in a row for me Conde Nast Traveler has named us as Top Travel Specialists.

I’m so grateful to once again be named among the Top Travel Specialists in the world. But I’m even more grateful that this list brought Andrea and I together as business partners and friends, and that we get to continue to offer the best tour experiences to our guests all these years later.

Cambodia Entry Requirements
Updated December 21, 2021

Step 1: Apply for your e-visa.

You can apply for your e-visa at this link here: www.evisa.gov.kh
It currently takes about 3 days to process your e-visa, which will be emailed to you.

Step 2: Get your PCR Test - no more than 72 hours prior to your ARRIVAL in Cambodia.

Your negative PCR results must be provided as a HARD COPY document WITH a Wet Signature and a Stamp - Digital results will NOT be accepted. We recommend getting a print out of your negative PCR results and either having your physician sign and stamp the results, or taking your results to a notary to verify your results with a stamp.

The PCR test result requirements:
• Original hard copy (not photocopy or electronic)
• Printed on Clinic/Testing Facilities/Physicians letterhead and includes name, address & contact details
• Traveler’s Full Name, Date of Birth/Age and Passport Number (as per passport bio-page)
• Type of Test (MUST state PCR or RT-PCR)
• Date of Test (ideally time also, as people have faced issues with airlines when there has been no time of testing annotated)
Note: Strongly advise you to ensure that the standard time format of Day-Month-Year is used ie. 14-03-21, 14-03-2012, 14 March 2021. Other formats, in particular the US format of Month-Day-Year, may cause confusion and have resulted in travelers being denied check-in/boarding/transfer.

Step 3: Check with your airline if they offer document pre-check and upload files prior to checking in.

Most airlines now offer a pre-check of documents and this is something we highly recommend that everyone does. You upload your documents on a website and the airlines will verify them. This will make check in and document verification a faster process.

Files to upload:
Proof of vaccination - 2 doses, travel after 3 weeks of second dose
Visa
Negative PCR Test

Step 4: Arrival in Cambodia

As you disembark and enter the terminal, the process starts.

Verify your documents

Documents to verify:
Passport (valid for 6 months after departure)
Proof of vaccination - 2 doses, travel after 3 weeks of second dose
Visa
Negative PCR Test
Health Declaration Form (given to you on your flight)
Immigration Form (given to you on your flight)
Custom Form (given to you on your flight)
Boarding Pass(es)

Once your documents have been verified, move on to Immigration and Luggage Collection.

Prior to leaving the airport, take a Rapid Covid Test

You will be given a rapid covid test

Your documents (same as listed above) will be checked again

Move to the waiting area while results process (about 10-20 minutes)

After your results have been reviewed, and you are negative for covid, you will be free to leave the airport.

Step 5: Enjoy your time in Cambodia!

(this is for US passport holders, if you carry a passport from another country, please reach out to Kaanect to confirm Cambodia entry details)

**Below is Naida's personal account of entering Cambodia. Click here if you want to skip to the 5 Steps to Enter Cambodia**

In November, Cambodia started to open their borders, removing travel restrictions which had been in place since March 2020. Having spent seven months in Europe, I decided it was time to return to Cambodia. I was anxious and don’t get me wrong, travel is one of my true passions. I work in the travel industry and exploring both new and old places is what I truly love, but I also know that travel has changed and it’s not as simple as “just jumping on a plane”.

So, what can you expect as a traveler returning to Cambodia? Be prepared that travel has changed and my biggest advice to you is to keep yourself updated by working with Kaanect and a travel coach, as things can change very quickly. The amazing team at Kaanect helped guide me and answered any questions I had.

I’ve detailed out the current travel restrictions and the process for entering Cambodia below. Note, the travel restrictions in Thailand are very similar.

The pre departure process:

The documents you need are: Proof of vaccination, visa, pre departure PCR test and I would highly recommend travel insurance.

I applied for my visa in advance as all visas on arrival are suspended at the moment. Once the visa was approved it was time to book a flight.

It was important for me find a flight with good (the shortest) connections as I have to do two transfers to arrive in Cambodia and PCR tests are only valid for a certain amount of time. All airlines and transfer destinations have different requirements so it is important to confirm the requirements for each airline and destination.

Having booked my flight, I booked a PCR test. I needed to find a testing clinic who could accommodate Cambodia’s very specific requirements.

Cambodia’s current PCR test requirements are:
The test can’t be more than 72 hours old before arrival.
The test results must be an original document that has a wet signature and original stamp.

Now this is not the easiest as everything is digital in Sweden stamps are no longer used. It took a few calls but after having explained my situation, I found a clinic that was willing to do this for me. The day before departure, I went and got my test and picked up my negative result later the same day.

Day of travel:

Check in was a breeze, as long as you have all the documents you need, you are fine. My documents were checked and verified twice, once in Sweden and once in Germany. Be prepared to put on your mask as soon as you enter the airport and not take it off before arrival. If you forget, you will be reminded. Social distancing rules are in place everywhere and even if my flights were quite busy, the airlines did everything to space passengers out. My one concern was delays. What happens if I am delayed and miss a connection and the PCR test is no longer valid? Again, I had done my research before and knew that if this was the case, all I needed was a letter from the airline and not to leave the transit areas and I would be let into Cambodia. My flight from Frankfurt to Singapore ended up being delayed and I was going to miss the flight to Phnom Penh. After having spoken to the chief stewardess on the plane, I did find out that all planes in Singapore were being held back to make sure people could make their connections. It is more hassle for the airline to have passengers with timed PCR tests to miss a connection than to hold back a plane. As we arrived in Singapore, they disembarked passengers by plane connection. As my flight was waiting for me, I got off the plane first.

Arrival in Cambodia:

I booked a seat as upfront as possible as I knew that the arrival process takes time. As you disembark and enter the terminal, the process starts. The first stop verifies your documents so make sure you have your documents ready and that you have completed the three forms you receive on the flight (health declaration form, immigration form and custom form) as you will be sent to the back of the queue if you haven’t. It is also important to have all your boarding passes as you might be asked for these as well. As you get the ok stamp, you move on to immigration and then luggage collection. Last stop is your rapid test. You line up and all of your documents are checked again, take the test and move on to the waiting area. The waiting time is 10-20 minutes and after your name is called, you are free to leave the airport. The whole arrival process takes 30-90 minutes depending on where you were sitting on the plane.

So, what I’m really trying to say with this text is that you will be fine, it seems like a lot but it is fine. Be patient as everyone is adjusting to the “new normal” and a smile will get you far. Keep yourself updated and the great thing about having Kaanect organizing the trip for you is that they will keep themselves updated for you and will guide you through the whole process.

/Naida

We were so excited when Ann Abel, a wonderful writer for Forbes Travel came to us to get our thoughts on where people should be heading for 2022 and beyond. She used a couple of Andrea's suggestions in the article, as well as an amazing photo from Narla and one of Andrea on a Puerto Rican beach that makes us jealous every time! We had pitched a few places to Ann so below is the article, but we've also included some of our coaches favorites for 2022 as well!

UAE: Has a high vaccination rate, low positive case #s, and great healthcare should it be needed. They also have a fairly straightforward Covid policy.  Most activities are also outside, and large venues - like the Atlantis Waterpark - are still only at 70% capacity which means not only “Covid safety” but also less lines! - Heidi Bloomer, Kaanect Travel Coach

Iceland: Before traveling to Iceland this fall, I thought it would be packed with tourists. I felt like everyone I know had been or was planning to go to Iceland, since they also are open to US citizens (with a relatively easy to navigate Covid policy). Boy was I wrong! In most places there was only a handful of people. We were never in a crowded situation except for later in the evening at a restaurant and on a food tour (all by choice). It was also just astonishingly beautiful. - Heidi Bloomer, Kaanect Travel Coach

Disney World, Florida: with Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration occurring - the magic will be extra special! - Heidi Bloomer, Kaanect Travel Coach

Wine Country - Willamette, Napa, Sonoma: most wineries and tasting rooms are open but have a reservation only policy, or still limit the # of guests in the space. This not only creates peace of mind, but also provides a very individualized tasting experience for those wanting to stay in the US! - Heidi Bloomer, Kaanect Travel Coach

Thailand and Cambodia: While Thailand officially opened November 2021, we really see early 2022 as the optimum time to visit! By then they will be truly opened with services available, but the crowds won't have come back en-mass. Cambodia is opening this month and the idea of seeing Angkor Wat without the crowds is amazing. I will say, we also want to get travelers back to Southeast Asia to help the drivers, guides and communities on the ground. Both these countries are heavily reliant on tourism and there are very few support systems so many are struggling with the lack of income in the last two years. We can't wait to get travelers back, both to enjoy these countries without the crowds, but also to be a positive part of their regrowth and recovery! - Andrea Ross, Kaanect Travel Coach

Puerto Rico Islands: While the main island of Puerto Rico is lovely (and a quick and cheap flight from Atlanta) if you want a more undeveloped destination the island of Vieques, off the Eastern shore of Puerto Rico is the perfect escape. Accessible by small plane or ferry it's as remote as easy-to-get-to can be! Horseback riding along the beach, diving on gorgeous coral reefs, kayaking through the world's largest bioluminescent bay...you get the remote feeling of a tropical paradise with the ease of domestic travel. I visited here with the kids this October and we just loved this sweet little island! - Andrea Ross, Kaanect Travel Coach

Belize: My first international trip post covid was to Belize and it did not disappoint. They have had strict covid mandates so vaccination numbers are high and hotels, drivers and guides are all diligent in their safety measures as mandated by the government. We spent time in the interior jumping off waterfalls and hiking through gorgeous scenery to Mayan ruins and then headed to the coast for some of the best diving in the world. Prices are reduced and tourist numbers are still low and it's a great entree back into travel with easy flights from the US, including new flights with Alaska Airlines opening up this fall. - Andrea Ross, Kaanet Travel Coach

Nicaragua: Old world Costa Rica. Untouched beauty, inexpensive and amazing places to explore jungle, beach and colonial city. A negative PCR test to enter, no masks were needed when around town, resorts etc. - Michelle Schomp, Kaanect Travel Coach

Yucatán Mexico: Easy to rent a car and explore various towns, whether it’s upscale Tulum, laid back Bacalar, cultural Valladolid, incredible ruins, cenotes and of course, delicious food.  No entry requirements and easy testing available when it's time to come home. - Michelle Schomp, Kaanect Travel Coach

Masa Mara, Kenya:  In four days we only saw one other vehicle! This is unheard of this time of year. Travelers have an amazing opportunity to get out there and see the animals and environment without the tourist crowds. Safari camps are embracing covid protocol and the open air atmosphere of most camps lends itself well to safety standards. This is an incredible time to visit this area, support the return of tourism and have a unique experience! - April Cole, Kaanect Travel Coach

As a note for all international travel, “Covid travel” takes diligent & frequent research + documentation - sometimes upwards of a couple of hours of prep time if having to do tests, fill out numerous forms, download apps, for many people in a family. You also always have to check the layover / transit countries - as they can frequently have different rules than the departure or arrival countries.

As a note for domestic travel, due to car rental shortages, as well as supply chain shortages, you may need to plan ahead when renting cars and booking restaurants, more so than pre-pandemic. In Hawaii, Hawaii this March - we really felt this.

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