This week we have had some exciting, if not crystal clear, news from Southeast Asia… Thailand just announced plans to reopen November 1 to international travelers! Cambodia is starting to open, but still requires quarantine periods at this point; Vietnam is still saying it won’t reopen until sometime in 2022; and Laos hasn’t announced any plans yet.

If you’re guessing that this news added a little pep to our step this week, you’re right. We can’t wait to get travelers back to the region and support our guides, drivers and teams; but with anything Covid-related, it isn’t quite that cut and dry.

Thailand is reopening to vaccinated travelers on November 1, 2021, with no quarantine period required and travel around the country possible. This is great news for our teams on the ground and for the hotels that want to be back up and running. 

But however excited we all are for our teams and partners on the ground, we’re still advocating taking it slow to most of our travel clients. We know that some of our travelers are hungry to be the first ones back to these destinations. Heck, we even put together this First Travelers Back Thailand Itinerary (PDF). But we also know that this is only the right experience for the right person; because when November 1 rolls around, while we might be allowed back in the country, the country might not be ready for us. 

As the “Phuket sandbox” experiment proved, a country can be open, but unless the hotels, restaurants and experiences are open, it might not be what you’re looking for.

As travel coaches we’re always trying to match our travelers to the right experience, so based upon what we know now (October 2021), here is who should go to Thailand in November and who should wait...

Get On a Plane Bound for Bangkok November 1!

If you’re the type of traveler that can purchase a flight and head to an amazing destination with a passport, some local knowledge and a basic plan, then returning to Thailand in November will be an incredible experience for you!

Flights out of San Francisco to Bangkok were under $800 roundtrip when we checked recently, and you can book the Anantara Riverside Resort in Bangkok for $50 a night! These are incredible rates and will suit the independent, spontaneous, up-for-anything, aware-it-might-not-all-be-possible traveler. You might not be able to do all the things, but temples, national parks and monuments will be open, and hotels will be treating these first travelers back like royalty. 

How our travel coaches can help: If you want a full itinerary check out our First Ones Back or set up a call to put together an itinerary for your time, understanding that there might be last minute changes and things that aren’t open in time so the itinerary will need to be flexible. 

Or, go it alone, but with our insider knowledge in your back pocket. Book a one hour Southeast Asia Coaching call and we’ll go over what to expect when you get to the Land of Smiles - everything from our favorite hotels and activities, to how to balance your time, budget and interests.

Book Your Trip for Early 2022 with a Travel Expert

While I think it will be amazing to be in Thailand (and potentially Cambodia) in the next couple of months, it might not be the smooth-sailing trip that some travelers prefer. Restaurants might not be open yet, attractions may not have the staffing levels to run at full capacity, and things you want to do - cooking classes, elephant visits and snorkeling trips - may not yet be functioning. 

But in early 2022 we expect all this to be back up and running close to normally, but there will still be significantly fewer crowds. If you like to plan an itinerary, this allows you to take your time working with a travel coach to perfect it, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the hotels and attractions will have had a couple of months under their reopening belt to ensure things are fully operational. 

How our travel coaches can help: Our First Travelers Back itinerary is still going to be great in early 2022, even if you’re maybe the second wave back! Or, schedule a call with one of our Southeast Asia travel coaches to discuss your trip and make sure you’re booking the perfect experience for you and your group.

Need help planning your trip? Our travel coaches are here to help you! We have a group of talented coaches that have vast travel expertise in Southeast Asia. Book a consultation today!

 

I met Patricia of AbsoluteBelize at a Wendy Perrin conference in January of 2020, just before we all went into lockdown! Fast forward a year and a half and the kids and I couldn't wait to put our passports to use again and I immediately thought of AbsoluteBelize and Patricia! The country was open to vaccinated travelers or those who test negative 72 hours before they depart. We were vaccinated, so it was easy prep for us!
I had been to Belize back in my college days, but felt I had missed a lot on that trip so this trip I had a list of what I wanted included! With Patricia's help we came up with an itinerary that fit the whole family!

Belize Family Itinerary

- The Lodge at Chaa Creek: We were awakened by howler monkeys and bird calls, we watched butterflies and birds as we relaxed in the infinity pool and we had an amazing afternoon horsebackriding through the jungle. The cottages don't have AC so if that's a must-have for you then upgrade to the spa cottage, but for us, fans were just fine. The food was delicious and I was very impressed to see my kids ordering salmon one night and rack of lamb another night...somewhere chicken nuggets are feeling abandoned and I'm having to get used to traveling with teenagers!
- Xunantunich (pronounced: shoe-nan-too-nich). This amazing temple complex is easy to get to and with fewer crowds we spent a lovely morning walking through the ruins learning about Mayan history and peaking over the hill into Guatamala!
- Spending time with the Mayan and learning new skills! These are always my favorite days! We learned about coffee from a lovely Mayan farmer, we learned how to make tortillas and throw clay in the traditional Mayan way at the Mayan Women's Cultural Center and we then had an amazing lunch served on the cultural center verandah!
- Jumping into waterfalls in the Mountain Pine Ridge: This afternoon at the waterfalls was just amazing! We climbed up and jumped off rocks into the water and when a thunderstorm hit we swam through the rain and waterfalls!
- Cave tubing: I know how touristy this is and I can't imagine what it's like when it's high season and the crowds are back, but even with it being touristy and silly I loved it! Who doesn't want to float through caves and jungle...it was the Endless River ride in real life!
- Getting dive certified: My kids have wanted to get certified for a couple of years now so we got it done in Belize. They did the online course ahead of time and literally jumped in the pool and started getting certified the afternoon we arrived! By the last day they were certified and we did our first dive together...so great to get to have my kids enjoying one of my favorite hobbies!
- Diving The Blue Hole and surrounding reef: For those already certified Belize doesn't hold back. I took a boat out to The Blue Hole and dove down 130 feet to see stalagmites and stalactites and some large sharks, but honestly this dive felt overrated. Luckily the dive boat included two more dives that day on the reef around the Blue Hole and those did not disappoint! Amazing coral, stunning fish and turtles, barracuda, eels, and a lot of sharks! Some of the best diving I've ever done with no currents and phenomenal visibility.

Why Vacation In Belize? Advice from a Travel Expert

Things I liked about Belize:
-  Everyone speaks English so it's fun to be able to talk to everyone you meet without needing a translator
- This is a small country with less than half a million in population so it feels very manageable even if you only have a week to travel
- The country isn't as developed as I thought it was which surprised me, but intrigued me as well
- My guide! The hotels will arrange activities, but I was so glad we had David! He knew everyone and was just fun to be around! I felt like I got to know the country much better by having a dedicated guide!
Things that surprised me about Belize:
- It's expensive! Meals especially caught me off-guard as I hadn't budgeted enough. At the hotels you were easily paying $15US for a main course and it wasn't much less in town. Our guide explained that food is expensive even for the locals.
- Sargassum has become a huge issue in the Caribbean and it had hit the beaches of Belize hard. Our hotel was working all day to try to clear the beach of this foul smelling and rather ugly seaweed, but it was just too prevalent. We drove to the West side of the island and enjoyed the clear blue waters over there...the East side of the island wasn't swimmable when we were there. The worst months for Sargassum are June through August.
- There are very few luxury properties like we're used to in Southeast Asia...no Four Seasons or Six Senses type places, I loved the smaller boutique hotels, but this isn't a luxury destination.
If you're interested in Belize check out the itinerary I put together based on Patricia's recommendations and my trip! Or learn more about AbsoluteBelize, one of our partner travel specialists! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any Belize questions or are interested in booking a trip and I'll Kaanect you to the experts!

Great news for those of us who have been waiting to return to Thailand!

As of today, tourists from 66 countries are allowed back into Thailand without quarantine for the first time sincegoing into a full lockdown in April 2020.

Like the rest of the world, Thailand’s tourism industry took a massive hit when the borders closed. International arrivals were down by more than 80% and it is estimated to have cost the country more than 40 billion dollars.  The hope is that the pilot project “Phuket Sandbox” will be the starting point of recovery for the very important tourism industry.

Bringing Tourism Back to Thailand - Phuket Sandbox Project

Phuket Sandbox is a pilot project to open the Kingdom of Thailand to tourists from around the world over the coming months. Under this plan, Phuket Island needed to have vaccinated 70% of its population to achieve herd immunity. This has been achieved and the plan received the final go ahead yesterday by the government.

What do you have to do to be one of the first tourists back in Thailand and be able to enjoy the pristine beaches of Phuket?

First of all, you have to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization. Proof of vaccination is to be submitted when applying for a Certificate of Entry at the Thai embassy. In addition to being fully vaccinated, you have to have a negative PCR test issued no more than 72 hours before departure and medical insurance for the whole duration of stay.

Accommodation is to be pre booked for a minimum of 14 days and only at SHA Plus
approved accommodation (certification to reassure that the hotel has taken steps to prevent
the spread of the COVID-19 virus intensely and guarantee that more than 70% of employees
have been vaccinated). Once in Phuket, you can move freely on the island but have to follow
some strict precautions like wearing a mask in public areas, social distancing and allowing the
authorities to track your movement through an app. In addition to these measures, travelers
will have to undergo three Covid-19 tests which are to be prepaid before arrival. The first test is
taken on arrival, second test on day 6 or 7 and third test on day 12 or 13. In the case a traveler
tests positive, they will be referred to specific facilities for medical treatment at their own
expense which needs to be covered by the pre-bought insurance. If you test negative on all
three tests you will be allowed to travel to other regions of Thailand before returning to your
home country.

The project has received its share of criticism as it has been labeled too complicated and critics
are skeptical whether tourists will take the risk of coming to Phuket. There is no doubt that the
first few weeks will be complicated but it is a first step, a very important first step, to reviving
the travel industry and I for one am excited! If all goes well, the rest of Thailand is expected to
open its doors completely in the next 120 days. One thing is certain, all of Asia’s eyes will be on
project Sandbox. The success of the project will determine how Thailand and the rest of the
region will open.

If you’re interested in heading to Thailand and playing in the sandbox let us know and we’d be
happy to help you navigate the requirements. If you’re looking at Thailand after the restrictions
have been lifted, check out our First Ones Back Thailand Itinerary!

Confession time: I have always found traveling stressful. That’s right, from that first solo trip to Australia at 7 years old to a quick flight to LA to speak at a conference at 41, I have never been a relaxed traveler. I think this is partly why I’m a good travel coach…I haven’t sailed through life, breezily boarding flights while laughing about the ones I’ve missed, heck no, I go over packing lists, I arrive at the airport way earlier than necessary and I sit at the gate doggedly waiting for boarding to start, refusing to let my kids leave to get a snack in case they aren’t back in time! When I coach people with travel fears and worries I can relate! Just because I’ve done it a lot, doesn’t mean It's smooth emotional sailing!

Over the years I have learned not to change my behavior completely, but at least to laugh at myself and rein it in a bit. Then COVID! Entry requirements, tests needed, full flights with not even 6 inches of distance let alone the 6 feet we’ve become used to.

Travel in the Age of COVID

The first time we travelled was to Hawaii after Christmas for a week break in a villa on the beach. All eight of us! Eight flights that kept changing based on updated schedules and what worked with testing, eight required negative COVID tests done 48 hours before we traveled, eight people packed and wearing masks and eight people to keep safe and entertained AND masked for an entire flight. A week before we left I had gone over my mental checklist and prep list so many times it had become a mantra and I called my sister to tell her it wasn’t worth it. This was too much. My directive as a mother was to keep my kids safe, yet here I was jumping through burning rings of fire in an attempt to possibly put them in harms way. She laughed and told me she would see me there…she is not an anxious traveler. And she was right. We got eight flights booked, we got eight negative COVID tests and we got eight people fed, entertained and masked to Hawaii. Then we picked up the rented minivan, got to our villa and remembered how fun family and pools and vacations and travel all are!

Travel Post COVID - Belize

Today my two older kids and I arrived in Belize. While Hawaii was during the pandemic this trip is post (I feel that word is being used loosely) pandemic. Less anxiety right? Heck no! Masks are still required and while I’m vaccinated my youngest isn’t and every cough on the full planes find my eyes on him, making sure his mask is up. While three was definitely easier than eight, we still had to get negative tests and proof of vaccination and packed and entertained and masked.

But then we arrived and like every trip I’ve ever taken in my life, it was worth it! To be out exploring again, to be adventuring! To be living in the world!

So I did the mental checklists, I jumped through the hoops and we made it! But as a travel coach I feel the collective anxiety of my fellow American travelers and the fear of the post pandemic world. We’ve spent a year sheltering, protecting ourselves and our loved ones and then it seemed as if overnight the world opened back up and we are encouraged to skip back out into it. And we should…guides, drivers, hotel staff, they all desperately need us to get back out there. And I encourage you to go, but I also want to recognize the anxiety of it, the added stresses of the testing and masking and no six feeting! This is an anxious time, we are all struggling to come to terms with what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and what the next year will look like. It’s okay to admit that travel is scary and it’s okay to feel that anxiety. If now isn’t the time for you and your family that’s okay, if it is the time, that’s okay too. I’m owning my anxiety, I’m declaring it worth it and I am giving myself grace to return to the world and myself. But what's a coach without some tips for getting through it.

My Top Five Tips for Post COVID Travel

1. Use a travel planner for your destination of choice. They will know the entry requirements and can help you figure out what to expect, as well as make sure you're booked into tours, hotels, etc that are following COVID safety practices.
2. Use Cranky Concierge! Airlines are not fully staffed and remember, they've had an 18 month break as well. They are struggling to get back up to speed and we've been hearing a lot of reports of delayed flights, lost luggage etc. On our flight to Belize we were delayed, missed our connection and had to be rerouted through LA with a night there, Cranky Concierge makes those changes stress free!
3. Get there early! People are jumping back into travel, but the infrastructure isn't built back up yet so security lines are long and giving yourself some extra time won't make the lines less boring, but will make sure you make the flight at the end of them
4. Be kind! We've heard about air travelers raging against mask rules, getting stressed and unhappy about flight delays and blowing their tops when things don't go as they should. Remember, what we learned in the last 18 months is that travel is a privilege, the world is a gift and we are all in this together!
5. Recognize your own fears and how they might manifest in feelings of frustration or anger. Like I did above, admit what the fear/anxiety are about, make a plan to negate them as much as possible and then recognize them as they rear their ugly head and don't let the fear and anxiety change how you want to show up for your reentry into the world!
If you're looking to get back to traveling, but are facing some fears or want to discuss where, when, why or how, we're here for you, book an hour coaching session and by the end you'll be ready to make the leap!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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