Aug. 11, 2021
BY JOSUÉ VEGA, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
It was at a Chattanooga Chamber networking event that Cindy Steele discovered she could turn her passions into a career. There, Steele ran into a colleague who was looking for a travel agent, and was smitten by the intriguing business idea. She loved traveling. She loved planning. She loved helping people. It was a match.
Over the years, Cindy found that her passion for this work is what has kept her in it, even during events as tricky as a pandemic. “My personal interest in travel helps me help others in making their dreams come true. I love helping people,” Steele says.
Those dreams come in all shapes and sizes, and Steele wouldn’t have it any other way. Her wide travel experiences reflect that. Recently returned from Cancun, Mexico, Steele said her favorite location to travel to is the Caribbean, whether it’s on a cruise or at a resort. St. Lucia, in particular, is her favorite. Additionally, Steele blasted past tropical paradises to tour the West with her husband—on motorcycle. They hit up national parks and monuments like Devils Tower National Monument, Mt. Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse memorial. Steele raves about the breadth of adventure available out there. “That’s the awesome thing about traveling—there is something for everyone to enjoy, in whatever season of life you happen to be in,” Steele says.
She also enjoys a lucrative international web of connections. No matter where her clients may be and no matter what needs they may have, Steele reassures that she is available to them 24/7 and can resolve things swiftly. “Think of me as your personal assistant,” Steele says. “With one phone call, I can arrange everything.” Like many travel agents, she provides all these services at no charge.
While being a travel agent seems glamorous, in the last year and a half the industry has been particularly difficult (Thanks, Covid!). At one point, traveling mostly halted altogether. In the last months, however, travel has been slowly opening up again. People are eagerly booking their tickets, itching to see the world again, only to be confronted with another hurdle: daily-changing travel regulations. Luckily, travel agents like Steele are stepping up to the challenge.
Steele considers herself an “educator in travel”. She has continuously attended multiple online sessions to keep herself up-to-date on travel regulations, so she can provide the best services possible to her clients. Steele shared some of her best craft tips for anyone looking to travel during these irregular times:
With Covid variants emerging around the world, even fully vaccinated travelers may want to guard against pandemic-related problems when they travel. One smart way to do that is with travel insurance. Protect yourself by purchasing travel insurance before you leave. Not all travel insurance plans cover Covid problems, so if you're planning overseas travel—even for 2022 travel and beyond—you'll want to look for a plan that covers Covid-related trip cancellations and medical expenses. This will help cover any unexpected costs, like covid tests and quarantine. Talk to your travel advisor to see what plan fits your needs the most.
Before venturing to any destination, make sure to check travel advisories. This is especially important when traveling within the U.S., as state regulations may vary. Most states have a tourism website where you can access updated information about requirements and protocols for the area. Also, make sure to check in with the CDC on any current information before traveling.
For more information:
Before you travel, check any necessary documents to make sure everything is correct. If you are traveling with a US Passport, it must not be expired. If you need to get a passport application, I recommend filing nine months before you travel, as the State Department is dealing with a massive backlog.
For more information:
Understand that this is a new and unpredictable time for everyone—other travelers, businesses, service people, and even law enforcement. Be patient and be prepared to change plans if necessary, due to new restrictions or rules. Travelers should remember everyone is traveling right now and the usual setbacks, like lines at customs and airline cancelations or delays, can often be exacerbated. Keep an open mind and make the best of it, especially during the summer, since it is the busiest time to travel. With the many recent flight cancellations, it would be a great idea to check ahead to see if there have been any changes. Sign up on airline apps to get notifications to get update notifications.
Finally, even though we must take extra precautions while traveling, don’t allow it to take the joy out of your journey. Smile and wave at your fellow travelers from 6 feet away—we are all in this together.
As of January 26, 2021, the United States government is requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 for all air passengers arriving in the United States from another country. This also includes U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents 2 years of age or older.
Travelers must get tested no more than 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs. Proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 must be provided to the airline before boarding the flight. Please refer directly to the airline’s website for more information, as the process for providing proof may vary.
The requirements above were correct as of June 21, 2021 and may be changed by the United States government on short notice.
We recommend that you visit the U.S. https://www.cdc.gov before traveling for the latest requirements.
Travelers get a break: REAL ID deadline extended to Oct. 1, 2021, due to coronavirus
Both hotels and destinations continue to adjust their opening dates, so be sure to check the Hotel Updates tab for the most up-to-date information regarding your hotel. Also, visit the New Safety Procedures tab for updates on new policies destinations and hotels are implementing for your next vacation.
Antigua all travelers aged 5 years and older arriving by air will be required to present a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 7 days prior to travel. Click here for more information.
Aruba effective August 1, 2021 U.S. travelers will need to complete the 72-hour PCR testing requirement regardless of vaccination status. For more information click here.
Bahamas, effective August 6, 2021, all travelers aged 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to submit a valid, negative Rapid Antigen Test or Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 5 days prior to travel. All travelers must also apply for a Bahamas Health Travel Visa at travel.gov.bs, complete a daily online health questionnaire for symptom tracking purposes and opt-in to mandatory COVID-19 health insurance when applying for their Health Travel Visa. Click here for more information.
Barbados all arriving travelers aged 6 years and older are required to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 72 hours prior to travel. Travelers are also required to remain on property at preapproved accommodations until they have a second negative test 5 days after their first test. Once travelers have acquired their second negative test they are free to travel off property. Effective May 8, all vaccinated travelers are still required to submit a valid PCR test completed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Vaccinated travelers will take a second test on arrival to the airport and quarantine for 1-2 days on property until they receive their negative test results. Click here for more information.
Cancun No requirements
Costa Rica all travelers will have to follow these requirements:
Cozumel No requirements
Curacao all arriving travelers from the U.S. aged 7 years and older are required to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 72 hours prior to travel OR a negative antigen test within 24 hours of travel. Travelers must visit dicardcuracao.com to complete the digital immigration card, fill out the digital Passenger Locator Card [PLC] and submit their negative results. Travelers are also required to travel with printed documentation of their negative test results and completed PLC. Effective April 20, travelers from high-risk countries are required to take an additional Antigen test on day 3 of their stay. Travelers can register for their test while completing their PLC. Effective August 13, a curfew is in effect on the island. Click here for more information.
Dominican Republic travelers entering will not be required to submit a negative PCR test. All arriving passengers will pass through a heat/temperature sensor upon arrival. If a passenger shows an elevated body temperature they are pulled for further investigation and may incur a rapid test. All travelers will also be granted a complimentary, temporary travel assistance plan that will include coverage for emergencies, telemedicine, lodging for prolonged stays and costs for changing flights in the event of an infection. This will be provided for all travelers through June 12, 2021.
As of January 1, 2021, all travelers arriving to and departing from the Dominican Republic are required to fill out the mandatory digital entry and exit forms found at https://eticket.migracion.gob.do. Physical forms will no longer be accepted. Once completed, 2 QR codes will be generated to present at the airport on arrival and departure. It is recommended travelers complete these forms 72hrs prior to departure and keep a printed or screenshot version on hand while traveling. The digital forms can be completed prior to traveling or at the airport, but travelers will need to have the QR code available when passing through Customs in the DR. Please note, there have been technical difficulties when completing the forms using Safari on Apple devices, so it is recommended to try different web browsers or devices. For more information please visit https://viajerodigital.mitur.gob.do.
Europe Travelers who are not fully vaccinated arriving from United States must have a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result. The test must be taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure.
Grenada effective July 31, 2021, all visitors arriving to Grenada must be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination upon entry. All travelers from the U.S. are still required to present a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 72 hours prior to travel. Hotel guests are required to stay on property for 4 days after arrival. On their fourth day, travelers must complete a negative PCR test. Effective May 1, fully vaccinated travelers are still required to submit a valid PCR test completed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Vaccinated travelers will take a second PCR test on arrival to the airport and quarantine for up to 48 hours on property until they receive their negative test results. All travelers are required to pay a one-time, COVID test fee of USD$150, which will cover the arrival test, day 4 test or any other test taken while in-destination. Travelers must also have travel insurance covering COVID-19 and any related illness or declare that they will bear the cost of treatment and isolation if they test positive for COVID-19 on arrival. All travelers, regardless of risk assessment, must submit a Health Declaration Form, register on Grenada's Contract App and submit a Pure Safe Travel Authorization Certificate at least 48 hours prior to departure. Click here for more information. Click here for information on Grenada's new travel hotline.
Jamaica Effective through August 31, Jamaica is imposing a curfew. The curfew has limited implications for tourists visiting the island, and only a small fraction of tours that operate on Sundays may be affected. Transfers, in-hotel testing, most tours and hotel beach access are not impacted. Travelers arriving from the U.S. will be required to present either a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] OR Antigen test on arrival to the airport. Children aged 11 years or younger will not be required to present a negative test. Please note, travelers are no longer required to upload their negative test prior to arrival. Travelers arriving through August 10 are still required complete the mandatory Travel Authorization form AND receive government approval before departing. Approval will be sent to you immediately after completing your Travel Authorization, and you must present this approved form upon departure from the U.S. We urge you to visit VisitJamaica.com for more information.
Los Cabos No requirements
Panama all arriving travelers will be required to present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] or antigen test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival time. If their test was taken more than 48 hours prior to arrival, then the traveler will be required to take a rapid test at the airport at their own expense. Click here for more information.
Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit No requirements. Click here for more information on safety and sanitation protocols.
Riviera Maya No requirements
Sint Maarten/St. Maarten all arriving travelers ages 10 years and older from the U.S. are required to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed 72 hours prior to travel OR a negative antigen test within 48 hours of travel. Travelers are also required to complete a health declaration prior to arrival at www.stmaartenentry.com and travel with a copy. As of January 1, 2021, all arriving travelers to St. Maarten are required to purchase the St. Maarten Visitors Protection Plan for $30 per person. Click here for more information and here to purchase via the mandatory health form. Please visit the destination websites for St. Maarten or St. Martin for more information.
Saint Lucia In Saint Lucia, travelers aged 5 years and older are required to present a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test completed no more than 5 days prior to travel. Travelers aged 18 years and older must submit a Travel Registration Form to their hotel once their flight reservations are confirmed. This must be completed at least 5 business days prior to travel. PCR test results are not required to complete this. Click here for more information.
St. Thomas All arriving travelers aged 5 years and older are required to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] or Antigen test completed no more than 5 days prior to travel. Travelers must complete the online Travel Screening Portal within five days of travel. Click here for details on new travel requirements.
Turks & Caicos Effective September 1, 2021, all arriving travelers aged 16 years and older are required to be fully vaccinated. All arriving travelers aged 10 years and older are still required to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] or Antigen test completed no more than 3 days (72 hours) prior to travel, regardless of vaccination status. Travel medical insurance will be required, and travelers must complete an online health questionnaire. Click here for details on new travel requirements.
In addition to the travel entry details the Italian government announced last week, on September 3, they provided clarification on quarantine requirements for unvaccinated travelers. Unvaccinated travelers are allowed to enter Italy with a negative COVID-19 test but must self-quarantine upon arrival for five days and then test again after isolation. If unvaccinated travelers receive a negative COVID-19 after five days of quarantine, they will no longer have to quarantine.
As a reminder per last week’s announcement from the Italian government, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular test taken at most 72 hours before arrival into Italy. Children under six years of age will not be required to present a negative test result.
Please be aware that any travelers who are unable to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within the departure window will be denied boarding and must cancel or rebook their flight. There are no options to test or quarantine upon arrival into Italy.
All passengers traveling to Italy must fill out a Digital Passenger Locator Formbefore arrival and one of the following: Vaccination card, Green pass or Certificate of recovery.
Non-vaccinated travelers will only be allowed to enter if their reasons for travel meet the essential travel categories set forth by Spain. Non-vaccinated travelers who meet the essential travel exceptions must provide one of the following documents:
For travelers who are not vaccinated, we recommend that they verify that their reason for travel will continue to allow them to travel to Spain. Fully-vaccinated travelers will continue to be allowed to enter. However, unvaccinated travelers will only be allowed to enter for essential travel.
Effective September 6, fully-vaccinated travelers are now required to provide proof of a full vaccination. Children under 12 years of age are exempt.
All vaccinated and non-vaccinated travelers must still complete a Health Control Form and obtain their QR code to be presented at boarding and upon arrival into Spain.
Safeguard Your Documents! Make two copies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from your original documents. To help prevent theft, do not carry your passport in your back pocket, and keep it separate from your money.
A passport is a U.S. citizen’s key to international travel. Due to a surge in passport applications, your clients should apply several months in advance, especially if they need visas for their foreign destinations. Travelers should make sure their passport is valid at least six months after returning home and has two or more blank pages, or some countries may not let them enter. Note that passports for children under 16 are valid five years and adult passports 10 years, so check expiration dates carefully. We recommend all cruise ship passengers have their passport with them in case of emergency, even if not required.
United States Department of State
Travel Smart. Travel Safe. Travel Well.
Before traveling abroad, make sure to:
GET INFORMED about your destination at travel.state.gov/destination, and plan for the unexpected at travel.state.gov/crisis.
GET REQUIRED DOCUMENTS, such as your passport and visas.
GET ENROLLED in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov to receive security and
GET INSURED for medical, evacuation, and other unexpected expenses.