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.
The United States has revised its testing requirements for all travelers ages 2 and above entering the U.S. Effective for flights departing on or after December 6, all travelers arriving into the U.S. regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 1 day of initial flight departure, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Travelers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must still have proof of being fully vaccinated to enter the U.S.
Travelers get a break: REAL ID deadline extended to May 3, 2023, 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 Effective March 16, 2022, all arriving travelers must be fully vaccinated, but do not have to test to enter Antigua. Travelers aged 5 to 18 who are unvaccinated must submit a negative PCR test completed no more than 4 days prior to arrival. Travelers are still required to download and complete a new Health Declaration form found here. The form will be shared with Health Authorities on your arrival at the V.C Bird International Airport. Click here for more information.
Aruba Effective March 19, 2022, all travelers are no longer required to present a negative test result or proof of vaccination to enter Aruba. For more information click here. All travelers must still purchase Aruba Visitors Insurance within 72 hours of departure via the ED Card form at www.edcardaruba.aw.
Bahamas When traveling to The Bahamas, travelers are required to submit a valid, negative COVID-19 test completed no more than 72 hours prior to travel. Vaccinated travelers, as well as children aged 2-11 years old, can present a rapid antigen test or PCR test result while unvaccinated travelers are required to present a Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] test result. 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 Effective Jan 7, all travelers aged 6 years and older regardless of vaccination status, are required to submit a valid negative Rapid COVID-19 PCR test result done within 1 day prior to arrival OR a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result done within 3 days prior to arrival. Unvaccinated 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. Travelers are also required to submit an online Immigration and Customs Form within 72 hours of arrival. Click here for more information.
Brazil Travelers 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure and present a COVID-19 vaccination card when traveling to Brazil. In addition to vaccination proof, travelers 12 years and older must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken at least 72 hours before departure, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken at least 24 hours before departure. The test results must be in English, Portuguese or Spanish.
Travelers must present a Traveler’s Health Declaration (DSV) completed at least 24 hours before departure from the first embarkation point and present it upon arrival.
Cancun No requirements
Costa Rica As of August 1, 2021, all fully vaccinated travelers will not have to purchase travel insurance. Vaccinated travelers will still have to complete the form linked below and include proof of vaccination through Mar 31, 2022. Unvaccinated travelers will have to follow all of these requirements through Mar 31, 2022: Complete the online form found at https://salud.go.cr. Purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses for acute illness. The purchased travel insurance must also be shown upon arrival to prove that the policy is active during their stay in Costa Rica and that it covers medical costs related to COVID-19 for a minimum of USD$50,000. Insurance can be purchased locally online. Click here for more information on where to purchase travel insurance. Effective Apr 1, 2022, the health pass and travel and medical insurance will not be required for visitors to Costa Rica.
Click here for more information.
Cozumel No requirements
Curacao Effective March 10, 2022, visitors will no longer be required to submit a negative COVID test to enter Curacao. . 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 Feb 21, 2022, travelers are no longer required to take an additional Antigen test on day 3 of their stay. 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. Travelers will no longer be granted a complimentary, temporary travel assistance plan that was available for travel 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.
France has issued new precautionary measures for travelers aged 12 and over following the emergence of the Omicron variant. Effective December 4, all travelers from countries outside the EU, regardless of vaccination status, must provide a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure.
Passengers who travel to France must fill out and print a Health Declarationprior to arrival.
Grand Cayman as of December 17, Cayman Islands is requiring inbound international travelers 5 years and older to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken the day before departure.
In addition to a negative COVID-19 test, travelers must provide proof of vaccination and an approved travel authorization form.
While unvaccinated tourists are prohibited from visiting the islands, there are exemptions for unvaccinated individuals, such as returning residents, work permit holders or those with close relatives in the country or who own a business or property. These select types of unvaccinated travelers are required to complete a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
Greece Starting December 19, travelers 5 years and older are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of arrival to Greece. This testing requirement will apply regardless of vaccination status or method of entry to Greece.
In addition, travelers must complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before arriving in Greece.
Grenada Effective until April 3, all arriving visitors must be fully vaccinated and show original 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 arrival OR a negative Rapid Antigen test completed no more than 24 hours prior to arrival. All travelers, regardless of risk assessment, must submit a Health Declaration Form and register on Grenada's Contract App. Effective April 4, 2022, travelers will no longer be required to be vaccinated, present a negative test, complete the Health Declaration Form or quarantine on arrival. Click here for more information. Click here for information on Grenada's new travel hotline.
Hawaii from March 26, 2022, and beyond, there are no arrival or entry requirements. The Safe Travels platform will no longer be utilized.
Ireland Since Sunday 6 March 2022 travellers to Ireland are not required to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative PCR test result upon arrival. Travellers to Ireland are no longer asked to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form and travel carriers will not ask to check a PLF receipt prior to travel to Ireland. There are no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirements for travellers to Ireland. Any individual that develops COVID-19 symptoms while in Ireland should follow the HSE guidance in relation to isolation and undertaking antigen or PCR testing as appropriate. Digital COVID Certificates are still being issued as proof of vaccination, recovery or test results in Ireland. These can be used if you wish to travel to another EU country. If you have not received an updated Digital COVID Certificate, you can request one through the online self-service portal.
Israel previous temporary travel ban has been extended through Dec. 29, which prohibits the entry of non-Israeli citizens, unless they have a special entry permit from the Exceptions Committee.
Italy now requires fully vaccinated travelers age 6 years and older arriving from the U.S., including Italian citizens and residents, to present either a negative molecular PCR COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours before arrival into Italy, or a negative antigen COVID-19 test result taken within 24 hours before arrival into Italy.
Travelers age 6 years and older who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated arriving from the U.S., including Italian citizens and residents, must present a negative antigen COVID-19 test result taken within 24 hours before arrival into Italy, followed by mandatory quarantine in Italy for 5 days and taking rapid antigen or molecular testing at the end of quarantine.
Passengers traveling to Italy must complete a specific digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) prior to entering the country.
Jamaica Effective March 1, 2022, travelers are still required to present either a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] OR Antigen test taken no more than 3 days prior 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 or complete the Travel Authorization. We urge you to visit VisitJamaica.com for more information. Click here for more information on protocols if a visitor tests positive while in destination.
Los Cabos No requirements
Netherlands Starting Dec. 30th, the Netherlands will require all passengers ages 12 and over arriving from very high-risk areas, including the U.S., to self-quarantine for 10 days and present a Quarantine Declaration upon arrival. The quarantine may be shortened by day 5 with a negative COVID-19 test result. Additionally, there are numerous Exemption Categories which may be applicable to your travel.
To enter the country, travelers 12 years and older must present proof of vaccination along with a negative COVID-19 test result; either a NAAT (PCR) test taken within 48 hours before departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours before departure. A Health Declaration Form must also be completed before entering the Netherlands.
If you are transiting in Amsterdam (AMS) you are not required to quarantine but you must complete a Quarantine Declaration Form and a Health Declaration Form. A negative COVID-19 test is not required if you do not leave the airport and your connection time is within 1 day.
Panama Vaccinated travelers do not have to present a negative COVID-19 test as long as they can provide physical or digital proof of at least 2 doses, and it has been 2 weeks since their second dose. Unvaccinated travelers are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival. If their test was taken more than 72 hours prior to arrival, then the traveler will be required to take a rapid test at the airport at their own expense. ALL travelers are required to present their completed Electronic Health Affidavit [in physical or digital form] to their airline or carrier BEFORE departing for Panama.
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 Travelers who are fully vaccinated [2 doses] with or without their booster shot more than 14 days prior are not required to present a negative test. Travelers who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 9 months are also not required to submit a negative test. Travelers who are NOT fully vaccinated are required to submit a valid, negative PCR test completed 48 hours prior to travel. Travelers ages 5 years and younger are not required to present a negative test. Travelers are also required to complete a health declaration prior to arrival at www.stmaartenentry.com and travel with a copy. All arriving travelers are also 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 vaccinated 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 OR a negative rapid test no more than 1 day prior to travel. Rapid antigen tests must be administered by a healthcare provider. Self-administered tests and saliva tests are not accepted. Unvaccinated 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 Effective March 7, 2022, arriving domestic travelers [includes US mainland] who are fully vaccinated more than 14 days prior to travel do not have to submit a negative COVID test to enter USVI. Domestic travelers who are not fully vaccinated still have to submit a valid, negative Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] or Antigen test completed no more than 5 days prior to travel. All travelers must complete the online Travel Screening Portal within five days of travel.
Click here for details on new travel requirements.
SPAIN on-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.
Turks & Caicos All arriving travelers aged 16 years and older are required to be fully vaccinated. As of Jan 28, 2022, all arriving travelers aged 2 years and older are 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.
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.