Vacationing in Belize During a Pandemic
By Susan Hammond, Agency Owner
There are two Great Barrier Reefs. One that you have probably heard of, and another that may be less familiar. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 190-mile long section of the 560-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancun on the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula through the Riviera Maya and down to Honduras, making it the second largest coral reef system in the world. Rich with wildlife, the coast attracts large schools of bonefish, tarpon and the elusive permit. All these are catch and release, and those who enjoy sport fishing naturally follow.
”Prior to entering the country, all travelers are expected to have a Belize Travel
Health app on their smartphones.”
One of my sons, Jack, is an avid fly fisherman and recent college graduate. Bone fishing off the coast of Placencia, Belize was his optimal destination and with the last child off the payroll, we thought that a celebration was in order…right?
Of course, this is 2020, and things are different now. The last thing any of us wanted to do was put anyone in danger, be it members of our party or those in the Belizean communities. The question, then, was could it be done? Belize opened its borders to Americans on October 1. After nearly eight months of closure, the government implemented strict protocols for incoming tourists, requiring every one to present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 before departing from their country of origin. All tests needed to be administered 72 hours in advance. Our family also took the precaution of self-quarantining the week before just to be safe.
Prior to entering the country, all travelers are expected to have a Belize Travel Health app on their smartphones. Their safety measures were quite thorough, and necessary.
Once we arrived at the Belize City Airport, the next step was to take a short commuter flight from Belize City to Placencia, about 160 miles south along the coast. We just missed Hurricane Eta that sent a lot of rain from Honduras to Belize, so we had beautiful weather for sitting on the beach, fishing and snorkeling.
Since our resort was booked at about 25 percent capacity, we were warmly welcomed at this beach resort by the staff, who followed all local health and safety protocols making us all feel extremely comfortable. Masks were required just about everywhere we went. But, despite not showing our faces all that much, the amazing staff had all our names memorized by the second day.
For those who did not care to fish took a snorkeling excursion from Placencia to the Belizean reef and snorkeled around Silk Caye. We were thrilled to get to snorkel with rays, nurse sharks, lionfish, brain coral and other exotic ocean life.
The small, laid-back town of Placencia was a delight to explore during our stay. With the resort’s daily complimentary shuttle into town, we were able to eat at local restaurants, have a cool adult beverage on the beach, or shop for local souvenirs and artisans.
The four young adult boys in our group hired a driver one day to take them to a local waterfall for a refreshing swim. Of course, the story is that the local drug lord owned the land where the waterfall was located, which made the excursion even more thrilling. Fortunately for them, they were the only people there.
Our time in Belize came with obstacles and a natural reflection process to follow. As one of the leaders in the travel industry, we take it upon ourselves to make sure that we are doing just that: leading by example. What I can say is that COVID-19 has challenged us in ways this industry never expected. We have, in good spirits, pivoted to a lane where we can advise clients about safety and leisure, staying up to date with the most relevant information. If we were not confident that we were staying safe and keeping others out of harm’s way, we would say otherwise. Our experience was enjoyable, even with the masks and social distancing.
Without reaching too far into the realm of rationalization, we also must recognize the economic component that COVID-19 has had on countries dependent on tourism. Much of the staff and personnel we interacted with during our time were there temporarily. They were being paid, but for six months, this simply was not the case. Belize does not have a robust unemployment system. Without tourism to provide business, people working in this industry are at risk of failing to support themselves and their family members. Traveling safely, therefore, is key right now.
Your personal travel advisors at Endless Travel are optimistic about 2021. We feel that the first quarter is going to see travel rebound in a strong way for a couple of reasons. First, the news of the vaccine is a psychological boost. We see it as one of the first encouraging signs in recommending our clients start their travel plans. They may not travel immediately, but they will begin booking for later in the year or the following year.
Second, cruise line execs are feverishly working to get the ships afloat again, with new sanitation protocols that will alleviate the fears of contamination. We believe cruise ships (river and ocean) will begin to sail in the second quarter on a limited basis. When cruising does resume, the Endless Travel advisors will be at the forefront, counseling our clients while we all continue to navigate the uncertainties of this transitionary period.
As we say goodbye to 2020, the Endless Travel team wants to thank you for remaining positive and hopeful in a challenging year for all industries. We know this year has been difficult for so many people around the world, both personally and professionally, and we are looking forward to a new year filled with good health, happiness, and hopefully new travels!
By Joyce Masyga, Agency Owner
One of the most incredible aspects of travel is its ability to change us. It teaches us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn. It alters perspectives we didn’t know would ever change. And it provides experiences that instill compassion, tolerance, patience, and so much more. But why do we do it? Why do we pack our bags, board planes and travel to places both near and far? Perhaps it’s the adrenaline that makes us feel alive, or maybe it prevents us from feeling complacent in life. For some, maybe it comforts us to know we’re forever evolving into better humans,widening our view of the world. Or perhaps it’s simply watching our children experience new things with pure joy and excitement in their eyes. No matter what your reason is, it’s your motivation, it’s your calling, and it’s your ‘why.’
Consumers are anxious about traveling again and are looking to professional travel advisors for information on what is safe, what is open, which hotels have implemented enhanced hygiene measures. They want an advocate if something happens before, during or after their trip. There is a need for information and trusted guidance. Expectations may be frequently translated into support from a travel consultant who is very familiar with all stages of the journey. Even after travelers get vaccinations, travelers are likely to remain more cautious of health issues going forward.
In a COVID-19 world, travelers are much more cognizant of the need to travel to destinations that make it easy to maintain social distancing practices. Endless Travel Advisors can get creative by designing itineraries that avoid public forms of transportation or crowded tourist areas. This may take the form of itineraries focusing on more remote locations or niches such as birding tours or biking tours, where travelers are less likely to come into contact with others.
Here are a few destinations that are open for business with some restrictions in place.Alaska
Explore Alaska’s vast landscapes. Let us cre- ate your ideal itinerary—the things and places you’ve always wanted to see.
For adventurers, how about trekking on a gla- cier, kayaking on a high mountain lake or sea kayaking, mountain biking or a photo tour of incredible scenic beauty and wildlife. Families can take sled dog tours or rides, nature hikes, gold panning, or visit Alaska Native culture sites and museums. Alaska is always a great place for fish- ing trips for any age or level.
An example of a Self-Drive 7-day vacation:
Day 1 – Anchorage
Upon arrival in Anchorage, pick up your full-size rental car with unlimited mileage (We use full-size cars because they are very stable and can handle your luggage.).
Day 2 – Anchorage to Homer
Enjoy the 225-mile drive to the picturesque town of Homer at the “end of the road.” Enjoy the day as there is a lot to see on these scenic highways.
Day 3 – Homer
Enjoy a half day halibut fishing excursion. For the non-fishermen, you may choose from fly-out bear viewing, a day-cruise across Kachemak Bay, or strolling the beaches and shops.
Day 4 – Homer to Seward
Drive 175 miles to Seward. Visit some of the places you missed on your drive to Homer. See the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward and learn about the unique eco-systems of the area.
Day 5 – Seward Sightseeing
Depart on an exciting cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park. This tour will visit the glaciers and give you an opportunity to see the area’s wildlife. Visit dog sled kennels and ride on a training sled.
Day 6 – Spencer Glacier Float Trip & Alyeska Resort
Depart Seward for a short 65-mile drive to the Portage Train Depot. Board the Alaska RailroadHawaii
Hawaii is a beautiful tropical vacation hot spot unlike any other in the world. From its beautiful white sandy beaches and its majestic mountains and steep valleys to its city life, there really is something for everyone to enjoy! The weather in Hawaii is always perfect. Hawaii has a winter season, but it doesn’t get much colder than 75°F (24°C) during the day—ever. It is summer all year long to the typical vacationer, and shorts and bathing suits are normal attire. The Hawaiian culture is very much alive, and it shines through its people! From its city and beach names (which are almost all still in the Hawaiian language) to hula demonstrations at luaus and ukulele or lei making lessons, it is a great way to learn more about Hawaiian culture. All of the Islands are open for visitors now, so take advantage of the low airfares to Hawaii. Mexico/Caribbean
Endless Travel is seeing that all-inclusive vaca- tions make a lot of sense for travelers today. Families and couples can get away to a foreign country and take advantage of the ocean, and do it safely.
All-inclusive vacations include all of your meals, drinks, transfers, most non-motorized water sports and often tips. Travelers booking beach vacations are looking for relaxation and fun; nothing is more relaxing than knowing you can enjoy yourself to the fullest extent and not have to worry about a bill at the end. We all like to indulge on vacation, so being able to have all food, beverages, entertainment and a wide vari- ety of activities included in the package price provides great value.United States
I am sure many of you have done most of your traveling in the United States this past year while visiting family or doing short driv- ing trips. The statistics show that RV rentals are at their highest. In fact, my husband and I, along with my two sisters and husbands are planning an RV vacation to The Mighty Five in Utah this March. The Five National parks that make up the Mighty Five are: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capital Reef National Park and Zion National Park. Each park anchors a travel region that beckons trav- elers to immerse themselves in not only the iconic national park, but state parks, national monuments and small towns that weave texture into southern Utah. All national parks are open, but services and activities may be limited due to COVID-19 protocols. Reach out to Endless Travel for assistance in booking this type of trip with a group or self-drive.
Although nobody knows exactly what will happen, one thing is clear; we won’t be able to travel as freely (without consideration for our health) as we used to… at least for the foresee- able future. With a considerable amount of uncertainty regarding travel safety and contradic- tory information online, travelers will continue to look to the experts when it comes to planning their trips. Travel has become increasingly complex, and travelers may engage with Endless Travel advisors simply to help them manage the complicated airline arrangements and health regulations they must adhere to.
Disclaimer: Endless Travel advisors are not physicians and we can’t predict the future. This article was written with what we know today. It is always your decision as a traveler to know your risks. Please follow all COVID-19 precautions.