The unexpected happened when I took my first International trip since October of 2019.
I had avoided traveling abroad since the beginning of the pandemic primarily because I felt it was irresponsible in my particular case to risk catching or spreading covid.
My husband is a physician dealing with a vulnerable population, and I could not risk bringing covid back to him.
So I put off traveling, and it was tough, I tell you, as it feeds my soul to experience new places and people.
I excitedly booked this trip to South Africa in the fall of 2020, thinking Covid-19 couldn’t possibly be a continuing issue a year from then as vaccines were on the horizon, promising freedom from this disease for all of us.
And then I planned and studied and waited for October 2021 to roll around on the calendar, getting more excited by the day for my longed anticipated trip. At the same time, like all of you, I also fretted about the rise of variants, whether the vaccine was effective and what would happen if I got stuck in South Africa if I tested positive on any portion of my trip. I knew a group of travel advisors where that exact scenario happened, and they were quarantined for the better part of two weeks before they tested negative and were allowed to fly back home. The thought of that happening was daunting.
So to ease my mind and allow myself to travel again comfortably, I created a plan of action. After all that prep work, I felt prepared for any eventuality that might occur on my trip. And guess what?
I was not!
A couple of days before leaving Cape Town and flying to Zimbabwe, I tested positive for Covid-19. I was taken aback. I felt fine and had no symptoms of Covid at all, and I was the only one in my group of travel advisors who tested positive.
My first thought was OMG, have I given everyone on the trip Covid, and then my second thought was OMG, what am I going to do?
However, it took about 5 minutes for me to think of all the preparations that I had done just for this scenario, and I realized that I would be just fine whatever the outcome.
I retested myself with a rapid test, and the results were negative, so I then was retested by the medical professional who performed my first test and then waited on tenterhooks for the rest of the night to see if that test also was negative, which it was.
At that point, I continued on my journey safely while knowing that I had prepared for any eventuality.
BEFORE I LEFT ON MY INTERNATIONAL TRIP
I Gamed out possible scenarios.
I got comfortable with the possibility of quarantining before I left. If you can’t consider the possibility of quarantining, then I would suggest you delay your travels to another time.
Think through all the possibilities in advance, so you’re not making decisions while in an emotional state. What will you do if your partner tests positive, but you don’t? What if one of your children tests positive? Will the whole family stay with the child, or will only one parent stay?
These are essential considerations to make. If only one of you tests positive initially, there is a real risk that your partner will test positive during the quarantine. This could extend your quarantine even further with a remote possibility of having to quarantine for up to 28 days.
I knew before I left what I would do if I tested positive and made sure I had all my contacts at hand if I needed to reach out.
In addition to researching the CDC’s policies and your destination country’s quarantine procedures, ask your travel agent to reach out to the properties you will be staying at to ask what happens if a guest tests positive for COVID-19. The hotel policies are all over the map, so it is essential to know how your hotel will be handling a positive test result.
I Found Out My Hotel’s Quarantine Policy
Some places are superb, and for a nominal flat rate, they will let you stay in the lowest entry-level room for 14 nights. Some places say no, you have to stay in your room and pay their full rate, which at a Virtuoso level property it would not be affordable to many people. The only other option available might involve going to a government-sponsored quarantine facility.
In the case of South Africa, if my COVID-19 test came back positive, I would have been subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site. The accommodation at a quarantine site would have been at my expense.
I Invested in Travel Insurance
Get travel insurance. You can never anticipate what’s going to happen even if you are vaccinated.
Quarantine is also where “trip delay” travel insurance would come in handy. Trip delay travel insurance will reimburse you for a predetermined amount each day you are quarantined away from home. Another add-on would be to include a “bed-rest” policy which would further cover you for a significant amount more for your hotel room and meals if you are quarantined and have to pay out of pocket. It is a nominal amount and provides several thousands of dollars in extra coverage. While having this insurance does not help the inconvenience of being stuck in a foreign country, it does help to know that you’re not spending excess money, especially if the hotel is upscale.
It’s one thing to quarantine at a hotel where they offer room and board arrangements, but what if you need medical assistance?
Your trip insurance will provide you with the peace of mind that you will be cared for if you are symptomatic with Covid-19. Most hotels do not offer you medical assistance, so this is something you need to consider.
I Purchased Medical Evacuation Coverage
Can’t imagine quarantining for 14 days abroad? Take a look at companies that provide medical evacuation services like Covac Global, a pandemic evacuation and repatriation membership program.
Unlike other medical evacuation companies, Covac Global doesn’t require hospitalization with Covid-19. All you need is a positive COVID test and a self-reported symptom, and you could then be eligible to be airlifted on a private jet with a physician attending to you through your trip back to the U.S. to do your quarantine in your own home instead of being stuck abroad. Travel insurance does not provide you with this option, and it is pricy (starting at $675 per person), but it could offer you peace of mind.
WHAT I BROUGHT IN CASE OF QUARENTINE
Pack enough medical supplies to last you well beyond your vacation and into quarantine. You do not want to be running out of essential medications on top of all the stress of quarantine.
COVID-19 Rapid Self-Test at Home Kit
A self-test kit is the one thing that I did not pack myself, but luckily my tour director had one. It gave me peace of mind to test again, knowing that the original test was likely a false positive. These are easy to find at your local drug store.
A Travel Laundry Kit
Bring some laundry detergent just in case. You likely will not have brought enough clothes with you, so being able to wash them in your room will be invaluable to you.
I Packed What I would Need for Remote Work and Entertainment.
A couple of books and a laptop stocked with movies might become invaluable. Make sure you have plenty of storage space on your devices and that you have a spare charger just in case something happens.
I Carried an International Calling Card and downloaded Whatsapp on my phone.
More than likely, you will be using your cell phone more often during quarantine to talk to family back home or to arrange returning flights, so it is good to have a plan in place rather than racking up huge phone bills.
Whatsapp is a free way to communicate with family and friends while on wifi.
Get Your Travel Documents to Leave Quarantine
Once you receive a negative test, you will need to get clearances from the hotel/country together quickly to rebook your flight with recovery documentation and fly home ASAP. (don’t worry, your travel consultant will help you with this).
REMEMBER THE GOOD MEMORIES OF THE TRIP
Weigh the possibility of quarantine and decide whether a trip is worth it to you. If you think quarantine would be painful, but you are prepared, then great, be safe on your journey and have fun.