Travel advisor Astrid Clements spends her socially distanced days furiously reading through news related to the travel restrictions that crashed onto the scene as the world has struggled to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Notes written about airplane changes, country closures and preventative measures all lead her back to the words written in bold at the top of the U.S. Department of State’s website: “Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Do Not Travel.”
“It’s usually only during wartime that such a widespread advisory would be put in place,” she explains. “It’s the first time in my lifetime that I’ve seen something like this.”
The advisory puts any travel out of the United States as a major risk, speaking to the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 and the drastic measures being taken to stifle its continued spread. However, after months spent indoors and countless plans canceled, people are still looking to seize the summer in one way or another. The answer? According to Clements and many other travel professionals, it’s rediscovering the beauty of the country we call home.
“My advice is to focus on the outdoors,” Clements says. She and her team have begun working on new trips for the AstridTravel Club to places like Santa Fe, Savannah, Lake Placid, Sedona and even the Hamptons. Each trip has an overarching theme that allows travelers to see the destination in a unique and authentic light.
“Our goal is to create interesting and enriching trips in the United States that highlight the beauty and diversity of America,” she notes. “I want to show people places that aren’t overrun by tourists.”
And with distancing as the standard for the foreseeable future, the wide open spaces of the American frontier are looking more and more desirable, even for those who might have never considered themselves to be anything other than beach people.
“I’ve been suggesting places like Colorado, Wyoming and North Carolina,” says travel advisor Caitlin Stolzenthaler of Rove & Roam Travel. “Of course, people have still been dying to get to the beach, but I have had people looking for something different and these places offer open space and the adventures of the great outdoors.”
“By focusing on domestic travel, you are directly supporting local economies and local people,” adds Clements. “You’re choosing to spend your money in the U.S., and that helps local businesses stay afloat during this time.”
For those still looking to leave the country, Caribbean islands are slowly starting to open up, and some countries like Nicaragua and Sweden never closed. No matter the destination, Clements suggests checking the U.S. Department of State website and doing extensive research about the rules currently in place, since they vary heavily even from state to state.
“Travel is based on comfort zones,” explains Solzenthaler, who notes that travel insurance is a must during uncertain times. “There are plenty of people who will stick around North America for a while, but there are still people who want to see the sights and they don’t want to waste time.”
“People will travel again when they feel safe,” Clements remarks. “There’s no avoiding the fact that there will be a new normal. My advice is to dream now and travel later.”
OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO
Even a pandemic can’t stop summer wanderlust. We reached out to fellow Baton Rougeans and asked where they have their sights set for upcoming trips. From Virginia to Spain, they’re looking far and wide for new adventures to spice up post-quarantine life.
“We’re just ready to get out of our house, honestly. We haven’t planned anything yet but Mexico or Belize would be nice. I think sometime this summer we’re going to drive up to Birmingham to visit friends.” — Branden Barker, president of Barker Real Estate and Management Services
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VIRGINIA
“When things started opening up, the first thing I did was go to The Backpacker. My brother-in-law and I pushed our four-day hiking trip in Shenandoah National Park back to mid-June. After that, we’re going to their house on Lake Gaston in North Carolina. I plan to bring my plein air painting materials and spend some quiet time there. In July, I’m driving to Denver to move my daughter and also do some hiking and painting.” — Nanci Charpentier, artist
“We’ve been looking back at old photos from family trips we’ve taken and enjoying memories of a trip to France we took in 2015 with our kids in particular. This year, we’d planned to bring them to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca in Spain. When we have the green light to go, we’ll be packing our bags for sunny Spain!” — Kate Freeman, primary care physician with Ochsner
WATERCOLOR INN & RESORT, SANTA ROSA BEACH, FLORIDA
“I have several trips in mind because I’m ready to go. I want to take my family to the Smoky Mountains to go whitewater rafting. We’ve taken my four kids before and it was the best vacation. I also want to go on a beach trip with my friends to somewhere easy like WaterColor. The last thing is New Orleans with my husband. We usually go once a month so we are overdue.” — Bridget Tate, co-owner of Capital City Lighting
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
“My husband Kenny and I planned a whole trip to Japan for this summer. We’ve moved that to 2021 but I would love to go to Charleston, South Carolina, this summer. We went for our honeymoon and fell in love with the city. It has such a homey, Southern vibe.” — Laura Siu Nguyen, owner of Laura Siu Planning & Events
“Last year, we did a three-week trip across Europe and fell in love with Portugal. The people, the culture and the natural beauty were amazing. It’s an unpretentious side of Europe.” —Dom Peré, CEO of Marex Services Group
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
“We have a daughter who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, a daughter in New Orleans, and a daughter working in Montana for the summer. We are hoping to all meet up in Montana and travel to Mount Glacier and Yellowstone National Park.” — Shannon Countryman, co-owner of Ingle Eats
“We already traveled to 30A and plan to go back again this summer. We love riding our bikes up and down and enjoying the scenic views. Seeing some of the restaurants open made us feel semi-normal again. For the future, we love Chicago. We were planning to go in early April but that got canceled. We’re creatures of habit so we love going back to the same places.” — Meredith Waguespack, owner of Sweet Baton Rouge and founder of Local Pop-Up Shop