Travel in the Time of COVID-19

Our own AAA employee, Aleshi Bray, shared her story with us on traveling to Jamaica with family in a world restricted by COVID-19. From the airport protocols to the check-in process, and everything in between, read on for what to expect from a Caribbean getaway in the era of coronavirus.

Like many whose travel plans were affected by COVID-19, Aleshi Bray hoped she’d still be able to go on her family vacation amidst uncertainty and changing travel restrictions. Aleshi had rebooked her resort trip to Jamaica for June of 2020 – due to a conflict prior to her initial departure date. The coronavirus had unfolded rapidly and altered the plans of many optimistic explorers. However, Aleshi was confident in the research she conducted on safe travel practices and the island of Jamaica was accepting American travelers. So she and her entourage greeted this situation as a chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In a world of uncertainty, it is just as important at times to carpe diem – seize the day.

The journey to Jamaica began with departing from TF Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island. As Aleshi described it, “the airport did a phenomenal job…everyone was wearing masks, and it was not busy at all.” Although it was around 6 a.m. when Aleshi and her family were inside the airport, it was more than clear the environment was clean and well maintained for all visitors. Aleshi also noted other details such as the closure of many restaurants to prevent gathering, and security prohibiting the use of paper documents in the check-in process.

Aleshi and her family flew with American Airlines. Passengers were able to sit with their family, and American seemed to fill up the plane to about 75-percent capacity. Each person was supplied with a bottle of water, a container of hand sanitizer, and a cookie for the duration of the flight. No drink or food service was available, as it appeared flight attendants only serviced guests with overhead bins and safety demonstrations. To Aleshi and her family, this was suitable for the hour and a half flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, and about an additional two hours from that point to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Upon arrival in Jamaica, Aleshi and her family received temperature checks immediately and were required to carry their results until leaving the airport. Before customs and the immigration process, her group was escorted to an infirmary to check temperatures again, fill out a short questionnaire, and sign legal documents for a formal travel authorization with the Jamaica embassy. “This process took us an additional hour to get through – but luckily everyone was patient,” said Aleshi. Before leaving for the resort, Aleshi’s party was sprayed down with disinfectant before getting on the bus transport, including their luggage and shoes. “I can see why they have so few cases here because it was a totally different experience to what we have seen,” said Aleshi. It was also mandatory that visitors stay on the grounds of their resort as hopping between destinations was not allowed.

Arriving at the Grand Palladium in Jamaica, a series of similar steps at the airport occurred again. Temperatures were taken, luggage and shoes disinfected, and masks worn before approaching the resort check-in desk. According to Aleshi, everyone seemed compliant with the protocols in place.

In recognizing this, Aleshi realized how essential it is for Jamaica to remain diligent through the pandemic. The residents and workers are clearly strict with the process that has been implemented, to protect their entire tourism industry itself. If an outbreak of coronavirus ensued rapidly, their economy could potentially be wiped and not recover, especially in visitor hot spots.

It was not Aleshi’s first time to Jamaica, but first time at the resort. She chose the Grand Palladium for its size, proximity to the airport, and savings upon booking. The property operated at 10-percent capacity and had two restaurants open for service. Food options alternated each day and although reservations were encouraged, walk-ins were welcomed as well. Water sport activities such as snorkeling, paddle boats, and glass-bottom boats were available. Half of the pools on-premise were open, with social distancing maintained by those using it.

High touchpoint items were removed from the resort rooms, housekeeping only cleaned when the room was vacated, and room service met guests at the door with a tray. “This is the safest time to go in a way… everything is being sanitized, not as many people – everything is so clean, it’s great!” said Aleshi.

When asked about whether the experience was a hindrance to enjoying time with her family, Aleshi shared, “Here in America we want everything quick – we don’t want to wait. But when you are patient, and wait longer, you are safer.” Although she missed going to more restaurants, enjoying the nightlife, and meeting people across resorts, Aleshi stressed how essential it is to be an educated traveler. “Do your homework and research… my go-to resource was the SmartDepart series on the AAA Travel Center.”

If you prepare as Aleshi and her family did, a Caribbean escape may be the right choice for you and may happen sooner than you think. As you prepare, know that AAA Travel Advisors are here to help you make smart and enjoyable travel plans. Speak with your AAA Travel Advisor by calling 1-800-222-7448.