GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Vickie LaGarone spends a lot of her time these days checking the CDC website for her clients. She’s founder and CEO of Genuine Vacation, a family-owned travel business in Grand Rapids. LaGrone’s on the website so much she said she knows it "front and back," and that’s a good sign of things to come.
“Business was slow there when the pandemic first hit, but now business is starting to pick up for the third quarter and beyond,” LaGrone said during a Zoom interview last week. “I think once this is all over, things will bounce back, and travel will be booming again for sure.”
She said more and more people are booking trips for the summer and fall quarters. Travelers are planning for spring break, too, and people are flying everywhere.
“A lot of people are traveling to the Caribbean, Mexico, Aruba. But, some of the islands are beginning to close their borders again, which is kind of sad to say,” LaGrone said. “A lot of them are beginning to close, especially St. Martin and the Grenadines. They are not allowing us to travel there right now.”
So, considering a pandemic is still going on, she suggested for anyone traveling this year to always check your destination’s COVID protocols. She said they’re changing every day, even in the U.S.
“January 26, the U.S. has implemented for international travelers to have a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to returning,” she said.
LaGrone also recommended getting travel insurance, which can cover unforeseen expenses.
“I myself was out in the San Francisco area, north of there, with my husband a couple of years ago, and I ended up with a blood clot and ended up in the hospital over the weekend,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel products and services for AAA. “I had $60,000 in bills before you can blink an eye, and my travel insurance took care of all of my out-of-pocket.”
Haas said these are the types of things that AAA travel agents talk to their clients about. They, too, are seeing an increase in travel plans this year and believe purchasing travel insurance is a must.
“There are many reasons why you may have to cancel your trip that go well beyond COVID. So, let’s just say a loved one in your family gets very ill themselves, and you can’t go on vacation,” Haas said during a Zoom interview last week. “Travel insurance covers those sorts of things, or if you’re on the trip and you need assistance with medical help or consultation or transportation, travel insurance can help you with that.”
Haas said the travel agents at AAA have been answering all sorts of questions lately from budgeting to hotel cleanliness.
“We even work with preferred traveled providers who will do guided tours, and those folks go ahead and make sure that they pick venues that are following all of the safety guidelines,” Haas said. “So, that you can really sit back and enjoy and relax on your vacation.”
That’s the goal, Haas said. She, like LaGrone, believes the industry will rebound once people travel more. So, she suggested booking your plans now.
“If there’s something on your wish list, go ahead and make a reservation,” she said. “You may find if you wait until the last minute that you’re not going to have the choices you want or even if you wait until later in the spring, as more and more people start locking in the great destinations. If it’s something that has limited capacity, you want to get your reservation on the books.”