Travel Edition 2021: Post-COVID, will travel

EnCompass Magazine

With the pandemic quashing most of our plans and dreams to travel this past year, none have felt it more disheartening than travel agents—it’s what they do—and they haven’t been able to travel and experience the destinations you want to visit.

The good news is there is a ray of hope for 2021, with the announcement of a vaccine, so we asked a few of our agents where they want to go once the pandemic is over and it’s safe to travel the world again. Here’s their wish list:

Dawn Lange

Travel Agent, AAA Southwest Store

Ireland is a country that’s been on my bucket list for years and has a personal connection for me and my husband, as my mother’s great-grandfather, as well as his relatives, came to the U.S. from Ireland. So, when this pandemic is over, that’s where we’ll be heading.

We’ve been so excited about wanting to do this trip,—talking about the highlights and what we’ll experience—that our close friends have decided to join us.

Neither of us have ever been to Ireland, so we plan on taking a guided trip with Trafalgar tours to take the stress out of navigating on our own, and it will give us more time to enjoy the scenery. I’m really looking forward to seeing the castles and learning more about the country’s history and culture, and visiting a pub or two to talk with the locals.

We plan on taking Trafalgar’s Enchanting Emerald Isle tour, which starts in Dublin., then makes its way to several popular attractions, including the famous Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry (one of Ireland’s most scenic drives), Kilkenny Castle (home to some of the country’s most important art), and then, of course, Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney stone. Did you know you practically need to hang upside down (with help from the docents) in order to kiss it? Not sure how that will go with a mask on, though?

I’m also excited about the specially hosted dinner with a small group of locals. It’s great way to really connect with them and learn more about their culture and way of life. Then there’s the fact that we’ll be able to relax and let the tour bus driver do the driving as we experience the beauty of the countryside—especially along the road to the Ring of Kerry. In Ireland, they drive on the left side of the road, so I’m glad we won’t have to deal with that stress.

My recommendations

If you plan on visiting Ireland, here are a few things to consider:

  • Take a guided trip. Or even a private chauffeur-driven tour. Not only can you sit back and enjoy the ride, many of your meals will be included in addition to the sightseeing. AAA has several preferred tour companies with a variety of itineraries to meet your needs.
  • Dress in layers. Just like here in Colorado, when you take a trip to the mountains, you’ll want to be able to adjust to the changing climate. Also, bring a rain jacket and small umbrella, as rain showers are quite common.
  • Purchase some Euros before you go. You can do so at your local AAA store. This will save you time, give you some local currency right from the start, and perhaps get you a more favorable exchange rate.
  • No need to tip. In restaurants, the service tax is included on the bill, which is usually around 10 percent.
  • Attractions may be limited. Be aware that unlike here in the U.S., many of the museums, attractions, and business are closed on Sundays.

Adrienne Carr

Travel Agent, AAA West Metro store

The Cotswold village of Stow on the Wold. © Bell

This past year, my two childhood friends and I turned 65, and to celebrate our birthdays and more than 60 years of friendship, we had been planning a walking tour of the Cotswolds in England, and then, of course, our plans changed.

Cotswold Way is a 102-mile-long trail that meanders through quaint English villages, filled with beautiful homes built of Cotswold stone, a yellow limestone. There are little markets, lovely vistas, and even some of the names along the trail are fun—the Vale of Evasham, Birdlip, Painswick, and Moreton-in-Marsh.

I plan on using one of our walking tour partners when I book our trip, especially since all of the accommodations are hand-selected and our luggage will be transported to each town and ready for us at check-in at our B&B, hotel, or manor house—whichever options we decide on for each night’s stay.

In London, we’ll make some of the usual stops, since one of my friends has never visited—Tower Bridge, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral will all be on the list. Our original plan had included wanting to see “Hamilton” during our visit, so we’ll check out the post-COVID theater options.

Our journey will end in Bath, a city I first visited in the mid-‘80s. Neither of my friends have visited here and I can’t wait to show them the old Roman structures, remember Beau Nash (the 18th-century British fashion leader and Master of Ceremonies for Bath), and see the Royal Crescent—a series of terraced homes aligned into a crescent shape.

On my previous visit, I stayed near “the Crescent” in a tiny B&B and will never forget the couple I met from Liverpool who insisted they knew all about the U.S. and didn’t need to visit at all. “We have no desire to see America,” the woman said. “We’ve seen everything we need to see from watching Dallas and Dynasty.” Oh, I worked extremely hard to convince them that Americans weren’t all heiresses or cunning oil company executives from fictional television shows!

So, when COVID-19 finally ends, I’ll make new plans for our vacation. We’ll each fly from our respective cities to meet in London. Then, we’ll finally get to walk together, in person, and enjoy each other as we did when we were young girls, who loved to walk and talk—without any Bluetooth headsets and cell phones.

My recommendations

I’ve always heard if you’re going to visit England, you should always bring the following: an umbrella, a raincoat, and duckboots, as it’s always raining. While it’s never rained on any of my visits, it’s probably not a bad advice to be prepared. Could it rain? Yes. Will it rain? Perhaps not. The sun might just shine your entire trip and your walks will not involve squishy shoes and soggy windbreakers. If it does rain, then chalk it up to experiencing England as a local and fill yourself up with a warm cuppa (tea)….and a scone. Here are a few other recommendations:

  • Take practice hikes. Prepare for a walking trip by walking consistently in the months before you go. Practice walking a varied terrain that includes hills, walking with a day pack, and doing back-to-back days of distance walking.
  • Pack a good pair of hiking boots. Your boots should have good ankle support, waterproof, and well-worn prior to your trip. I also recommend wool socks, waterproof hiking pants (perhaps the kind that zip off), and a waterproof jacket or poncho. Since your luggage is carried from one accommodation to the next, a good day pack is necessary to carry your extra clothing, snacks, water, camera, etc.
  • Be aware of holidays. England has several “Bank Holidays” throughout the year. Take note of these times, so you don’t find yourself with limited services on a particular day you plan to visit.
  • Quick tour of London. If you don't have much time to explore, a double-decker bus tour or a Thames River cruise is a great way to get a glimpse of the highlights.

Colin Robinson

Travel Agent, AAA Denver Tech Center Store

The historic Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Japan. © Prakobkit

Japan has always held a special interest for me, and it’s been on my bucket list for quite some time. It offers a wide variety of modern and historic activities, as well as unique landscape features and cultural activities.

I had been planning a trip in 2020, and then COVID-19 hit. Once the pandemic is over, I’ll resurrect my plans to visit, and perhaps bring my mother as a way of saying “thank you” for putting up with my teenage years.

Whenever I visit a new country, I like to take part in at least one of their unique cultural experiences, so I can better understand and appreciate the people, as well as expand my own worldview. For example, in France, I would enjoy an espresso at a Parisian café; in Switzerland, I would attend a chocolate or cheese tasting; and for Japan, I would like to experience one of their historic Ryokans. They hold a unique interest for me as a travel agent, since Ryokans may be the oldest type of hotel in the world.

Another activity that’s a must-do for me is to ride one of the bullet trains. I have ridden trains all over the world, including the TGV high-speed train in Italy, the California Zephyr here in the U.S., the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, and others, so I would like to tick off another experience on my list. Not only are bullet trains an engineering marvel, I have come to truly enjoy train travel as an alternative to flying.

Diving more into Japan’s culture, I’m excited about visiting Tokyo and its many entertainments and attractions, including Shibuya Crossing, the Tsukiji Fish Market, the Imperial Palace, a Sumo wrestling match, and many more. But I’d also like to get a broader view of the country by visiting other traditional places like Takayama, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.

As I venture beyond the city limits, I find that exploring the nature and landscapes provide an important balance when traveling. So as part of my itinerary, I want to get out and experience the beauty of Mt. Fuji, which has been a staple of Japanese art and culture for hundreds of years.

My recommendations

If you plan on visiting Japan, here are a few things to consider:

  • Work with a travel agent. We will help you plan your visit and schedule your time, so you make the most of your trip, and we’ll be your advocate if things don’t go as planned!
  • Learn some of the culture. Japan is very traditional, and you don’t want to make some inadvertent, but serious social gaffes. Research some of the do’s and don’ts ahead of time.
  • Pick the right season. Weather conditions vary throughout the year in Japan, so plan to what suits your needs and expectations.
  • Don’t rush. Plan out your activities each day, and schedule them in advance, but make sure to include some free time as well.
  • Mix it up. Plan to visit both modern and traditional attractions/activities in order to get a holistic experience of the destination.
  • Purchase tickets in advance. I can’t stress how important this is to make for a more enjoyable trip. Buy tickets to major attractions in advance, and purchase “skip the line” tickets, if possible. A travel agent can help you arrange these.
  • Take lots of pictures. This will allow you to relive the memory for years to come.