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We’re not going to sugarcoat it. International travel is tricky right now. And, our top priority remains preventing additional COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths. With that said, we get it – there’s a ton of pent up travel demand! We’re hearing it non-stop from our clients and we know an international trip is likely your top trip to activate as soon as it’s safe for you, your family, and your community to travel.

As you think about your next international trip, there are three key things to consider (outside of what we discussed above): resources to leverage, restrictions to follow, and the best international destinations to consider. And next time, for those of you looking to stay safe stateside, we’ll share our top destinations that are sure to make you feel like you’re out of this country (if not out of this world!).

First Up: Resources to Leverage & Restrictions to Follow

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Resources to Leverage

So, where can you legally travel internationally? Both the New York Times and CNN regularly update lists of where US citizens may travel internationally. Each country currently open for travel has different guidelines and restrictions that vary from mandatory quarantine upon arrival to specific insurance requirements. Though much of Europe is excluded from this list, the UK currently allows entry to US citizens. But, don’t get too excited! Understandably, there are strict self isolation rules upon arrival in the UK including penalties of up to $13,715 should you fail to adhere to local guidelines.

The CDC also regularly updates travel recommendations by area, ranking countries from a Level 1: Low COVID-19 risk to a Level 4: Very High COVID-19 risk. In addition, the US State Department provides travel advisories by country ranging from Level 1: Exercise Normal Caution to Level 4: Do Not Travel.

Restrictions to Follow

The biggest development in international travel is the US testing mandate. This requires all air passengers over 2 years of age to provide a negative coronavirus test result before boarding their flight back to the US. The test must be taken within the previous three days before their flight. Right now, this only applies to international flights returning to the US and not to domestic flights within the US – the CDC says they will not require negative COVID-19 tests for the boarding of domestic US flights.

Test for Travel is a great resource that provides testing center information for almost all international travel destinations. It also allows you to filter testing centers by the type of COVID-19 test you hope to take.

Things to Consider

In addition to the US testing mandate, international travelers should consider things like: obvious health risks, penalties for violating local policies (ex. jail!), impact of curfew mandates on travel plans, and the potential for travel restrictions to change at any moment.

As you’re planning your international trip, be sure to research local closures for things like restaurants, museums, and preferred excursions. For the most accurate information, we recommend contacting any establishment you’d like to visit directly – we’ve found that websites showcasing hours, COVID-19 information, services, etc. are often inaccurate. This does add hours of detailed prep work to your trip planning. If you don’t want to agonize over these small nuances, we’re here to help!

Next: Our Top International Destination Recommendations

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Accommodations around the world quickly pivoted with the news of the US testing mandate that began in January of 2021. A growing number now offer COVID-19 testing on-site to help you secure your negative test within 72-hours of your return flight. Some even offer this at no additional cost and in the comfort of your own room.

The below recommendations are our handpicked favorites based on compatibility with COVID-19 travel restrictions, compliance with safety measures, total travel distance from the US’s East Coast, and support offered to mitigate testing mandate stress.

1. Secret Bay | Dominica

Why It Makes the List: A Relais & Chateaux property, Secret Bay was named the #1 Resort in the Caribbean and the #6 Hotel in the World by Travel & Leisure’s ‘World’s Best Awards’ in 2020. What’s better than that? It’s located in Dominica which is currently rated by the CDC as a Level 2: COVID-19 Moderate risk and the resort adheres to a StayWell Program which means Secret Bay goes beyond WHO, CDC, and PAHO guidelines to keep their guests and team members safe.

Accommodation Info: Their private villas nestled in nature feature contemporary gourmet kitchens, outdoor rain showers, ocean views, shaded hammock sofas, and private plunge pools.

More Perks: Secret Bay is currently offering “Linger Longer” packages to allow guests to work remotely from one of their villas for two or more weeks. And, the resort has extended travel flexibility through July 31, 2021 so changes can be made penalty-free for up to seven days prior to arrival.

Additional Resorts Nearby: For a laid-back island feel, we also love the Pagua Bay House and they’re currently offering 25% off for stays through March 31, 2021. Jungle Bay Dominica and Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski Dominca are also great options.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

2. Cap Juluca | Anguilla

Why It Makes the List: Anguilla is open to pre-approved travelers and currently holds a Level 1: COVID-19 Low risk rating from the CDC. To become a pre-approved traveler, visit this site.

Accommodation Info: You’ll feel like you’ve traveled much further than Anguilla as you enjoy the whitewashed walls and Moroccan-style domed villas. Speaking of villas, you can have your own for the entire family – snag space for up to 10 guests under one roof complete with direct beach access, a full kitchen, and a private freshwater swimming pool.

More Perks: If you do opt to enjoy Cap Juluca as a family getaway, up to two children under 12 can eat free when accompanying a paying adult. Other great offers include daily breakfast, a romantic beach dinner, couples massage, and more.

Additional Resorts Nearby: Zemi Beach House is another great pick and, like many resorts right now, they have wonderful offers – think 25% discounts, 2X Hilton Honors Points, daily private group yoga, complimentary use of poolside cabanas, food & beverage credits, and more.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

3. Casa Chameleon | Costa Rica

Why It Makes the List: Casa Chameleon has three unique properties in Costa Rica – Las Catalinas, Mal Pais, and OCiO. All have been awarded the Safe Travel Stamp from the Costa Rica Convention Bureau due to their strict following of all COVID-19 guidelines and protocols.

To accommodate quarantine crews, Casa Chameleon offers a buyout option for each one of their three properties. The buyouts start at $3,000/day for a group of 14 people at OCiO with your own private staff.

The best news? This collection of luxury boutique resorts aligned with local healthcare providers to offer onsite COVID-19 testing. For stays of five nights or more, one onsite COVID-19 test per person is include with your reservation. Note: Currently, Casa Chameleon is offering this through April 30, 2021 – tbd on date extension.

Accommodation Info: Rooms, known as villas, are luxe at all three accommodations. Our favorite is Las Catalinas where you can enjoy sunset ocean views from your own private salt water plunge pool.

More Perks: Through 2021, travelers can enjoy anywhere from 15% to 35% off their stay based on the number of nights they book.

Additional Resorts Nearby: We also love Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens – both are offering onsite, in-room tests for $170/person with results returned in 24 to 48 hours.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

4. The Ocean Club | Bahamas

Why It Makes the List: The Ocean Club offers onsite testing administered in the privacy of your accommodation. Price for the test varies based on test type – $25 for rapid antigen tests to $400 for expedited RT-PCR tests. Plus, the CDC currently ranks the Bahamas at a Level 3: COVID-19 High risk – that’s better than most of the world who’s sitting at a Level 4: COVID-19 Very High risk.

Accommodation Info: From oceanfront Balinese-inspired spa suites to villas with private courtyards and plunge pools, The Ocean Club can make all of your tropical vacation dreams come true.

More Perks: Currently, The Ocean Club’s featured offer is a fourth night free plus private airport transportation.

Additional Resorts Nearby: Rosewood Baha Mar also stands out due to its complimentary onsite COVID-19 testing. Once the resort reopens on March 4, 2021, it will offer complimentary rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests on every fifth day during your stay as well as prior to departure to ensure CDC compliance. To learn more, checkout their detailed program overview.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

5. Golden Rock Inn | St. Kitts & Nevis

Why It Makes the List: If you’re looking for more of a jungle escape, then Golden Rock Inn is for you! This secluded hilltop hideaway is located on an 1800s colonial sugar estate nestled on the slopes of Mount Nevis overlooking the Caribbean Sea. And, the best part about this destination is that the CDC ranks St. Kitts & Nevis as a Level 1: COVID Low risk.

Accommodation Info: Select from 11 guest rooms scattered throughout the property’s gardens and enjoy complimentary breakfast at the Inn’s restaurant.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

6. Curtain Bluff | Antigua

Why It Makes the List: This resort was ahead of the new US testing mandate and has been offering tests since December of 2020. Curtain Bluff offers both rapid antigen and PCR tests for $250 per person. Plus, the CDC currently ranks Antigua at a Level 2: COVID-19 Moderate risk. (Note: As of ~March 5, Antigua was moved to a Level 4: COVID-19 Very High risk by the CDC.)

Accommodation Info: All 72 of Curtain Bluff’s rooms are situated directly on the sand or just a few steps away. Be directly on the beach, overlook the bluff, or enjoy private plunge pools with panoramic ocean views.

More Perks: Curtain Bluff supports the Old Road Fund, a 501c-3 nonprofit that fosters the community initiatives of its island. As an example, it has invested more than $3 million towards healthcare, education, and community projects to improve the lives of the Antiguan and Barbudan people.

Click “Next” above to see more international destination picks.

7. Resort Groups | Various Locations

Why They Make the List: Our rewards points have been building up since the onset of the global pandemic. Many companies have been wonderful about extending expiration dates of those points. Now that some big name hotel groups like Marriott and Hyatt have rolled out COVID-19 testing onsite, you can put your points to good use when you’re ready to travel again.

Group Info: Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Marriott International (in the Caribbean and Latin America), Melia Hotels International (select properties in Mexico and the Dominican Republic), Sandals and AMResorts, Playa Hotels & Resorts (in the Caribbean and Mexico), Karisma Hotels & Resorts (in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica), Palladium Hotel Group (in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica), Iberostar Hotels & Resorts (in Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic), and more!

More Perks: If things don’t go as planned and you test positive for COVID-19 thereby delaying your re-entry to the US, some of these big name hotel groups lend you a helping hand. AMResorts, for example, is providing free extended quarantine-stay coverage through March 31, 2021. Likewise, Hyatt created a “travel delay rate” that extends your stay up to 14 additional nights with up to half off the standard price and up to 30% off food and beverage (excluding alcohol) if you test COVID-19 positive and can’t get back into the US.

Not Feeling International Travel?

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No worries! Honestly, we’re not either. For now. One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that it does force us to consider discovering incredible destinations within our own country.

We’ve teed up our five favorite US destinations that’ll make you feel transported to another country. Some will make you feel as though you’ve journeyed to another world altogether. We’ll share those next time so stay tuned, Charlotte!

Until then, if you’re looking to get a head start on planning your next trip, we’re giving away a 3-Day Custom Travel Planning package valued at $300. To enjoy your vacation while you leave the time consuming details up to us, enter to win the package by visiting our Instagram, @adventuredesigned.