By Alina Dizik Dec. 30, 2020 10:04 am ET Jocelyn Kung hasn’t gotten the Covid-19 vaccine yet, but she already is planning for a grand getaway
Jocelyn Kung hasn’t gotten the Covid-19 vaccine yet, but she already is planning for a grand getaway once she does.
The 62-year-old executive coach from San Francisco says she is splurging on a three-week, seven-stop “transformational experience” in Vietnam in September, complete with a private seaplane, a vintage motorcycle and a blessing by a Buddhist monk.
“It really has kind of given us a little hopefulness,” she says. “The vaccine was the stimulus.”
Coronavirus cabin fever, coupled with a burst of optimism over the vaccine, is sparking some big-trip dreams for 2021. High-end travelers are laying plans for bucket-list journeys to make up for lost time, injecting some light into a still-grim pandemic winter.
“Everybody is excited to get the hell out of their house,” says Ed Leinss, 79, who is planning a monthlong, three-continent journey with his wife this summer, by which time he hopes to be vaccinated. “You get to a certain age, and you don’t have as many years ahead of you as you had behind you.”
The Atlanta couple hopes to visit eight countries, flying west to Asia and stopping first to see a friend in Korea. There they intend to visit Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood for luggage and handbags. “My wife will go nuts,” Mr. Leinss says.
Other stops include the Maldives, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and a favorite hotel in the German spa town Baden-Baden. “We want to do it in a leisurely manner,” says Mr. Leinss.
Travel is still down from pre-pandemic levels, and travel-industry professionals aren’t predicting a full recovery soon. Yet the vaccine news already is releasing pent-up demand, they say.
Gavin Delany, chief executive of Austin, Texas-based Travelstride Inc., a website that lets people search for trips, says bookings for 2021 picked up after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer Inc. vaccine this month. The week after the announcement, booking referrals were up 7% compared with the same period a year ago, he says.
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Interest has shifted from Spain, Portugal, the U.K. and crowded big cities in general, he says, to more remote destinations in Africa, South America and even Antarctica.
Catherine Heald, founder of New York-based tour operator Remote Lands Inc., says the company is flooded with phone calls and emails to book trips to far-flung destinations into the summer and fall. “They want something longer, because they want to make up for some of the lost time,” she says.
Lynne and Tom Salierno are charting a nearly seven-week jaunt through the Italian countryside with family and friends, beginning in May. The Ridgefield, Conn., couple plans to spend the first few weeks traveling across Calitri, Bari and Gargano with friends, then to spend 10 days with their adult children in Tuscany.
Mr. Salierno, 66, a part-time consultant, says they intend to skip larger cities such as Rome, Naples and Milan and to spend time exploring smaller towns. “I’m going to Italy to do more entertaining with friends and not necessarily to sightsee to congested areas,” he says.
With roomy kitchens in some of their villas, Mr. Salierno is looking forward to authentic Italian food at home, not in a restaurant. “We’ll bring in chefs to teach us how to cook and make it an adventure,” he says.
Michael Gaughen, a travel adviser in Atlanta with Brownell Travel Inc., says clients are eager to go as far away as possible and are budgeting extra time to get there. Average trip length for the first quarter of 2021 is 14 days, up from six days during the same period in 2019, he says. “Clients are itching to use their passports and stay out longer,” he says.
Doctors emphasize that it is important for travelers to continue taking precautions such as masking and distancing even after they have been vaccinated. “We don’t know for certain that the vaccine protects against transmission,” says David Dowdy, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “You could be protected from getting sick, but could still infect those traveling beside you.” Populations in less-wealthy countries where vaccinations roll out more slowly may be especially vulnerable.
The advance travel planning reflects an optimism about the lifting of restrictions and timeliness of vaccinations, neither of which is certain at this point. Mr. Gaughen says clients want reassurance that they can cancel should the pandemic force them to change course. The company works with vendors to help secure refunds or credits and books with airlines that are offering flexibility for flights, he says.
For Ms. Kung, the San Francisco executive coach, the main idea is to get as far away as possible from her lockdown life. Within a few days of arriving in Vietnam, she and her husband plan to board a private junk boat to cruise the waters of Ha Long Bay.
After months at home, she says, she is looking forward to having a place to don high heels, full makeup and a blowout. “It’s like being on ‘The Bachelor,’ ” she says.
Write to Alina Dizik at [email protected]
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Appeared in the December 31, 2020, print edition as ‘The Optimists Plan Their Vacations.’