What's a Travel Bubble? Plus 3 Tips For Making the Most of Yours
You might see this view sooner than you think.
The world of travel has begun to re-open. But it’s not like the tap has suddenly been turned full blast. More like a trickle. And there’s a clear pattern that’s going to shape your travel opportunities for at least the rest of this year, and possibly into 2021.
Human interaction has gone from shelter-in-place, work-from-home and no contact with anyone outside your household, to health authorities laying out phases for a return to normal. Phase 1 involves ‘bubbles’. Each household selects a small group of friends or family who are taking the same level of precautions as you, you trust to stay the course, and not mix with others who might not be on the same page. And you are ‘exclusive’ with just that small ‘bubble’.
Just like bubbles for individuals, travel is re-opening in regional and international ‘bubbles.’
Here’s an example: Right now, Canadians have been asked to stay in their own province. As a first step towards re-opening travel to all Canadians, the 4 neighboring maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have agreed to launch a travel bubble, with residents permitted to travel just within those four provinces.
(Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland)
New Travel Opportunities
Some people are describing bubble travel as restrictive.
It’s true that many international and regional borders remain officially closed. European countries, for example, have decided their ‘bubble’ includes residents of other European countries only – not even Great Britain, let alone the US or Canada – yet.
Some borders are, if not officially, then effectively closed. Australian airline Quantas has announced it’s operating flights only within Australia or to next door New Zealand until 2021.
But I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I see travel bubbles as an opportunity to actually get travel started again and even create new travel experiences. Some travel companies are viewing it that way, too:
- Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, become in June the first ocean cruise line to re-start cruising – BUT only in its own country, with coastal and fjord cruises only for guests from Norway and Denmark.
- French-flagged luxury line Ponant is doing the same thing: with all its ships back in France, it's launching new itineraries just along the coasts and waterways of France beginning in July, and German river cruise line A-rosa has also re-launched select European river cruises for its bubble guests.
- Luckily for Americans, the US has its own flagged ships able to offer ‘bubble’ cruises, too.
Not the big ships. Most of the big cruise lines sail ships flagged from other nations, not the US, so they can’t offer exclusively American itineraries. Only US-flagged ships are permitted to sail exclusively American itineraries. Furthermore, the CDC has issued a no-sail order for all US ports that applies to ships with more than 250 on board, an order that expires in July, but might be renewed.
But that still leaves smaller, US-flagged ships able to sail American, 'bubble' itineraries. For these cruise lines, that's what they specialize in:
- UnCruise Adventures is one of the very few cruise lines currently able to sail in Alaska (with Canadian ports closed for the season and the US/Canada border still closed). UnCruise is picking up its Alaska season beginning August 1st.
- American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, which operate US river cruises, both plan a return to cruising this summer.
- In one remarkable example of lateral thinking and creating new opportunities, American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (which operates European and exotic river cruises) have established a reciprocal alliance. AQSC offers special pricing to Uniworld guests unable to take their planned Uniworld cruise this year so they can sail in their American ‘bubble’. And Uniworld will reciprocate with a special offer for AQSC guests to cruise on their European, and exotic itineraries later.
(Alaska, courtesy Abercrombie & Kent)
Bubble Land Touring
Land tour companies in particular have pivoted, expanding their North American itineraries to accommodate bubble travel with unprecedented speed and agility.
- Abercrombie & Kent has launched new American itineraries, plus an innovative private driving tour series that speaks directly to the concerns of travel in the time of COVID. The company’s ‘Great American Road Trips’ series includes a private car, with a driver/ guide, customized start and end points depending on your location, local guides providing behind the scenes access and hands-on activities, and pre-selected hotels that meet the company’s high standards.
- Last week, we learned about Globus and sister, budget tour company Cosmos’ new ‘Undiscovered North America’ tours that follow the ‘Undiscovered’ format of their European tours of the same name: focusing on ‘less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit. These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable – and unique – vacation close to home.’
- And just this week, Trafalgar Tours have announced a brand new ‘Near Not Far Limited Series’ of tours ‘hand crafted by Canadians for Canadians, to further your appreciation for your own backyard, connect you to locals you wouldn’t typically meet, and support local communities by doing something that you love – traveling,’ with similar new series in other countries where it operates.
Tips for Bubble Travel
What does all this mean for your holiday plans in the immediate and mid-term future? Primarily, bubble travel offers you safe and inspiring ways to travel sooner than you thought might be possible.
Here's how you can take advantage of your own travel bubble:
Talk with your travel advisor about the possibility of changing an existing travel booking outside your travel bubble to one inside, while sticking with the same travel provider.
If you have a favorite escorted tour company, you may be able to switch your Europe reservation, for example, for a tour within your bubble area. Then you can book Europe again later when it's possible.
Explore options for your favorite travel style within your travel bubble area
With so many travel companies performing incredible feats to pivot and offer new travel options closer to home, your travel advisor may find never-before-offered, exciting new tours and cruises for you.
Along with some great offers and savings to make travel close to home even more worthwhile.
Expand your horizons
Or you could switch it up and try a new style of travel. Are you a devoted cruise lover? Maybe this is the year you re-discover the joys of heady mountain air and scenery.
Do you look forward every summer to an extended family reunion with dozens of relatives all descending on a beach resort or cruise? Maybe this is the year you take just your family bubble on an intimate journey to discover history or natural wonders within your travel bubble area.
Bubble travel is not just an important next step towards returning to normal in a post-COVID world.
It opens the doors to discover whole new ways to see, taste, learn about and experience the Nature, culture, history, and flavors in our own backyard - even before the kids go back to school this fall.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
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