The announcement that vaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed back into the US in November after an 18-month ban was welcome news for families struggling with cross-border separations, airlines itching to relaunch long-haul routes, and eager tourists and industry insiders. … But as excited as US-bound travelers may be to reunite with loved ones, attend an IRL business conference or snap selfies in front of landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, they should be equally prepared for a travel experience that’s vastly different these days — and still constantly changing.
In federally regulated spaces like airports and on airplanes, masks are mandatory, as well as on regional and local transport like trains and subways. But the actual enforcement at places like hotels is tricky to assess from afar — which is where a travel advisor or agent can be invaluable.“As a travel advisor, my job is to be able to gauge the comfort level of my client and to know not only the destination, but the properties themselves,” said Maria Diego, co-founder of Miami-based luxury travel agency Diego Travel.“Who has taken this down time to renovate and innovate versus who has let things deteriorate? I’m able to stay up to date with what the hotels are truly enforcing, because I have access to agencies that are constantly doing site inspections. It’s one thing to put on your website your policies, and it’s another thing to practice it.”
Finding the best travel insurance has never been easy, but if you’re planning a trip for this year, it’s never been this confusing.
But which one is right for you? I put that question to Maria Diego, owner of Diego Travel, a Florida-based travel agency. She had just finished sending four travel insurance policy options to a client. Diego says you can find travel insurance online, either through a travel insurance site or directly through a travel insurance company. If you don’t hire a travel agency, make sure you read every policy carefully.
She sticks to three insurance companies: Allianz, Travel Guard and Travelex. “They’re my three main go-tos for travel insurance,” she says, “but each company offers different levels of coverage.”
Now comes the hard part: matching your insurance needs to one of the policies you’re considering.
“There is no one size fits all,” she says.
She’s right. Even if you work with a travel agent — and this is worth repeating — you need to take the time to pore over the boring fine print on each policy.
What will it take for you to take a summer vacation? Fewer COVID-19 cases? Cheap accommodations? A vaccination? It all depends.
Ask a professional
A competent travel adviser can help you sort through all questions about taking a summer vacation. Travel agents have had to become therapists during the pandemic, and this summer those skills will be even more in demand.
The first thing I always ask someone during our initial consultation is if the thought of travel will cause them to feel overwhelmed or give them anxiety,” says Maria Diego, owner of Diego Travel. “If their answer is yes, then I suggest they hold off on travel until they feel completely comfortable again. No one will enjoy a vacation with an overwhelming sense of anxiety.”
A travel adviser can help guide you to a destination where you will feel less anxious.
A look back at a pre-pandemic snowy adventure in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Then, after our long journey, we arrived at the most spectacular hotel I had ever seen: Carlton Hotel St. Moritz. Because my mom owns Diego Travel, a Virtuoso affiliated travel agency, we were upgraded to a Grand Suite, and I was treated like a princess.
In some corners of the world wide web, travel advisors are drawing a line in the sand.
They may not be able to meet in person, but advisors are sharing their stories where they can, from Zoom calls to Facebook groups. In an Instagram direct message, advisor Maria Diego, founder of Diego Travel Agency, admitted as much.
“I’ve talked to fellow advisors who have said ‘never again,’ regarding working with certain suppliers,” she said.
Damian McCabe, CEO of McCabe World Travel in McLean, VA, might be the most under-the-radar rock star agency owner in the travel industry. If you know McCabe World Travel, you might best associate the agency with its president, Anne Morgan Scully but, behind the scenes, it was McCabe herself who was turning the agency into a dynamic workplace that’s bringing in plenty of young and new-to-industry advisors and fostering them into all-stars in their own right.
Maria Diego of Diego Travel, one of McCabe World Travel’s newest independent affiliates, tells us it was a video shared at Virtuoso Travel Week of McCabe, Scully and Jenkins Washington that sold her on the agency.
“My husband and I attended Virtuoso Difference last year with the intention of finding a host agency that would adequately fit our needs to grow our business,” Diego says. “Of the attending host agencies, none of them felt like quite the right fit, but we still felt very strongly that Virtuoso was a vital part of the equation for our clients.”
When she saw the video on the mentorship between the women, she says, “I knew immediately that this was the type of guidance that I wanted, and I admired the fact that all three are strong, leading women in the industry.”
The following week, Diego reached out to McCabe and knew on the spot that she needed to be a part of McCabe World Travel. “Within a few days I was part of their team and on my way to reaching my goals,” Diego says. “The mentorship that she has provided has been invaluable, and her style of working and vision aligns very much with my own.”