Have you been itching to travel again, but aren’t sure how to navigate your next trip because of the pandemic? We hear your struggles, which is why today’s article is all about the boutique travel agency, Up in the Air Life! As a luxury travel company, they’ve given us the inside scoop on all the best tips, tricks, and hacks for planning your next dream vacation with an exclusive interview. We can’t wait for you to become travel pros with the help from Up in the Air Life experts!
About Up in the Air Life
Before we jump into the interview, we wanted to share some amazing facts about this boutique travel agency! Up in the Air Life, Inc. was created in November of 2013, and in less than three years it has grown solely through social media, including an online Facebook group of over 23,000 travellers. Up in the Air Life has over 1500 clients with 33% of bookings from repeat customers. Creator Claire Soares and Up in the Air Life have been featured in The Huffington Post, Essence, Ebony, Rolling Out, The Grio, Wal-Mart Black Girl Magic campaign, and other online publications. She was named Top Travel Specialist by Conde Nast Traveler in 2021, and Up in the Air Life was announced as the #2 Travel Adventure Company by USA Today’s 10 Best in 2021!
Claire Soares is a strategic leader, influential cultural innovator, and successful entrepreneur. As a former Sales Executive, Claire’s professional background coupled with her personal business acumen makes her the woman to know when learning more about securing deals and building businesses. Claire speaks to groups throughout the country about venture development, impactful brands, and breaking away from the Black box many African Americans are stuffed in from childhood upbringings to career choices. With Claire Soares leading this phenomenal travel agency, Up in the Air Life has become the ultimate company for all sorts of travel needs!
What are some general things everyone should know about traveling right now?
Educating yourself about the requirements is key at the moment. When it comes to the most valuable tip we can offer, we strongly recommend you educate yourself on all the Government forms, testing requirements, vaccination requirements and what quarantine you might need to undertake, as this is absolutely imperative to ensure you can enjoy your trip without any issues! Especially if you are leaving the country, you really need to understand whether there are protocols in place when you are transiting through a country on your way to your final destination. For example, when I traveled to Italy last month, I met a connecting flight in London and their testing requirements were completely different from those in Italy. So I needed to ensure I was compiling with both accordingly. When it comes to traveling as a whole, make sure you have enough PPE on hand; order plenty of double cloth masks for your time away. We recommend the N95 – they are comfortable and compliant! Of course, if you are vaccinated, another important tip to remember is to make sure you carry your vaccination card with you. Make several copies and laminate them so you have them on hand with you. If you’re traveling with someone, knowing their vaccination status is just as important too.
We recommend looking at canitravel.net to find out which places are open to those who are/aren’t vaccinated and what the requirements/restrictions in place are. It’s a great resource for up to date information. Be aware that things might change mid-trip! When traveling through Italy, vaccination requirements changed and you weren’t allowed into some of the caves along the Amalfi Coast without showing your vaccination card. With this in mind, something else that’s super important when planning out your trip is to make sure the activities and experiences you want to enjoy are open. You don’t want to go all that way, just to find out that it’s temporarily closed!
And of course, we would recommend using a travel agency, especially if this is your first trip back after the pandemic. An agent will ensure you receive all the forms and information required for your intended destination. At Up in the Air Life, we take care of booking COVID tests to ensure you comply with the destination’s particulate requirements so you can have a stress-free trip!
Any tips for people who are nervous/hesitant to start traveling again?
If you’re nervous or hesitant to travel, that’s normal. Of course, it’s as simple as educating yourself to change those feelings into pure excitement! A tip you might find useful is to start your first trip somewhere closer to home. If you live in North America, visit Mexico for instance. I would recommend a resort trip because these are very self-contained and there is lots of space between guests. I would also highly recommend using a travel agent to ensure you’re across the latest information and are guided through the process!
What are some popular destinations & travel trends you’re seeing for 2022?
I mean it goes without saying, we are seeing a lot more travelers enlist the services of a travel agent, simply because they are looking for that added security. We’ve especially noticed that Europe has become a hotspot for tourists post-pandemic, and most of our private trip planning clients are requesting itineraries to places like Sicily, the Amalfi Coast and the Champagne region in France. Again, as our comfortability with travel increases, we have noticed that destinations are closer to home and domestic travel in the US has skyrocketed. I think largely because there is still this concern around “what happens if borders close, or if I contract COVID abroad”. And that’s a fair thing to think about when planning your trips.
If this is a concern of yours, we recommend making sure you have the best Travel Medical Insurance policy. But also, be aware that a Travel Medical Insurance policy will not necessarily cover you for COVID. We recommend COVAC insurance, which will fly you home on a private plane in the event you test positive for COVID and have one symptom. That way, you can quarantine stateside instead of abroad.
How should people prepare for COVID passports and places with varying guidelines?
As vaccination passports become more relevant, we recommend photographing your hard copy and keeping a digital version on your phone. Plus, it’s always best to make several copies and laminate them to carry with you as you travel. When traveling with friends, I actually create a WhatsApp channel where we upload all of our paperwork so we have a record and everything is in one place. For example, we post copies of our insurance documentation, ID, passports, test results and other forms we fill out along the way. Having access to these important documents on multiple devices is an extra precaution that will really help to prepare for your trip!
Are there any places you recommend traveling to first in late 2021 / early 2022?
I would HIGHLY recommend Mexico! Especially if it’s your first trip post pandemic. Chablé Maroma on the Riviera Maya is sensational. A beautiful wellness resort, lots of space and private villas… perfect for a relaxing vacation. But there is so much to discover in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta too. As a resident of Mexico, I have seen how they have handled the pandemic first hand. In fact, a lot of hotels and restaurants not only have mandatory hand sanitisation and mask wearing, but also sanitise your shoes on entry. Because Mexico has a lot of outdoor options for dining as well as sightseeing, it’s a fantastic option for those looking to ease their way back into traveling again.
Biggest travel mistakes you are currently seeing?
People just are not doing enough research or understanding the paperwork when they arrive at their destination. I think many are buying a ticket and relying on the airline to remind them of their requirements. The airlines do give you the resources, but it’s up to you to really go down the rabbit hole and make sure you’re complying with the requirements. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen during your trip is to ensure you book your COVID tests to comply with the times required. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to book your tests, only to find out that results won’t be back in time for your trip OR don’t comply with the policies of the destination for entry.
Being under insured is also something that we are seeing in the industry and again, I would highly recommend looking into buying COVAC insurance as well as your standard Travel Medical Insurance when traveling abroad. When traveling abroad, it’s always best to double check the types of activities that are happening. Again, making sure that the experiences you are going to these destinations for are open is an essential part to securing your ideal trip. I’ve seen so many people arrive at their overseas holiday, only to find that they aren’t able to do the activities they were expecting to be able to do.
Another common mistake many people make is underestimating how long it will take to receive your passport back in the event you need to renew it before your trip. Currently, agencies are estimating between 6 and 8 weeks for processing. So don’t leave it to the last minute.
Is traveling going to be more expensive, less expensive or dependent upon location in this post-pandemic era?
I would say we are looking at an industry that is going to be more expensive on the whole. You have to understand that many hotels and tour companies were closed down for 12 months or more, so they will be looking to recoup lost income across the coming years. As such, we are seeing a price increase upwards of 25% across the board. In most places you have to take a COVID test when you leave and when you return, and each COVID test is approximately $125USD per person. That adds up, so the price of travel is certainly going to spike in the coming years as we all get used to this new norm.
Please tell us about some of the top group and private tours that you can book on Up in the Air Life now for 2022!
The team at Up in the Air Life is so excited about our upcoming trips, particularly the first four trips we have planned for 2022. From February we head to Brazil, Iceland, Tanzania & Zanzibar and Kenya & Uganda. To say we are pumped to get out and see the world again is an understatement! Currently, we are working with our 35 clients who are traveling with us to Antarctica in December… It’s been refreshing to see so many individuals excited to get back out and see the world again. Traveling is a beautiful thing we can’t wait to connect over and experience again soon!
Finally, do you have any other advice you wish to address about traveling in the near future?
Again, research research research! We cannot stress this enough with your upcoming trips you may be considering to take in the near future. Make sure you know what’s up with where you’re going. Knowledge is power and a crucial part to a successful travel experience. Changing expectations is also a huge part of our travel experience today. Understanding what the safety risks are before going to the destination is vital. For example, having back up plans in place as extra safety precaution will provide you with a little bit more comfort and security while traveling. There are so many more things you should consider while traveling now than before the pandemic, so you can never be too prepared. And of course, we highly recommend using a travel agent to ensure you’re across all the regulations and protocols during your trip. Our staff at Up in the Air Life are here to help navigate all your travel needs no matter what!
Thank you so much to the amazing team at Up in the Air Life for sitting down to chat with us about travel and planning our next trips amidst the ever changing pandemic. As it becomes more common to travel, being empowered by your ideal trip is super important, and you should be able to enjoy the whole experience without any worries! Even though travel has changed, and there is a lot more prep to consider, it can still be an incredible time away. Don’t be afraid to get back out and see the world with Up in the Air Life!