Asheville: Mountains, Waterfalls and Good Food

Looking for a weekend getaway? If so, Asheville is a great spot for it.

Daniele and I spent a couple of nights in Asheville in October. We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch and a beautiful view at Sunset Terrace at the Omni Grove Park Inn, lovely dinners at Bouchon downtown and Red Stag Grill at the Grand Bohemian, explored a couple of beautiful waterfalls-Looking Glass and High Falls, admired the leaves changing color on a scenic drive and had a relaxing stroll through Biltmore Village. See if you can spot the rainbow in the video! If you are feeling festive, a stay at the Biltmore Estate will check that box during the holiday season.

For any questions and or to start planning your Asheville trip, contact Stefany at: stefany@largaytravel.com and or info@dmctraveltailor.com.

With passion and adventure,

Stefany

New Adventures in Store for 2021 and Beyond

The world still needs time to heal, but there is universal optimism among the travel community that safe and responsible international travel is on the horizon. That’s the key takeaway from the two-day “Ready, Set, Grow” virtual conference Largay Travel hosted this past January. More than 100 advisors and suppliers exchanged updates on the current state of travel and what’s in the immediate future. Our preferred partners shared the COVID protocols their companies are enacting, along with some truly inspired itineraries that will show you the world in ways you never imagined.

The last year has been trying in so many ways, and it was revitalizing to think about the prospects of seeing friends old and new across the globe. Travel dreaming has sustained us throughout, and we’re getting so close to making those dreams a reality. If you are ready to travel now or want an escape to look forward to, reach out to your advisor. While we will continue to keep you updated on the latest requirements for travelers flying into the U.S., from COVID tests to quarantines, we’re brimming with exciting travel ideas we can’t wait to share.

We heard about Tauck’s new 84-passenger ms Andorinha that will cruise Portugal’s Douro River, bringing guests through the golden countryside and fairytale cities of the region with a glass of the valley’s best wines in hand. We learned of the three new river cruise ships Ama Waterways will introduce and the company’s return to the Nile, of Uniworld’s cruise and rail itinerary in Northern Italy that will include an overnight at Burano in the Venetian lagoon. There are options for private versions of Natural Habitat Adventures’ revealing national parks tours. There’s rapid COVID testing on Quark Expeditions vessels with results in 30-60 minutes, and self-cleaning ships on Lindblad Expeditions, introduced before the pandemic but oh so important now.We heard about waived single supplements on certain Ponant sailings and a four-category upgrade Presidents Day sale from Oceania, and about the possibility of Galapagos sailings in the spring on several cruise lines.

We’re excited for the opening of Paradero Todos Santos, set on a 160-acre farm in a pueblo magico with 300 years of history in Baja California Sur. The experience is unlike anything you’ve seen around Los Cabos before, and our travelers will be welcomed with VIP treatment. We can’t wait to get to Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana, a 12-suite love letter to the African bush powered by renewable energy.

 

We’re excited about 12-passenger small group Nordic adventures with 50 Degrees North, visiting Kenya’s Mbulia Hills Conservancy with Big Five, new villas at Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort in Sicily and so much more. We’re excited about seeing the world again, and getting you out there safely and responsibly. If you’re ready to talk about how to do that, contact Stefany at: (917) 653-9346 or stefany@largaytravel.com and or info@dmctraveltailor.com.

Destination spotlight: Hawaii

With so many international borders closed, our thoughts turn to a tropical island paradise in the Pacific you don’t need a passport to visit. Your choice of Island in Hawaii has always been important and tailored to the type of your experience you’re looking for, as each has its own unique style and charm. With COVID-19 restrictions, the choice and order of islands you visit is more important than ever, as requirements vary.

When it reopened for travel without a mandatory 14-day quarantine in October, the state introduced its Safe Travels program with testing requirements to avoid a 10-day quarantine. Kauai, however, has opted out of the program and developed its own. So not only will you need a negative NAAT test provided by an approved partner within 72 hours of your departure to the state, you’ll also need to either pass another test to go to Kauai or spend a three-day quarantine in one of the island’s approved bubble resorts (and test negative) before exploring the Garden Isle.

If you’re going to the Big Island, there’s a 25% chance you’ll be randomly selected to take a test on arrival (paid for by Hawaii County). If you’re going to Maui, you’ll need to download the AlohaSafe Alert App. If you’re going from an outer island to Oahu, you don’t need to meet additional requirements or add that trip to your Safe Travels profile. If you’re going from Oahu to an outer island, you probably do, but rules vary depending on which island it is. No matter which island you visit, you’ll need to complete a health declaration and upload your test results to the Safe Travels website. 

Suffice it to say, it’s complicated. The above is not even an exhaustive list of the various requirements. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the adventures in the rainforest, beneath the waves and at the top of volcanoes that formed the islands so many years ago. You can still relax on some of the most scenic beaches you could ever hope to find. It just means you need some help from a travel advisor to comply with all the protocols. Let us do what we do best, navigate the ins and outs of travel so you can make the most of your vacation. Not only will we help you get there, we know where to stay, where to eat and what to do to make your Hawaii getaway a true tropical paradise escape.

COVID entry protocol

A 10-day mandatory quarantine will be required for trans-Pacific travelers arriving WITHOUT a confirmed negative COVID-19 test taken within the 72 hours before departure of the final leg of their trip to Hawai‘i. Travelers will not be able to obtain a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) upon arrival at any Hawaiʻi airport.

All trans-Pacific travelers who board a plane on the final leg of their trip to the Hawaiian Islands without first securing a negative test will be subject to mandatory quarantine. Tests must be taken with trusted testing and travel partners with 72 hours of departure.

The negative test result must be uploaded onto Safe Travels prior to departure or printed out prior to departure and hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawai‘i.

Travelers without a negative test result before boarding the final leg of their flight MUST quarantine for 10 days or the length of their stay, whichever is shorter.

It is important travelers consider the duration and considerable expense of possible quarantine before embarking.

County of Kauai entry protocol

Travelers from out of state now have the option of a shortened three-day quarantine by participating in the resort bubble post-travel testing program. To qualify, travelers must do the following:

  • Create a Safe Travels account and complete the mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form at: https://travel.hawaii.gov/
  • Take a pre-travel test within 72 hours before arriving on Kauai and receive a negative test result.

This test can be any COVID-19 diagnostic test (antigen or PCR test) with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The lab does not need to be on the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners list for use in Kauai’s resort bubble program.

  • Make a reservation at an approved Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ) “resort bubble” hotel on Kauai

Inter-island travel protocols

Requirements differ depending on which island you are traveling from and to. Consult with your travel to plan your itinerary to ensure you meet all requirements.

Resorts Respond to New CDC Testing Order

As you may have heard, starting Jan. 26 all travelers flying into the U.S. will need to present proof of a negative PCR, NAT or antigen COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of your flight’s departure. Or, if you have tested positive for COVID in the previous three months, you can submit a note from a health provider or public health official authorizing you to travel. You can read about the requirements in detail here: https://largaytravel.com/cdc-to-require-negative-covid-test-from-all-inbound-passengers/

Naturally, your first question might be, “How am I going to get results back in time to board my flight?” Fortunately, airlines and many of our preferred resort and tour partners are making strides to ensure travelers are able to comply with the CDC order.

American Airlines is making its VeriFLY app available to all passengers starting Jan. 23. Passengers can upload the documentation they need, including proof of a negative test, in the app. Where will you be able to get tested so you can get those results promptly?

Several Caribbean destinations and resorts are already putting testing sites in place to make things easy and convenient for their guests. Aruba has expanded testing centers near resort areas that offer appointments so visitors can meet the requirements without spending too much of their vacation working. Average turnaround time for test results is 24 hours.

The Bahamas already requires visitors to take a test on the fifth day of their stay, so guests staying between five and eight days will already meet the CDC’s requirements, and testing centers are already set up if you don’t fit in that category.

Most resorts on St. Lucia already have testing facilities, and others are setting them up to make sure their guests can get test results within the 72-hour time frame. Jamaica is working to expand its testing infrastructure to meet the rising demand, as are Belize and Costa Rica.

Sandals Resorts will make on-site complimentary tests available to guests through March 31. Karisma Hotels & Resorts will do the same for guests at its Riviera Maya, Dominican and Jamaica properties. AMResorts has the same offer at most locations. Palace Resorts in Mexico and Jamaica will have complimentary tests for up to two guests per room, with a charge of $19 per test for additional guests. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offers appointments for RT-PCR tests ($134.40 per person, results within 6 hours) or rapid antigen tests ($16.80 per person, result within an hour).  Playa Resorts will offer complimentary on-site testing through April 30 in Mexico and the Dominican Republic ($49 per person in Jamaica).

Grace Bay Resorts in Turks & Caicos will make RT-PCR testing available to guests for $150 per person. Testing will be at Grace Bay Club, with complimentary transportation  for guests at West Bay Club, Point Grace and the private villa collection. Appointments will be scheduled based on departure date. Case de Campo in the Dominican will offer PCR testing on-site for $150 per person with same-day results and a VIP testing lounge.

We will keep you updated on further developments as travel rules continue to change by the week and even day. Make sure to consult with your travel advisor about requirements for your trip. If you need help with your trip planning, contact Stefany at: (917) 653-9346 and or stefany@largaytravel.com or info@dmctraveltailor.com.

Rescheduling your Honeymoon and Mini-Moon

If you or a loved one had a wedding scheduled in 2020, odds are it didn’t go exactly according to plan. You might have rescheduled at least once. You might have gone ahead with the ceremony, but with a lot fewer attendees than you planned. Maybe you just made it legal and will stage the main event when it’s safe to do so. No matter what, you still have your eyes on that honeymoon.

Again, things might have changed in this department. Perhaps your preferred honeymoon destination isn’t open to Americans and you need to switch gears or just get away for a few days on a mini-moon. There are several islands in the Caribbean welcoming visitors that are great for short stays or full-length honeymoons. Looking for fun in the sun but want to stay in the Lower 48? The Florida Keys offer a touch of the Caribbean without a passport, as does the Virtuoso-preferred Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, just minutes from Miami but in a world of its own.

Not everybody wants a beach getaway, of course, and there are plenty of other options out there. Skiers can hit the slopes at any number of resorts in the Rockies of Colorado and Utah, or keep things closer to home with runs at Jay Peak and Killington in Vermont or New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain and Bretton Woods. The national parks make for excellent romantic destinations throughout the country, showing off their natural beauty and featuring some great glamping and cabin options for just the two of you.

If you’re looking to do the big trip now, there are few trips more romantic than a safari, which you can do in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a possibility, and you can cap off your African or Middle Eastern trip (the UAE are open) with a stop in the Maldives. North of the Sahara, the wonders of Egypt and the oases of Morocco are welcoming Americans.

Most of Europe is closed to Americans or requires a long quarantine, but Croatia—a fabulous honeymoon destination—is not. Visitors are also allowed in Turkey, from the history of Istanbul to the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and the seaside resorts of Bodrum.

Across the Pacific, French Polynesia is welcoming travelers to the gems of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea, some of the most romantic islands on Earth. Closer to home, several countries in Central America are open, as well as Peru, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

Whenever and wherever you’re planning to go, consult with your travel advisor on COVID-19 entry requirements, travel insurance and potential quarantines in your destination. If you’re waiting until your favorite destination is back open, we’re thrilled to help you get some plans in place now. With flexible cancelation and airline change policies, there are fewer and fewer penalties for changing your plans these days.

An ode to Mexico

“It sounds so simple I just got to go,” James Taylor sang of Mexico. He was spot-on at any time, but particularly now when it’s one of the few places Americans can travel without taking a COVID-19 test first or quarantining on arrival. That’s not to say safety isn’t a priority, as enhanced airport protocols have masks, sanitizer and social distancing ubiquitous. Visitors do fill out a health questionnaire on arrival and temperatures are taken. It’s that Mexico is just a quick flight away for most of us, and our neighbor to the south has been a favorite destination for decades.

There are so many layers to Mexico, you can go time and again and never have the same journey twice. Even the familiar areas are always adapting with the times, with new resorts that blend in with natural surroundings and emphasize quality, service and wellness. Though entry is simple, hotels and resorts are at reduced capacity and have safeguards everywhere. Fortunately, there are so many Virtuoso-preferred accommodations in Mexico that you can travel throughout the country in style and safety.

Resort areas

Cancun/Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos tend to see the most visitors and are probably the areas you’re most familiar with. What you may not realize is the sheer variety of the resorts there means there’s a lot more to them than the cookie-cutter all-inclusives swarmed by college-aged spring breakers you might imagine.

Just minutes away from the Cancun airport is NIZUC Resort & Spa on grounds that once served as a getaway for Mexico’s president. Given the tranquility you’ll find there, you’d scarcely believe how close you are to the busy hotel zone. Down the coast, resorts such as Chable Maroma, which offers a Mayan rebirth ceremony, and Rosewood Mayakoba, which preserves the mangrove ecosystem around the resort, deliver authenticity as well as a great beach. Overwater bungalows along the Riviera Maya can satisfy your desire for the lagoon experience without venturing all the way to the South Pacifc. Just inland in the Yucatan, Merida is a base for exploring a land of cenotes and Mayan ruins.

Just outside Puerto Vallarta, resorts such as Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Four Seasons Punta Mita and One&Only Mandarina are oases of exclusivity with secluded settings, culinary delights and endless activities for families and couples. There are resorts aplenty in Los Cabos at the end of Baja California. Given the area’s geography, there aren’t swimmable beaches aplenty. One of the few can be found at One&Only Palmilla, where every room has a view of the dazzling Sea of Cortez.

Off-the-beaten-path beaches

From Costalegre to Zihuatanejo, Mexico’s Pacific coast is dotted with secluded coves and pristine beaches. All along that stretch, you’ll find Virtuoso-preferred boutique hotels and resorts to put your feet up and take a load off. Be it the 16-suite Las Alamandas spread out over 1,500 acres of tropical paradise, the Cuixmala private estate on 32,000 acres of biosphere reserve or the romantic retreat of 59-room Cala del Mar, you’ll be far away from cares and crowds. The 56-room Thompson Zihuatanejo is close enough to town for day exploration before you retire to your private beachfront oasis. No wonder Red and Andy were so eager to get down there after they left Shawshank.

Colonial Mexico

We love the beach as much as anyone. We’d be remiss to leave out the wonderful cultural experiences in Mexico’s colonial interior, however. Mexico City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, and three Virtuoso-preferred hotels there put you in the heart of the restaurant scene and the posh neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa and Polanco. The magnificent ruins of Tenochtitlan are just outside the city, and the centro contains the city’s well-preserved Spanish architecture.

Puebla’s entire downtown is an open-air UNESCO World Heritage site, as is Oaxaca, which preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures, passed down today in artisan villages where time-honored traditions produce handmade textiles from natural materials. San Miguel de Allende, another World Heritage site, is about as close to heaven as you can get on Earth and an artist’s dream. The service and accommodations at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada keep that heavenly feeling instilled all through the night.

If you want to eat, drink and be merry in 2020, there may be no better place than colonial Mexico. Just like James Taylor, you might forget to go home.