How do you know when it’s safe to travel again? (Part 3)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 23 of the January 2022 issue.

How do you know when it’s safe to travel again? (Part 3 in a series)

This month I’m sharing the experiences of two people who took small-group tours.

Morocco adventure

After reading my last two columns, ITN reader Lenita Firth of Mill Creek, Washington, emailed to say that she and her husband returned on Nov. 5, 2021, from a 2-week trip to Morocco with Odysseys Unlimited (Newton, MA; 888/370-6765, She wrote that, as part of a group of six, they felt no hesitation about traveling, and the only stressful point came when they had to test negative for COVID before returning to the US. (They did.) 

She reported that both Delta Air Lines and Air France were good about COVID safety, and Odysseys was impeccable. In Morocco, restaurants everywhere required proof of vaccination, as did their hotels. In the medinas, some of the workers wore masks and some did not. The same was true of shoppers.

Lenita wrote that tour members wore masks most all of the time they were out sightseeing but not on their camel ride. They always masked up entering hotels and restaurants, and their guide had copies of their vaccination cards to show when required. 

She said their small group voted to not wear masks on their private coach, but their guide always reminded them to put them on when they left the coach. Both their guide and driver were vaccinated.

If I were to travel to Morocco during the pandemic, I would do so only on a small-group tour with a trusted company. To limit COVID exposure, I would spend less of my free time in the medinas and bazaars than I did in November 2019 with ElderTreks.

Iceland exploration

Kathy Thomas of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, traveled to Iceland with Overseas Adventure Travel, or OAT (Boston, MA; 800/955-1925, oat, on July 9, 2021, one of OAT’s first departures after an extended COVID hiatus. My telephone interview with her about that experience and another trip was most informative. 

Kathy, like many of us, was anxious to get back on the road and felt confident about going to Iceland because, combined with OAT’s planning and advisories about that destination, the country had a high vaccination rate and a low COVID rate, which, initially at least, allowed for regulations for visitors to be quite lax. 

Shortly after her return, that all changed as Iceland’s COVID rate ticked up. Regulations there are more stringent now, especially regarding mask wearing and being vaccinated. She felt that the country perhaps had been a bit lax and naïve regarding their original COVID regulations. 

Kathy’s round-trip flight to Iceland was out of Newark on Icelandair, and the flights operated without incident. Kathy said their OAT trip was well organized, their group of 15 had a private coach, and the driver and guide were both vaccinated. 

If I were to travel to Iceland now, as compared to when I visited in June 2016, I would exercise extra caution at the popular Blue Lagoon as well as in Reykjavík’s often busy Keflavík Airport.

Turkey and Azerbaijan

Having gotten her feet wet, Kathy Thomas traveled again with OAT, this time to Turkey. Her trip, Oct. 19-Nov. 19, included a 5-day Azerbaijan pre-trip.

Kathy said that on all her flights, on United Airlines, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, on-board mask compliance went smoothly.

There were six tour members in Azerbaijan and eight in Turkey, so they never felt crowded. In both countries, her group always wore masks indoors and sometimes on their private coach. In each case, their driver and guide were vaccinated and COVID-careful, including during their four days sailing aboard a Turkish gulet

OAT arranged for the necessary COVID test prior to returning home. 

Adventurer Kathy reported she takes COVID quite seriously and also plans to continue to travel, selectively, during the pandemic. 

When asked what advice she has for others wanting to travel, she recommended they thoroughly research the COVID policies and testing requirements of any companies and destinations they’re considering, keeping in mind their own personal risk tolerance.

Due to the varied requirements for each country, Kathy found it valuable to create a word document with time lines, deadlines, documents, individual country requirements, etc. This type of detailed preparation may be intimidating for some travelers but is worth considering. 

Kathy’s final comment spoke volumes: “International travel during COVID is not for the timid.” 

I’ll share more travelers’ COVID experiences next month. 

Contact Randy at 80 America Way, Jamestown, RI 02835; 401/560-0350,