Olivia Shears is on her way again, whether she’s ready or not.
Shears, a junior at Florida International University in Miami, expects to meet up with her friend Shelby Spinosa in Alabama next month before taking a 10-day road trip through the United States.
Shears explains, “We’re going to pass through Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.” “We’re preparing all of our stops ahead of time because of COVID, and we’re looking at hotels that we think will be the best choices and have strong safety procedures in place.” We’re going to open-air locations like parks. We’re still making plans for our meals.”
Students are eager to move right now.
Students are eager to go on a trip. According to a new survey by Contiki, nearly two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z want to travel this year. More than half of those surveyed are willing to fly right now, even though it means paying for quarantine when they return home. And 71 percent will take the COVID vaccine, which they described as a “no-brainer” to Contiki pollsters.
For concerned parents, this might not be enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to advise Americans to stop all travel. Students in high school and college, on the other hand, are eager to get started. This is true not only during spring break, but also during summer holidays, fall semesters abroad, and other exchange programmes.
“After a challenging year, many Americans are looking forward to the prospect of foreign travel returning in the summer and fall of 2021,” says Allianz Travel spokesman Daniel Durazo.
I’ll admit that I’m one of those concerned parents. At the University of Arizona, two of my sons are graduates. Although we’ve been imprisoned in Sedona for the past six months, they’ve been asking me to go somewhere — somewhere. Their younger sister, a freshman at our local community college, is also on her way out.
So, how do students avoid getting into trouble once they’re back on the road? For instance, their parents are giving them a lecture. (Have I mentioned how jittery we grown-ups are? It’s possible I did.) The precautions are very extensive, particularly for semesters abroad. And, in today’s world, travel insurance is a must-have for anyone planning a trip. Flexibility is more critical than ever, as are the fundamentals of travel protection.
Well before the pandemic, student travel safety was a problem. AIG Travel, a travel insurance provider, unveiled an educational initiative in late 2019 to help students travel safely. “Given the heightened risks they face when travelling, there is much that can be done to improve their safety and well-being,” AIG Travel CEO Jeff Rutledge said at the time.
A student travel safety microsite and a webcast with practical guidance for students, their parents, study abroad groups, and universities were part of the initiative. The software was revolutionary at the time.
What are worried parents doing with their children who are travelling?
Parents are more concerned than normal, according to travel insiders.
“Parents are naturally anxious,” says Medjet’s chief operating officer, John Gobbels. Because of the situation, many of his members have upgraded to 24/7 security and crisis management coverage.
“The pandemic has put a lot of strain on economies all over the world, particularly in places that rely heavily on travel and tourism, and there has been a noticeable increase in crime in many places,” he says.
According to Gobbels, the US Department of State’s website has recorded increased advisories in areas that were previously considered protected. He’s been advising worried parents to exercise extra vigilance everywhere their children go.
He adds, “Have a serious talk with your kids.” “Loosing the guard for two seconds can have significant ramifications.”
Students spending a semester abroad should take extreme care.
How, on the other hand, are schools dealing with COVID? I inquired of Warren Jaferian, Endicott College’s dean of international education. Despite the fact that the school’s semester abroad programmes persisted during the pandemic, participation rates fell by 70% in 2020. However, Jaferian claims that interest in fall 2021 programmes is “extremely high.”
“After just one month into our application period, fall applications are back to 80% of pre-pandemic levels,” he says. “We expect the spring semester abroad in 2022 to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.”
Students spending a semester abroad will be given a COVID exam no less than four hours before departure this semester. Within 72 hours of arriving in their host country, they are screened. Then, depending on the region, they are quarantined for up to 14 days in some countries or checked again after five days of quarantine and released.
Students purchase travel insurance.
Experts claim that travel insurance should be a top priority for every student journey. “With changing restrictions, testing standards, and foreign market conditions, having a travel insurance policy is more beneficial than ever,” says Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners, a multinational travel insurance company.
Young people, in particular, have a “I am invincible” mentality, according to Christina Tunnah, World Nomads’ general manager for the Americas. “Since they don’t really know their limits in the way that more seasoned travellers do,” she says, “this may lead them to take on more risks.”
However, she claims that students and parents are turning to travel insurance to mitigate some of the risks.
“Travel insurance, particularly emergency medical benefits,” she says, is “important” for any journey, whether a student is travelling domestically or internationally. “Apart from COVID 19, anything can happen.” You could twist your ankle, get injured in a scooter crash, or contract a tropical disease that requires hospitalisation.”
Tunnah advises students studying abroad to use their daily health care coverage for routine and preventative care. She does, however, consider purchasing travel insurance to cover other types of travel that health insurance does not, such as trip cancellation or missing luggage.
There’s an app for that, too. Many, in fact. Most big travel insurance companies have made their policies available on mobile devices, so there’s no need to bring a lot of paperwork with you. In the event that something goes wrong, students can use Allianz’s TravelSmart app to contact a 24/7 assistance team. If a mandatory COVID-19 test results in a positive result, the app will assist students with quarantine accommodations and other arrangements. The app will assist with locating alternative lodging, as well as local food and supply distribution services. It can also help with rebooking travel plans and notifying any tour guides until the student has been allowed to travel again.
Students are making several changes to their travel plans.
Traveling during the pandemic has necessitated several changes for students including Jacob Shropshire, a freshman at the American University of Paris. He had to fly from Oklahoma City to Houston, for example, to complete his paperwork at the French consulate. He agreed to return to the United States in the fall, before the nation went into a month-long mandatory lockdown.
“When I travelled, the most important precaution I took was to remain relatively isolated when I arrived at my destination,” he says. “I segregated myself for two weeks when I arrived in Paris in the fall and spring, and when I returned home in November, only interacting with other people to get necessities.”
Hand sanitizer is “my best friend,” according to Shropshire. He was scared of having to go to a French hospital because he had learned that patients were being turned away. He’s still thankful that his parents purchased travel insurance. They had planned to pay him a visit but had to postpone it due to the outbreak. Their nonrefundable travel costs were partially reimbursed.
Advice for students — and their guardians — who are resuming their travels
Gretchen Young, the director of Wheaton College’s study abroad programmes in Norton, Massachusetts, has some advice for students planning to travel soon: adaptability is important. This is valid if you’re going on a spring break trip or studying abroad for a semester.
“Students should have reasonable standards and understand that they will need to take classes online, quarantine, adhere to curfews, or deal with a variety of unexpected circumstances,” she says. “They’ll have to maintain their composure and adjust accordingly.”
Even so, the fundamentals of a healthy journey haven’t changed quite as much as travel itself. True, both when preparing the trip and when arriving at the destination, parents must pay special attention to the COVID risks.
However, careful preparation also necessitates a number of fundamentals. Make sure you’re familiar with the schedule. Determine who will be on the lookout for your student. Understand what insurance covers and what it doesn’t. At least, that’s how Rustic Pathways Student Travel’s global programme counsellor, Connor Fitzgerald, sees it.
He says, “The general recommendation for student travel has not changed.” “It’s just the stakes that have changed.”