Traveling in Europe – Fall 2021 Experiences

European travel is back! And all that we love about Europe is still the same: incredible scenery, thousands of years of history, remarkable art and architecture, wonderful food and wine, and welcoming and interesting people who are happy to see us again.

Luberon Experience group at the Gordes overlook

Special Travel Requirements Today

But there are some changes in today’s environment, primarily special requirements to restrict the spread of COVID. At this time, France and Italy are welcoming only vaccinated travelers, with no quarantine required. Italy also requires a negative covid test 48 hours before arrival. The UK welcomes vaccinated travelers with no quarantine but with a test required two days after arrival; the test must be booked before departure. (Unvaccinated travelers to the UK must quarantine, which is not practical for tourists.)

In France and Italy you must be vaccinated to use the intercity trains, to enjoy cafes and restaurants, and to visit museums and public events. This has resulted in a very high vaccination rate in both countries. France uses a “pass sanitaire,” an individual QR code which can now be obtained by foreign tourists at specific pharmacies and then shown in a paper copy or on a smartphone app. Italy has a similar “green pass,” and will accept a paper vaccination card for foreign tourists (such as the American CDC card).

And all countries require contact tracing forms be completed before you arrive.

An Important Travel Accessory – A Mask!

Who is this masked woman? (in Caen, Normandy)

Masks are required in airports and train stations, on trains, and on planes, as well as in most interior public spaces. Most people wear light disposable masks and drop their mask around their neck or on carry it on their arm when it’s not needed. I found it was very comfortable—even natural—to wear a mask. On our trips we’re outside much of the time, and a mask is not required. Some group members wore them more than others. Because everyone was vaccinated, our groups in Provence and Puglia were very comfortable together. We were committed to keeping each other safe.

The high vaccination rates and general acceptance of health and safety protocols in France and Italy also made all of us feel very comfortable in public settings. I was much more comfortable “out and about” around other people than I’ve been at home.

Our approach of basing for one week in one place definitely makes travel easier. We were very pleased that everyone who completed our post-trip survey said they were “very satisfied” with the concern and procedures for their health and safety during the week and that they appreciated all our efforts to keep them informed of changing requirements in the months and weeks before the trip.

Return to the USA currently requires a negative COVID test within three days of departure. We arranged for this test for our travelers who were returning home a day or two after our trip, and we’ll continue to do this if it’s a requirement at the time of our 2022 trips. Some our travelers also successfully used a pre-purchased, self-administered test, monitored online. (We’ll provide our travelers with more information on this option in the months before a trip.)

Of course, we don’t know what the requirements and procedures will be at the time of next year’s trips. But please be assured that we will help you navigate any requirements that may be in place. And once you’re with us, we’ll do our very best to create a safe, fun and memorable experience.

Our Vaccination Requirement

We have decided to continue our requirement for full COVID vaccination for all our travelers in 2022. This may very well continue to be an entrance requirement by our host countries as well as a requirement to enter restaurants and museums, but we think it’s also critical for our groups. Our trip leaders and hosts will also be fully-vaccinated. We want everyone to feel comfortable and safe with their fellow group members, and we definitely want to minimize any risk of COVID infection in our groups and to protect our friends in Europe. Next year we’ll ask our travelers to provide us with proof of vaccination before the trip, and for maximum protection we encourage everyone to get a booster shot when they’re eligible.

Our third Puglia Experience group in Otranto

We solicited feedback from our Fall 2021 travelers after their trips. They encouraged future travelers to be flexible and maintain a good sense of humor. Michell from Baton Rouge spent a month in Italy, including our Puglia trip. She advised future travelers to “respect and follow all local guidelines/requirements as requested. And just be kind and patient with everyone you encounter. They (and we) are all trying our best to navigate this new ‘normal’ as best we can.”

Definitely keeping a good sense of humor in Puglia!

We also recommend that travelers keep their trip simple, spending more time in fewer countries since every country will have different requirements, which adds another layer of complexity. Allow plenty of time for connections at airports and train stations. Flights may be delayed, there may be staffing shortages with the airlines or at the airports, and it may take longer to check in. It’s better to have too much time than to miss a flight or train.

And once you’re at your destination and with us—relax and enjoy the experience!