It’s been quite a while since most travelers have been able to explore outside the United States, but with more countries opening their borders to visitors, the options for traveling abroad are growing.

How will your next trip be different from the last time you traveled internationally? We spoke to AAA Travel experts about their 2021 trips. Here’s what they had to say about traveling abroad and how you can learn from their experiences.

Given the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, AAA encourages travelers to remain informed about the situation in the destinations they want to visit and anticipate that guidelines and requirements may change before and even during their trip. Your AAA Travel Advisor can help you stay up to date.

Caribbean cruise

Jane Roessler, AAA Travel Advisor
June 26–July 3, 2021

Traveling abroad: “I sailed on the Celebrity Edge from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; and Nassau, Bahamas.”

What I loved: “This was one of the newest ships I have been on, and it was wonderful—all clean, shiny and new. I really liked the restaurants and the fact that you weren’t stuck with just one main dining room; you had four dining rooms to choose from each night.”

What was different: “COVID regulations were very apparent at the cruise terminal. You were assigned a time to come there and had to wait if you were early. Once your appointed time came up, you were asked to wear your mask at all times inside the terminal. The screening process was a check of your passport and vaccination card and check-in of your cabin. Then up an escalator and another check of your passport and vaccination card, then on to a TSA screening and a final passport and vaccination card check. Once we stepped onto the ship, we were allowed to take off our masks. Unvaccinated passengers had to have a negative COVID test result three days before arrival. They were tested again at the cruise terminal and had to wear masks the whole time unless eating or drinking.

“We had to keep our masks on when we went into the shops in Costa Maya, and were greeted at the entrance to the city by a nice man who gave each person hand sanitizer as they came in. In Nassau, there were security personnel between the pier and the town who gave directions and asked that you wear your mask in town and in shops.”

What I learned: “With requirements for entry varying in each country, it’s important to check (or have your travel advisor check) frequently for updates or changes in what you’ll need to enter the country or countries, as well as to return to the United States.”

Custom trip to Greece

Jeff Gonce, AAA Travel Support, Innovation and Business Development
May 31–June 10, 2021

Traveling abroad: “I’m fortunate to have a dear friend who grew up in Zante, a quintessential Greek town on the island of Zakynthos. My travels consisted primarily of Zakynthos, exploring the various cultural sites and the quaint streets of Zante, and taking in all the food and drink that I could possibly hold.”

What I loved: “Having the experience of a true local was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was my first time in Greece, but it will not be my last. I cannot wait to return next summer, visit with new friends, take in the beautiful pink sunsets and swim in some of the most pristine azure water on the planet.”

What was different: “While I was there, Greece still had a curfew in place, from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day. If I were more of a partier, I might have been slightly disappointed.”

What I learned: “Hotels, airlines and cruise/tour providers are committed to providing clients with a clean, safe and memorable travel experience. Keep in mind, your next trip may not be just like those in the past, but, hey, is that so bad? Your tray table may be a bit cleaner. Your cruise may be at half capacity, freeing up some of the pool space and allowing for more flexibility with dinner. And the usually crowded beaches, streets and cultural sites may be slightly less hectic, allowing for a true up-close, intimate experience.

“I believe that flexibility is key, realizing that there will most likely be a hiccup or two along the way. Just accept it, knowing that those moments will soon be forgotten. The moments of joy, awe and intrigue are what will stick around for years to come.”

Guided tour in Iceland

Shaz Austin, AAA Travel Advisor
June 2021

Traveling abroad: “We started in Reykjavik and then went along the Golden Circle. There’s a waterfall there called Gullfoss. It’s just magnificent. When you get close to it, you start to feel this mist, and then it almost starts to rain on you even though you’re several feet away from it. We went to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where the tour guide took us to places where Game of Thrones was filmed. I was also lucky enough to visit the lava field of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. I stood just a few feet away and watched lava ooze out. It was spectacular!”

What I loved: “I have never taken so many pictures in my life. Everywhere you turned there were mountains and waterways and glacier tops and history and culture. It was so beautiful. It was far beyond what I ever expected.”

What was different: “I went at a time in June when only 8% of tourists normally present were there. In fact, my tour was the first one back for that particular tour guide. Iceland feels very safe to me because 75% of the people are vaccinated.”

What I learned: “One thing that often gives people a little bit of anxiety is needing to get a COVID test to go back to the United States. Everything’s a little fluid, so things could change, but that’s why it’s important to do a tour because your tour guide is going to take care of that for you. I advise clients to ask the tour guide as soon as they start the tour what they need to do to set up their testing appointment.

“I also emphasize to clients the importance of following the protocols of the country they’re visiting and to keep in mind that the people who are serving you might not have the opportunity that we do to make the choice to be vaccinated or not.”

Discover three ways guided vacations from AAA partner Trafalgar make travel effortless.

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All-inclusive resort in Mexico

Maryann Sargent, AAA Travel Advisor
April 2021

Traveling abroad: “I flew into Cancun, and I went to Maroma Beach. It was simply amazing.”

What I loved: “When I went, there weren’t a lot of people traveling, so the best part was having this amazing resort nearly all to myself. The cleanliness and the customer service were impeccable. And the beaches were phenomenal.”

What was different: “Going into Mexico, you don’t have to prove that you’ve been vaccinated, but you do need a COVID test to return to the United States. When you check in at the resort, they give you a date and time when you have to go to a certain area to get tested. Afterward, they email you the results, and then you can go back into your flight reservations online and download all that information to the airline. So, you don’t have anything to worry about once you get to the airport; all the paperwork has been done. And the majority of the resorts do the testing free of charge. So that’s nice.”

What I learned: “If it’s going to be your first time out since the pandemic started, I would highly recommend an all-inclusive resort. And the reason is that everything is in one area, and everything is going to be open. It’s a seamless vacation; you don’t have to worry about what’s open and what’s not. You can just embrace being away. It’s a great way to get started.”

All-inclusive resorts make it easy to relax and play with confidence. Read how in our insider’s guide.

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Caribbean cruise

Dawn Plate, AAA Travel Advisor
June 26–July 3, 2021

Traveling abroad: “I went to Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; and Nassau, Bahamas.”

What I loved: “Just being on the ship and enjoying the onboard activities such as trivia and silent disco.

“The ship wasn’t booked to capacity, and I think that made my cruise experience better than ever. The service from the crew was top notch—you could feel how happy they were to be back at work! I always felt that cruise ships did a good job with sanitation and cleaning before COVID, so I felt completely safe health-wise.”

What was different: “It’s all about technology. I had to download the cruise line’s app to complete my online check-in and upload my passport, vaccination information and a picture of myself. The day before the cruise, I had to complete the health information on the app and then, on the day of departure, complete the muster drill on the app. I loved the app, but it could present a learning curve for some of my clients.”

What I learned: “Do not show up to the cruise terminal early; you can only show up at the time you’re given when completing your check-in on the app. Be patient and kind and, last but not least, relax—you’re going to have a great time!”

All-inclusive resort in St. Lucia

Gina Stevens, AAA Travel Advisor
June 27–July 3, 2021

Traveling abroad: “It was my 50th birthday celebration that I had been planning for over a year. I had visited St. Lucia on a cruise many years ago, and I really fell in love with how friendly the local people were and how beautiful the island was.”

What was different: “I had 16 family members and friends go with me, and the majority of them had never traveled internationally. I had done all the research as far as COVID testing requirements and told everyone how to fill out the registration forms and download test results. The hardest part about traveling internationally right now is making sure you fill out all the proper forms before you leave and have all the required papers when you arrive at the destination.

“When we checked in at the resort, we were given information on how to register for our exit COVID test to go back to the United States. I’m sure the test would have gone more smoothly, but Hurricane Elsa hit the island the day we were supposed to take the test, and it was complete chaos that day. I have never been at a resort during a hurricane, so I can’t compare the experience to anything else, but I honestly have no complaints. I feel that the resort management did their best to keep their staff safe and keep the clients happy.

“Masks were required if you went to the bar, and the bartenders were very strict with this rule. It was the same at the restaurants and in the lobby. We did not have to wear masks if we were walking around the open areas or in the pool.”

What I learned: “Make sure you do research in advance and frequently check on the rules around COVID travel requirements and paperwork that needs to be completed before you leave. Rules and restrictions can change quickly, and you really need to be prepared, even at the last minute.”

AAA Is Ready When You Are

Your AAA Travel Advisor can help you make informed decisions—from reserving a trip to selecting travel insurance—so you can explore confidently while traveling abroad.