John and Julie Chapman were stepping out of their comfort zone just a bit.
In previous years, they would load up their three sons and one daughter and fly from their Bunker Hill, Ill., home for a Christmas-break vacation in the Florida Keys. But this year, they wanted to try something different. They wanted to go further southern to enjoy warmer weather and a more diverse experience.
Having never traveled internationally, the Chapman’s turned to a friend who was quick to recommend St. Louis-based Acendas Travel advisor Colleen Campanella to help. It proved to be a wise decision.
“Colleen was great,”: Jill Chapman said. “This was new to us and there were so many changes in travel in general that I just could not see us doing it ourselves. She was there every step of the way and helped us make decisions that not only made for a better experience, but saved us money.”
Seeking a true family experience, the Chapman’s took the advice of Campanella to stay at the all-inclusive Royalton Bavaro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Their flexibility in choosing the dates of Jan. 17-26 saved them several thousand dollars. But as they would later find out, the date of Jan. 26 would have significance. It was the first date that the United States required travelers coming from an international destination to have a negative Covid-19 test.
“Oh boy, I thought,” Chapman said. “But Colleen reassured us that there would be testing at the resort. My fear of course is that one or some of us might have to stay back. So, I brought some extra money and packed in the event that might happen. We were tested on the morning of the 24th and about 45 minutes later we got the all clear that we had tested negatively.”
It was not the first time they were tested, however. Upon arriving in Punta Cana, they were randomly selected to do a breathalyzer. The whole process took 15 minutes for the six of them.
“The thing that reassured me is how focused everyone was on making sure people were safe,” Chapman said.”Everywhere we went, staff was great in its service, and making sure we had a great time. I think the initial concern you have is that you may not have an enjoyable experience because of the measures being taken. But it was wonderful. On a scale of 1 -10, I’d say it was a 9. It was good to get away from the cold and enjoy the warm weather.”
While there were no hiccups on the trip, the fact that a lifeline was just a text away was reassuring. Because it was the Chapman’s first international trip, Campanella checked in on them periodically. She also had interest in seeing how the re-entry test was processed so that she could share the information with her other clients.
“What I am hearing from my clients is people are able to travel and have a good time and do so in a safe environment,” Campanella said. “Everyone has their own level of comfort. But I have not had a person who hasn’t come back and said it was better than expected.”