Is it possible to plan travel during a global pandemic? Sit tight. Here’s some travel inspiration for the frustrated romantic in all of us.
“Think of love as a state of grace not as a means to anything... but an end in itself.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments…” – Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
The coronavirus didn’t just cancel travel, business, and life in general in 2020; it aimed a bruising blow at love.
We won’t know the final toll until the dust settles, but the number of weddings cancelled, postponed, or drastically scaled back this year will be downright staggering. Last year, Americans spent $54 billion on more than two million weddings.
This year, COVID has thrown a wrench in a multi-billion-dollar wedding industry - and shattered most couples’ plans for large celebrations.
What about honeymoons?
Being the hopeless romantics that we are here at WWTA, we’ve done our best to help one couple navigate a COVID-induced debacle in which their honeymoon was planned and rescheduled four times. FOUR. As the travel industry endured wave after wave of shutdowns and closures, our young lovers just had to roll with the punches. The result? Despite all the setbacks – and there were many – we can confirm that true love, along with the sheer determination to somehow pull off a dream honeymoon in the midst of a global pandemic, does triumph.
Lesley and Clay met through a Christian dating app, after she reluctantly decided to give online matchmaking a try. She: an adventure-loving nurse exuding warmth and self-assurance. He: a witty and engaging computer data analyst, with an endearing romantic streak. After their first in-person meet-up, they never looked back. Plans for a May 2020 Santa Barbara wedding quickly fell into place; deposits were paid, rooms blocked, invitations mailed, flights booked. In the whirlwind of planning, they turned to us to help design the details of their honeymoon. Initially, they were set on Kauai, Hawaii’s garden isle, a lush paradise swathed in emerald valleys and laced with cascading waterfalls – let’s face it, a postcard for travel inspiration. We put together a stellar itinerary, with just enough activities and lots of leisure time to relax and enjoy their luxury resorts in two different areas of the island.
With the first wave of COVID restrictions, they reluctantly postponed the wedding until July. (Pause for a second here - weren’t we all fresh-faced newbies then, naively believing that somehow life would return to normal after a two-week lockdown? Bless our hearts.) Remaining optimistic, we were able to reschedule the honeymoon for the later date, this time scoring a longer stay at the more exclusive luxury resort, the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
Never in our sanitizer-addled brains did we anticipate that Hawaii would effectively close its doors to travelers from the mainland (authorities there imposed a 14-day quarantine); yet that’s exactly what happened. Three times. Each time we moved the trip forward, we had to break the news to the couple that Hawaii had extended its travel ban… yet again.
As the newest travel date approached, we strategized with the couple on an alternative destination. With all of the uncertainty and chaos in the world, why not salvage this trip and plan a honeymoon for next year? But Lesley and Clay had each secured a rare 13-day window of time off from work at the end of July. They’d ultimately scaled down their wedding to a small family ceremony in Clay's hometown in Orange County – only to have the venue cancel the day before the wedding. Ultimately, they’d pivoted to Plan D, a hastily-arranged (but lovely!) backyard ceremony at a relative’s home.
They were determined to go through with a honeymoon in 2020, partly as a way to redeem their disrupted wedding plans with a happy commemoration of what mattered most – their marriage.
Then, something near miraculous happened. As parts of the world began to open up to travelers, we were T-minus two weeks out from the couple’s travel window, with absolutely nothing booked. People started to travel again domestically. The idea of an RV trip or hiking a national park provided zero travel inspiration; they wanted a beach. They considered the Caribbean, which we discouraged because of the summer climate, hurricane season, and the uncertainty of a resurgence of COVID lockdowns. They briefly toyed with the Florida Keys. (As it turned out, tropical storms did lash parts of the Caribbean and Florida during their travel dates. We shudder to imagine, after everything, their being evacuated during their honeymoon.)
As we pored over travel advisories, CDC warnings, and governmental decrees worldwide, we began to focus on French Polynesia, an area that had remained practically unscathed during the height of the pandemic, and which was scheduled to open up to international travelers in the middle of July.
The five-star luxury resort Conrad Nui Bora Bora was offering unheard of rates – and we could secure an over-the-water bungalow during the travel window. (Check out this popular blogger’s review of the property.)
Amazingly, Lesley and Clay were able to receive credit back for some travel points they’d applied to the hotel they were originally scheduled to stay during their “first” wedding… this was enough to take care of the flights!
Sure, they had to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the flight. As a frontline worker in healthcare, Leslie was able to arrange this. They also had to self-administer a second test within 4 days of arriving on the island. No problem. As the departure date approached, we all prayed – and obsessively checked travel updates in the region. We used all of our connections and clout to secure an upgraded room and whatever amenities we could get. We all refused to believe the trip would actually happen until the 757’s wheels left the tarmac.
The flight did take off. And land. And with the help of the top-notch staff at the Conrad, we were able to upgrade our sweet couple to a deluxe over-the-water bungalow. The honeymooners utilized the resort’s free paddleboards and kayaks; they jetskiied, swam with sharks, snorkeled, and relaxed in their hammocks over the pristine lagoon whose crystal clear waters gently lap the white sands of Motu To’opua. For 11 perfect days, they let go of the stress and pressure the year had brought, and they enjoyed the slow pace and surreal beauty of this idyllic island paradise.
In a year of cancelled trips, derailed plans, tragic illness, and economic setbacks, something went right! But even more important than the dream honeymoon that finally happened, we were privileged to witness the selfless love of a dynamic young couple who worked together as a team in the face of ridiculous setbacks and disappointments, a couple who’ve clearly begun their union built on a strong faith, mutual respect – and, I might add, two great senses of humor.
So, 2020, we shake our fists at you. You didn’t manage to steal all of our joy. In fact, in some ways you refocused our priorities, brought some glimmers of silver to the surface amidst all the dross.
As we emerge – and we inevitably will – and return to travel, maybe we’ll keep some perspective about what’s really important. One thing’s certain – every July, we’ll raise a glass to Lesley and Clay. As they say in French Polynesia, Manuia!
Whether you’re planning a honeymoon, antsy to get traveling again, or interested in finding out more about our how we can save you money and time in trip-planning, we’d love to be your third wheel – from our office, of course! We use our resources to find the best value, deliver our white-glove service – and we’re usually able to throw in an exclusive amenity or facilitate an upgrade. Let us be your go-to for travel inspiration!
Start planning your next adventure here.