Ask Harper Anything: Expert Advice From Our Editor

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We receive emails and social media messages from Andrew Harper members all the time, asking for our editors’ insight regarding a range of travel questions. Although fewer people are traveling at present than usual, certainly our members still have questions on their minds.

Here we’ve assembled some of the most recent queries we’ve received, along with our editors’ answers to them. Topics include COVID-19 issues, holiday travel and even safaris (it is, rather surprisingly, quite possible to go on a rewarding safari right now).

Q.

Is there travel insurance that covers COVID-19?

Travel insurance is always a good idea, but it seems especially important right now. The Andrew Harper Travel Office partners with Chubb, which provides a range of medical benefits. Coverage like this is required for those visiting countries such as Costa Rica, which requires travelers to have ample medical coverage while there.

We also highly recommend a MedJet membership. The annual fee now includes transport for members hospitalized with COVID-19. If traveling in the contiguous United States, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands, members can receive medical evacuation to a hospital of their choice (as opposed to the nearest acceptable medical facility). Feel free to contact a travel advisor at Andrew Harper Travel for more information: (800) 375-4685.

Q.

Are there any possibilities on the West Coast for Thanksgiving?

The West Coast is a fine choice for Thanksgiving, especially farther south where the weather will be warm enough to dine outside, with less risk of being exposed to COVID. (Note that restaurants may have different Thanksgiving arrangements than usual, so it is vital to call in advance.) Our two recommendations on the coast just south of Los Angeles, The Resort at Pelican Hill and Montage Laguna Beach, would be good options. If you prefer a smaller property, consider The Lodge at Torrey Pines or Rancho Valencia, which are outside San Diego. And the Malibu Beach Inn could be a possibility. Its wonderful restaurant terrace juts out over the beach, and the hotel has easy access to fine hikes as well as the famous stretch of sand it overlooks. In any case, be sure to reserve well in advance.

Room 101 at the Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu, California
Room 101 at the Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu, California - Lisa Romerein

Q.

Do you have any idea when South Africa will open up?

Since October 1, it has been possible for business travelers to petition for an entry visa, but South Africa remains closed to leisure travelers from countries labeled as “high risk,” including the United States. I suspect South Africa will remain closed to American tourists until the number of cases here declines. That will hopefully be soon, but trends aren’t in that direction just at present. I wouldn’t buy air tickets to South Africa for a departure within the next six months, honestly. But there are other possibilities should you be interested in a safari (see below).

Q.

How do you get to the Finca Cortesin golf resort in Spain?

Unfortunately, leisure travelers from the United States are not permitted to enter Spain as of this writing, at least not without special permission from the government. If you’re a citizen of the European Union, or if you’re coming directly from an approved country such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand, it’s easier.

Assuming that you’re able to visit Spain, it’s easiest to rent a car in Málaga and drive along the coast to reach the Finca Cortesin. To reach Málaga, one can fly in from a number of airports, or take the AVE train from Madrid, which takes just 2.5 hours. If you’re indeed able to make it to Finca Cortesin, that’s great! I sincerely wish we could join you there.

Finca Cortesin, Málaga, Spain
Finca Cortesin, Málaga, Spain - Michelle Chaplow

Q.

What kind of special benefits could be had booking a cruise through Andrew Harper?

The Andrew Harper Travel Office has special relationships with a number of top small-ship cruise lines. Benefits vary depending on the specific itinerary, but they could include shipboard credits and complimentary upgrades, among other perks. Consider the region of the world you would like to cruise, approximately when you would like to travel and for how long, and the Travel Office would be happy to present some options to you.

There are numerous tempting itineraries available in 2021 and 2022. In fact, we’re seeing stronger-than-usual demand for cruises that take place next year and the year after, since so many people had their cruise plans upended in 2020.

Q.

Could you suggest a Yellowstone guide or an itinerary?

We had a very good experience on our recent trip to Grand Teton National Park with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. The company also does guided excursions in Yellowstone National Park, including multiday itineraries. Our half-day trip was great fun. We saw bison and grizzly bear, in addition to beauty spots we wouldn’t have discovered on our own.

Buffalo grazing on the plains in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Buffalo grazing on the plains in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

Q.

What activities are there at Paws Up?

With some 37,000 acres in Montana, The Resort at Paws Up offers no shortage of outdoor activities. Depending on the season, guests can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, fly-fishing, excursions with fat-tire electric bikes, snowmobiling, archery, hot-air ballooning, carriage rides, sleigh rides, heli-hiking and heli-skiing, and even skijoring (being towed on skis by a horse), among others. Paws Up makes for an ideal family getaway.

Q.

When is the best time to see the tulips in Amsterdam?

Tulip season in the Netherlands runs between late March and the middle of May, but the ideal time to see this explosion of color is in mid-April. The famous Keukenhof Gardens offers perhaps the most extravagantly beautiful display — it contains upward of 7 million flower bulbs — but the gardens are hardly a secret. Visit first thing in the morning on a weekday, if possible. Currently the country does not allow U.S. leisure travelers to visit. But that will hopefully change by spring!

A river of grape hyacinths bordered by tulips at the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands
A river of grape hyacinths bordered by tulips at the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands - ballycroy/iStock

Q.

I heard that flights to Kenya are quite reasonably priced right now. Would you suggest booking a safari? If so, where would you recommend?

A safari is actually a wonderful idea, and it’s relatively safe because so much of one’s time is spent outdoors. Meals and game drives tend to be in the open air. There is the long flight to consider, but the latest research has shown that the chances of contracting COVID on an airplane are quite low. It’s also helpful that one can take a nonstop flight from New York to Nairobi with Kenya Airways. And not least important, Kenya is currently welcoming Americans who have a negative result of a COVID-19 test conducted within 96 hours of arrival.

One might start with some time in the iconic Maasai Mara region, for example. The Great Migration passes through there between August and October, but the wildlife viewing is excellent throughout the year. Follow that with a stay near Meru National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve and/or Laikipia, and finish at Giraffe Manor outside Nairobi before departing. That would be an unforgettable itinerary!

Q.

Have you been to Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge?

We have indeed been to Tu Tu' Tun Lodge. A longtime recommendation of ours, it overlooks the Rogue River in a lovely woodland setting. And Oregon is a good choice for a vacation at the moment. Like many U.S. states, Oregon has an increasing rate of COVID infections, but the overall numbers are still relatively low as of this writing.

Tu Tu' Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, Oregon
Tu Tu' Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, Oregon - Tu Tu' Tun Lodge

Q.

We always travel for the holidays. Where can we do that this year?

There are more options for traveling than one might guess. We just wrote about 25 destinations open to U.S. travelers. But if you want specific recommendations, Caldera House in Teton Village, for example, has apartments that would be ideal for families. Skiing is an activity that lends itself to social distancing, and we recommend a number of wonderful resorts. If you want somewhere warm, Los Cabos could be fun (Mexico has no entry restrictions at this time). It would be possible to spend most of your time outdoors, which makes things safer.

By Andrew Harper Editor Andrew Harper editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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