Best 2020 Holiday Travel Destinations for Private Aviation with Minimal COVID Restrictions 

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The 2020 Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday travel season is going to be one unlike any we’ve seen in our own lifetimes. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit travel options, demand for open holiday destinations remains high.

Recently, we’ve seen a trend of operators coming to us for trip support questions without a destination in mind. “Where can I go with minimal restrictions?” With some destinations offering limited capacity due to COVID, we recommend making your reservations and plans now. Below are a few of the top travel destinations currently open and available with limited restrictions:

The Caribbean

Update: Parking at several islands is starting to fill up. It’s best to reserve space now.

November usually marks the start of the busy season for the Caribbean islands. The good news is most Caribbean islands have re-opened to international passengers with varying degrees of restrictions.

All countries require some form of negative COVID test ranging from 24 hours to seven days prior to arrival. Most countries are also requiring completion of a health declaration form. Tracking devices are also increasingly being required for foreign nationals.

Quarantine on a yacht, private residence or resort is required in many countries. However, the following countries do not require quarantine and allow free movement if you arrive with a negative test: Aruba, Bahamas (starting November 1), Dominica, Dominican Republic, St. Barts, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

These countries are also open, but may require some form of quarantine: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda (additional test required upon arrival and quarantine until those results are known), Cayman Islands, Curacao, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, and St. Lucia.

Most of the islands adjust their restrictions based on current infection rates, so always check for the latest restrictions.

Usually, during peak season, finding parking, if you don’t plan early, can be a challenge. Although resort capacity limitations may alleviate this to some degree, the locations with the fewest restrictions may fill up parking fast, so it’s best to reserve as soon as possible.

Mexico

One of the very few countries in the world to never close to foreign passengers,

Mexico is expected to continue to be a top leisure destination this holiday season.

Mexico does not require a negative COVID test for entry and no quarantines are mandated. Passengers will undergo a health screen upon arrival and must complete an online health form.

Popular destinations this fall include: Cancun (MMUN), Los Cabos (MMSD), Cozumel (MMCZ), and Puerto Vallarta (MMPR).

You can read more about operating to Mexico during COVID in our blog article.

For additional questions and assistance in operating to Mexico, contact Universal Aviation Mexico.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is open to passengers from all countries, including the United States. Most resorts, restaurants, parks and tourism activities are currently open, although some at limited capacity.

Once accepted in the country no quarantine will be required.

One advantage of operating to Costa Rica is the new General Aviation Terminal in San Jose. The GAT reduces private operators’ time on the ground and potential COVID exposure, making both arrivals and departures much quicker for GA operations. Private operators will no longer have to clear formalities inside the airline terminal in potentially long lines, and passengers will no longer be separated from their baggage, which was previously mixed into commercial baggage carousels, adding more complexity to the operation and stress to the passengers. This will be even more beneficial in a post-COVID operating environment. Our blog article  provides more details and everything you need to know about the GAT.

For more information, contact Universal Aviation Costa Rica.

Maldives

Update: Parking at VRMM/Maldives is now full. Universal Aviation Maldives can still get you overnight options at VRMG and VRMV.

The Maldives are completely unrestricted. Foreign nationals, including those from the United States and European Union, are permitted entry.

As one of the few resort destinations in Asia currently open with minimal restrictions and ease of entry for foreign passengers, we anticipate a significant increase in traffic to the Maldives over the coming months. November through January is the traditional peak travel season to the country.

The Maldives will require all visitors to present a negative PCR certificate that was conducted no more than 72 hours before departing to Maldives. No quarantine procedures are in place, however, tourists should stay at the same resort/island/hotel throughout their entire stay (They cannot move from one island to another).

All arriving passengers should complete and submit the online Traveller Health Declaration form before arrival (but not exceeding 24 hours before arrival time).

Foreign tourists are limited in where they can travel in the Maldives. Only foreign tourists in transit can check into hotels or guesthouses in the Greater Male urban area; others must stay in resorts, where officials may enforce temporary movement restrictions in the event of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.

Our COVID ops spotlight article has more information on operating to the MaldivesUniversal Aviation Maldives is also available to answer questions and support your mission.

French Polynesia

The Asia-Pacific region has been one of the most highly-restricted regions of

the world since the start of the Pandemic. French Polynesia is a rare exception.

The island is currently open to all nationalities. To enter, passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before their flight to Tahiti. An online health form is also required. Passengers will also be required to be re-tested for COVID four days after arrival using testing kits provided to them upon arrival.

Hawaii

After several delays, on Oct. 15, 2020, Hawaii officially implemented its pre-arrival testing program, which will allows visitors to bypass quarantine. All incoming travelers are required to have their temperatures checked and complete a health questionnaire online before they can leave the airport. Read more online.

Turkey

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Turkey has been one of the few open access points to the Mediterranean regardless of aircraft registration, travel history, or the passenger nationality. Over the last few months, the country has seen as increase in business aviation flight activity, as operators take advantage of the lack of restrictions and quarantine requirements.

Nationals of most nations, including the United States and European Union, can access Turkey with no restrictions. All arrivals will be required to complete a health form and will have their temperature taken. You will also be asked where you plan to stay while in the country.

Most restaurants, shopping and hotels are open in Turkey. Masks are required.

Our COVID Ops blog article has more information on visiting Turkey. Our Universal Aviation Turkey ground handling location in Istanbul is also available to answer questions.

United Kingdom

The UK remains open with strict quarantine requirements for length of stay and up to 14 days. Currently, due to a spike in COVID infections, London has implemented lockdown procedures.

Many operators continue to use the UK as a jumping off point to other EU destinations. You can read more about travel corridors in our blog article.

Our Universal Aviation FBO in London-Stansted can provide PCR testing inside the FBO for passengers heading to another destination, like Croatia.

There have been rumors for a New York City – London travel corridor opening in time for Christmas, but nothing firm has been announced yet.

Dubai (UAE)

This is normally a popular destination for NYE and European travelers. Dubai has been accepting travelers for tourism since July. It is accessible without any quarantine. Health insurance, negative COVID test, and tracer app required. More on Dubai here. Dubai has mostly kept its COVID infection numbers under control. Masks are required when in public.

Brazil

COVID cases spiked during the Brazilian “winter” in August and have trended downward since. While overall COVID cases remain high, we are seeing some growing interest in holiday trips for the Brazilian summer, which starts in December. Brazil is wide open. Operationally speaking, it can be a good holiday option, and there are some beautiful beach destinations where you can remain socially distant. We have offices all across Brazil that can support you on the ground.

Other destinations

Other leisure destinations that are accessible include Egypt, and much of Central and Latin America.

Conclusion

Business aviation operators are looking for potential holiday travel destinations with limited restrictions. Some of the most easily accessible destinations are the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Hawaii, French Polynesia, USVI, and the UK.

The current rush on holiday destinations is starting to create capacity and parking issues at some locations such as the Maldives and some Caribbean islands. Preferred hotels/resorts are also filling up – especially ones with the most roaming space and on-property amenities.

Although these countries are open, it’s imperative to always check before making plans, as restrictions can and frequently do change. Typical entry restrictions include completion of a health form, negative COVID test, and sometimes travel insurance (that covers COVID) and some form of tracking (phone app or bracelet).


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