After nearly two and a half land-locked years, the Australian based Outrigger Resorts sales and marketing team, Andrew Gee (VP Sales and Marketing APAC) and Maria Alaveras (Sales Manager) finally made it back to Hawaii.
Here, Gee shares his experiences travelling in the time of COVID.
Firstly, it is vital to constantly check what the arrival requirements are for each country you are visiting, I was going to the USA (Hawaii on this trip) and they require a full PCR test one day before departure, when I originally booked my ticket it was three days so the need to keep checking is vital. Make sure if visiting the US your ESTA is up to date in advance of heading out to SYD. And double check passport validities too!
I decided to do my PCR test at Sydney International Airport on the day of departure at the Histopath clinic, I pre-booked this the day prior, this saved having to line up on the day. They will get your results to you within 90 minutes. So this means that you need to get to the airport around four hours before departure to be safe. My results did take the full 90 minutes so I must admit I was starting to get a bit concerned. It’s a weird feeling being ready to go with bags packed and having to wait for the ‘negative’ result. The results are sent through via text but you have the option to get a printed copy of these from the clinic. I would suggest you do this as it is a great back up and I did actually have to show this during my travels.
The check-in process (for the US) requires additional forms to be completed. I was flying Hawaiian Airlines and they had a special kiosk set up near their check-in gates. The staff manning these set ups were really patient and friendly – I have no doubt by this time the passengers are at a high level of “get me outta here” stress!
Once through Australian immigration (yay!) I noticed that many of the restaurants and shops are still closed; parts of the airport were eerily quiet.
On the flight your mask has to be worn all the time (except when eating or drinking) so get a mask that is comfortable. I had one of the cheap disposable ones and it was not great for a lengthy period.
Upon arrival in the US (HNL for me), as all of the paperwork had been done at check-in (in SYD), I was through US immigration in minutes. It was a breeze.
I arrived at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort to the biggest “Aloha” and “Welcome home, Andrew” and all prior formalities became a distant memory. It was so good to be back In Hawaii.
In Hawaii, hotels, restaurants and bars do need to sight your Australian Government Vaccination certificate (I had the mobile version on my phone) along with photographic ID (drivers licence etc) etc. All very simple and hassle free.
As far as returning to Australia, I suggest you keep checking on requirements, I only had to do a RAT by a certified physician but again it was the day prior to departure so you need to Google (in advance) for clinics that do this plus be aware that prices vary. I pre-booked mine the day prior and it cost around USD 60. Again make sure you get a hard copy of the certificate with the negative test result. The test itself took just 10 minutes.
Also you have to download the ATD app (Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs) and complete the on line application (to return to OZ) – it does take time and once your application is approved they will send you a QR code or certificate that must be shown at check-in for the return flight, along with your negative RAT test certificate.
Upon returning to SYD, the arrival formalities were very similar to what they were like in the “good old days (pre COVID)”. Again I presume most of the required information is collected in advance at departure.
At this stage international travel is a little “clunky” and it is vital that you keep checking on required formalities (for your destination) before departure and Australian re-entry requirements. If you have a good travel agent who can do all of this for you – they would be worth their weight in gold right now.
For me it was so great to be travelling again, what a privilege. I can tell you that sitting at Dukes (in the Outrigger Waikiki) with a cold beer in hand, overlooking Waikiki Beach made it all worthwhile!
Being able to reconnect, in person, with our teams in Hawaii, seeing, firsthand, the many changes that have occurred at property level, such as the major redevelopment at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort and experience our new Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa really highlights how important travelling in real life — rather than on screen — is.
And snorkelling with the majestic manta rays at our Kona property was something I will never forget.
As our Oceania international travel restrictions lessen we cannot wait to see and hear far more Aussie accents with-in our Hawaii properties.
I cannot wait to return to Hawaii. The travel bug may have been lying dormant for two plus years but, for me, it is now alive and well again!
For your chance to be welcomed in true Hawaii style, head to www.outrigger.com.
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