Whitewater rafting
Sarah Doody

From the Field: A Story of Family Travel to Costa Rica during the Pandemic

From the Field: A Story of Family Travel to Costa Rica during the Pandemic

Nov 2, 2021|Independent Journeys| by Holbrook Travel

Earlier this year, Sarah Doody and her family embarked on an 8-day adventure to Costa Rica, at a time when many travelers were choosing to stay home. The Doodys did their homework, followed the necessary protocols, and returned with memories that will last a lifetime. Sarah Doody shared with us the story of the trip she took with her husband and two adult children.

Q: How did the decision to take a family trip to Costa Rica come about?

Sarah: Well, I have to credit my husband because he was watching TV, and something came on that said Costa Rica was opening up to US citizens. We travel a lot and we'd been housebound for what seemed like forever. And when he said, “let's go,” I said, “well, let's bring the kids,” who are 30 and 32, as my daughter had always wanted to go. It was their Christmas present. So that's how we decided.

Q: What concerns did you have about traveling during the pandemic?

Sarah: I have to say, I really didn't have a whole lot of concerns. We've been blessed that where we live has not been really affected, and I researched and read that Costa Rica was not hit that badly. They took a lot of precautions. But also, I will be honest, I had a lot of faith in Holbrook, that you wouldn't be sending me to someplace that wasn't safe, and that they put in place the protocols in the field. So that's something that whenever you travel, pandemic or not, you have to have faith in who you're working with and that they're going to do what they're supposed to do. And they did.

Q: Did preparing for this trip differ from any other of the family adventures that you've done?

Sarah: I always take hand sanitizer when I’m traveling, but this time, I took a lot more. I took more antibacterial wipes. And we packed masks—something I'd never packed before. Other than that, we packed the same.

Q: So you’re on the plane, headed to Costa Rica; what protocols were in place in Costa Rica when you arrived?

Sarah: Well, I wasn't quite sure what we were going to encounter, but what we found was that they had all the protocols that we have in the US with the CDC, and even more, at a higher degree. We had private transfers and private pickups for everything we did. Anything we did—before we got into the vehicle—the driver came out with sanitizer, and they sanitized everything. Some even sprayed the bottoms of our shoes. They wiped everything down so we could be in the vehicles. We didn't have to worry too much about social distancing in restaurants and stuff like that, because not too many people were there. Everything that you would think that they should be doing, they did. At the airport, everyone was wearing a mask. It was no different than the Houston airport.

Q: Did having the protocols limit your actual experience in any way? Were you able to do all the activities that you had hoped to do?

Sarah: It had no effect on it at all. Although, in some of our pictures we wore masks. Other than that, it had no effect whatsoever.

Q: How did the local people take to having foreign visitors? Did you feel like you were welcomed?

Sarah: That's an understatement. The people there in general are lovely, very outgoing, and just very gracious, but every place we went, everyone thanked us for coming to their country, and asked us to go home as ambassadors. It was really heartbreaking for a country that is so based on tourism. Our guide at Arenal Hanging Bridges said it was his second day of work since last March, and same with the guide who took us whitewater rafting. He had to sell his motorcycle, because he needed to live and was working in a grocery store. They were just so grateful.

Q: What was your most memorable experience?

Sarah: I think probably the most amazing thing that we did was in La Fortuna, riding horseback and hiking. And then we went to the waterfall, where the kids could swim and stuff like that. Both of them told me that that was one of the most amazing trips they'd ever done. My son said that this was the coolest thing ever—even over Antarctica last year. He was over the top with the whitewater rafting and zip lining. Everything we did was just amazing.

Q: Were there any other highlights in terms of activities that surprised you that maybe other members of your family liked?

Sarah: So my husband was not able to do a lot of activities because of his vision, so he mostly sat and read. When we were at Arenal Observatory Lodge, he sat there and read, and every day, animals and birds would appear, like his own private safari every day. He had a wonderful time doing that. So that was something I was really glad he was able to experience.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

Sarah: I can't wait to go back. I have another list of places I want to go there. I have no qualms going any place right now that is open—that the two operators I'm working with will send me, because as I said, the most important thing is you need to have faith in who's putting the trip together.

Q: Why family travel and why travel now?

Sarah: One of the things about travel that I think is very important is its something that you can share with your family. You can’t replicate the experiences that you have with your children, event at their ages of 30 and 32. One thing COVID has shown us is life is precious, and you never know what's going to happen. So I encourage you to embrace your family and just go outside the box, because you don't know what's going to happen down the road. I had a wonderful time with my kids and it's just different than being home. I can never replace those memories.

All photos courtesy of Sarah Doody

Originally published February 2021; last updated November 2021

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