Vacation plans change amid pandemic


Jackie Braunecker, owner of Jackie’s Travel Service in Jasper, has never seen anything like it.

“Not on this scale,” she said Monday of the spread of COVID-19 around the globe, a development that has led to all of her clients reaching out to inquire about their vacations. “There have been issues in the past, but this is a worldwide scale, not just one particular destination issue.”

As concerns mount, though, Braunecker is maintaining a positive attitude and encouraging others to do the same.

“After this, we’re all going to need a vacation,” Braunecker said. “And we’ll certainly be here to assist with that. But at this moment, again, most important is that everyone relaxes, and if you’re not traveling immediately, calm down. We’ll deal with it when the time comes that we can give you answers that we know are accurate.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations: China, Iran, most European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Most foreign nationals who have been in one of these countries during the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter the United States.

Braunecker explained that she and her staff have been working to keep up with the latest advisories, which are changing at a rate of more than once a day. Each time employees come into the office, there’s a new direction that they are required to follow from the airlines, or from the hotels, or from the vacation providers.

Jackie’s Travel values the safety and health of its clients, Braunecker said, making it crucial for everything to be looked at every day.

“Not only are we having to reaccommodate,” Braunecker said. “We’re having to reaccommodate those that we’ve already reaccommodated.”

Beth Neukam, a language arts teacher at Dubois Middle School, was planning on vacationing next week — which is spring break for Dubois County schools — in California with her husband and children. The group was set to fly into San Francisco and travel down California State Route 1, the iconic Pacific Coast Highway known for its winding road and breathtaking scenery, while stopping in various cities along the way.

“I’ve really been wanting to go down Highway 1,” Neukam said in a Wednesday phone interview. “My mom always talked about how beautiful it is.”

Then, the dominos began to fall. The foreign travel restrictions and announcement that county schools would close through early April signaled to Neukam that her dream needed to be put on hold.

She plans to push back everything by a year. She knows that curtailing the virus’ spread is important.

“I’m not scared to go there,” Neukam said of her trip. “I’d be fine with going. But, I, of course, don’t want to be part of the problem in bringing it back here as well. That’s definitely the issue.”

Braunecker’s message to travelers not set to depart in the immediate future is to relax. The office’s directions speak to what needs to be done in the near future, but summer trips don’t factor into them.

She explained that while most trips are typically planned six to nine months in advance, it would be wise to plan 2021 vacations even earlier than that due to the high number of rescheduled trips.

When asked if the virus has led to trying or stressful times, Braunecker remained positive.

“I’m an optimist,” she said. “We’ve dealt [with] and been through many issues in my many years of selling travel that, this isn’t going to close us down. It’s just a temporary inconvenience, and then hopefully we’ll get back to life as we know it.”

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