Quad City Area Couple Was Stranded At Sandals Resort After COVID Test, Had To Charter A Plane Home
Like many Americans, Jeff and Penny Hoker decided to travel over the holiday break, and spend some time relaxing on a beach in Jamaica from the day after Christmas to January 2nd.
Staying at one of the Sandals locations in Jamaica, Jeff and Penny enjoyed a beachside room and vacation, but things took a turn when it was time to come home.
A Positive Test
To return to the United States, travelers must take a COVID-19 test one day before boarding the plane, and in Penny's case, she tested positive on New Year's Day.
"Instantly we have a choice to make. Either I leave her here and go home, or I stay in a different room while she quarantined for up to 10 days or I stay in the save room and quarantine with her," Jeff said. "Well I’m not leaving my wife, and if I stay in a separate room, and then when she is finally out of quarantine I happen to test positive guess what? I go into quarantine for another 10 days. Not an option, so I’m staying with her."
Five days was the set time for the Hokers quarantine, which they had to do in their room at the Sandals resort.
The benefit here is that they had a beach-view balcony to themselves, rather than deal with the snow and ice we did here at home.
Luckily, the resort has insurance that paid for the Hokers extra 5-day stay, so that was at least something they didn't have to worry about.
A broken toilet added for some excitement for the room-bound couple. The problem is, nobody can enter that hotel room to fix the toilet. Luckily, Jeff's handy enough to take care of it himself.
"They took us out of our room and put us in one of the worst rooms in the entire resort. Our stay in the nice room had ended, so we were in a room the size of a Motel 6," Jeff said. "Luckily, my wife and I have spent a lot of time at this resort, so we complained until they moved us."
"We had to eat on our bed the first couple of days. There was no table anywhere," he said.
The Hokers realized what was next in their trip to get home: Taking a negative test.
Both of the Hokers realized that after five days, Penny could very well still show positive, which would bar her from flying again.
Luckily, Sandals told the two of a workaround to the test. The resort explained that all the two needed was a "Document of Recovery" written by any doctor that explains the two completed the mandatory five-day quarantine. This would cover the two if either tested positive at the airport.
All the two needed to do was a telehealth call home and get the document, so they did. The two showed the hotel staff the document, and they said it looked good.
After booking flights home, the Hokers headed out to the airport. When they arrived, they found out that the Document of Recovery couldn't be accepted by the airline because the doctor consulted was not in Jamaica.
The airline representatives recommended a test right then and there because they could still make the flight.
On a $75 gamble, they tried for a negative test, but it came up positive.
At this point, the only option was to go back to the resort to come up with a new plan.
Meanwhile, the Hokers had a friend flying with a different airline, carrying the same Document of Recovery. This friend made it through the checks and made it on the plane home.
Once catching word of this, the two went back to the airport, and made it already through security, had their bags checked in and they made it to the gate to board the plane.
Waiting at the gate for them was a member of the Ministry of Health in Jamaica. The member told the couple the same thing the other airline had; the document had to be from an in-country doctor, which they didn't have.
Hear the Hoker's Full Story Here:
Options Exhausted - Time to Charter
With seemingly all options exhausted, the two settled on the decision to charter a plane to the United States.
See, all the two had to do was get to the country, and they wouldn't need a COVID-19 test to fly within the borders.
So, the two packed back up and headed to their flight out of Jamaica on a small prop-plane.
Home now, the two enjoyed a much-deserved drink and even enjoyed a little bit of a welcome home party from their family.
Do you have a similar stranded in paradise story? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We spoke with Becky, who is a travel agent with Gulliver's Travel. She had three main tips for those looking to travel out of the country:
- Test Yourself Before You Leave.
- Be Up To Date on Your COVID-19 Vaccination.
- Buy the trip insurance - More than just for the airline or weather-related incident. This is what keeps you from having to foot the bill for an extra 10 days in a foreign country.