As we saw the world ring in the new year, I counted myself lucky to have been able to travel in 2021 when there are many people who haven’t been able to get on a plane in two years. As we are about to enter to third year of this pandemic (who’d have thought it…), the travel world has been picking up again with some highs and lows throughout the year.
Although I am in no way saying “forget the pandemic, do what you want”, there comes a time where you feel you simply need to get away or try to resume a normal life. If you’re on the fence about travelling, here are my considerations:
- How flexible are you?
I am very lucky in that my job is fully remote so I can pick up my laptop and head somewhere for as short or as long as I want. This also means I have a degree of flexibility – I don’t need to book annual leave as such and I won’t lose any work time. Flexibility is important in pandemic travel and has allowed me to get back into travelling. I know that if Spain (where I live) introduces quarantine for travellers on return, then technically I can do this and keep working. I can also go away for longer (like my 5 weeks in the Balkans) making the tests to travel more worthwhile than if I were away going for a weekend. Especially if travelling from the UK, you have to consider what would happen if there was a sudden requirement to quarantine on return?
2. What will you find when you get to your destination?
As much as you may feel that the situation is stable in your country, it’s important to keep up with the situation in your destination and any restrictions that are in place, or likely to come into place. Afterall, would you really enjoy your trip if restaurants closed at 6pm and you had a curfew at 8pm? You also need to check rules on things like masks, vaccine passports, numbers allowed at a table etc- don’t get caught out. If you don’t agree with countries doing these things, then you should probably stay at home.
3. Organise your documents.
I cannot reiterate the importance of this. I’ve seen quite a few people get turned away from flights at airports due to not having correct documentation. You need to stay up-to-date with the requirements- do you need a health form? Do you need a PCR test? Proof of travel insurance? Sometimes it can be something as small a number wrong on the form that could ruin your trip so it’s important that you’re on the ball. The requirements do make travel more stressful but with research, it can be relatively straightforward. Don’t lose your trip because of not being informed, or hold up the queue at the airport because you haven’t filled out your forms correctly (we hate those people sorry).
A great site to use is Tripsguard.com where you can see the entry conditions for different countries based on passport, departure point and vaccination status. This is a good start but you should also check official government websites from your own country and your destination country to verify this.
4. Never drop your guard
We have to remember that there are some countries that, in spite of higher cases, do not put restrictions in place- in fact that might mean that more tourists decide to go there. As much as we can’t live in fear, try not to get carried away and forget we are still in a pandemic. Exercise the same cautions (masks, handwashing etc) even if the country you visit doesn’t encourage you to do so.
5. What sort of risks are you taking and who does it affect?
When I solo travel I rarely go to bars and restaurants so, with the current climate, this sort of makes my travel safer. I tend to do outdoor activities too. In my 5 week Balkan trip I probably ate out about three times (way less than at home!). I was aware that I would be taking public transport when necessary although I tried to avoid this in the city and walked everywhere. Of course I’m not saying not to go to restaurants when abroad (it’s why we travel right?) but if you’re going to a high-risk area then you have to be aware of these things. The way I solo travel naturally reduces the risk for me.
It’s also important to appreciate that you are the one who has decided to travel abroad, so try to be as respectful as possible with people at home when you get back. Take some home tests if you can and even wait some time before visiting people, especially those who are considered high-risk. Don’t go on a two-week getaway in Mexico and then head straight to your grandmother’s house.
Travelling can be stressful at the best of times but during a pandemic, there’s even more to consider. Whether or not you should travel depends on you- how at risk you are, how flexible you can be, the cost of your trip (and how much you could potentially lose if cancelled) and even the number of people- travelling as a family at this time is a lot to deal with compared to solo travel. However, if you can do it safely and feel comfortable, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
From my travel experience in the pandemic, I’d advise three things:
- Listen to your gut. If you are worried sick about whether you should go due to a rise in cases or restrictions, to the point where you feel stressed, then don’t go. The trip can wait until another time. I had horrible feelings about my 2020 Georgia trip and decided not to go. At the time of my would be flight, I received an email that it had been cancelled anyway!
2. Find flexible options- flexible flights, free cancellation accomodation, use a travel agent etc. Essentially, any money you put into a trip right now is money you might need to be prepared to lose. Try to protect yourself as much as you can in case you need to change or cancel.
3. Be responsible- mask up, gel up and do some home tests!