With discretionary travel becoming something to look forward to once again, the tourism and travel industry as a whole is constantly evolving, along with the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look toward a brighter tomorrow with the vaccination rollout in many countries and near-elimination thresholds being met in select places, we trust that it won’t be too long before travel is once again attainable. Still, we must not forget that the whole world is a new, ever-changing environment due to the lasting effects of the pandemic, and we must make every effort to protect ourselves, our fellow travellers, the communities we visit, the communities we return to, and every life in between when making the decision to travel. This protection pertains not only to health and safety, but also financial and scheduling aspects such as insuring our travels, booking flexible/refundable trips, and having contingency plans in case of cancellations, border closures, public health outbreaks, and more. My top pieces of advice are below.
1: Protect Yourself and Your Community
When traveling, regardless of departure point or destination, keep hygiene at the forefront of your mind. Wash and sanitize your hands and frequently touched surfaces often, avoid touching your face, and please WEAR A MASK! It’s important that when we travel, we consider not only our own health, but the health of those around us, especially the elderly community and essential workers we encounter along the way. Remember, it’s not everyone’s first choice to expose themselves to these conditions- many workers must travel or work in these environments in order to support their families, not for leisure.
2: Research Your Destination and Adhere to All Safety Recommendations and Restrictions
Be sure to research your destination well- masks may be mandatory in certain settings, lack thereof resulting in hefty fines. Alert Traveler is a great resource! Also research restrictions before making grand plans, as they may affect them heavily. Book your excursions directly to get the most up-to-date information for particular sites and venues, and avoid not getting a spot if capacity thresholds are set.
3: Pay the Extra $xx for Flexible Cancellations, Refundable Deposits, and Travel Insurance
While it used to be ‘pointless’ to some to pay extra for flexible cancellation/date changes and travel insurance, many of us saw how helpful these could be last year. Things such as border closures, public health outbreaks, quarantine requirements, or even social unrest that we have seen heightened since the global lockdowns are all factors that may make it inadvisable (or even impossible) to commence with your trip. We have seen many businesses and airlines work with consumers regarding these situations, but many still make it difficult with shrink wrapped terms and conditions where the liability falls on the customer. For example, the requirement to quarantine for 14 days on arrival may not be an option for you, but from an airline’s perspective, this is not an inability to travel- it is a simple change of mind due to personal inconvenience. Some companies that do work with you may only offer future credits, partial refunds with loss of deposits, etc. No one wants their money tied up this way, so better to spend an extra few dollars for the deal with the highest protection when booking things like flights and accommodation.
4: Have a Staycation Instead!
The best and safest option at this time is not to travel. Still, if anyone feels the need for a relaxing getaway every once in a while, it’s me for sure! But that doesn’t mean you have to fly across the country or indulge in an international getaway just because you can. Book experiences in your own town, or take an hour-long road trip out to the next largest city and spend that extra flight money on a cute AirBnb and some luxury dining! Pitch a tent in your backyard, grab a friend and take a train or car out to a national park for a day of hiking, or find a big mall/museum to explore in a nearby city and book a stay at the local hotel. These little trips can still be tons of fun, and may make it easier to avoid exposure to others. There’s so much travel we can do without actual travelling too much, so find the minimalist in you!
Best of luck to all as we navigate this new world, and remember to wash up, mask up, and think of others! <3