15 November 2020
By Spencer Selhi
Facing the prospect of a mid-pandemic winter, many among us are dreaming of escaping to warm, COVID-free enclaves. Although our dreams might not match reality anytime soon, it is possible to safely travel. If you do choose to go somewhere - either for work or pleasure - a little homework beforehand will go a long way towards making the trip as good as it can be.
First off, make sure you understand the situation for your destination and any intermediate stops. You can always find the latest information by checking the World Health Organization / Federal Centers for Disease Control / Public Health Agencies. Once you have a better understanding of the regional and local situation, you’ll have an easier time adapting to local laws and regulations (which change frequently). If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to confirm entry and quarantine requirements well in advance. Many countries require travellers to possess the results of a recent COVID-19 test, be screened on arrival, or enter quarantine.
When booking transportation, accommodations, etc, know that your plans may be forced to change. Airlines, car hire, and hotels have amended many of their policies due to the pandemic, so make sure you book with brands that offer the most flexibility. For local transportation, taking public transit / taxi /Uber, etc is not as simple as it was pre-pandemic. Services often run below their pre-COVID capacity, and social distancing may be difficult to impossible. Although it may not always be practical, a rental car is the safest option for local transportation.
If you’re planning to hop on a flight, you won’t have as many options as you did a year ago. Where air carriers are doing everything they can to keep travelers safe and minimize disruptions, the situation remains dynamic. Although not as common as early in the pandemic, changes can happen as airlines consolidate flights to minimize their losses. Prepare yourself by expecting inconveniences, and be prepared for prolonged periods where social distancing is not possible.
Once you arrive at your destination, take comfort knowing most hotels have changed their room cleaning habits. As well, many brands have implemented additional measures such as ensuring rooms remain vacant for 24 hours before new occupants arrive. Unfortunately, services and amenities such as gyms, pools, and restaurants may have restrictions or be closed, so confirm what is (and isn’t) available before you book.
If you’re able to explore, local attractions such as museums and cultural organizations are implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection and overcrowding. See if you can book ahead online, and reserve timed entry slots if they’re available. Also, look for downloadable audio guides or podcasts to get the most from an attraction while still minimizing the coronavirus risk.
On the topic of risk, travel insurance used to be an afterthought for many travellers. Unfortunately, it is now something that should be considered for every trip, along with thinking through some worst-case scenarios. What would happen if you or someone you’re traveling with fell ill while traveling? What if someone close to you at home is diagnosed with COVID-19 soon after your departure? Lend a few moments of thought to some possible scenarios before packing your bags - you might decide to take an extra item or two with you.
Finally, it’s important to have a post-travel plan ready. Stock-up on non-perishable essential items before you leave - you never know what you’ll be coming home to!
What have your pandemic travel experiences been like? Please share them in the comments section below, or send us a quick note: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe, and Travel Thoughtfully,