One question we’ve personally grappled with over the past year has been whether it’s even ethical to travel right now. Watching travel influencers flit all about the world, maskless, and with seemingly little awareness that there’s a pandemic has left a poor taste in our mouths many a time. On the other hand, we run a travel business that was decimated last year, and if we’d had the opportunity to travel somewhere safely and responsibly to take on work, well, we probably would have taken it.
DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Back in ‘normal’ times, the only research you needed to do before you travelled was related to destinations, hotels, attractions and safety. Ahhh, those were the days! Now, it’s super important to understand the Covid-19 situation in your destination and what rules and restrictions apply to arrivals from abroad, as well as the situation in your home country, and what departure and arrival rules apply.
And by research, we don’t mean asking your favourite travel influencers for their opinion…. we mean checking the official government, insurance, and health advice for the most up-to-date and helpful information.
BOOK ADEQUATE COVID-19 TRAVEL INSURANCE
We firmly believe that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you really can’t afford to travel. As the current pandemic has taught many; things can go wrong and insurance is often the only way of mitigating the issues with minimal expense or stress for you.
Book with a travel insurance company that covers COVID-related expenses, like flight or booking cancellations, medical support, etc and be safe in the knowledge that you won’t be left stranded without any means of getting home safely.
So, you’ve done your research, your intended destination has opened for travel, and you’ve determined it’s safe to travel there. Woo! Now, with your decision comes great responsibility: Firstly, you’ve got to keep yourself safe. Secondly, you’ve got to keep others safe. Thirdly, you’ve still got to consider the usual basic travel issues.
The first step to take before travelling is to get tested. This is generally taken within 48 hours of departure. If you test negative (most countries require two negative PCR tests to enter – one pre, one on arrival), be on your merry way, safely. If you’re not, most require you to quarantine yourself for anywhere between 10 – 14 days.
After you arrive at your destination, follow the specified safety protocols of the destination. Remember, these could vary greatly from place to place, so it’s up to you to know what they are. Beyond that, wear a mask in public/busy places, wash or sanitise regularly, social distance where possible, and seek out quieter environments. When you return home, follow the quarantine and testing requirements of your home country. Overall, just remember to be a good human and respect other people, their health and safety, and you should be all good.
CHOOSE OPERATORS THAT FOLLOW COVID-19 SAFETY GUIDELINES
Choosing operators that follow stringent COVID-19 safety policies will truly make or break your travel (and health) experience. Whether it’s an airline that blocks the middle seat, provides face masks, and has flexible COVID booking policies, or a hotel committed to deep cleaning between guests and limiting capacity, seek out the tourism players that put your (and their employees) health and safety at the heart of their business right now. Now more than ever, choosing the travel providers who truly care about people and planet is vital.
TRAVEL LOCALLY OR AVOID MAIN TOURISM DESTINATIONS
Over the last few years, something we’ve come to love is visiting second (or third) cities and smaller towns, and travelling locally – it’s amazing what beauty exists beyond the famous tourism attractions. Obviously, there are many benefits to this type of travel – cheaper prices, fewer tourists, new and authentic experiences, the discovery of somewhere new etc, but in the time of a pandemic, it also helps reduce the number of people in popular destinations or attractions. This, in turn, reduces the chance of the virus spreading.
There’s also the economic benefits to smaller destinations that will no doubt have been affected heavily by the pandemic – by spending your money in local communities, you help small businesses sustain themselves too.
One downside of travelling locally is the risk of spreading the virus in communities that aren’t equipped to handle rapid outbreaks. Basically, this comes back to individual responsibility – follow all the safety measures and get yourself tested before you travel anywhere, even locally.
CONSIDER SHOULDER OR OFF-SEASON TRAVEL
If you’re not interested in slowing down your travels or spending a summer away from it all in nature, consider travelling during the shoulder or off-season. Shoulder season is considered to be the period in between the high and low seasons – so in Europe, it’s generally between March – June, and late September – November. Personally, this is our favourite time to travel, regardless of a pandemic or not. It’s cheaper, fewer crowds, better availability, cooler weather… and particularly during COVID it’s a win-win in every sense of the word.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR PLANS
Plan your travels, yet remain flexible. You’ll likely need to change plans at some point – You need to be able to roll with the punches and adapt. We generally like to be spontaneous on the road, yet, spontaneity, at least for the time being, is done for. We recommend planning your travel itinerary more thoroughly than ever before, including accommodation, transport, and food, while also allowing for flexibility.
For instance, book accommodation for the duration of your stay, but have a list of backup accommodation in different areas just in case. Research attractions, food etc. before you arrive so you are aware of opening times, entry restrictions/protocols, and any other hidden information.
Add a room in your budget for things to go wrong, so that if your flight gets cancelled and you need to shell out for an Airbnb or another transport option you’re not stranded. Depending on the type of holiday, we also recommend renting a car, as this will allow for greater flexibility.
As with travel before the pandemic, we recommend preparing for your travels as best you can. First up, pack all the ‘new’ travel essentials such as:
- Multiple cloth face masks (there’s zero need for disposable masks)
- Hand sanitiser – this plastic-free option is perfect
- Eco-friendly wipes
Focus on eco-friendly options to benefit both yourself and the environment; the amount of discarded masks we’ve seen in both nature and cities is despicable.
Finally, we recommend downloading contact tracing apps in your home country, and destination, which can help inform you of any close contacts. We hope this guide on how to travel better in 2021 has been super useful and will allow you to travel safely throughout the year. Fundamentally it’s all about individual responsibility, so while we do hope you travel, we hope you do it safely and respect not only yourself but those around you.