Last year, I wrote a post on luxury travel trends for 2020, an article that turned out to be one of the most popular I have ever written. As a travel lover, I like to keep on top of what is going on in the industry; what countries are doing something a bit different, how people are travelling, what exciting new hotels are opening and the general future of travel.
Well, we have all been thrown (no matter from where in the world you are reading this) one massive curveball and I didn’t for one minute expect to have spent the last four months barely leaving the house. Consequently, rather than contemplating where I will travel next, it’s when, how and whether I’ll be even able to.
However, as a habitual planner and with the restrictions starting to ease in many places around the globe, the time has come where I can start to take to the road/skies/beach again and I, like many others, am trying to work out how I will be adapting my travel after quarantine.
When Can I Travel Again?
There is no definitive answer here but in brief, three things need to happen. The first two are fairly straightforward and largely out of (most of) our hands; the country you reside in and the country you want to travel to both need to lift their travel restrictions and deem it safe to travel between the two countries in question.
The third element is a bit more complicated; you need to make your own decision about what you feel is safe and responsible for you to do. Given that no one individual’s circumstances, attitude to risk or decision making process are the same, this is a unique and personal choice.
Here in the UK we were allowed to travel domestically again as of 4th July and on the 10th July, we are allowed to travel within a given set of “travel corridors” for non-essential reasons without having to self isolate for 14 days on our return to the UK.
Side Note: I currently live in Leicestershire, the one county in the UK that has had their quarantine extended by 2 weeks after a spike in cases through June, which means that I still cannot travel for non-essential reasons.
While the lifting of the non-essential travel ban is AMAZING news, for the most of us it doesn’t mean we will be running to the airport, hopping on a plane and jetting off as if the first half of 2020 never happened.
The easing of restrictions just moves the choice to you as an individual to work out as to how and when you will travel and that isn’t necessarily a straightforward decision to make.
The Environmental Impact of the Pandemic
While the most obvious line of discussion here is how not to get the virus or unintentionally spreading it when travelling, as well as what to expect going forwards, there is another dimension to this as well.
The global crisis has had some unexpected consequences on the natural world; the carbon emission reductions have been dramatic and the world over there have been stories about animals returning to natural habitats, increased breeding among protected species and flora and fauna recovering in sites that are usually overrun with tourists.
While the sustainable travel movement is nothing new, there is nothing like seeing real live results in such a short space of time to drive home the effect we have on the planet and how we can go some way to having a more positive impact when we make a return to travel.
This is most definitely an opportunity to travel with a bit more thought and purpose, for both ourselves and also the external impact that we have.
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How Will the Way We Travel Change?
There is absolutely no doubt that the way we will travel will change and after my initial panic moment when I realised this, I actually think it will be, for the most part, a positive thing.
Some of the changes will be in direct response to the pandemic, but others I think will be more indirect, a result of us being a bit more mindful when we leave our homes, because we have all been reminded how lucky we are to be able to.
Travel, All Travel, Will Become a Luxury Again
One thing that has been hammered home to me during this world crisis is that travel in all of its forms is a luxury and not one to be taken for granted, something if I’m being honest, I have done my entire life.
Never has my travel been restricted and I honestly didn’t think it would ever be any different. I doubt I am alone in this way of thinking and I suspect that this renewed sense of appreciation for travel will lead us to do so in the future with a bit more purpose and gratitude.
A Shift to Domestic Travel & Staycations
Due to the environment of airplanes being very conducive to the spread of the disease, boycotting the flying experience is likely to become very popular in the first instance.
This a great opportunity to explore your home country, something that many of us travellers can forget when we get all starry eyed and swoony over that tropical beach on the other side of the world. If you need a little reminder or convincing, have a read of the benefits of a staycation here.
Travel Bubbles & Travel Corridors; What’s the Difference?
After domestic travel, many of us may have the options to move within a travel bubble (I love this phrase!) or travel corridor.
A travel bubble is an agreement between countries with similar virus control procedures and/or infection rates deemed to be at an acceptable level to allow the flow of people between them without restriction or the requirement for quarantine.
A travel corridor is similar, but refers to the countries or territories a country allows its citizens to travel to for non-essential reasons and receive visitors and citizens from without restriction (e.g. a mandatory quarantine on arrival into said country).
The Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia created the first travel bubble between them as of 15th May and Australia and New Zealand are in talks to develop theirs, as well as Greece, Cyprus and Israel also considering opening one up between them also.
The UK government went (unexpectedly in my opinion) full throttle and released a list of 59 countries deemed as having a low enough risk of contracting the coronavirus to open up non-essential travel to without having to undergo the mandatory 14 day quarantine on entry to England only (from 10th July). This isn’t as simple as it may first appear though, which I go into later.
Less Demand for More Popular Tourist Destinations
This has to be one of the biggest positives for the world community as a whole; one of the longer lasting impacts of this pandemic is that it may well result in a dramatic reduction in over tourism.
People are continually drawn to places they hear people talk about and pictures of online all the time, a.k.a the most visited places in the planet. Now, the thought of jostling shoulder to shoulder with a couple of million other tourists, generally in already crowded cities should make 99.9% of travellers run for the (uncrowded) hills (literally).
This is a great opportunity to discover some less obvious places which will not only help support the local community, but will help slow or even reverse the negative impact on culture, nature and heritage that over tourism brings.
I have also found that I enjoy my travel experience so much more when I am not constantly fighting crowds and you may too!
An Increase in Slower & More Sustainable Travel
One of the biggest positive consequence of the travel ban has been the huge reduction in carbon emissions from the lack of planes jetting around.
However, I do not believe that stopping flying is the answer to sustainable travel. There is so much more to sustainable travel (or slow travel) than cutting carbon emissions.
Tourism plays a critical role in economies around the world and the development of poorer communities. For this reason, I do not think that we should stop flying, but have a greater awareness of where we choose to travel and to whom our money goes to.
Related Post: Slow Tourism, An Immersive Travel Experience
Which Countries Are Open & Safe to Travel To?
This is an absolute moving feast that changes on a daily basis, with moves both backwards and forwards. First things first, you need to check your government’s travel advice and safety warnings as every country has different rules on where you can travel to and from.
UK Travel Rules
For the UK (never ones to make it simple) this means you have to consult two different lists. The first one issued by the UK government is the list of 59 travel corridors due to open on 10th July (the countries that are exempt from the UK quarantine rules) and the second one is the list released by FCO of 67 countries that British travellers can visit for non-essential reasons.
Side Note: The list of travel corridors is only applicable to those arriving into England (rather than other parts of the UK) for long and complicated reasons I won’t go into here. The FCO list is applicable to all UK passport holders.
It took me a minute to work out the difference between the two lists, but basically if a country is on the second list only, the UK government will allow you to travel there for non-essential reasons, but you will need to self-quarantine for 14 days when you arrive back in the UK.
The final piece of the puzzle is then ascertaining whether the countries that are on these lists will even accept travellers coming from the UK and whether they are required to isolate for 14 days on arrival. The UK has been one of the worst hit countries and are still, understandably, regarded by many to be high risk.
Not exactly straightforward is it! Just to add a bit more complication, you then need to find an airline that is flying there and I would recommend you check whether hotels/restaurants/ beaches/the things you want to be doing there are even open.
Oh, and this list can be changed at any point, so you could book a somewhere now and find in a month’s time you can’t go, either because the UK has removed it or the country you are going to has reinstated their ban on travellers arriving from Britain.
Top Tip: The government that issued your passport is likely to have an impact on where you can travel to and from, regardless of where you are located now. Check out this story from an Australian passport holder residing in the UK that was denied boarding at the airport for this very reason.
How Will Flying Change?
As someone who has always believed in enjoying the travel experience as much as the holiday itself, it really does pain me to say that I suspect that it is going to be a while before I enjoy flying again.
Airlines have been and will be continuing to implement policies both to protect their customers and crew, but also to try and recoup some of the substantial losses over the last few months. Some of these include;
- A requirement to wear a mask both through the airport and on a flight
- No in flight bedding provided
- Not filling middle seats
- No meal or beverage service provided
- Flexible rebooking options
- Reduction in flight service
- Temperature checks before boarding
- Reduced airline services
- Changes to the boarding procedures
While safety is, and should be, the most important factor here, it has come at a cost to comfort and convenience and these poor airlines needing to cut their costs somewhere.
I would be surprised if we don’t see an increase in flight prices or a devaluation in loyalty programmes (I am heavily invested in the BA one) at some point to help combat this. When you couple this with a severely reduced business and first class product and I suspect a general feeling of uneasiness when travelling, I’m going to think twice before booking my next flight.
However, if we were to look at the upside, if flying becomes a pain the behind, it may well result in people taking fewer trips but for longer durations, which reduces the amount of planes in the sky and by extension, carbon emissions.
How Will Hotels Change?
As a hotel lover, it pleases me to say I don’t think this experience will be as impacted from a customer perspective as much as flying, particularly for people like me that tend to choose smaller and more boutique hotels rather than those huge all inclusives with a buffet for breakfast that resembles the crowds at Disney World.
Actually, I think this will give me personally an even better experience as most hotels will be enforcing social distancing and I do love a bit of peace and quiet when I go away (not a party lover over here!).
What Changes Should We Expect?
It all starts and ends with a higher standard of cleaning throughout the hotel, with many of the larger or higher end hotels even appointing dedicated “Hygiene Officers”. Steps are being taken to reduce touch points with the rollout of lots of contactless initiatives such as mobile check in and digital keys.
Room service is likely to become more popular as restaurant capacity numbers are forced to decrease to main social distancing. Hotel staff will all be wearing PPE and the amount of space you are going to have to yourself is going to be the most important “amenity” in your hotel stay.
On the flip side though, everything that is required to be touched by multiple people is going to require thorough cleaning and I wonder whether this might mean a return to single use plastics. You may have noticed that as sustainability has become an increasingly more important part of many hotel’s strategies over the years, tiny toiletry bottles have become increased less common and plastic food coverings virtually unheard of. However, the disposable nature of things like these may mean a re-introduction in order to support the renewed focus on cleanliness and hygiene.
It will be interesting to see how sustainability and cleanliness will coexist in the many industries going forwards, but in the case of travel, which has already suffered so badly, how much these additional requirements are going to cost them and by extension, us.
Related Post: For an alternative to a hotel, see why I love a good family villa holiday!
Should I Take Advantage of Post-Pandemic Travel Deals
Well, take the P word out of it and it is exactly what it says, a travel deal and you know I always say yes to those!
It would be an understatement to say that the tourism industry has been hard hit in the last few months. They will be understandably desperate to keep their businesses afloat and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a big influx of travel deals designed to help them do just that.
If you are allowed to travel (both from the country you are residing in and to the country you want travel to) and have personally decided that you are comfortable travelling again given your personal circumstances, then I think taking up these travel deals is absolutely fine.
I have heard some rumblings that it is verging on exploitation, which I personally don’t agree with. The people running the company are the only ones that truly know the state of their business and best placed to put in place a strategy to revive it. They won’t run the deals if the negatives don’t way out the positives.
It could also mean the difference between someone booking to go away or not; I think it’s fair to say for the most part we are also likely to be a bit worse off and not have as much disposable income as usual.
Tips for Booking Travel/Checklist
Ok, so we’ve talked about all the hurdles when deciding when and how to travel, but when you’ve worked that out, there are still a few things you need to think about to protect yourself in these uncertain times.
Get Access to the Travel Resource Library for a Free Post Quarantine Travel Planning Checklist & Guide
Can You Get Travel Insurance
This is a biggie for me, I never travel without it. I live in the UK so get access to “free” healthcare, however this means if I don’t have it in place and I need emergency medical treatment abroad, it is very likely to cost me an arm and a leg.
And this isn’t a “have a lean month when I get home” cost me,” this is “I need to take out a loan and I’ll be paying this off for at least years” cost me. Having seen doctors bills crop up on a couple of my trips to the States, it is genuinely terrifying how fast they can rack up.
The current situation has made it even more critical that you have travel insurance and in the UK, most providers have stopped selling cover and the ones that are, do not provide cover for any claims that are due to coronavirus.
With FCO now announcing that they deem their select list of countries “safe” to travel to, in theory we should be able to get travel insurance to visit these places. I have an annual policy up for renewal in August and am interested to see how much it is going to cost me…watch this space!
Obviously this will vary by country, so check the situation where you are, even if your country lifts any travel restrictions, it won’t necessarily mean you can get a comprehensive travel insurance policy, so I would recommend checking this.
Lots of companies are offering free changes and/or refunds for trips that are booked now, check the T&Cs before your book (and screenshot if you want to be extra safe).
While I personally am not currently considering travelling internationally until I can at least get an adequate travel insurance policy, I have booked a couple of staycations later in the summer and into autumn. If the travel restrictions continue or are reinstated and I can’t go, I can then just move to a later date without losing any money.
Book with Credit Card not Debit Card
Booking with a credit card gives you some additional legal protection if you purchase something and then the company dissolves or doesn’t deliver what was promised.
I do not know how or if this works given the current situation, but it is always a good idea to consider putting at least large purchases on a credit card to get this additional protection.
I have had a few issues over the years, both travel and non-travel related and have always been surprised at the level of assistance my credit card companies have given me; in every circumstance I have had a refund within days.
Consider Booking with a Travel Agent
I love travel and planning, put the two things together and I am VERY happy! However, there have been circumstances where I have had a travel consultant book for me; be it a particularly complicated trip or I don’t have enough time, or even if there is a particular hotel I want to stay at or experience I want to book that I can’t get tickets for. My travel agent has almost always been able to sort it for me and very often with some decent upgrades or a discount.
Why Travel Agents Come Into Their Own in a Crisis
Given the current situation, I would consider using one to book everything for you; not only should they be ATOL protected, they will have lots of industry knowledge and contacts at the country you are travelling to.
They will know where is likely to be safest to go and which airlines and hotels are doing the best job at putting in social distancing/limited contact measure. Not only this, if something goes wrong, you make one phone call to them and they will sort everything for you.
When the global recall happened and everyone scrambled to get to their home countries, travel agents around the world worked like crazy people to get their clients home safely. I sat next to a girl returning from her first trip to Europe on my way to New York shortly before lock down happened and she had decided to book a new flight home (which cost her $2,400 one way) as she couldn’t get hold of her airline to change her flight.
Top Tip: Go for an independent travel advisor (often called travel consultants); not only are you helping to support a small business, I really appreciate that I get to build a relationship and speak to the same person. If it is an emergency, they generally will always be on the side of the phone sorting you out. It is their business, so they are invested in giving you the best experience so you are more likely to book again.
A Coronavirus Amenity Kit
I haven’t found an all in one kit you can buy yet, but you can make your own instead. Ovation Travel Group are giving these ones out to their customers that include alcohol wipes, hand sanitiser (both with the correct level of alcohol to actually kill germs), mask, tissues and a forehead thermometer.
My Plans for Travel
I am quite a spontaneous and not a particularly risk adverse person, but I am not planning any international travel this year. My decision doesn’t come from a fear of getting sick as I am lucky enough to be in very low risk category, but rather that there is just too much uncertainty for me and with the travelling process likely to be a chore, I just don’t feel particularly motivated to leave the country (I can’t believe I am actually saying this!).
So far I have cancelled trips to Scotland (I am supposed to be there right now), Greece (due to go next week) and New York next month. Instead I have opted to book a cottage in The Cotswolds for a week in August as I am DESPERATE for a change of scenery.
I have booked with Character Cottages as they have a lovely looking selection, very reasonable prices for the summer holidays and a booking policy that allows me to reschedule free of charge if lockdown is reinstated (which I am praying it won’t be).
When I Plan to Travel Internationally
Realistically, January 2021 is the first date I will be looking to book an international trip and I am likely to do it relatively last minute to minimise any potential change in the situation that means we have to cancel; looking too far into the future seems impossible at the minute.
We are planning to return to Knysna, a town on the famed South Africa Garden Route where we spent 3 weeks earlier this year, but with that comes some complication. It is a looonnnggg trip; 12 hours to Johannesburg from Heathrow where we take a 2 hour internal connection down to George, hire a car then drive for another hour.
Why For Me It Is Not a Simple Decision Just to Travel Again
Having chatted to a couple of members of family I am planning to take this trip with and assuming that we are allowed to travel there with no quarantine requirement either side (which we currently aren’t), a few concerns came to light.
The first issue we identified is wearing a face mask for our travel time of 24 hours. The maximum amount of time I have worn a face mask so far is just over an hour. It was hot, uncomfortable and itchy.
The next one is as discussed earlier, that flying is unlikely to be a particularly pleasant experience. On top of that, for a flight of that length we would be looking to fly business class, which has currently been severely downgraded.
While we didn’t rule out going by any stretch, we did acknowledge that we probably weren’t going to enjoy the journey and as we are travelling for pleasure rather than necessity, the only way we would potentially look to suck it up would be if we went for longer, to make the trip “worth it” as it were.
Very interesting chat and as someone who loves travel, I never thought I would ever have any hesitation when it came to deciding whether to take our trip or not.
Final Thoughts: The Future of Travel After Quarantine
There are no two ways about it, travel is returning and we are now at that point where our governments are giving us back the decision making power to choose to travel or not, which leads many of us into a whole area of grey.
While all the signs are pointing towards travelling being much more complex, restricted and therefore more expensive, particularly for high quality travel, I don’t think this is going to be smooth sailing for the travel industry or the customer.
What I do know is that for those of us that loved travel in the past, we will find a way to adapt to what the future looks like. Change is generally a positive thing if you choose to embrace it and this presents us with a really great opportunity to think about how we have travelled in the past and how we want it to change in the future, for both ourselves and also the external impact that we have.
What are your thoughts on the future of travel? Do you have any reservations about it and how are you approaching booking your next trip?
Please check with your local government and health authority on what travel restrictions apply to you and how to travel as safely as you can. Remember to also check with the government that issues your passport, not just the country you currently reside in!