Travelling abroad during the pandemic takes a lot more planning, preparations and money than usual. In the last few months, I’ve taken vacations from Canada to the US and Bermuda, and have stayed safe and healthy throughout my travels. After multiple flights, hotels and activities, this is a run down of everything I think you need to know about travelling during COVID 19.
Planning Your Trip
1. Get Changeable Tickets
It will cost you more but always choose the refundable or at least changeable ticket options. I got caught out a couple of times and had to change travel planes. One of the flights wasn’t refundable so I lost a decent amount of money. Don’t get caught out. It’s so much easier and cheaper to change travel plans if you have a changeable ticket.
2. COVID Testing
The COVID testing requirements are really specific for every country, and different countries require different testing. For instance Canada won’t accept Rapid Antigen but the United States will. Time frames also differ from 24-72 hours before arrival at destination.
For every vacation you will have to take a minimum of two COVID tests, generally at your own expense. You’ll need to budget for these as they are typically out of pocket expenses. The most I have had to pay for a test was $320 and the least was $150 so they aren’t cheap. You will pay less if you are able to go for the test results in 24-48 hour options.
3. Avoid Multi-Stop Flights & Long Layovers
Because of the strict timing requirements of COVID testing, if you book flights that have multiple stops and/or long layovers you could find that part way through your journey or at your destination your testing has expired. On my way back from one of my trips, I had to do a last minute PCR test which cost me over $300 because when I checked in for the next flight my COVID test had expired by a matter of hours.
4. Create An Emergency Plan
What would you do if you caught COVID during your trip and had to go into quarantine? Or you found yourself stuck somewhere abroad because you can’t travel back. Travelling during a pandemic comes with additional risks, so create an emergency plan or at least have some emergency funds available for a hotel just in case.
Tips For The Airport
1. Allow More Time For Check In & Security
Allow more time for check in, baggage drop off and security than you think you need even at smaller airports. With the additional requirements to fly and even just to enter the airport and the safe distancing everything now takes a bit longer at the airport.
2. Have Your COVID Test Results Ready
At all of the airports I flew from I had to show my COVID test results and/or proof of vaccination before I could enter departures. Have them ready to show on your phone or printed out.
3. Be Prepared To Check Your Hand Luggage
On every single flight I have been on during the pandemic people were asked to check their carry on luggage, and then it became mandatory for those seated towards the back of the plane. So be mindful of what you put in your carry on if you fly basic.
4. Eating At The Airport
Just like with checking in and security getting food or drinks also seems to take a lot longer. Wait times at eat in places and queues for take out means that you need to allow more time to eat if you can. Even with fairly decent time gaps between flights I wasn’t able to get anything to eat on multiple occasions due to queues or waiting for a table
Tips For Travelling Safely
1. Carry Hand Sanitizer With You Everywhere
Never go anywhere when you are travelling without some hand sanitizer or hand wipes in your bag. You will get the odd sanitizer on the planes but you’ll be glad of it in the airport and when you are out and about wanting to do things like interactive activities.
2. Always Wear Your Face Mask
Keep your mask on at all times in the airport and on the plane apart from when you are eating and drinking. I also wore my mask outside when I was in a big busy crowds to be on the safe side.
3. Pick Quieter Places In The Airport
In addition to social distancing, look for areas in the airport where there are less people, or lots of vacant seats where you can sit extra far away. I did this particularly when I knew I wanted to eat or drink.
4. Close The Air Vent Above Your Seat
It’s just another way of reducing the risk of catching the virus.
5. Drink Lots
Stay hydrated and drink regularly because humidity on a plane is only about 15% and you are more likely to catch the virus with a dry throat. Take a big bottle of water with you on the plane as regardless of whether its a long haul or short flight you never get given much to drink.
6. Sit At The Back Of The Plane
If possible, depending on your ticket type, choose seats at the back of the plane as there is more chance of sitting on your own rather than next to anyone. As one of the last boarding the plane you will also be able to see if any seats are still empty. You can politely ask to move to an empty seat row and the flight attendants generally say yes.
7. Using The Lavatory
Wash your hands straight after entering and before leaving as you will have touched your seatbelt, the lavatory door and probably lots of other things. Also use hand sanitizer when you are back at your seat.
8. Disinfect Everything Around You
Your arm rest, your table, your seatbelt as you have no way of knowing who was sat in your seat before you.
9. Use Nasal Spray Before You Board The Plane
A tip I read recently but didn’t do is to use a nasal spray before getting onto the plane. Apparently it helps to prevent spread of the virus into your system.
Tips For During The Vacation
1. Allow More Time At Attractions
You will probably find that there are large queues to get into attractions, and with social distancing activities may take you longer so give yourself a bit of extra time in between activities.
2. Have Proof Of Vaccination & Photo ID Handy
Most attractions, tours, bars and restaurants will ask you for proof of vaccination and a piece of photo ID before you can go in especially if there are indoor exhibits.
3. Plan activities well in advance and book them
As soon as you know your vacation dates, start looking at activities you will want to do. A lot of tourist attractions like museums, art galleries, Zoos, tours and anything government related now require reservations, typically in advance for a nominal fee as a way of managing numbers. You may miss out on things you want to see and do if you don’t book attractions weeks or months ahead of time.
4. Flexible Daily Itineraries
Things can and probably will change during your trip. Social restrictions are fluid, attractions are harder to get into, some places you want to see may be closed so you have to be open minded and ok with being flexible. I navigated this by reviewing my itinerary and bookings every morning, and then having back up plans for each day and activity just in case.
Overall travelling during the pandemic is very do-able, but you do need to be OK with spending more money than you would normally, and taking extra safety precautions. Most importantly you just need to travel with an open minded, knowing that anything could happen.
Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.