As overseas travel begins to resume, I share my top tips for travelling during Covid-19 to help you on your way.
There is no doubt that coronavirus has changed how we live in so many ways. Simple every day tasks like grocery shopping and going to the gym have changed dramatically, and travelling during Covid-19 is practically non existant at the moment. However, many airlines have already resumed schedules, so we need to be prepared for the new way of flying if we want to enjoy our well deserved vacation.
In flight services will be limited and cashless, face masks will be mandatory, cabin baggage policies may change, priority boarding may no longer apply for many airlines, and this is all before we arrive in our holiday resort. I am not a medical expert, and can not guarantee immunity from coronavirus, but I hope my top tips will help when travelling during Covid-19.
1. Check entry requirements before you travel
With Covid-19 cases increasing all the time, countries are updating their entry requirements on a daily basis. Many European countries have adopted the EU traffic light system for travel. Some countries will require you to fill out Passenger Locator forms or health screening questionnaires online before you travel, (currently Greece require this to be filled out 24 hours in advance of travel), while others will accept paper forms on arrival.
Many European countries including Ireland and Spain, require PCR Covid-19 tests to be taken 72 hours before arrival. It is imperative that you check with the country you are travelling to before your departure to ensure that you are following the correct entry guidelines.
2. Check-in online
Try to limit the amount of interaction that is required with airline and airport staff. Most airlines have their own travel app which you can download easily from the App Store or Google Play Store. Check in on line or via the app and save your boarding passes to your phone. This will make security checks and boarding of the aircraft contactless.
3. Check airline baggage restrictions in advance
Many airlines will be changing their baggage policies. It is likely that that cabin baggage will be discouraged, as airlines will not want people standing in the aisles trying to place baggage in the overhead bins. However, most airlines should allow you check-in your hand luggage for free. Priority boarding may also give way for boarding in an orderly fashion by seat row. If you want to get off the aircraft early, pre-book a seat in the front row.
Currently (1st July ) Ryanair are accepting cabin baggage and priority boarding, however Aer Lingus are allowing cabin bags to be checked-in for free, and have postponed priority boarding in favour of boarding by seat row.
4. Allow extra time in the airport
There will be a limited in-flight service on most aircrafts. Lets face it, airplane food was never great anyway, and it is not going to get any better. I predict that there will be a minimum selection, probably without hot food choices and a limited drinks selection. I suggest getting to airport early, give yourself plenty of time to navigate security queues and enjoy a nice meal before you take off.
Airport shopping may be a contrast to your local shopping centre, especially if airport passenger numbers are low. Take time to browse the Duty Free shops, and remember you can always collect your shopping on your return. Make sure you visit the toilet before you board, as queues for toilets may not be allowed on board.
5. Purchase a large travel / hand bag to bring on board
With cabin baggage likely to be checked-in by many airlines, a large hand / travel bag will be essential on board. You will need plenty of space for extra supplies – food, masks, wipes etc – remember they need to weigh less than 100ml. It might be an idea to buy a bag that doubles as a beach bag to save on luggage space.
6. Bring plenty of supplies
Fill your large travel bag with plenty of face masks (they will be mandatory on board and probably in many other places when you arrive at your destination), bacterial wipes, gloves, food, and extra supplies for children if necessary. If you do manage to have a drink or food on the plane, you will want to apply a fresh mask. You may also wish to wipe down your tray table, so wipes will be handy to have. The limited in-flight service will be cashless, so make sure you have debit or credit cards with you.
Queues for airport restaurants may be longer than anticipated, and airplane food may be limited. It is always better to be over prepared, so bring plenty of food supplies, and remember to pick up some water in the airport terminal, after you have passed through security.
Add extra bacterial wipes, hand sanitiser and masks in your checked baggage too. Activities and facilities in your hotel may be restricted. Bring books, board games and download movies in advance – you may be staying in more than you might think. You have no idea what will be available in your holiday resort, so my advice is whatever you think you will need, double it.
7. Pre book restaurants and tourist attractions in advance
It is important to check the guidelines in the resort / city that you are going to. Some holiday resorts will require you to pre-book restaurants, pool times and even beach space. If there is a particular restaurant or theme park that you wish to visit, pre book it in advance to avoid disappointment.
8. Download travel apps before you go
As much as I hate to give this advice, if you download travel apps to your phone, it will limit your interaction with locals…. Google Translate, Google Lens and Tripadvisor will all help to find information about tourist attractions, restaurants etc, and many countries will have their own travel app with tourist advice relating to travelling with Covid-19 with possible allocation of space on beaches. Some countries have their mandatory locator forms available via their app too, this may mean you can present the online version on your phone when you arrive, rather than having to fill out a paper form.
9. Book car hire rather than airport transfers
Depending on the location of your accommodation, hiring a car might be preferable to using public transport or airport transfers. You may also wish to explore the neighbouring resorts on your own, rather than in an organised excursion.
10. Check your travel insurance before you travel
It is vital that you check with your travel insurance company before you travel to see exactly what you are covered for. Most travel insurance companies will cover you if you are travelling to countries on a ‘Green List’. Hower, flights will still operate to other countries, not considered as safe by governments. You will find that government advisory in place against non-essential travel will still be in place to selected countries. If this is the case, you are technically travelling at your own risk and your travel insurance will more than likely be invalidated.
However, all is not lost. If you are travelling within Europe you can get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will cover you if you need medical attention. If travelling outside Europe, make sure you have adequate funds incase you have a medical emergency or have to be quarantined due to an additional Covid-19 outbreak.
But most of all… Embrace change
View this post on Instagram
There is no doubt that travelling during Covid-19 will be a completely different experience to what we are used to. However, our experiences in our home country will be different too. Shopping, going to restaurants, bars and attractions will feel strange for some time, no matter what country you are in. Make sure you follow the public health advice, wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Remember, travelling isn’t just about discovering new places. Travelling is also about switching off work, enjoying family time, and doing things you don’t do at home. When you get to meet a family member that you haven’t seen for so long, or are relaxing on a Mediterranean beach, hopefully your trip will have been worth it….
For more information on travelling during Covid-19 read: recommendations from the WHO on international travel during COVID-19