As overseas travel begins to resume, I share my top tips for travelling during Covid-19 to help you on your way.
I can’t wait to get on a plane again. I long for beach days, balmy nights, and can’t wait to discover new places! However, there is no doubt that travelling during Covid-19 will be different to what we were used to. Testing will be required if you are not vaccinated, face masks will be mandatory in many places, in flight services may be limited and cashless, cabin baggage policies may change, and attractions will need to be pre-booked.
I recall when the requirements for bringing liquids on board changed, and thinking we would never get used to these clear plastic bags and 100ml bottles, but guess what, we did! I have no doubt that we will adapt to traveling during Covid-19 too, but check out my top tips to prepare you for your journey.
1. Check entry requirements before you travel
European countries have adopted the Digital Covid Certificate, and Ireland will follow suit on the 19th of July. While this will enable us to travel more freely within the EU, it is important to note that each member state is free to adopt their own entry requirements, and these can change at any time. 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. Aer Lingus and Ryanair have entry requirements on their website to all destinations that they fly to.
Negative PCR or Antigen tests are required for non vaccinated visitors to most countries. Ireland will only accept PCR tests, while Spain, Portugal and many other countries will accept rapid Antigen tests. The age from which children are exempt from testing varies from country to country. There is separate policy for travel to and from the UK too, with additional quarantine measures currently in place in Ireland.
Most 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. You could be denied boarding if these are not filled out in advance.
2. Check baggage restrictions & 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 online or via the app and save your boarding passes to your phone. This will make security checks and boarding of the aircraft contactless.
The Digital Covid Certificate can be stored on your phone as a QR code – details on where and when this will be available will be coming shortly.
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. Aer Lingus are currently charging €5.99 to bring cabin baggage on board, but will allow you check it in free of charge.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Bring plenty of supplies
Fill your large travel bag with plenty of face masks (they will be mandatory on board and in most 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.
6. 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.
7. Pre book tests in advance for outbound and return journey.
Ireland requires that all non-vaccinated arrivals produce a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Check with your hotel to find out the closest testing centre, and make sure they can offer a certificate / QR code that can up uploaded to the Digital Green Cert. Ryanair have locations of testing centres to all routes that they fly to on their website – see here.
There are many testing centres located in Ireland but make sure to check if they country you are travelling to will accept PCR or Antigen tests, as the price and time when you can take these before travel varies. Currently PCR tests are available in Ireland from €69 with Randox.ie, while Antigen tests are available from €29 with Gosafe.
9. 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. You will find that if government advisory in place against non-essential travel 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.
Remember 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
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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 are different too.
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