As the travel industry is slowly bouncing back, I know there’s many of us itching to get on the road again, but it might come with some uncertainty. I have compiled a list of some tips and hacks for travelling safely during the COVID-19 era.
Before you go
- Do your research!
Research which countries are actually open to you. Not all countries have completely opened borders yet, and some have restrictions based on which country you reside in. You should also use this time to study what the entry requirements are; historically it used to be as simple as “Do I need a visa or not?” but now there are much more detailed entry requirements and it’s worth knowing exactly what they are beforehand.
- Plan for a covid test
If you need a COVID test before you go, make sure you know how long before your flight you will need to obtain it, and which specific type. Some countries specify a maximum time in hours from arriving in the country to when you are able to take the test, so ensure you leave enough time to get results. Likewise some places require a RT-PCR and some may just need a rapid or self home test. If you have any questions, it’s worth it to check with the associated travel or tourism board directly well in advance.
- Find a good cancellation policy
If there’s anything I’ve learnt during this pandemic, it’s that cancellation policies are paramount to a stress-free vacation. While you’re choosing an accommodation, make sure you pick one with a cancellation policy that could fit any last minute changes that could occur due to the pandemic.
- Book flights with free changes
A lot of airlines have waived change fees for the time being, APART from basic economy tickets, so when booking your flight, make sure you’re booked into a cabin which has at least waived change fees. Update : I recently got an email from United Airlines stating that you can now pay to upgrade from Basic economy so you at least have some wiggle room. This could all change at any moment, so please check with the associated airline before booking.
- Follow updates on social media
With all the regulations and entry requirements changing so frequently, I’ve found it incredibly useful to follow the tourism boards and government pages of the appropriate country on Facebook. It may sound nondescript, but these pages are usually the first to announce new updates, and you can modify your settings so that you get sent a notification when there’s a new update or live video.
There are also various travel groups on Facebook which have proven useful in connecting with our travellers who have recently gone through the entry requirements of a certain country. Try searching for “travel *Belize*” or something similar into the search bar, and then narrow down to groups.
- Buy travel insurance!
This is the most important step on this list, and I cannot stress it enough! Make sure you choose a travel insurance that covers the pandemic, the wording on the websites can be confusing so it’s well worth calling or emailing the customer service to ensure you’re covered for what you want. Such things that would be useful to be included would be – coverage if you or other members of your party test positive before flying, or coverage if you test positive in the country and associated fees with having to quarantine in said country.
Bear in mind that some travel insurances won’t cover you if the country you are traveling to has been assigned a level 4 by the CDC, so make sure you double check that before you go.
Another good add on to get is “cancel for any reason” insurance, this means you usually get back about 75% of your associated trip cost if you cancel at least 2 days before your departure date. This can literally be for any reason at all, it’s a great feature to have, however it usually comes with a supplemental fee. Please be aware that there is usually a time restraint on when you purchase this, you usually would have to buy this within a couple of weeks of making your first deposit on the vacation.
- Plan for your departure
Even if the country you’re going to doesn’t require it, it’s probably best to get tested before you go. Not only will it give you peace of mind that you’re not unknowingly potentially passing it on to anyone but it will make you breathe a bit easier if you have to test on arrival (even though it’s obviously still posible for you to become infected after you test).
- Plan for return COVID testing
If you have to test before flying back home, research different places where you can get tested beforehand. If you are going to a large resort, some of these are actually offering free tests onsite, or at least for a small fee. Some hotels are even offering free quarantine if by any chance you test positive. These are all things you should consider when booking future travel.
- Plan extra time at the airport – be it checking in, layovers and on the other side. This is especially true if there is paperwork and COVID tests that need to be verified; this all takes time and manpower. Be patient and just plan for things to take a bit longer. Airlines are short staffed at the moment with the surge in travel taking place, so please be kind and tolerant of any delays.
- Follow the guidelines of the country you’re in, there may still be mask mandates and curfews in place.
Before you come home
- Depending on which country you are returning to, you might have to take a test before arriving back home. If you are coming from the United States, the CDC website has a list of approved tests and the timeframe you need to abide by.
- The BinaxNOW home test might be an option, it’s a very convenient COVID-19 test that you would order before going abroad, take it with you and then perform the test over video chat and be supervised by a medical professional. Results are available within minutes. Please check with the appropriate governing body to see if this test would be appropriate for you!
Other tips and tricks
- Avoid booking through a third party
I highly recommend booking flights and accommodation directly with the hotel/airline as opposed to through a third party. From last year in my experience it’s been so much easier to reschedule or request a refund when you are contacting the hotel or airline directly. I have heard horror stories of people still waiting for refunds 18 months later when booking through a third party.
- INSURANCE COMPARISON WEBSITE – https://www.squaremouth.com/
- CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html
- BINAX NOW AT HOME TEST – https://www.abbott.com/corpnewsroom/diagnostics-testing/BinaxNOW-NAVICA-and-united-book-your-travel-now.html