Worried about traveling abroad again? Here’s how to go on vacation abroad during a pandemic
Previously, booking a vacation abroad was pretty straightforward – it was all about choosing the best beach or the cheapest package.
But it has become much more complicated because of the Covid.
While many of us are relieved that we can travel again after months of pent up frustration, the thought of going all the way still seems daunting.
Safety, logistics and ethical choices are at the heart of concerns. Here we address some widespread concerns …
Be honest, how clean are planes really?
From sticky fingerprints on trays to chocolate wrappers stuffed on the backs of seats, planes get a bit of a bad reputation for cleanliness.
Lately, one of the main concerns shared by travelers is the risk of catching the Covid in a confined cabin space.
Concerns about the dangers of inhaling “recycle air” are compounded by the fear of being stuck in germ-breeding ground.
But the reality is very different. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), cabin air is changed between 20 and 30 times per hour, which is 10 times more than most office buildings, which means it’s probably safer to getting on a plane than checking in for a day’s work.
As for the air you breathe on board, 50% is fresh air and the rest is high efficiency particulate air with 99.993% of bacteria and viruses eliminated. HEPA filters have been installed in airplanes for quite some time and are also used in hospital operating rooms.
The seating configuration in airplanes also helps; with everyone facing the same direction, the seat backs act as barriers and air circulates up and down. All airlines still require passengers to wear masks – additional insurance – and passenger movement is kept to a minimum.
Is it better to travel with a tour operator?
With more and more businesses going online in recent years, some travelers have made the move to booking elements of their vacations independently. But the pandemic has shed light on why the role of the travel agent is more important than ever.
Abercrombie & Kent, which has been selling vacations for over 60 years, emphasizes the value of their flexible booking policy.
All new bookings made before the end of this year for travel before December 31, 2022 may be changed or postponed for Covid-related reasons up to 15 days before departure.
They also have their own global ground support network – rather than relying on third parties – which allows them to better handle rapidly changing situations while allowing for a faster response time.
When choosing an agent, check if it is bound by ABTA and has an ATOL license. ABTA (The Association Of British Travel Agents) protects land-only, cruise or coach holiday bookings from the UK, while ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) covers flight and hotel packages or flights only.
ABTA ensures that its member agents protect their vacations by law. ATOL protection means that if a travel agency goes bankrupt, you will get a refund or be able to complete your trip at no additional cost. Find more travel information and advice at packpeaceofmind.co.uk and abta.com.
What happens if my pre-departure test is positive?
This is everyone’s biggest worry: what if I catch Covid abroad? Anyone who tests positive will need to follow a country’s individual quarantine requirements – even if you don’t have any obvious symptoms.
Tour operators can help you reschedule flights and extend stays, but they are not required to cover your costs.
This is why it is more than ever essential to have travel insurance. Look for policies that include pre-departure cancellation if travelers test positive, emergency medical care and repatriation if they contract the virus while traveling, and any contributions to quarantine costs.
If you are going on holiday in the EU, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to access public health services.
How do I know where I can go on vacation?
Restrictions are probably the biggest hurdle for anyone traveling at the moment, with each country setting their own requirements. First of all, it is important to determine which countries are open. The UK traffic light system shows which destinations can enter the UK without quarantine, but you will also need to check if the same destinations allow UK travelers to travel.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website (www.gov.uk) shares details for each country, while IATA has also created a quick view map where you can click on each destination to find all the information necessary for entry (iatatravelcentre. fr // monde.php).
Airlines are another useful resource. Most have a section detailing up-to-date information on each destination they sell.
I’m afraid of the shame of the trip. Is it irresponsible to travel at this time?
Throughout the pandemic, when travel was severely restricted, anyone who dared to cross international borders was subject to the “travel humiliation” – feeling guilty for going on vacation or working abroad. There were accusations of travelers bringing variants into the country and anger that some people were able to move around freely while others were stuck inside – not helped by the footage of reality TV stars and bloggers on “work trips” to Dubai.
Whatever the motivation for whining, it’s a different situation now. As restrictions ease and people start to move, there is growing confidence and acceptance of travel. So there is no need to hide vacation plans or turn overseas visits into a covert operation.
Vaccination and testing requirements to enter most countries are quickly reducing the risk of further fueling the pandemic, and anyone still worried about having a negative impact should reverse the argument and consider how much travel can be beneficial. Many poor countries – especially in Africa and Asia – rely heavily on income from tourism, and often the long-term damage from lost income is just as pernicious as Covid-19.