What’s different, what to think about and what to pack…
It was 2 months ago I wrote about my first trip after lockdown. Which could still be useful and relevant if you haven’t ventured away yet. I was going to update it but after 3 trips, a lot of hindsight and a more variety of experiences I feel this requires a whole new piece… I’ve even thrown in some of my favourite inspirational quotes on my best travel pics (I apologise in advance to those who hate such shmulsh 🤣)
Deciding whether to go
We are all in turmoil of what we can do, should do, shouldn’t and actually can’t do. There are some clear parameters and with them then some ever changing guidance, rules and even laws – it’s a minefield. Even travelling in the UK has its own boundaries. So choosing to get away anywhere this year was not a decision that I took lightly. If you are reading this, then nor are you but clearly it’s also important to you. So what ‘should’ you do and where ‘should’ you go?
There’s been a massive push and even pressure, to stay in the UK and give to local tourism a boost. Which if you could have afforded it, could find any availability and enjoy UK then brilliant. For those at high risk there hasn’t been a choice. For those who work in travel it’s been devastating. And for everyone else utter confusion. We went from only being allowed to leave home once a day for exercise to the next – we can fly to Spain! Today not only is it allowed but it’s safer for me to fly to the Maldives than it is to go Manchester. 🤯 Is it any wonder people are struggling to know what’s the right thing to do.
Initially it seemed to be summer staycations was safer but then you see photos from UK beaches and residents of tourist traps begging us to stay away. And was it safer or right to move around the UK any more than it was and is to go abroad? Trying to navigate that has been so hard for so many including me. Initially it didn’t seem right or feel right to do anything but was that just fear? Fear or intuition?
Fear can paralyse and can also trick you, it’s intuition. (Excellent article here on that if interested) For me it turned out to be fear. Fear of being that person who is asymptomatic and spreads it, fear of judgment, fear of getting it wrong, fear of getting sick, fear of so much right now, including fear that life won’t ever be what it was, that we had worked so hard to create for ourselves. So ironically with all that going on, getting away seems even more needed. And that’s not even including all the usual factors of stress, over worked, relationship breakdowns, illnesses, bereavements – of why people need a break from the day to day.
So when deciding only you know what you’ve been through and what you need. Only you know what level of risk you feel you can handle or perceived risk there is. Only you know what will help you at this time. There are rules and guidelines to follow and so if it’s allowed, it’s really up to you to decide. It won’t be the same if you go but I hope the below will help manage those expectations so you can then make an informed choice.
Change of rituals
Part of the fun of travelling for me is booking a few months ahead, extensive research, plotting and planning (sometimes in fact often alongside another trip(s) then the packing plan, excitable texts with my travel buddies. Putting that well earned out of office on. Posting I’m off on social. An early afternoon flight so time to have a lazy morning, arrive for lazing in the lounge, bubbles before boarding…. and high in the sky… arriving for sunset dinner and adventures ahead and more posting!
For me that experience has well and truly gone (for now). I knew it would have. I vowed not to travel till it was 2019 again. But it slowly dawned on me this new normal isn’t temporary. Even if we go ‘back’ it could be years. How much or many of these new changes will stay? Everything is unknown. So it became clear I could either wait till things go back, if they go back, or I could actually try adjusting my expectations.
I will caveat here that not I am not in a high risk category needing to shield. But I have been. Way before 2020. 4 times, 4 different reasons I’ve cancelled dream trips for hospitals stays and quarantining when the world was out enjoying itself and it was hard and lonely. So for those either physically or mentally unable to go anywhere right now. I really do get it. Those experiences though, have shaped me for the better and why I surprised myself even going once at this time but those challenges also taught me tomorrow isn’t promised so grab opportunities while you can but only if you can, safely and it’s right for you. 💙
For me, gone are the days of booking way in advance. To be fair I haven’t done that much except with my aussie crew (yes many I missed coming over for adventures this year) so I have decided, for now, not to book in advance. Like most people I have had trips cancelled and lost money this year but where I have had travel wins was being ready to go last minute. I appreciate that’s not possible if you have kids or tricky boss and there’s always the last minute risk = too expensive/ no availability.
Its a gamble but I decided was better than booking and losing more money. But then there are those of you who had holidays booked in July / August and you were part of why I felt ok to go and why I don’t want to book. The tricky choice faced was go but it felt too soon / wrong and I saw, people were quite judgy but if you cancelled, no insurance covered ‘disinclination’ so you’d lose a holiday and no money for another. I imagine there are many trips right now that are like that, as we all had a hope late autumn this would all be over. (Even my theatre night ‘with the neighbours cast’ was re booked from March to October (yes 30 years on I still am addicted) is now a we will let you know!’ So many rebooked holidays won’t now be allowed but others are back on the market so its decision time! Again.
Panic, anxiety and possibility of cancelling
Be prepared for a coronocoster of emotions (if you are anything like me!) and only a little excitement before boarding. Panic, fear and anxiety is the new exhilaration for travel! It’s a lot to go through to get away. So you need to know this is right for you.
The first trip I expected my travel buddie to cancel in the morning. On my last trip I nearly did. 3 hours before our flight I was genuinely in such a state questioning my decision. Was it ‘wrong’ when some people round the world can’t leave their homes but I know what I would say to me – GO or it’s almost a waste you being allowed and not. But we aren’t dealing with rational normal times.
All the trips I have done I have almost held my breath from leaving home till I was at the hotels. My first night away I had nightmares that track and trace would call. The third trip I was convinced someone from the plane would test positive on the random testing. (That fear was real – I even took my work laptop in case I was hauled up somewhere for two weeks alone.) So be prepared for unexpected emotions!
So now moving away from emotions to some practicalities…
NEW things I packed!
Yup I’ve managed to do all my trips so far just on hand luggage but there’s been a need to squeeze some new things in… You might want to add to your packing list!
1. A lot of Paratamol in case of a fever
2. Masks – they say 4 hrs is the length one lasts for.
3. Anti bac – a small one if only taking hand luggage but can buy more airside
4. Work laptop – in case of quarantine while away
5. Pens – new forms can just appear at airports both Italy and Gibraltar we had to stop and do more forms unexpectedly
6. Thermometer because… it’s 2020🌡
7. Cushion for the flight – they have now removed these.
8. Food – so far all 6 flights have not offered any more than a cookie, crisps and small water. Last flight there was a trolley with juice but very limiting. Also many small airports abroad nothing is open. (You can’t open duty free on board so it’s no bubbles on board unless I heard you are in fancy class!)
9. Own pillow cases (I didn’t but it could help feel safer)
10. A negative test whether you need one or not. See below.
New things I did and thought about:
1. What’s my closest airport so minimise travel / avoid public transport. I live by Heathrow so usually Gatwick is as easy an option too but for now stuck to Heathrow.
2. Where is direct to fly to minimise travel (this ruled out some places)
3. Where has minimal transfers (Gibraltar you can walk from the hotel across the runway!)
4. Who to fly with, I usually go BA as they are mainly heathrow but a few budget airlines I usually would consider, I didn’t. I found everyone on all 6 BA flights were all compliant to the rules, very respectful and accepting. I have heard that isnt the case on all airlines, worse airline staff having to have confrontations with passengers to wear a mask.
5. Masks are mandatory there are no exceptions unlike you have in England. (Am sure if there was a medical reason you could call in advance and ask and bring a letter etc) so how long did I want to be wearing one for. How did I feel wearing one in hotels and even outside. (The latter wasn’t a holiday for me so avoided those places, the rest I knew would be fine as I had done so here in restaurants etc) I also started with my first flight at two hours, next three and last one four.
6. Tests for entry. I deliberately chose countries you didn’t (then) need a negative test on arrival as I had heard stories of the results coming back too late or not being accepted. I also heard stories of those opting for countries with free testing on arrival but the risk for me was too high. Here’s a great example of why I’d have paid for the test here. However despite not needing one I decided to pay £175 for one, to ensure I was Covid free partly for my sanity and partly to be responsible in case I was asymptotic.
7. Forms – I was constantly checking the latest guidelines as for the 3 differnt places there were different needs. And some have already changed since I went. In total I did 8 forms, some paper some electronic, some within specific time frames too. For Greece we had a form that needed to be completed 24 hrs prior. BA checkin crew said she’d had to send 10 families/ people home already that morning who either hadn’t done or done them wrong. So check before you book.
8. Online check in – was disabled for 2/6 of my flights as they wanted to check forms. So make sure you get there early, even if just with hand luggage. And if you need a particular seat, pay in advance for it as when check in is disabled you can’t access the seating anymore.
9. Book for restaurants, day trips etc in advance or at least email to check they are open. Some will be as normal – Gibraltar I booked a dolphin trip on arrival and was on the boat a few hours later. Some only do bookings, no walk ins and some haven’t reopened. So if you are returning to a place familiar to you, be warned that many places won’t have opened or have limited/ changed hours. And if you are going somewhere for their site / famous restaurant etc email ahead to check they have reopened this year and if you need to book.
10. Booking a day off after you get back. I’ve flown back from Miami straight into work before now when annual leave and money was low even though I love a few days at home in a bubble before work starts. For me this was really needed at this time. Even if you lay by a pool for a week – you might be surprised how exhausted you are on return.
Staying Covid safe
You will find safety standards varies but that’s the same at home. Some places feel safer than others. All staff, everywhere I went wore masks and hand sanitizer was installed in all hotels I stayed at. Hotel rooms have never been cleaner (lets keep that!) and boarding off an on a plane never so civilised (also lets keep that!) click here for more on that.
Italy was by far the best for masks indoors, temperature checks everywhere whereas Greece guests didn’t have wear masks in the hotel and in Gibraltar and Greece you could try on clothes. Greece and Italy had screens and servers for the breakfast buffet whereas Gibraltar only did table service now. I suspect this will be out of date within even a few weeks but just be prepared and ask and most importantly it’s also your own personal responsibility to wash / sanitise and not touch your face.
Arriving at hotel
So it’s emotional and exhausting getting there but once you arrive in your hotel ALL the above washes away and with it your usual stresses … there’s a real pinch me, OMG we made it/ really here. There’s a new found appreciation and you’ll be amazed how you soon relax – doesn’t mean you forget and or relax the rules or stop sanitising but somehow seeing the staff spraying a sun lounger helps you chill that bit more. But mostly like any holiday, trip, adventure pre Covid, to get away from whatever you are dealing with at home, pressure of preforming at work, or dealing with job hunting, caring for a relative or just caring for yourself. Priceless.
Returning home is different too. Firstly there is a little niggle while away, what if one of you wakes with symptoms. Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with that but yes had packed my laptop in case. So returning home whilst theres the usual come down it’s over feeling, there’s also a small sense of relief you’ve made it there and back with no drama.
Even unpacking for me changed. I used to be that person who was showered, unpacked, presents lined up, glass of Prosecco, on the sofa organising my photos within an hour of being home. Now I found I stand at the front door and just strip off jumping straight in the shower. Proceeding to leave everything for day or two and falling straight asleep…
Last thoughts …
Would I do it again … one million percent yes… cause for me life is about making memories, expanding through experiences, spending time with special people who challenge you, support you and love you and right now you can’t do that as much. So for me, it’s about grabbing opportunities safety, while you can and being in a warm climate, preferably on a rooftop by the sea! 😉
But for others reading this you might now decide to wait. It’s what is right for you within the framework of what’s allowed.
Hope this has helped. Email or DM me on insta should you need any more info. And Bon voyage if you go!
Ps if you do make it don’t forget to fill in your PLF on return (though am sure in a few weeks this may be out of date! So check check check!!!) lots of love Fee Bee Xxx
For more on my first thoughts after my first trip… click here
For details of the trips I’ve take since lockdown and before… click here
For rooftops round the world … click here