After more than a decade of travel writing, I’m pretty used to hopping on a plane or train at the drop of a hat. Pre-pandemic, work trips and holidays would take me abroad at least 10 times a year, and I always maximised my time off by taking advantage of overnight flights and Bank Holidays.
So you could be forgiven for thinking that in July 2020, when international travel became a possibility again after the first lockdown, I would be among the first out of the gate. Except, even though I was writing about holidays every day, I wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge when restrictions finally lifted.
Vaccines weren’t even a blip on the horizon then, and there were still a lot of travel restrictions in place. Plus, with a family member in the shielding category, it didn’t feel like the right time. In fact, I waited until the end of September 2020 to take my first trip.
Choosing holiday destinations for post-pandemic travel
Trentino, a mere two hours’ flight away in Italy, broke the seal for me. The mountainous region was somewhere I had explored virtually during lockdown, and its verdant landscape captivated my imagination.
Despite the fact that you can explore Lake Garda on one side and the Dolomites on the other, it’s not a hugely popular destination for Brits. It meant that by the time schools started, there was hardly anyone around – perfect for a socially-distanced getaway to soak up the great outdoors.
And I’m so glad I did, because all of those lovely things about being on holiday came flooding back. There was laughter over the dinner table, walks in serene green forests, and great wines to boot.
Plus, with all of the social distancing and other restrictions in place at the airport, on the plane, and on the ground, people were so much more polite and courteous to each other. It was the first time in months that I felt relaxed.
A trip to Dubai after the second lockdown
So after the second lockdown, I had no qualms about jetting off again. This time, the destination was Dubai, where infection rates were low, the sun was shining, and it was one of the few places left on the travel Green list.
Before the trip, I was apprehensive about wearing a mask for seven straight hours, not to mention the increased risk of catching COVID on a longer flight. But the fact that everyone had to be tested before travel really helped to alleviate my concerns.
I also made sure I was super prepared by bringing wipes, sanitising gel and spare masks to change into during the flight. And in fact, I ended up returning with more masks, wipes and hand gel than when I left because they were handed out everywhere, from the airport and my Emirates flight to the hotel and restaurants.
And of course, I had a great time. With balmy temperatures upwards of 25C, I made most of the sun that I had missed for much of 2020. Many people were still hesitant about going on holiday after the lockdown, which meant that some of the most popular tourist sites in the Emirate were practically empty. Throw in plenty of alfresco dining and soft adventure, it was just what I needed to get through lockdown number three.
Unwinding on holiday after lockdown
By this point, it won’t surprise you to learn that I was raring to go after the third lockdown ended in spring 2021.
The Portuguese island of Madeira beckoned. It had barely 100 cases of COVID but the local government still made sure that tourism workers were the first to get vaccinated to reduce the risks of transmission to both the islanders and visitors.
And for a blissful long weekend in May, I hiked its levadas, did yoga in the forest, enjoyed spa treatments and ate to my heart’s content. The only downside was the extra testing, which certainly added to the stress and expense of the trip.
Changes to holidays since COVID
After almost two years of the pandemic, the way I view travel has certainly changed.
Given the constantly shifting restrictions, I’m making sure to get away when I can. And when I do travel, I make sure I stay for longer, combining remote working with a getaway so I don’t have to take as much time off work but can still justify the added cost and admin.
It’s still stressful navigating all the travel restrictions, testing and paperwork of course, and the rules are not always clear, but these hurdles should not stop you from travelling during or after the pandemic. You also have to familiarise yourself with the local COVID restrictions – for me, none of these have been much more onerous than the ones in the UK.
But the trip on the other end? It has always been worth it. In fact, I’m already planning trips to the USA and Mauritius for spring!
Tips for travelling during the pandemic
- For peace of mind, book a package holiday. If the travel company cancels your trip for any reason, such as if the Foreign Office changes its travel advice, you’re legally entitled to receive a full refund.
- Book with a reputable travel company. Ones with ABTA and/or ATOL certification have generally been better at offering refunds on time during the pandemic.
- Look for flexible booking policies. These mean you can amend or cancel your break without losing your deposit, as long as you do so before the deadline. Some have dedicated COVID clauses that allow you to cancel or reschedule up to the day of travel if you or someone in your group catches COVID before your trip.
- Get travel insurance with COVID cover that’s suitable for your situation. Make sure you read the fine print as some only cover medical emergencies while others will also cover costs if you have to curtail or cancel your trip due to COVID.
- Before your trip, make sure you know all the entry requirements. Holidays after lockdown are now seeing more relaxed measures put in place. But sign up for the Foreign Office’s travel alerts, so you can keep on top of any changes. You can also check with the relevant embassy just in case.
- Make sure you take all the wipes, hand gels, and masks you might need, because even though many airlines and hotels provide these, you don’t want to be caught short.
You can read more about what it’s like to travel after the pandemic in our guide to safer travel after the coronavirus lockdown.