Traveling abroad for the first time since lockdown? Read this! Traveling abroad twice since lockdown I’ve compiled all the ways to travel safely and responsibly during this time. Enjoy!
If someone told you what your 2020 would look like, would you believe them? Yep, me neither. But alas, here we are. In the land of unprecedented times, a total travel halt and enough regulations to make your head spin (and want to order a martini).
Being an ex-pat for 5 years I know all the feelings you get traveling abroad for the first time.
And as someone who’s traveled internationally twice since the start of the pandemic (Thailand to the USA and the USA to London), paired with endless conversations in the DM’s, the podcast, and beyond on travel plans I thought it best to round up the best way to move forward when it comes to travel.
Now, let me start by saying in the debate of “to travel” or “not to travel”, we’re all adults.
The situation will be here for the foreseeable future, so if you’re going to travel — I find it best to be safe, responsible, and informed rather than embarrassed and ostracized for your decision (something happening a lot recently).
So if you’re looking to go abroad in 2020 and beyond here’s my step-by-step guide to traveling internationally.
Traveling Abroad for the First Time Since Lockdown
Step 1: Research Your Country and Government Guidelines
Before you make any travel plans you need to see which countries are open…and welcoming.
Coming from the US this isn’t the easiest thing to do now-a-days, but as restrictions ease there are plenty of places that need to reboot their tourism industry and starting to welcome international arrivals. But, I think this is definitely where extra research is needed on your part.
Outside of seeing whether their borders are open are not be sure to check the news on the current situation and make sure you feel comfortable visiting beforehand.
The best resource for staying up to date on border regulations is definitely Wanderlust.co.uk. With daily updates on which countries are open it’s definitely worth tabbing for your travels.
Step 2: Check for Others Experiences
Next, you’ll want to head to social media. One of the best places to learn about first-hand experiences — if you want to see what it would be like to travel to a certain country in these times, search it on Instagram.
Simply go to the “Places” category and look up your intended destination. From there you’ll be able to get a curated view of experiences (and travels) currently happening in that country.
Now of course, this isn’t a full-proof way to guarantee what your experience will be like (it is social media after all) but think of it as more of a virtual prep for your trip.
Another way of doing it is simply Google! Travel bloggers have a unique opportunity to share their first-trips post lockdown — and if it’s to your chosen destination, you’ll definitely find some invaluable tips.
Simply type in the keywords — for example, “traveling to Croatia experience 2020” to lead to some great insights on others’ travel experiences.
Step 3: Never Book Again Without Rebooking Options
If you only follow one of these steps, let it be this. Do not, and I repeat (for emphasis) NOT book with any flight, hotel, heck, even a taxi without a flexible rebooking option.
I ignored this tip coming back from Thailand to the US in August and am still trying to get back a $500 uncovered flight. But hey, at least you can learn from my mistake.
Sites like Booking.com and Fareboom even filter your flight based on free rebooking and cancellations policies. So definitely make sure to turn them on before you browse.
Step 4: Stick with Airbnbs or Hotels (i.e, no hostels)
A reality of the situation is that you can’t guarantee everyone’s taking the same safety precautions you are.
Now, this is completely based on my personal opinion — but for peace of mind whilst traveling it may be best to book your own accommodation. This means avoiding hostels and sticking to options such as Airbnb or Hotels. Plus having your own place to come back to after being out and about will definitely give you added peace of mind.
Again sites like Airbnb or Booking.com will be your best bet for this.
Step 5: Plan a COVID Test, Before AND After Your Travels
Once you’ve got the practicals planned, it’s time to book your test. Now based on how booked up your local centers are, this may need some time planning. But keep in mind many countries that do require a test (Dubai for example) require a negative result anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before arrival.
Because of this, you want to schedule your test as timely as possible. Out of courtesy, it’s also best to take a test once you arrive back in your home destination.
If you cannot afford to take a test before and after your arrival and departure, I personally would reconsider traveling.
In the US – You can find community based testing sites here
In the UK – You can register for a free test here
Step 6: Get Travel Insurance
In addition to a great cancellation policy, you’ll also want to keep travel insurance in mind. Prior to the pandemic I would usually recommend World Nomads. Looking at the updated policy for COVID-19 I still think it’s a great option, just be sure to read the fine details beforehand.
Being covered for any medical or emergency situation is so important during a time like this. So above all, make sure you’re covered.
Step 7: Download the Track & Trace App
Many countries now have track and trace apps to keep on top of the situation.
As you may have noticed when you’re out and about, you have to fill in a form of two. Using a track and trace app — you can simply enter your details online once so businesses can quickly (and contactlessly) take your record quickly.
I’ll admit, I’m only familiar with the UK having an app like this (UK NHS Track and Trace) but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Check your chosen destination, and at minimum try to register any details they may need before your flight.
Step 8: Step up Your Packing Game
Flight time! If you’re taking your first flight post-lockdown, you may understandably be a bit nervous. To have a stress-free journey, make sure you’re fully-prepped for what’s in store before you go.
First off, keep in mind given the nature of the situation (although a lot lower now) there is the small possibility that your flight could be canceled last minute.
I don’t say this to scare you. But rather be grateful you have your rebooking option in place and to make sure you’re mentally prepped. With that said, flights become more consistent every day, so don’t worry too much.
For example, I got a notice my flight for London was cancelled when in fact everything was fine. Weird. Like I said, just something to keep in mind.
Be sure to pack enough masks, hand sanitizer and wipes for the duration of your trip and pack it in your personal item. At the airport, they make require you to wear a face shield for your international flight, but they’ll provide this to you.
Step 9: Support Local Businesses
You’ve made it! Now that you’re officially traveling again, it’s so important to support local businesses throughout your stay.
Big companies have a way higher chance of bouncing back while many small and local businesses have had to completely close their doors within weeks.
Because of this, it’s so important to use your dollars wisely during your trip and make sure you’re putting your money in the hands of the businesses that need it the most.
Whether it’s a bespoke walking tour, a local coffee shop or a mom and pop restaurant, a little in this time goes a long way, trust me.
Step 10: Share Your Experience!
Now more than ever it’s important for the travel community to stick together. Especially when it comes to getting back into the world safely and responsibly.
I for one think it’s well-worth it to share your experience with others. Whether it’s making a short video, writing a short blurb on your experience in a group or forum, or simply calling up a friend who’s thought about taking her first trip.
The truth is, people are traveling again. And with 10% of the world employed under the tourism industry, I do think it’s time to find a safe middle ground.
And we owe it to ourselves to pioneer safe ways to travel that don’t put a community at risk.
So if you’re traveling abroad for the first time, just know you’re not alone. Stay safe, stay courteous, support your local businesses, and above all, be kind.
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