It is no secret that after over a year of pandemic-related restrictions, people are desperate to travel — especially after being essentially home-bound for so long. Many are optimistic that vaccines offer the potential to dust off their passport as soon as this summer or fall, but may seem unlikely in light of the shortage of vaccines and new lockdowns in Europe.
Having moved to Europe for work reasons in the midst of the pandemic and traveled internationally only a few times (when allowed) since then, we wanted to share our top five tips for travel during the pandemic, whenever that may become possible. We would hope it’s obvious that the overarching tip is to only travel to places it is legally permissible to travel after having complied with any necessary testing and quarantine requirements, and to be respectful and obey the laws in your destination.
1. Be willing and able to pivot quickly, and always have a backup plan.
Frequently check the rules for both your destination and place of residence for your return. From an outbound perspective, we recently had a trip planned to Florence. Within a week of departure, Toscana was reclassified to “orange,” so we planned a last minute trip to Rome instead. From an inbound perspective, a friend of ours recently returned from a trip to see her family in Morocco. They cancelled all of the flights to the EU the day after she returned. You cannot predict when rules may change, and it is therefore critical to have a backup plan for how you will get home if your flight or train home is cancelled, and what you would do if the testing or quarantine requirements for your destination or home country suddenly change.
2. Be sure to get a Covid test before you fly or take public transportation.
As noted above, we moved from San Francisco to Switzerland at the beginning of the pandemic. We pieced together a carefully selected itinerary to get here, based on the applicable laws and quarantine/testing requirements at the time. We had booked a flight on Delta from the United States to London. At the time, there was no requirement to have a negative test to fly on Delta or to arrive in the UK. Notwithstanding this fact, the Delta check-in agent intended to refuse us boarding without a negative Covid test and thankfully we had one.
3. Bring your own protective equipment and sanitizer to wipe down surfaces.
Even before Covid, we traveled so much for work that we made it a habit to fly with a travel pack of disinfectant wipes (we love these lavender scented ones) or a small ziplock bag with a few Lysol wipes to wipe down the airplane seat or the train table. We traveled so much, we just couldn’t afford to get sick. So now, we continue that practice. If you don’t have a wipe, you can even use a napkin and some hand sanitizer on surfaces.
4. Paperwork, forms, oh my!
Be sure to know what digital or paper forms you need to get to where you are going. As with testing and quarantining requirements, this can always change unpredictably. We have seen cases where the form gets updated weekly.
5. Be kind to people.
People have bad days or might be in bad moods, but just do what you need to do with a smile. Be thankful you can travel and if you have to take a test or wait an extra ten minutes for a table, that’s okay. You are where you are, you are fortunate to be there, and not everyone can be doing that right now.