A 5-step guide to booking your first pandemic trip abroad
It’s been a tough year or two for Canadians, but now that the pandemic has started to subside and travel restrictions are slowly being lifted it’s time to start planning your first pandemic holiday or business trip abroad. Although travel is still possible, there are more precautions that need to be taken before you set out on your first pandemic trip. However, with proper planning and preparation, you can still enjoy your time away from home on holiday or on business.
This article will provide information for consumers and businesses planning their first trip abroad, with tips about travelling safely in light of the pandemic’s effects.
1. Evaluate where you can go
The first step in booking your first pandemic trip abroad is evaluating different destinations and their various travel restrictions and requirements.
While restrictions are being lifted or lightened in many countries, there are still some that require certain precautions and procedures before you can enter their borders.
If you already have a list of preferred destinations, here are a few things to consider before booking your holiday or business trip there:
- What are the entry requirements for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers? What forms do I need to fill in, do they need to be on paper or on an app, do I need to get tested and, if so, what forms of test are acceptable.
- If I need to connect through another country in order to reach my destination, do the answers to the question above change and are there an additional set of rules for connecting passengers?
- What vaccines are recognized by the local authorities? Are mixed vaccines acceptable? What are acceptable proofs?
As it stands, there is very little coordination or regulation when it comes to international vaccines standardization, so simply being vaccinated is not a free pass to fly where you like without restrictions.
It should also be noted that, in federalized states like Canada and the U.S, as well as counties within a political collective within the E.U, what applies in one state or country does not necessarily apply in another.
- If there is a Covid-19 outbreak, how quickly can I leave the country and are there many flights available? What coverage does my holiday insurance give me if I catch Covid-19 and what are the rules and conditions offered on my airline ticket and does the insurance or airline cover these exceptions?
2. How much will it cost and what are the hidden costs?
There are usually hidden costs with every vacation and the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions have increased those costs. Some common hidden costs to look out for include:
- The cost of testing. Current trends are that most countries will allow travellers to enter if they are vaccinated and if they can provide a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old.
However, these tests do not come cheap; the cost for a PCR test in Canada is around 150-200$ per person.
Depending on your destination, you may be required to take these tests before entry and before returning and potentially every ten days if you are staying there for a longer period of time.
If your destination changes to be a high-risk list while you are away, you may be required to quarantine, which could have employment implications.
- Extra insurance costs. Your travel insurance costs will take into account the conditions in the country you are flying to, but also the condition of any country you are passing through.For instance, connecting through a country like the United States may end up driving the cost of your insurance up and sometimes that cheap ticket may end up costing you more than you think.It’s also worth understanding what exactly your travel insurance covers as getting hospitalized in another country can be hugely expensive.
3. Protocols and safety at your destination
Once you’ve evaluated the travel restrictions and any additional costs, you need to take a closer look at your destination to understand what safety restrictions and protocols are in place that might impact your vacation or business trip.
Common overseas safety protocols to consider include:
- Is there a curfew? Curfews can be a real downer if you are late dinners and enjoy the nightlife. Make sure you check the local jurisdictions to find out if a curfew has been imposed.d
- Is there a limit on the number of persons in restaurants, museums, gyms, tours or any other public space and do I need reservations?
- Is there a health passport program or app? Many countries operate a testing certification app that allows admittance to public spaces, such as France’s Tous Anti Covid app.
- How difficult is it to get a PCR or Rapid Antigen test for my potential destination and what is the timeline for obtaining results?
- Are locals vaccinated? Are hospitality employees considered essential workers and fully vaccinated? Vaccination rates still vary significantly country by country, so don’t assume that emergency workers are vaccinated, always check first.
- What is the current state of hospitals at my destination? Can they handle non-covid related cases or are the hospitals swamped?
- How is the health care at my potential destination? What is the nearest country where I can get evacuated in case of need for emergency care?
- Are the establishments endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council or do any have other stamps of approval ensuring high health and globally standardized hygiene protocols?
4. Is my money safe?
Depending on the scale of your trip, it can be a significant outlay, so you’ll want to make sure that the money you’ve paid out is safe despite the constantly shifting travel restrictions.
Some factors to consider include:
- Check if any of the particular airlines you are using have been cancelling flights in large amounts or imposing new flight schedules that could make you lose out.As the industry gets back on its feet, many airlines are opening new routes, only to realize that they are short-staffed and can’t operate those flights because of a shortage of qualified aircrew.
- What is the frequency of flights to get to and from my destination?This is important for two reasons: If you need to get back home quickly, can you?If your airline cancels your flights, can you be rebooked on any other flight and not miss out on precious holiday time or an important business meeting or even worse lose a night or two in a non-refundable hotel?
- What are my passenger rights if I travel on a Canadian carrier vs a European one or American? Treatment of passengers and level of difficulty dealing with finding solutions when things go wrong vary greatly according to which carrier and bill of rights the airline must abide by.Choosing your flights carefully can save you a lot of time, money and headaches.
- As all travel insurance policies now have Covid-related exclusions, you need to make sure that whichever airline, tour operator, or hotel you’d booked through gives you the option to rebook those arrangements if necessary.
Most are offering “free” changes to bookings, although it should be noted that they are only free if the price isn’t higher for the new date.
However, it is still best to check how much notice you have to give and how long the window for rebooking will be to make sure it covers your needs.
It’s also worth noting that you normally only be able to get a refund if the company itself cancels your flight or if the rules of the ticket allow it.
5. What is your comfort zone?
After being isolated and told to stay away from crowds for more than eighteen months, every traveller will need to evaluate if they feel comfortable in crowded settings again.
Is the high-density all-inclusive in Cancun a good option for your first holiday or is a socially distanced low density destination like Costa Rica the best option for easing yourself back into travel? How will you feel with a face to face meeting with your colleagues?
The queues and delays at some airports can also be an issue.
Currently, some airports like Toronto Pearson, waiting 3-5 hours to deplane on certain days has become standard and you can expect the same level of overcrowding and delays at airports in major tourist destinations.
Try to select flights that are not in peak times and avoid the long waits until airports are fully operational again and the flow of passengers can be properly handled.
Same goes for hotels where it may take longer to obtain services from staff due to shortages.
Most of all, patience is a virtue.
Getting back to travel
While it is fantastic that certain restrictions on travel are being lifted and people can once again start travelling abroad, travel is by no means as easy as it was pre-pandemic.
There are a new host of considerations to take into account when planning your travel. However, with the help of our five-step list and a little perseverance, you’ll be off on your first pandemic trip abroad in no time!