I have been on the road for a month now…and it’s a whole new world.
Not only has travel changed but it is constantly changing…some places you need a mask everywhere indoors, some places only in stores. There are forms to be filled out to enter some countries. Some require pcr tests within 48, 72 or 96 hours of arrival. As Covid cases rise and fall borders are closed and opened to people arriving without notice. I’ve been changing my plans regularly and spending a fortune to have someone poke a swab up my nose.
Here are my top tips:
- Print EVERYTHING. I’ve been asked to show my various papers about half the time. Even when I haven’t been asked, border control has asked the person behind or next to me to show everything. I’ve noticed officials don’t like to wait while someone tries to find the requested document on their phone. More than once I’ve seen people told to go stand at the side until they are organized. Remember, this is not fun for the customs officials or check in agents either.
- Get to the airport early. It might be deserted, and you’ll be cross with me, but I haven’t seen that yet this summer. Every airport I’ve experienced has been packed, a zoo, and total chaos. No one seems to know what they are doing, lines are long, there aren’t enough staff and the ones who are there are exhausted. Papers have to be verified before you check in and before you board. Or they don’t have to be. Sometimes you need to remove your mask, other times you are looked on in horror for suggesting it. You never know. Occasionally it seems to be based on which line you are in.
- Check, check and recheck the rules. I was just about to buy a train ticket to Scotland when Italy changed the rules for people arriving from the UK, introducing quarantine if you’d been there in the last 14 days. I have to be in Italy for a can’t miss trade show. I scrambled to buy a ticket to Paris instead, paid a fortune for a 4-hour pcr test and found a hotel near the Madeleine. No complaints, Paris was wonderful and way less crowded that usual. But…keep checking!
- Be flexible. The situation everywhere is still pretty fluid. And case numbers keep changing. I’m advising you stick to one country this summer, visit an off the beat area, try somewhere new even in a country you know well. Once you get there you are likely to be ok and just have to worry about the rules to go home. All the tourist boards I’ve talked with want tourists to come, especially fully vaccinated ones. They are trying to keep things easy and safe for everyone. Buy tickets you can change. Read the small print.
- Be prepared to pay more. Anyone thinking Europe is going to be cheap this summer will be disappointed. Hotels, restaurants and museum are all charging full summer prices. Sometimes services seem less efficient than pre-covid. It’s because everyone is dealing with ever changing protocols. If your mini bar is empty, it is not because the hotel doesn’t want to provide this service; it’s because the city, the country or the chain doesn’t allow it.
- Use a Travel Advisor. I’m not saying this to drum up business…BUT …We have access to timely information and on the ground connections. It really does help.
- You catch more flies with honey than with being a demanding pain. Be patient and be kind. The person on the other side of the check in counter, the menu, the podium is frustrated too. They are dealing with bitchy cranky confused people all day long. They have fewer resources than in the past; they too are trying to keep up with constantly changing rules. Trust me, a little kindness and humour goes along way. They will really appreciate it and may even give you an upgrade, a free dessert or waive you through customs. I experienced all three.
I honestly can’t tell you how much I am enjoying traveling now. Things are less crowded ; you can get tables at restaurants you’d normally need to book moths in advance. Yet, it is not without the occasional hurdle.