It’s July. I haven’t set foot on an aeroplane so far this year. This decade in fact. I’d usually be cautiously counting up my remaining annual leave days by this time, wondering how I can make them stretch a little further. Instead I’m wondering how I’m going to be able to take my full allowance. Nothing’s stopping me from taking holiday of course. But for someone who loves to maximise those annual leave days for travel, the idea of wasting valuable time off fills me with dread.
But there are signs – small signs – that the tide is turning. Some of my favourite European countries are tentatively opening up to tourism. I have a strong itch in my Skyscanner finger to check flights. I regularly check the FCO Travel Guidance website to see where may be opening up. This is the opposite of back in March, when I was frequently checking to see where was closing down.
But at the moment, the world may not be opening up to UK travellers. Whilst cases and fatalities of COVID-19 may have settled on something of a plateau, there are still new cases and fatalities every day. Countries that have worked hard to try and eradicate the virus may not welcome travellers from countries that are tentatively stretching a toe out of lockdown.
So we look to travel within the UK. But with recently well-documented footage of overcrowded seaside resorts and litter-filled beaches, even these have to be selected wisely. And at present, even the borders to Scotland and Wales remain closed to us as the English government seek to forge their own path out of lockdown.
No-one can be sure at the moment what the future of travel will look like. Whether people will rush to book trips when they can, or whether they will bide their time. Whether far-flung holidays will be a thing of the past, or whether people will baulk at the idea of spending hours in an aeroplane. And will those Instagram hotspots still be so desirable if the perfect photo for the grid means you in a facemask? Here are a few ideas of how travel may change in a post-COVID world.
We have become used to quick weekends away on a whim. A couple of European city breaks a year, thanks to the boom of cheap flights. But as the travel industry seeks to fight back from the devastating economic costs of COVID-19, travel may no longer be as temptingly affordable. And as tragic the impact of coronavirus has been, there is no doubt that the environment has enjoyed the break from the high levels of air travel related emissions. Going forward, it may be that we consider those destinations that are high on our travel wishlist rather than whatever flights are being offered cheap by airlines.
Staying in self-catering accommodation will generally mean less shared areas with strangers, and will often give the flexibility to cook and prepare your own food if you’re still not comfortable eating out. And if you’re travelling in your own country (and by car) you may want to provide your own bedding and towels. However, don’t discount hotel chains as many will have adopted stringent changes in light of COVID-19 and will seek to give you peace of mind.
All of a sudden, hand sanitiser, anti-bac wipes and face masks will become part of your essential travel kit. But you may also start to pack other items that previously you may have relied on your accommodation for. Some accommodations are removing toiletries, or switching to disposables. We are all trying to reduce our single-use plastic usage, so if you plan on taking your own toiletries with you, please let the accommodation know beforehand that these are not required to be supplied to your room.
Road trips will become more desirable as an alternative to mixing with others on planes or trains. Even within the UK there are many routes which will take you to beautiful and varied destinations. We’ve enjoyed road trips in the US, Canada and in Europe, particularly the freedom and flexibility it gives us. Destinations and your itinerary will need to be carefully considered; for example, city parking is expensive and navigation can be tricky. If you’re planning on hiring a car, then please ensure you check the precautions taken by the rental company to ensure that the vehicle has been robustly cleaned and sanitised between customers.
Want beautiful beaches? Amazing hikes? Delicious food? Mountains? Lakes? Vibrant cities? Then yes, the UK can offer all of these. And if the weather is kind to us, then there are plenty of outdoor activities for those that crave nature, space and social distancing. A key part of returning to travel will be exploring the areas in which we live, supporting the economy in areas that rely on tourism, and hopefully finding some hidden gems in the bargain.
Just before the proverbial hit the fan I wrote this post all about how 2020 was likely to be the year of the UK staycation. How right I was. Travelling locally will be our main focus for the rest of the year. Barring any localised lockdowns, or the dreaded potential “second wave” we have a couple of trips in the diary. A cottage booked with Ma and Pa Lee for Christmas on the North Yorkshire coast. A re-arranged glamping trip to the Norfolk countryside for my September birthday. And next week, we’ve booked a couple of days in an AirBnb in the Shropshire Hills. The first time since mid March that we’ve slept under a different roof. Eaten at a different table. And woken up to a different view.
We still have a fully planned out trip to Japan to take. I have notes and spreadsheets and highlighted guidebooks. Maybe we’ll go next year. Or maybe the year after. We’ve promised to take Ma and Pa Lee to Marrakech, to fulfil Pa Lee’s desire to stay in a riad. Even though he’s still not quite sure what one is. (No, it is definitely not a tent.) But we’re taking baby steps back into travel. Home first, abroad later.