🕒 6 minute read
After a tough year and limited opportunities to travel, a few days before we were due to jet off for a week-long wellness retreat in the Caribbean, another UK wide travel ban was introduced. We’ve since been vaccinated, and now on the amber list (at the time of writing), we’ve just re-booked our trip to Antigua. If you’re thinking of traveling overseas soon, these are some of the things you’ll need to consider.
Like many, I’ve lost loved ones, been financially impacted by furlough and struggled with my mental health whilst trying to support as many friends and family as I could, from a distance of course.
I’ve kept a gratitude journal and have increased my focus on my physical and mental health to get through, meditating daily and discovering open water swimming, but I very much feel like I’ve survived and not thrived.
I’m eternally grateful I still have a roof over my head and a source of income, not only that, but I’m in the fortunate position to be able to travel and given the challenges of 2020, I was much looking forward to my forthcoming trip, due to take place in January 2021. Just 4 days before my flight, however, another UK-wide and international travel ban was introduced in response to rising Covid-19 infection rates.
Fast forward to June and with the ongoing uncertainty and the introduction of a traffic light travel system, despite very low infection rates in Antigua and Barbuda, the country was put on the amber list, meaning travel is not advised but isn’t prohibited, and having just recently got married and desperate for a honeymoon, we decided that we’d give it another go and have re-booked for early July.
A Wellness Glamping Retreat in Antigua
I recognise that I am fortunate to be in a position to nurture my wellbeing in this way and, depending on traffic light travel list changes, I’ll soon be heading to the Caribbean for a week of glamping on a beach in Antigua, at Wild Lotus Glamping.
This trip has been in my diary since October last year and has already been canceled once due to Covid so I’m not holding my breath, but I’m hopeful that if anything, Antigua could move onto the green list ahead of the next UK travel traffic light review.
I’ve come to realise that I have a complex set of coping mechanisms in place that support my mental health, travel is one of the things that feeds my soul and for most of the year, I’ve been fighting an intense feeling of claustrophobia, feeling like a caged bird. I’m grateful for local walks and the few camping and glamping trips I did manage to fit in this year of course, but there were none of the usual grand adventures.
Considerations When Traveling During A Pandemic
So, with a global pandemic still calling the shots, what’s it like making travel plans during the age of Covid-19?
These are some of the extra considerations to take into account when making travel plans.
1. Travel Insurance Might Cost More or Even Be Invalid
Of course, travel insurance is always a must, but I noticed that my usual annual cover had gone up by around £30, like for like. I shopped around of course but found prices significantly higher than my annual cover cost last year from every insurer I looked at.
If a country is on the amber list, your travel insurance is likely to be invalid, so please do check first as this should be a serious consideration and makes sticking to green list countries far more sensible right now.
I’d recommend ensuring you have travel insurance in place prior to making any travel bookings too. Also check out the small-print and booking terms and conditions relating to Covid-19 and use a credit card for added protection where possible.
2. You’ll Need A PCR ‘Fit to Fly’ Covid Test
I hadn’t heard of a PCR test until I saw a blog by Blue Bay Travel about traveling to the Caribbean during the pandemic. The author mentioned needing a PCR test before flying, so this prompted me to look into it.
Turns out that a PCR test is different to a standard Covid test. Not only that, you can expect to pay from £120 to around £350 for a PCR test and depending on where you’re flying to, there are strict rules as to how this can be administered and when it needs to be obtained.
For example, some places require a test that is taken no more than 72 hours before travel, other places provide a more lenient 7 day timescale. Some countries require a doctor’s note and won’t accept the results of swabs taken at home and sent off, so do be very careful here, because lack of a valid PCR test could mean you’re denied entry.
For Antigua and Barbuda, as it stands, a PCR test is needed no more than 7 days before the flight date and it can’t be a home test. There are limited clinics in the UK offering a rapid turnaround, but these cost a few hundred pounds. I know that some Well pharmacies are offering PCR tests that can be booked online and cost £120 at the time of writing.
It’s important to mention that the airline I booked my flights with (British Airways) provided no information about anything relating to the need for a PCR test when I initially booked our flights. With 2 weeks to go before travel, they have also provided no additional guidance on flight procedures, wearing of masks etc. although the flight details have already changed twice, including flying from a different terminal and different flight times.
3. Travel Advice Changes Frequently
Before booking anything check the gov.uk website and check the official travel advice for the country you want to visit.
It’s tough to stay on top of travel advice as it’s changing so frequently, but if you Google the country you want to visit + “travel restrictions” or + “travel entry requirements” you’ll be able to find up to date information, and check multiple sources too to ensure the information you have is correct.
4. Restricted Airport Services
I’m flying to Antiqua from Gatwick airport. Whilst getting to Gatwick itself from the north is always a nightmare, one arrival at any UK airport, be aware that social distancing rules are currently in place and that there are also restricted services, meaning you might find that not all restaurants and shops are open.
Check before you fly and consider booking an airport lounge. Last year before a flight to France from Manchester Airport, I booked an airport lounge and found the experience much more pleasant than the usual airport experience.
5. Masks On Flights & Changes To In-Flight Services
This will differ from airline to airline, but as it stands, BA are currently offering only cold food on their flights, so don’t expect your normal in-flight meal even when flying long-haul.
I’m not really sure why this is, serving sandwiches that need to be kept chilled can’t really present more of a risk than serving the usual hot airline meals, but as it stands, food options are likely to be limited/different.
Consider too that you’ll have to wear a mask throughout the flight, so it’s worth making sure you have a couple of masks with you (If you’ve worn one for several hours on end you’ll know that they can end up a little damp from moisture as you breathe) and making sure they are comfortable to wear for extended periods.
One thing to add – when we flew back from Venice in September they insisted passengers had to wear a disposable mask, no reusable fabric ones allowed. Airport was selling them but probably at an inflated price
— Katy 🌦 (@katyish) December 14, 2020
A friend over on Twitter, helpfully pointed out that on a European flight in September, reusable fabric masks were not allowed, only the disposable kind, so that’s worth thinking about – I’ll certainly be taking some disposable ones away with me just in case!
6. Be Prepared For Possible Self-Isolation
Depending on where you’re flying to and where you fly back into the UK from, you may need to self-isolate when you get home – this currently applies to amber countries.
If you are already working from home, this is likely to be fairly straightforward to cope with, but if you have children to get to school, a relative to look after or your job can’t be done from home, this should be a serious consideration.
If you are flying from a red country you will need to self-isolate in a government-approved facility which will cost you in the region of £1,600, so flying to red countries should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
I’m not sure I’ll really relax until I’m on the plane, and even then I’ll be worrying about the authorities accepting the results of my PCR test and fit to fly certificate when I land…
Travel in these unpredictable times is certainly less straightforward and I’ve definitely found making travel plans more stressful (and costly) than usual, but I’m remaining pragmatic, hoping for the best, but prepared equally for the fact that any number of factors could change in an instant.
What’s your experience?
Have you traveled during the pandemic? What was your experience like? Did you encounter anything else I’ve not mentioned above? It would be great to hear from you in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter!
DISCLOSURE | My trip to Antigua is part self-funded and I’m paying all travel expenses. Accommodation and retreat costs are being kindly covered by Wild Lotus Glamping.