The time has finally come! Travel restrictions are starting to be lifted from countries like Iceland all the way to Australia. There are still certain countries that are keeping their borders closed but there are islands and other countries like Greece, The Bahamas, Italy, Aruba and Croatia that have some amazing beaches and sites ready for you to see as soon as you are ready to pack your bags and go.
In these "not as challenging but STILL challenging times," we need to reward ourselves. We need to get back on a plane and enjoy a change of scenery after being stuck in the house or even in the same city for over a year. We deserve to sip that Pina Colada in front of some blue seas or wander around a castle in the middle of Europe while wearing our most comfortable pair of sneakers, again.
The most challenging part won't be trying to figure out which country to visit and its COVID regulations. The most challenging part will be getting to the country and getting back.
But, have no fear! Like the good ole saying goes, "Where there's a will, there is a way." Your travel guru, Nicole Ashley, is here to give you her pieces of wisdom to get you through the hassles of getting to your next excursion and back. After taking her "post-apocalyptic" trips to both Aruba and Iceland, she has been through all the headaches that this new age in travel has given her.
So, here it is! 5 pieces of advice to get you through traveling during COVID times:
Piece of Advice #1: Find Out WHERE You Will Go To Get Your "Return" COVID Test Taken BEFORE You Embark On Your Trip!
I think this is the most important piece of advice that I could give a traveler during these times, especially if you plan on doing some solo traveling.
When I went to Aruba, I had the convenience of staying at a hotel where I was able to make the arrangements for my "return" COVID exam right there on the hotel grounds. It was short and easy. I went across the street to the convention center two days before my trip ended. They made me fill out a form, processed my credit card info, took a swab from each nostril and it was done.
Even when I went to Iceland, I embarked on a group tour where the tour guide took care of all of our test requirements and all we had to do was sign up on the testing site's website to get our results sent to our phones.
But, on my latest trip to Europe, I only planned on spending a day in Amsterdam and a couple of days in Portugal. I checked in with my hotel and found out that they don't provide COVID testing at their hotel. Therefore, I had to do some research and figure out where to find a testing center that was close to my hotel and that could get me my results in time for my flight home.
Therefore, it's better to go online and google testing sites in the country you are visiting BEFORE you get on that plane. Make an appointment, if possible, for a time where you won't be busy doing an activity AND for a time that is in line with the time frame in which you will need your results.
Meaning, if you have a flight headed home on Friday at 9AM in the morning, make an appointment to take that test by Wednesday 11AM. You don't want to take the test TOO early, as it may not be within the time frame of the COVID laws of your country. But, don't forget, you also need to have those results printed or on your phone 2 to 3 hours before you head back home.
Until all countries start accepting vaccination cards, the airport will not let you return home without those test results. So have a game plan.
Piece of Advice #2: DON'T PAY FOR A "DEPARTING" COVID TEST, if you don't have to!
When I took my first "post-apocalyptic" trip to Aruba, I got stuck trying to figure out WHEN to take my COVID test and WHERE to take it that I ended up having to pay $225 to take it at the airport last minute. Please, don't do what I did.
The science and technology surrounding this COVID crisis is so advanced now that you SHOULD NOT have to pay to take a COVID test to get on an airplane. You can go to a local clinic or do a google search for sites near where you live.
As a matter of fact, if you live in a big city like New York, head downtown when you get a chance and look for these white tents on the sides of the streets. They provide FREE COVID tests with results that can be sent to you within 24 hours.
Sometimes the results come within minutes! Straight to your phone!
So don't do the craziness that I did. If you know that you are leaving to go to Croatia on a Friday, make sure you get to that testing site by Tuesday afternoon the latest.
Remember, timing is everything. It can also save you some spending money as well.
Piece of Advice #3: CARRY EXTRA BATTERY POWER FOR YOUR PHONE!
I've heard that Androids can hold a charge longer than iPhones, but I would strongly urge anyone to bring a backup portable charger for your phone.
We use our phones for everything! Now, we will have to also use our phones to show airport personnel our vaccination documents and COVID test results. Then, if we haven't taken a screen shot of this information on our phones, we may have to log back onto the website to retrieve our test results several times or log back on to the app.
Not to mention, when I was headed to Iceland, I had to fill out a form on Iceland's visa application website. These are online forms that you can only fill out right before your flight.
I would fill out the form once and then the page would just disappear or I would have to reload it. Gosh, it was so annoying. But the more I had to reload, the more and more my battery levels were going down.
Plus, if it's a busy time of the day or if there are limited outlets at the airport, you may not be able to charge your phone. Go on Amazon or eBay and get that portable battery! Thank me later!
Piece of Advice #4: Carry A Small Pack of Disinfectant Wipes in Your Pocket
I know that this might sound like an obvious one for some of my "COVID-19 Cautious" travelers but it is better to carry a small pack of wipes in your pocket, versus carrying them in your luggage or in a handbag.
When I got on my plane to Aruba, I took a good look at my area. There were some crumbs on my seat. There was a little of what appeared to be an apple juice stain on my table.
These airlines love to say, "We are protecting our passengers by putting COVID-19 regulations in place." They love to talk about how quote-on-quote "clean" their airline is. But all of that talk is baloney. There may be some 100% clean airplane somewhere on this planet but I highly doubt it.
Therefore, just bring your own and make sure to carry them close because the planes have gotten more crowded since some of these countries have re-opened. While you are placing your bag on your seat trying to get out your wipes, somebody will be coming behind you trying to get to their seat. It's just easier to have those wipes as handy as possible.
Piece of Advice #5: Bring a Backup Mask on Each Leg of Your Trip!
This might also be a given but it is possible to forget when running to meet up with your tour group.
Masks are still required when you are on tour buses, in airports or most places indoors except restaurants and cafes.
After coming back from swimming in Iceland's Blue Lagoon, I went to take a shower in the locker room. As soon as I got back to my locker to put my mask back on, one of the strings on the mask popped. And I thought I had packed a spare mask in my bag. Turns out... I did not.
Luckily, one of the guys on my tour had a box of surgical masks and was able to give me a couple. Just imagine not being able to go inside museums or walk inside local shops and attractions because you don't have a mask.
Not to mention, these surgical masks are not the most "fashion forward" masks to wear, either. They don't even match any of my outfits! But I was forced to wear one because what other choice did I have? I had to get on my bus back to the hotel.
Always be prepared. Make sure your day bag has at least one extra mask. Do a double check right before you leave your hotel room.
So, I KNOW it's not going to be a completely smooth ride getting back into the swing of traveling again but don't let these little pieces of advice scare you.
I know that we have a long way to go before the world can return, somewhat, to how it used to be before this pandemic took place. But, look at the positive side, every day is a new day.
I had a trip to Australia that I had planned on going on for 3 years! Each year, I emailed my travel agent and asked, "Is Australia going to open up again?" My travel agent had no idea if or when.
This year, as of February 21st, the country has now re-opened. Hope has been restored. I can now go back to that travel agent and pick up from where I left off.
So relax, take it one step at a time and when you finally get to that island or sit in that bistro in Switzerland, take in that moment and truly savor it.
You made it! You deserve it! And just remember, a few years ago, you were sitting at home contemplating, like most of us, if the world might be over or not... Yet, here you are.