Did you know that even if you’re traveling to a European country that doesn’t require fully vaccinated travelers to take a COVID test, you still need to take the test if you’re flying through the U.K. en-route, even if you’re not leaving the airport?! It’s an illustration of how challenging and complicated travel is in 2021, and each country having its own health protocols is just the tip of the iceberg.
Some destinations require only a proof of vaccination (or recovery from COVID) to enter. Others, including the U.S. when you return home, require a negative test regardless of vaccination status. Just about all of them require a health declaration you need to fill out online before you leave or on paper to fill out on the plane. While we always recommend you take out travel insurance, it’s especially important in the COVID era, and some countries require it.
At the airport and throughout the flight experience, you’ll notice plenty of changes. First off, lots of flights are being cancelled because of pilot shortages sparked by layoffs and furloughs from 2020. Airports and airline staff are busy. Airline call centers have extremely long wait times even as changes are frequent and questions are plentiful. Food and drink service might be minimal while you’re in the air.
When you land, you’ll notice things aren’t quite what you remember from travel experiences of the past. Ride shares can be tough to get and more expensive than you’d imagine. Rental car companies sold a lot of spare inventory when they had no demand in 2020, so now rental cars are scarce and can be expensive.
When you arrive at your hotel, you might find it understaffed and the people who are working there overwhelmed. A lot of them might be new, so the level of service even at luxury resorts might not be up to your pre-pandemic expectations. Housekeeping might only be once every two or three days, or perhaps not come at all if your stay is a short one, unless you specifically request it. Staff are adhering to mask protocols, so they might still be wearing masks even if they’re fully vaccinated and if you’re not required to. Some places might ask you to wear a mask even if you are fully vaccinated.
Restaurant reservations can be very difficult to secure due to limited capacities. When you arrive, you might find menus are still limited because of supply chain complications that are out of the restaurant’s hands. Perhaps not all of the restaurants at your hotel are even open, and the ones that are might have limited hours. On Hawaii, we had to fill out an online tracing form at each restaurant that we visited. After filling out the form and submitting it, we had to show the confirmation screen to the host/hostess before we were seated at the table.
Though there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a pandemic going on, and it’s affecting different parts of the world differently. We’re so thrilled to be able to return to some of our favorite destinations safely, but it’s important to keep in mind that the experience will be different than before and it won’t be possible to fulfill your every wish. We as travel advisors are here to help you navigate the complexities of travel in 2021, and to help manage your expectations. When you do go out there, please remember that everyone — hotel staff, restaurant staff, tour guides, etc. — is doing their best to make the experience great in a difficult situation. Just like we all have, they’ve had a stressful go of things, and right now it's overwhelming trying to meet the sudden increase in demand. The world of travel is jump-starting from a down period, trying to 0 to 60 as quickly as possible.
It might take more patience from travelers than it typically does, but remember to be kind and that when you travel, people are welcoming you into their home. If you treat others with respect they will return the favor.