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Most of us in 2020 saw our travel plans cancelled or severely disrupted. While we may have lost nearly an entire year of travel experiences, 2021 will hopefully be the year where the travel industry recovers.

We saw many of our most beloved travel destinations descend into lockdowns during 2020. Thankfully, some destinations have already begun to open back up to travel once again and with COVID-19 vaccines beginning to be developed and distributed around the world, hopefully more countries will be able to open back up to travellers soon.

Regulations and restrictions around COVID are constantly changing, making it crucial to stay on top of the latest travel and health information when planning travel in 2021.

No doubt most of us will be looking to make up for the travel opportunities we missed out on during the year of the pandemic, but as we look to travelling once again, many of us will be making safety one of our top priorities when planning our future travel.

As travel begins to rebound, find out what you need to think about before you begin travelling in 2021.

What You Need To Think About Before Travelling in 2021

Obtaining Fit-for-Travel Certificates

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The pandemic has resulted in many countries enforcing entry requirements, mask wearing, and even curfews. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other business are also enforcing restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

While travel to many regions may resume once again in the near future, many airlines and nations are currently requiring and will continue to require that travellers submit evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test before they will be allowed to board a plane or enter the country.

Proof you are negative for the virus is usually achieved by doing a quick online search for a corona test centre near me where you can get a coronavirus PCR test. If negative you’ll get a Certificate allowing you to fly and enter international destinations.

It’s important to check the exact requirements for each individual airline and country regarding the validity period for your COVID-free travel certificate. These certificates are usually only valid for a short time, so you will most likely want to get it as close to your travel departure date as possible.

Important to note that although you may be able to get a free COVID-19 test where you live, if you are showing symptoms, you generally cannot get a test and certificate for international travel this way. If the purpose of getting a coronavirus test is solely for international travel purposes, this usually requires a paid private test to be carried out.

In addition to potentially needing a COVID-19 Fit-for-Travel Certificate, you may also be required to get a general Fit-To-Fly Certificate if you were recently discharged from hospital, underwent recent surgery, are more than 28 weeks pregnant, have certain pre-existing medical conditions, or are travelling strictly for medical reasons.

Timing Will be Everything

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It’s hard to predict the future, so only time will tell when in 2021 most countries and airlines will start easing travel restrictions and return back to a sense of normalcy.

Vaccines are currently being produced and distributed, and by mid next year many people may begin to have access to an effective vaccine. This has the potential to dramatically get the travel industry back on track.

It’s probably a safer bet to time your vacation for the second half of 2021 if you are worried about the potential of the coronavirus altering your travel plans. Of course, pick a time for your holiday that lines up with your ability to take time off work or when your children have school holidays.

Despite a potential vaccine on the horizon, there may be social distancing measures in place throughout 2021, so it pays to choose a destination during a season that will allow you to be able to enjoy outdoor activities if places like museums, sporting events, or concerts aren’t open or available.

It’s not exactly worthwhile paying for an expensive vacation if attractions are not yet open and lousy weather forces you to spend most of your time in your hotel room.

It may also be more advantageous for you to book fewer long duration trips instead of multiple short getaways, since coronavirus restrictions and procedures can make the actual travelling part of your vacation a hassle.

Airlines have also been forced to drop many routes, meaning you may have to face layovers or connecting flights which can  lead to higher travel costs in addition to extra hassle. It only makes sense to make all that hassle and extra expense worth it by staying in your travel destination longer.

Purchase Travel Insurance

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Getting comprehensive travel insurance is always important, but the current pandemic has proven the fact you never know what can happen and why it pays to always be prepared.

Many travel insurance policies will no longer cover claims relating to COVID-19 as it is now a known event, though some insurers do now cover COVID-19, like SafetyWing policies.

COVID coverage may allow you to recuperate travel costs if you need to cancel your trip due to getting infected yourself with COVID-19 before your trip, having someone in your family or travelling party getting infected before your trip, being required to self-isolate by a government, or being denied on your flight due to testing positive for the virus before boarding (though read the fine print of each individual policy).

Now more than ever is time to ditch the cheap travel insurance and get a policy that is as comprehensive as you can afford. Things to look for are COVID-19 cover, unlimited overseas medical treatment, repatriation cover in case you need to get back home, and trip cancellation cover.

Be sure to read a policy’s PDS or terms and conditions carefully before purchasing to see specifics regarding various coverage options. Some airlines are now offering COVID-19 cover that provides global cover for your COVID‑19 health expenses and quarantine costs when you fly with them.

Even if you only plan on travelling domestically, it’s still a good idea to get domestic travel insurance. While it may not cover you for issues relating to COVID-19 such as when a state border closes and disrupts your travel plans, a domestic policy may still be able to provide you with coverage for events like natural disasters, cancelled flights, or a death in the family depending on the policy you choose.

Choosing a Destination Based on COVID Safety

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It’s wise to travel to countries which have a good record in regards to the pandemic. Countries that put in restrictions and safety measures meant that infection numbers were kept low. Countries that have a high volume of COVID-19 cases have a greater potential to go back into lockdown which may ruin your vacation plans.

You should also assess the quality and accessibility of a country’s health services. If you get injured or sick from any type of illness, you want to be assured there will be enough hospital rooms and doctors available to be able to treat you efficiently.

Hospitals in some countries are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, which is hindering the treatment of patients with other ailments. It’s not a bad idea to also choose a location within a country which offers easy access to hospitals in case you do get infected with coronavirus or come down with another illness.

Pro tip: You should also research whether you will need to go into self quarantine back in your home country upon your return.

As we head into 2021, there will likely be travel bubbles formed between certain countries which won’t require you to have to self isolate upon your arrival in your holiday destination or your return home, which may make these destinations  more enticing.

Factor Social Distancing into Your Itinerary

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Many people with COVID are asymptomatic, meaning they show know symptoms. It is always a good idea no matter where you travel to continue practicing social distancing in 2021, even if your chosen holiday destination has few cases.

If you have the money, now is a good time to splurge on private jets or first class airline tickets to limit the number of people you have to encounter while in transit. You can further limit your interaction with others by booking an Airbnb instead of a hotel room.

Likewise, you also may want to avoid public transport whenever possible and instead opt for renting your own car or using cabs and Ubers. An Uber may be a bit safer than a taxi in that they often see fewer passengers than your average taxi, at least at airports since only taxis are allowed to use designated airport taxi ranks.

Plan travel activities that allow you to be outdoors and make sure to only visit restaurants and indoor attractions that are adhering to local government social distancing restrictions. Maintaining 2 meters of distance between you and others will go a long way in reducing your chances of catching the virus and spreading it onto others.

Cruising in 2021

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Despite the cruising industry being hit hard in 2020, cruise ships having become floating hotels where the virus was able to spread extensively in many cases, many people are still eager to book cruises.

As we head in to 2021 and you find yourself eager for a cruising holiday, it’s probably a wise idea to stick with domestic cruises in case there is an outbreak and you are forced to return to land.

Getting caught up in international waters and having a country not wanting to allow you as a foreign passenger to disembark on their shores for medical treatment or so that you may return to your home country is no fun.

Choose small cruise ships over the mega cruise ships that can accommodate thousands of passengers and choose voyages that sail to destinations and ports where the coronavirus numbers are low or nonexistent.

Make Cancellable Bookings

We’ve all seen just how quickly things can change when it comes to the coronavirus and restrictions or closures being implemented. You want to be sure that any travel you book in 2021 can either be cancelled or amended easily.

Thankfully, many airlines and hotels have adopted generous cancellation policies in an effort to entice travellers to travel once again. But book accommodation, transportation, and tours with reputable companies that aren’t likely to go bankrupt in the near future.

Even if a company states they have a good cancellation policy in place, it means nothing if you pay upfront and they don’t have the funds available to reimburse you if needed.

Be sure to read the fine print regarding cancellation terms before making bookings and if possible choose options that don’t require you to pay in full upfront.

Packing Tips for 2021

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Packing is never easy and it always requires some serious thinking about. Thanks to COVID, there are a few items that you may need or want to add to your packing list.

Let’s start with facemasks. Most airlines are currently making it a requirement that you wear a facemask in order to board the plane. Many countries, hotels, and other businesses also have mask mandates in place.

Don’t count on face masks being supplied for you or that you will be able to purchase one when you arrive at your destination. Purchase a few well before your trip that are comfortable to wear, are reusable, and will last you the trip.

Hand sanitiser and sanitising wipes are other essential items to pack in both your carry-on and checked luggage. You’re looking for a brand that is ideally between 60% and 80% alcohol in order to be effective against the coronavirus and other nasty bugs.

You’ll need to use this for your airline seatbelt, tray table, and personal entertainment screen as a start. Be aware that it can be hard to come by hand sanitiser in the shops in many countries at the moment, which is why it is important to travel with your own supply.

Pro tip: Bringing your own phone, laptop, or tablet for entertainment on flights is safer than using the supplied in-flight entertainment screens that many other hands may have touched. You never know for certain if they were cleaned in-between flights.

Many hotels have stopped supplying rooms with items such as pens and notepads in order to avoid spreading the virus between guests. You should plan on bringing any office supplies you may need.

When it comes to making purchases, contactless credit cards are the best way to go. This avoids having to swipe your card through the same machine that countless others have also done and you also won’t have to hand over your card to merchants. It’s all about avoiding contact with others at the moment.

Packing a few rolls of toilet paper, while it might feel silly, isn’t that dumb of an idea seeing that many regions have experienced shortages due to people panic buying. You never want to be without.

And while we are on the topic of using the bathroom, be aware that public-use bathrooms may be limited at the moment due to many businesses being closed and in some cases city-operated public restrooms have been locked up in certain areas.

Many public drinking fountains have also been turned off, so be sure to pack a water bottle you can refill in your hotel room to stay hydrated when out and about.

Try to minimise contact with public surfaces whenever possible. This means doing things like pre-printing and packing your boarding passes ahead of time instead of using the machines at the airport which have seen a lot of traffic.

And lastly, as annoying as selfies sticks have become, it looks like they may actually have a place in the current travel climate. No longer can we rely on the kindness of locals to take our photos in front of monuments after we hand them our cameras.

In some cases it may not be allowed to make contact with others while in other cases people may just be apprehensive. A selfie stick will assure that you can continue to capture those special travel memories.

Consider Taking a Work Vacation

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Many companies have become very flexible regarding working arrangements thanks to the pandemic. If you have always felt like you can never find the time to travel, consider 2021 your opportunity to try a working holiday where you can continue to work while enjoying a bit of new scenery.

Thanks to Zoom and other platforms, you can still stay attached to colleagues back home. And many companies have now transitioned to embracing the remote work culture.

Just make sure the accommodation you book has fast, reliable, and free Wi-Fi. Remote work is likely to continue well into 2021, so take advantage of the flexible arrangements currently offered by many companies if you can in order to enjoy an office with an exotic view.

Be Flexible and Kind to Others

We’re all eager to travel, but we will all need to be more flexible when it comes to travelling in 2021. Don’t craft strict itineraries that allow for no wiggle room.

The travel industry still has a long road ahead in terms of getting back to normal, and flight delays or cancellations as well as restrictions will continue to disrupt our plans in the near future. Always have a plan B in place in case things don’t go smoothly.

It’s also important to remember to be extra kind to others while travelling in 2021. We have all experienced a great deal of stress and therefore compassion will go a long way to helping with everyone’s mental health.

Travel industry workers have had to deal with a lot this past year. Many have lost their jobs or seen a massive reduction in hours. They have also had to deal with angry customers who saw their holidays disrupted.

Note that most people working in the travel industry are looking forward to welcoming travellers back and are doing everything in their power to keep you safe and comfortable.

We need to remember that we are all in this together, and only through cooperation and kindness will travel return to normal more quickly.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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