Traveling After Lockdown

For an avid traveller, the coronavirus mandated-lockdown may feel like torture. Being unable to travel, or to not even be able to start planning the next trip is really disheartening. But as we see the world start to emerge from its lockdown hibernation and countries within Europe re-opening, it has sparked a glimmer of hope for all aspiring and zealous travellers. It signals a move towards dusting off those untouched suitcases, and checking the expiry date on your passport. There has never  before been a global event which has effectively grounded fleets of airplanes, shut down countries and devastated economies all at the same time. However, this too shall pass and at some point we’ll be able to venture out of our homes and start checking destinations off our bucket list.

Some of the first countries to have re-opened for tourists has been Greece, Italy and France amongst many other European countries. This has sparked some concern while the global rate of infection has not yet slowed, but it is imperative to try and balance lives vs livelihoods, especially for destinations which are heavily reliant on the tourism trade. So in an attempt to set forth into some version of our new ‘normal’, travel post-lockdown will look vastly different to what we’re accustomed to.

For starters, airlines have had to readjust the way they operate, sell tickets and manage flights in a post-lockdown world. All travellers would need to ensure that they are in good health at the time of travelling as temperature checks will become a norm, in the same way that enhanced security measures became the norm when flying post 9-11. Your recent travel history will be examined and you will be required to answer set questions at every airport and passport control counter. Be prepared to arrive at the airport 4 hours prior to flying, as there will be more checks in place, depending on the destination country you’ll be visiting. In some cases you’ll be required to travel with a health clearance from a doctor to ensure entry to, or departure from, certain countries.

In order to alleviate anxiety many elements of travel need to be addressed, let’s look at each of these and the recommended measures which have been put in place.

Airlines and Airports:

  • Only passengers travelling will be allowed into the airport premises to reduce the number of unnecessary persons.
  • Staff training will be enhanced to ensure that all employees are informed on hygiene protocols.
  • Face masks will be compulsory and temperature scanning will be performed.
  • Online check-in has been disabled so that the airline is able to manage the social-distancing and will seat passengers accordingly. For some domestic flights, 100% capacity has been allowed mainly due to the improved air filters which will be installed in aeroplanes.
  • Limited hand luggage will be allowed eg. only handbags, laptop bags and baby bags will be allowed on the airplane.
  •  Boarding will take place by row number.
  • Some airlines have indicated that middle seats will remain vacant, and this will be implemented on a trial basis.
  • Instead of toiletry kits, passengers will be provided with sanitary kits which will include a mask, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitiser and gloves.
  • Bathrooms will be cleaned every 45 minutes.
  • Single use menus, properly sterilised and sealed blankets and earphones will be provided.

Hotels and guest-houses:

  • Mobile check in and check out facilities with contactless payments
  • Hand sanitisers will be made available and masks will need to be worn in all public areas
  • Most buffet breakfast spreads have been closed and you will be required to order your meal for consumption in your room. Alternatively some hotels will offer phased buffet times, where patrons will be assigned set meal times.
  • Digital service requests, limiting interaction with staff
  • Housekeeping schedules will be amended, and may be limited, to suit social distancing guidelines and will also be changed to comply with disinfection requirements.

Theme parks and tourist attractions:

  • Guests will be required to purchase entry tickets online and will be given an allocated time for entry and visitation.
  • Temperature screening will take place at entrances and those with high fevers will be refused entry.
  • Certain high contact points will be closed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and bathrooms will be sanitised more frequently.
  • On-site restaurants may not be open (depending on which site you’re visiting) with only take-aways being allowed, or dry foods and snacks being offered.
  • Wearing of masks will remain compulsory and hand sanitising will be essential.
  • Hours of operation may also be reduced to allow time for the daily mandatory full deep clean.

Whilst all of the above are guidelines and could seem extreme, it will soon become a seamless experience which may just mean a little extra time at the airport. After all, the very definition of travel is to embark on an adventure; and for now that’s exactly what it will feel like. Prepare for shorter queues and faster processing of service requests as most companies will do everything they can to discourage groups of people. And if you’re a regular germaphobe, all these amplified hygiene practices will certainly bring you some comfort. Even more so if you don’t like having your personal space invaded or cannot handle crowds… There will be some definite advantages during  post-lockdown travels.

For my fellow South Africans, June has heralded the introduction of domestic travelling only. With very strict regulations in place, such as proof of reason for travel along with the required permit;  with initially only four airports open nationwide. This is a positive step forward, and soon we will be able to travel for leisure, albeit domestically. This sets the scene for us to start planning some great local getaways for December, which is the estimation of when we may resume leisure travel. It offers the perfect opportunity to take a ‘Sh’ot Left’ and set off to explore and appreciate the  myriad of stunning spots in our backyards.

So get working on that bucket list and start looking ahead to what your first getaway will be, because we all know that the most exciting part of travelling is in the planning!

It’s good for your mental health and I know for sure that it opens the mind in tolerance and thinking.

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