COVID-19 has descended across the world halting most people’s travel plans and vacation trips. Everything from cruises to holiday weekend trips to international excursions have been put on hold, Well, what do we do now? Just cancel our plans and give-up? Reschedule and hope it’s all passed by the time the new date rolls around?
Don’t waste this time. It’s a blessing in the disguise of a plague. There is so much you can do to better prepare for your trip and make the most out of your travel plans when the time comes. All-in-all, your future trip will be more enjoyable, better organized and hopefully, more budget friendly. Here’s a few suggestions on how to handle COVID-19 travel planning and preparation.
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Research, Research, Research
This is a bit of an obvious suggestion, but make sure you continue to research your intended destination. With the new time you have, dig deeper into the destination. You’re looking for depth instead of superficial, generic information. Anyone can find the top 10 sights to see in Naples, but not everyone will find a list of regional cuisine dishes to order in Naples.
Frommer’s is a must! Start there and you may not need to look elsewhere. It has the most up to date information on the reopening of locations for tourism along with destination activities, hotels, best buys, dining suggestions, neighborhood reviews and so much more.
I love this example from Frommer’s “Best Undiscovered Italy” as part of its Best Overlooked Experiences series. Additionally, Frommer’s founder, Arthur Frommer, and his daughter have launched a weekly podcast where they travel across the US.
If you’ve done any travel planning or travel research, you’ve probably come across Lonely Planet. Here you will find the standard best-of-lists and top-tens, but you will also find advice articles going deeper. An interesting news article I came across covered how tour operators in New Zealand are offering pay-what-you-like adventures. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Lonely Planet recently released the series, “After the lockdown: how COVID-19 is changing travel”. This is a great place to start and to continue checking as the situation changes.
Go beyond travel recommendations and destination lists during your research. Dive into the culture, the people, the media. Begin on Wikipedia and go deeper by visiting the “See Also” links and the References at the bottom. You will learn a lot about the area through its media landscape. You can find local shows on YouTube.com and local authors on Amazon.
Learn The Language or The Local History
If you’re anticipating traveling to a country that speaks a foreign language, what’s better than learning some key phrases in that language. Even if you aren’t confidant you’ll be able to learn enough to speak to the locals, study the streets signs and some vocabulary. Depending on how much time you have before your trip and how dedicated you are to learning the language, here are a few resources to utilize.
Duolingo – a free phone app and website that slowly builds your vocabulary and skills through lessons. You will read, speak and write the language on your journey. Duolingo has also released a paid version.
When it comes to paid services, iTalki is an excellent option and Rosetta Stone is the number one language learning program. Both can be used on the go or in your home, and you determine how much time you can dedicate. You will get further using iTalki or Rosetta Stone and will be more likely to feel confident enough to converse with the locals.
Make sure you check out my “How I Learned Italian” article for a full list of resources you can tap into.
If you aren’t traveling to a foreign country or you already speak the language, research more about the local history. Knowing more about the area’s history will help you digest and understand the destinations you visit. Begin on Wikipedia and go deeper by visiting the “See Also” links and the References at the bottom.
Take Advantage of Tourism Stimulus Perks
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the tourism industry worldwide has been devastated and the future is uncertain. Companies, countries and websites are offering travel perks to stimulate tourism and to help the industry survive. It’s early, but I’ve found a few. I’ll continue to update this section.
Buy Now Stay Later – Hotels are offering travel bonds. After you purchase the bond will mature, increasing its value. Basically, you’re giving them money now anticipating using it 60 days or more later when its value is worth more. A $100 bond will be worth $150.
Similarly, We Travel Forward is a directory of US hotel deals. We Travel Forward is hoping to help stimulate travel and hotel stays. The deals aren’t listed on the website, you have to search by destination and then visit the listed hotel’s deals.
There are news reports that Sicily will offer vouchers for discounted flights, hotels and free museum tickets when the island is open to tourists. The vouchers will be available on Visit Sicily and payment will be required in advance.
Make sure to carefully check the cancelation policies of any flights, hotels, or vacation rentals you purchase. Furthermore, I suggest you print them at the time of purchase and keep just in case.
Power of Social Media
There’s a Facebook group for anything and everything. Search Facebook for groups related to your travel planning or join the group of your travel agency. Facebook groups are like everything else: they are what you make of them. Find a group that appeals to you and your plans and engage. Post questions, answer others’ questions, comment and like posts. Engaging in a travel community will help you stay positive and remain focused on realizing your travel dream.
One of my favorite things to do in preparation for a big trip is map it out. You can create your own map in Google Maps. Make sure you’re logged into your Google account.
In the lefthand menu (to the left of the search bar where you see three lines), select Your Places. Then, select the Maps tab and Create Map at the bottom. This will open a new map. Search for the destinations, restaurants and addresses you hope to visit. A marker will appear on the map, and you can choose to add the destination. Markers can be customized and colored.
Visualizing all of the destinations, restaurants, hotels, and other places you hope to visit on a map will help you better plan out your vacation. You can also add driving or traveling directions to the map. Your trip will be more efficient and less stressful if you utilize this feature.
Plan for Safety
Take a moment to plan how you and your companions will stay safe during your vacation. Anticipate packing personal safety products for your trip. Items may include face mask, hand sanitizer and latex gloves. Make sure to review CDC’s guidelines closer to the time of your trip and review them with your companions. Basic suggestions include washing your hands often, touching less surfaces, social distancing at least 6 feet from unrelated individuals, and wearing a face mask in public. Rule of thumb: treat everyone you don’t know like they’re sick and behave like you’re contagious.
I hope you found this article helpful and encouraging. I’ll continue to update it as the situation changes and more information is released. Please leave a comment with your thoughts or what you’d like added.
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