Travel Planning Essentials During COVID-19

Following months of coronavirus-induced travel inactivity it appears that our desire to see the world hasn’t been reduced by the pandemic, with EasyJet recently announcing that it’s adding more flights to its schedule to cope with higher than expected passenger demand.

But there’s no point pretending that everything is back to normal. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and we need to factor it into our travel preparations. Gone are the days of chucking a load of beachwear into your suitcase and high-tailing it to the airport; travelling at the moment involves a bit more preparation.

That doesn’t mean it needs to be stressful. Keep on top of all that prep with the Switched On team’s handy guide.

Get your paperwork in order

As anyone who’s tried to book an appointment with the doctor or visit the bank recently will tell you, things just take longer than usual right now. In this age of social distancing, that’s understandable – but it means all those boring logistical tasks that go hand-in-hand with an overseas trip will require more time and patience.

For starters, make sure your passport is valid. If you’re travelling within the EU, it’ll need to be valid during the period you’re out of the country. But if you’re heading further afield there’s a good chance it’ll need to be valid for a month, and possibly for six months. If it needs updating before any upcoming holidays, send all your paperwork off in plenty of time. There’s currently a backlog of applications and it’s taking significantly longer than the usual three weeks.

The same goes for a range of other essential tasks – things like buying your travel currency, applying for visas, arranging jabs and picking up any prescriptions you might need. Don’t expect to dash around town and sort them all in a day!

Check your travel insurance

COVID-19 has brought a few complexities to travel insurance. With travel guidance changing by the day it feels, many insurers even stopped offering new policies altogether while they assessed risks – although you can be assured that Switched On covers medical and repatriation costs related to COVID-19 when travelling. But it’s really important not to forget that if the FCO advise against travel, it’s highly likely that your travel insurance won’t cover you. As ever, it’s vitally important to check through the small print of your policy to know exactly what you are, and aren’t, covered for.

Check the latest guidance

Travel guidance is changing all the time. In July, Spain was added to the UK government’s travel “red list” at short notice, and the same could happen to other countries, so be sure to stay up to date with the latest advice and instructions. Fortunately, there are a few helpful resources for keeping abreast of the situation. Your first port of call should be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, which publishes regular updates on government travel guidance. Also check the rules and regs of the country you are travelling to – even if it’s named on the FCO exemption list, this doesn’t mean the country in question will allow you to travel there. And it’s a good idea to sign up for travel alerts related to your destination and look out for updates from your airline by checking their social channels and websites.

Pack with COVID-19 in mind

Coronavirus has affected almost every element of our lives – and the contents of our suitcases and hand luggage are no different. Things that would once have been a million miles away from our holiday packing checklists are now very much essential. These include:

Face masks: many countries have made face masks mandatory in shops, on public transport, and in other indoor spaces and public areas. You might be fined for failing to wear one; if you’re heading to Dubai for example, be aware you could even be named and shamed, with your mugshot printed in local media. So it’s best to keep a mask handy at all times, and bear in mind if you’re flying that you’ll need to wear one during your time in the airport and on the plane.

Hand sanitiser: washing your hands with soap is the most effective way to neutralise germs, but you won’t always get the chance if you’re out and about. So bring plenty of hand sanitiser, make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol and if you’re carrying it onboard make sure it’s less than 100ml.

Antibacterial wipes: as well as washing your hands, you may want to wipe down high-contact areas such as door handles, taps and TV remotes for added peace of mind. Check the wording on the packet to make sure they’re effective against viruses as well as bacteria.