The coronavirus has quickly upended the world of travel, and it undoubtedly will have a lasting impact on the industry moving forward – travelers will need to keep some extra considerations in mind before booking their trips. Here are some questions we'll all need to ask before we take to the road and skies once again.
What can I do to prevent spreading illness when I travel?
When you travel, you come into contact with dozens of people throughout your journey: the TSA agents at the airport, the taxi driver in your destination, the hotel employees at the front desk. Our future trips should not only prioritize our own safety, but the safety of others; how can we be best prepared?
Airlines are already requiring travelers to don masks during their flights, and it might be good practice to keep masks handy on any trips moving forward, even if they aren’t mandatory; they’ll be handy to have in any crowded space. Create a travel bag with sanitizing essentials for cleaning your spaces and surfaces when you arrive and when you leave. Once you’re in your destination, prioritize washing your hands and avoid touching shared surfaces if possible.
Is my destination at risk for overtourism? What could that mean for public health?
The issue of overtourism was a hot topic in the travelsphere prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and images of some of the world’s most crowded destinations have gone viral thanks to their uncharacteristic emptiness – the streets of Rome, Times Square, Angkor Wat and the beaches of Rio are all devoid of the visitors that they are known for.
That said, such popular landmarks will present new risks once travel resumes; since many are public spaces, regulation of crowds could prove to be difficult. Steering clear of historically overtouristed sights will be an important step in risk mitigation.
Is my destination home to vulnerable populations without adequate medical care? What is my potential impact?
As the pandemic has shown, every country varies in its ability to handle and contain a widespread illness; even the most developed healthcare systems nearly buckled under the weight of the crisis. When we travel, we have to recognize that we might carry a contagion with us, and while some places might have the infrastructure to deal with the potential fallout, many do not.
If you’re considering visiting a place where healthcare systems are strained and facilities are rare, put off making the trip and contribute to the economy in another way for now. Many people around the world struggle with healthcare access under normal circumstances, and an introduced illness could prove disastrous for their communities.
Does my travel insurance cover international healthcare treatment, emergency evacuation or quarantine measures?
It’s likely that travel insurance will become more important than ever, and picking the right policy means reading all the fine print about your coverage, particularly when it comes to your health. Some of the more general policies focus on travel logistics rather than healthcare, things like trip cancellations, lost luggage and broken equipment; we suggest looking at the specifics regarding treatment in international hospitals and emergency evacuation, and investing a bit more in your policy to get higher coverage.
Healthcare can be expensive, and while $10,000 worth of medical coverage sounds like a lot, the cost of serious procedures can potentially be much more. Similarly, it’s worth calling and asking about unexpected quarantine costs; if you are screened and test positive for fever or illness and must be quarantined while traveling, will subsequent cancellations, trip adjustments and costs be covered?
Do I have enough savings to cover unforeseen emergency costs while on the road?
With doctors and scientists worried about subsequent waves of illness in the future, having a nest egg of savings ready before you hit the road could help you avoid a financial emergency should another crisis be set in motion. If your travel insurance is minimal, you will be responsible for any major illness- and quarantine-related costs incurred during your travels. Factoring in an emergency fund when you are trip planning could save you a lot of stress, should travel suddenly be limited or changed due to world health developments.
What can I do to support local businesses hurting from lack of business during quarantine?
The global economic fallout from the coronavirus quarantine has thrown a harsh light on the precarious positions of small businesses in the world market. Many have faced permanent closure, and those that are left are operating on a fraction of their already thin margin, hoping to wait it out. Investing in sustainable travel that feeds directly back into the communities is more important than ever.
Once it’s time to book your first post-COVID trip, prioritize local hotels, restaurants and experience providers rather than international brands and chains – your dollars will provide much needed relief from quarantine financial hardship
How can I be a more environmentally conscious traveler post-COVID?
While dolphins may not actually be returning to Venice canals, the quarantine has revealed just how much of an impact our travels have on the environment. Phenomena like smog reduction, plant regrowth and more visible wildlife have all highlighted the fact that our impact is significant and wide-reaching.
For your next trips, consider the “slow” approach to travel, opting for destinations that are geographically closer to you and transport methods with fewer emissions. Ask yourself: how can I preserve the positive environmental changes that have been made during this time of stillness? Which of my old habits were the most damaging and how can I avoid them? The quarantine has given us a chance to look hard at our travel methods and consider better ones for the future.