Post-lockdown travel during the COVID era

Lake Montriond

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably been champing at the bit to get travelling again. Lockdown has exacerbated my insatiable appetite for travel and adventure. Stuck in my tiny flat with no outdoor space, I’ve been yearning for the great outdoors.

A few weeks ago, an opportunity to visit Morzine in the French Alps came knocking. The prospect of fresh mountain air and a much-needed break away was seriously alluring. But I was also hesitant. Would any money I spend on the trip be protected should anything go wrong? Would I be able to get travel insurance? Would going on holiday even be enjoyable with the anxiety of COVID lingering?

I very quickly came to the decision that I’d be mad not to go on this trip. So I put my concerns to one side and off we flew. It ended up being one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever been on.

I’m delighted that I made the decision to go and I want to share my positive experience to encourage others to get back to adventuring. Not only will it help the travel and tourism industry get back on its feet, but a spot of adventure will be a great help to our mental health post-lockdown.

Booking a holiday during Coronavirus

Before you go anywhere, you need to book and plan. One of my biggest concerns was whether I would be able to claim any money back should anything go wrong due to another wave of COVID. On the whole, travel insurance companies will not cover anything related to COVID, as it is a known event.

The good news is that a lot of travel companies are offering much greater flexibility with rebooking and cancellations. It’s in their interest to offer peace of mind to their customers. So before you book, make sure you are clear on the booking terms and are confident that you won’t lose out should anything go pear-shaped.

What to expect at the airport amidst Coronavirus

Being at the airport certainly had a different feel to usual. It was almost exhilarating knowing I was about to board a flight, while a month ago I couldn’t even go to my local cafe for a coffee.

I appreciate that airport experiences will vary considerably depending on the airport and the country. This is based on my personal experience of travelling from London Heathrow to Geneva in Switzerland.

I’ve never seen Heathrow so quiet. It was somehow unsettling and relaxing at the same time. Queues were shorter and we got through airport security in a flash. On the way back, queues were practically non-existent and on both legs of the journey, our luggage arrived at the same time we did. 

The downside was that lounges and most restaurants are all closed for now. I love a good meal before flying and I also have to be careful what I eat because I have various food intolerances. But to be honest, this was probably the most annoying COVID-related thing to happen on the entire trip, which says a lot.

There is, of course, a necessity to wear a face mask at all times in the airport (apart from when eating and drinking). Social distancing is also encouraged, with spaces in queues and gaps between seating. Neither of these points should come as a surprise and will likely be the new normal for quite some time.

Flying during COVID – what to expect from air travel

Air travel followed a similar pattern to the airport experience. Again, face masks are compulsory for the entirety of the flight. Sure, it’s annoying – but it’s an annoyance I’m very willing to put up with if it keeps people safe and enables us to travel. 

We flew with Swiss Air and in-flight services were slightly more limited. But we were still able to get hot drinks and snacks. I can’t comment on long-haul flight provisions, as this was a very short flight. The plane was busier than I expected so social distancing wasn’t really possible. This didn’t particularly bother me as I could see everyone was wearing face masks. But it may be something to consider if you fall into the high risk category.

The airline provided a sanitising wipe so you could wipe down any surfaces. It almost goes without saying but be sure to pack your hand sanitiser too. Regular use will help keep you and everyone around you safer.

Where to stay when travelling during Coronavirus?

This is ultimately a personal preference – whether you stay in a hotel, Airbnb or tent will not make a big difference to your overall COVID risk. The majority of reputable hotel and holiday let companies have strict procedures in place to keep guests safe. It will vary between places, with many trying to strike the right balance between protecting guests but not negatively impacting their overall experience.

Hotel Au Coin Du Feu Morzine

We stayed in Chilly Powder’s catered Hotel Au Coin Du Feu in Morzine (gifted). I could not recommend Chilly Powder highly enough. They managed to achieve the perfect balance of safety and freedom. Staff wore face masks inside the hotel, everyone tried to keep a distance where possible and additional cleaning measures were put in place. But aside from the face masks, it generally felt very normal. 

Can you still do the usual holiday activities during COVID?

This will depend on where you are travelling to. Based on my experience in France, all the usual holiday activities were open and available to book. Kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting, high ropes, mountain biking, paragliding, crazy golf, and many more activities were all on offer. The only difference was that face masks were sometimes required, but usually only when in close proximity to staff. And with the type of summer activities in the mountains, this was rarely the case.

Lake Montriond

Restaurants and shops were all open as usual. As with the UK, you had to wear a face mask when going inside these places. But once sat at a table in a restaurant, everything was as normal.

How were travel prices affected by COVID?

Based on my own experience, flight prices seemed pretty normal. They weren’t cheap but then it is peak summer holiday time. Our car hire did seem a little pricey – but this is understandable given the circumstances. And, having said that, this was my first time hiring a car from Geneva so it’s difficult to accurately compare. We booked car hire with Alamo (Swiss side of the airport), who were the cheapest. I couldn’t fault their service.

It seems companies are trying to strike a balance between clawing back some of their profits from the last few months and encouraging people to travel again. For this reason, travel prices are generally as they usually are for this time of year, but with the added advantage of increased flexibility. Although again, this will depend on where you travel to and who you book with.

Is travelling post lockdown more problematic?

On the whole, no. It’s a little different but not in a problematic way. Face masks are probably the most annoying aspect – but they are going to be a staple part of all aspects of life now anyway. There are perhaps a few more considerations you need to factor in when booking. But aside from that, it all felt very normal, which was a huge relief.

Avoriaz in Summer

Top tips for travel during COVID

Here are my top tips for travelling post-lockdown during COVID:

  1. Look out for greater flexibility when booking in terms of making changes and cancellations to your booking. This will give you peace of mind.
  2. Still take out travel insurance. Although it won’t cover you for COVID-related issues, it will still cover you for all the usual stuff.
  3. Bring plenty of face masks, as you will need them at the airport, on the flight, and in most indoor places you visit.
  4. Pack hand sanitiser in your carry-on bag and use it liberally!
  5. Avoid long-haul for now. Staying closer to home will give peace of mind and you are less likely to face long queues through immigration. As we travelled within Europe, despite crossing two borders, it was all very seamless.
  6. Be prepared to fill in extra forms. When travelling back to the UK, we had to fill in a lengthy form on the Gov website. It was pretty lengthy and asked for a lot of information.
  7. Travel to a place where there are plenty of outdoor activities. You are less likely to be restricted by COVID if you stay outside.
  8. Check the guidelines for your travel destination before you go. It will help you be prepared and ensure you aren’t travelling somewhere that will be too restrictive for you to be able to fully enjoy your holiday.

If you don’t feel ready to travel yet then don’t. It won’t be as fun if you are anxious. But if you are thinking of travelling and weren’t sure what it would be like, I hope this has convinced you to give it a go. It’s not risk-free – but when is travelling ever risk-free?

Stay tuned for my full summer travel review of staying with Chilly Powder. There will also be an interview with their founder Francesca Eyre coming soon. In the meantime, check out my winter press trip with Chilly Powder.

I’d love to hear your experiences if you’ve been on holiday post-lockdown – leave me a comment below or get in touch on social media.

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