2020 has been a tough year. Cancelled travel plans, an ever-growing sense of uncertainty and a huge shift in way we live and work. As we stayed indoors during the lockdown, we satisfied our wanderlust with armchair travel and old photos. With travel slowly picking up, most of us have been looking up safe places to travel in India – some have already acted on it, others probably pushed back over safety concerns.
I recently took two trips- one was a road trip and the other involved air travel. And I stayed both in a hotel and an Airbnb. What I realized on these trips is as life chugs back to normal, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in the middle of a pandemic. We need to be mindful of the fact that the threat is as real as it was when we were in a lockdown. While travel can be liberating and rejuvenating after months of being cooped up at home, let’s remember to travel responsibly.
I give you 10 pointers to keep in mind to ensure a fun and safe vacation post the lockdown!
1. The destination
Research your destination carefully to factor in number of active cases, quarantine regulations, test pre-requisites, mode of travel to get to the place and then make a prudent decision.
2. Mode of travel
This is completely up to you depending on your comfort. For those wondering how safe is air travel, a recent study published by Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health said that travelling by air is safer than grocery shopping or eating out. Also, all airlines are taking stringent safety measures to ensure a safe and touchless flying experience; I can speak from my own experience. You can refer to my Air Travel Safety Checklist here for personal safety precautions that you can take. The next best option is to drive to a nearby destination in your own car.
- Only take restroom breaks
- Pack your snacks and breakfast to eat in the car
- Whenever you refuel or pay tolls, give out exact change so there is no exchange of money
- If you’re renting a self-drive car, please use a disinfectant spray to sanitize the car yourself before you use it
3. Type of accommodation
I would recommend a BnB villa over a hotel so that you have your safe insulated space. But it’s a personal choice. You can also pick boutique hotels with limited rooms and cottages, so you’re isolated from the rest of the travellers.
- Call your hotel/BnB and check if they follow a resting period between stays; they ideally should
- If you’re staying in a hotel which is more occupied than you would have liked, opt in for in-room dining or go for early breakfasts and dinners before it gets crowded
- Let your room be your complete safe space- whenever you return to your room, ensure you wash your hands, sanitize your phone, wallet etc and change your clothes to avoid carrying any infection into your room.
4. Hygiene essentials to pack
The new packing list looks something like this:
- Masks (lots of them)
- A pocket sanitizer
- Disinfectant spray – very handy to sanitize public restroom doorknobs, faucets, toilet seats, your own luggage, shoes etc
- Disinfectant wipes to quickly sanitize things like phones, chargers, laptops, keys, credit cards, belts, purses, and the like
5. Your fellow travellers
If you’re travelling with friends whose whereabouts and exposure you have no control over, it’s best to have a candid chat with them and explore the possibility of getting a test done prior to the trip, especially if you’re travelling in a larger group. It’s in everyone’s best interests and you can be at ease on your holiday. Avoid travelling with elderly family members who are more at risk of catching an infection.
6. Local transport
If you end up taking a cab from the airport to your destination or for some local sightseeing, ensure that you sanitize the door handles and seats before you get in. Insist that your driver is wearing his mask properly with his nose completely covered. And roll down the windows because it is safer than being in an enclosed vehicle.
7. Interacting with tourists
On my trips I realized that you have to be the one exercising caution because the tourists around you may not necessarily do so. Ensure you always have your masks on. Politely ask others around you to do so if they are not. Social distancing is rarely observed at restaurants, shops, sometimes even in your own hotel, so make sure you exercise safe distance even if the others don’t. We need to be more conscious of our own actions. Asking someone to click a picture is second nature. But hand out your pocket sanitizer and request them to sanitize their hands before you give them your phone. All these small things matter!
8. Local experiences
If you’re on a staycation, then you will mostly prefer to catch up on your sleep, chill in the room, or read a book. However, if you do want to step out, opt for activities like hiking, nature trails, cycling where you can be outdoors, socially distant and safe. Ditch crowded tourist spots for curated experiences that your hotel or homestay may have to offer. Learn to cook a local meal, go for a heritage walk…you get the drift.
9. Dining out
A couple of precautions you can take while dining out is to pick a place with outdoor seating, sanitizing the chairs and tables yourselves before sitting. If the restaurant does not have a digital menu card, ensure you sanitize your hands after placing the order. Try going at non-peak hours to avoid the crowds.
10. Once you return
Once you’re back from your vacation, self-isolate yourself in your room from your other family members and monitor yourself. If after 6-7 days, you don’t show any symptoms, you can go back to your routine (but if you’ve travelled internationally, then it’s safer that you self-isolate/quarantine for 14 days). If you have to go to office immediately upon return, consider getting yourself tested to not put your co-workers at risk. As far as unpacking is concerned, I know it’s tiresome but sanitize everything from your luggage and clothes to your gadgets and other accessories. The items you don’t need immediately can be unpacked after 14 days. No, I’m not joking!
All this may seem like an ordeal for some of you. But it’s the best we can do in the current scenario to enjoy some time off while keeping ourselves and those around us safe.
Have you travelled post the lockdown? What are some of your hacks? Tell me in the comments below.