If you’d have asked me last year where I’d I’d be right now, I’d have told you I’d be on an epic road trip in the USA taking last year’s cancelled trip to the West’s National Parks. Or maybe even in Hawaii, finally ticking off the final state on my list. What I didn’t expect was to be stuck in the UK again, making do with a road trip to Wales. But that’s where I’m heading off to today. Not that I’m not looking forward to it. Any change in scenery and change in conversation right now is more than welcome. But I know where I’d rather be.
Maybe I was naive to think this would be all over by now and travel would be back to normal. I at least thought we’d be in abetter position than this time last year travel-wise but in actual fact, I feel like it’s gone the other way! To think that this time last year, my brother and sister-in-law were away in Greece with their 6-year old at an all-inclusive resort. Yes, it wasn’t quite what they’d imagined when they’d booked it – Greece wasn’t actually their original destination, it had been changed when the Spanish resort they’d booked had decided not to reopen that season. Masks had to be worn in indoor common areas, disposable gloves to access the buffet and they were wary to leave the hotel and explore like they usually would have done but they travelled there without any restrictions other than needing to fill in a passenger locator form on return which, they say, was barely glanced at as they cleared security back into the UK.
This year, they’ve also opted for a staycation, deciding the minefield of travelling abroad is just too much of a risk.
Even as far into the pandemic as October last year, I was able to take a weekend city break to Rome – no tests or any paperwork other than the passenger locator form needed. We did have a bit of a panic when it was rumoured that Italy would be leaving the UK’s ‘green list’ the day before our departure but luckily, it was a few days after our visit that Italy imposed proof of a (rather expensive) negative PCR test upon arrival and a few weeks later that Italy was finally moved off the UK’s green list due to rising infection numbers there.
Strangely enough, I actually felt safer while in Italy than I have done at pretty much any point of the pandemic in the UK. Compliance with the rues felt higher – everyone wore a mask, no exception, the idea being if you weren’t medically fit to wear a mask, you shouldn’t be risking going out anyway; test and trace seemed to run a lot smoother there and general hygiene precaution in place seemed more thorough than in the UK.
So why, with more countries than ever on the UK’s green list and restrictions on quarantining upon return from amber countries being relaxed, am I reluctant to make any arrangements to travel abroad, even on a package holiday, for this year?
Firstly, the expense and stress of testing. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t know where to start. Some countries needing you to test negative before arrival, some not requiring this but the airlines still requiring you to test negative to board. These tests having to be private PCR tests with companies charging anything from £70 to £200. Apart from the expense, and despite being as careful as possible i the days leading up to my departure I’d be terrified that my test would come back positive and I’d not be able to travel, possibly losing the money I’d paid out for flights, hotels etc. I’ve heard so many stories of passengers not getting their results back in time despite company promises, another worry.
Then there’s the tests needed to return. If I’m away on a ‘relaxing’ holiday, the last thing I’d want to have to do is send time trying to organise a Covid test so that I can return home again. And again, the constant worry that I might test positive and would have to shell out to quarantine abroad.
Proof that you’ve booked a ‘day 2’ test and various other forms are also needed to return to the UK – more expense and stress.
If this becomes an ongoing thing, I guess eventually, I’ll just have to suck it up and give it a go otherwise, I’ll never go anywhere again but the whole rigmarole will certainly put an end to me taking 1 or 2-night city breaks in Europe – it’s just too much to organise and too much extra to pay for a short break. At least over a 2-week+ trip, the extra expense would average out at just a few extra pounds a day.
My second concern with travelling right now is the rapidly changing situation across the World. Yes, our travel traffic light lists are scheduled to be updated only every 3 weeks but this doesn’t mean things won’t change over that time if infections in the country you’re in suddenly and rapidly rise. Being double-jabbed, I would no longer have to quarantine on return from an amber-list country but I don’t think I could take the risk of the country suddenly moving to the red list while I was there meaning either having to shell out for a flight to return early or having to quarantine in a government hotel at my own expense (currently an eye-watering £2500)!
In 2019, I won a 3-night all expenses paid trip to the South of France. We scheduled it for April 2020 and obviously, it didn’t go ahead. It was then rescheduled for September 2020 only to be cancelled again and moved to April 2021. With France still out of bounds and heavy restrictions still in place then, it was cancelled again indefinitely with promoters telling me it can now be rescheduled for anytime up to the end of 2023. As long as all the restrictions with testing etc taking place, I just don’t see us making it there anytime soon. The freebie is a lot less free when we’re having to pay out for all the tests. We’re going to give it a few more months before making a decision on when to rebook it for but have both said that Autumn 2023 might be our best option!
Last year, I was somehow also lucky enough to win a week in Dubai, flights and 5-star all-inclusive hotel on the Palm included. This is currently scheduled to go ahead in early October after promoters insisted that we rebooked it from our original choice of dates in February earlier this year. To say I have concerns about this trip going ahead is an understatement and I’m hoping when the promoters next get in touch in early September that it’ll be to give us the option to once again move the trip. Maybe I’m being over cautious. Maybe I just need to embrace that this is the way it is right now, that travel will become something only the rich can afford and accept that I won’t be able to jet set here, there and everywhere on city breaks and concert trips like I used to in a pre-Covid World. For many, travel has always been a luxury and is something I shouldn’t take for granted. Maybe instead, I’ll have to just save up for one extended trip each year, suck it up and just take the risks when it comes to testing, traffic lights and quarantine. But not just yet.
Right now, it’s time to throw my suitcase and waterproof coat into the back of the car and head west to Wales as I continue to hope that eventually, things will return to something a bit closer to ‘normal’.