As the world begins to emerge from the shelter-in-place orders put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are trying to figure out what travel will look like in the coming months and years. Recent surveys show that people are still excited to explore the world. Understandably, however, travelers are worried about how they can do so safely.
We cannot expect travel to return to the way it was before the pandemic. It is likely airports, train stations and all of the other ways that we travel will be changed for years to come, if not forever. Still, people will travel for business and leisure purposes. Many people confined to their homes are dreaming about getting out and adventuring as soon as possible. But what will post-pandemic travel look like and how can travelers take precautions to stay safe while still exploring the world?
Socially Distant Travelers
The first and most noticeable change will be the distance between travelers.
During the beginning of the pandemic, airlines were choosing not to sell middle seats on planes to give travelers a little extra space and making face masks mandatory throughout flights. Other longer-term ideas include cough-screens between passengers and turning middle seats around to face the opposite direction. Although none of these fixes can resolve the main concern on airplanes—the recirculating air supply—airlines are doing everything in their power to make flying as safe as possible for passengers. It’s still unclear exactly what airlines will do, and how passengers will react. But it is clear that increasing the distance is paramount to the safety and comfort of people traveling.
Other forms of travel are also adapting. Trains are similarly changing their policies to leave empty seats between passengers. Automobile travelers are making fewer stops when driving long distances. Lines at major transport hubs including airports and train stations are being spaced out so that travelers can stand six feet or more apart from one another.
Another priority for airports and transport hubs is allowing for “touchless travel.” The goal is that travelers can get to their destination and touch as few people and surfaces as possible. This may include:
- More self-service terminals for check-ins and baggage check
- Biometric and Digital IDs stored on your mobile device that may be used for verification and check-in
- Reduced use of paper tickets, instead moving tickets onto your mobile device
- Changed boarding and pre-boarding plans that reduce contact with airline staff and other passengers
Increased Leisure Travel to More Remote Places
Beyond modes of transportation, the places that people choose to travel for vacation are likely to change as well. Although business travelers will probably still be headed for big cities when video conferencing is not an option, people traveling for leisure will likely embrace more rural destinations for their trips. Here are some options you might consider for your next trip that can help you social distance even while exploring the globe.
- Large Parks and Nature Reserves: Taking trips to the great outdoors does not necessarily mean that you must travel far from home. There are often large open places in your home country or state that you can visit, allowing you to get out of the house without getting on a plane. Unlike in metropolitan areas, nature reserves can give you a chance to explore without coming into close contact with a lot of people.
- Mountainous Regions: Hiking is another great way to explore the world without too many people around. There are many destination mountain ranges around the world including the Himalayas, the Andes, the Sierra Nevada and more.
- Less Traveled Countries: There are a number of countries that have smaller populations with a lot of land surrounding them. Experts expect that these places will be more popular for travelers while we continue social distancing. Some of these places include Iceland, Norway and countries in central Africa.
- Camping and Glamping: Being able to travel with your own food and shelter has always been an appealing concept to many travelers. Now, however, where every rented or foreign item brings with it the possibility of infection, camping is an even better prospect than before. Camping and, its more comfortable alternative, glamping allow you to continue traveling without risking infection by inhabiting rooms and spaces that may carry germs from previous occupants.
Increased Reliance on Travel Insurance
In addition to the changes listed above, one of the biggest differences that we will need to adapt to is unpredictability.
Until we can travel without the worry of another outbreak of COVID-19, we will have to live with a certain degree of unpredictability. Borders may close or flights may be canceled with little to no warning in order to keep the disease from spreading. This is where trip and travel medical insurance can come in handy.
Trip insurance can reimburse certain prepaid costs if your flight or entire trip is canceled due to the virus. Travel medical insurance is important if you need to be treated or hospitalized in a foreign country. These types of insurance may even become mandatory in some countries to mitigate financial burdens. Always remember to double-check the plan documents to be sure that your chosen plan covers coronavirus.
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