We live in a COVID world, one where many of us are still adjusting to the 'new normal'. A year after international lockdowns, travel and holiday planning too have finally recommenced, but with a few changes.
There's still a considerable amount of trepidation amidst travellers planning their annual vacation, and rightly so! The danger of the pandemic still looms. However, with a few easy precautions, one can venture on a holiday and enjoy that much needed 'escape'.
The first decision you need to make whilst planning your vacation is which 'destination' you’d be travelling to. Seeing the current situation, we would advise you to choose a city that can be driven down to. But, given all the fantastic travel offers available; should you choose a destination that is not a simple drive away and requires you to take a flight; fret not, we’ve got you covered! Here are our tips to ensure a safe and hassle-free journey:
1. Enquire about the COVID-19 protocols in the city/country you plan to visit
Dubai for example, needs you to show a ‘negative’ report when you board the flight and take another test on landing. It also requires you to quarantine yourself till you test negative for COVID-19 (which generally takes 24 hours or so). Maharashtra requires you to take a COVID-19 test 48 hours before you travel. Kerala too needs you to get an e-pass before you travel. Additionally a few hotels and holiday homes may require you to show a negative COVID-19 report on arrival. It is, therefore, best to enquire about the requirements from your hotel or holiday home well before you visit.
2. Whilst choosing flight timings, pick the least popular slot
This may require you to wake up super early or perhaps not sleep through the night, but it will mean that the airport and your flight will be less crowded. Your transits will be faster, with minimum wait time in queues. Most importantly safety checks and even your aircraft will be less crowded. The benefits of taking an early or late flight far outweighs the trouble you will endure to make the flight.
3. Keep a look out for COVID 19 'safety' deals
Like booking two seats instead of one (to ensure social distancing by leaving one seat vacant) for a small premium. A few months back Indigo launched a scheme whereby you could book an additional seat at a 25% lower rate than its original price. This way two people flying together can easily get the entire row for themselves, eliminating the potential risk of contracting the virus from a neighbouring passenger.
4. Choose airlines that have incorporated further safety and sanitary features
Airlines like Indigo and Air Vistara have replaced their in-flight filters with HEPA filters to ensure that the air within the cabin gets purified faster and better. In fact, Air Vistara even provides every passenger seated in the middle seat with a PPE suit to ensure further protection. We recommend you contact your preferred airline beforehand to enquire about their COVID-19 safety protocols.
5. Be flexible when it comes to upgrading or downgrading your seat
If economy class is too crowded on your flight, you could perhaps upgrade at check in to premium economy or business class for a premium. Similarly, if you see premium economy or business class packed, choose to downgrade your class of travel. Remember that the goal is to try and maintain as much distance as you can from co-passengers
6. Choose a direct flight
This mitigates the risks associated with transit travel, and reduces exposure to further crowds, new areas, and a second flight. And it essentially reduces travel time, which means reduced risk to COVID-19 exposure too.
7. Find out if your flight will board via an aero-bridge or will board you via a bus
Airlines tend to pack as many people in a bus at a time as possible and you simply cannot maintain social distance with co passengers whilst transiting in these buses. The aero-bridge is a far safer and convenient option in these times. Do contact the airlines or the airport to enquire about this before you book your flight.
8. Check-in online
This requires you to simply drop off your luggage at the airport and not stand in queues to be physically checked in. It also expedites the entire process and reduces the time you spend in common areas. We also recommend that you book all additional services (in-flight meals, porter services for elders, etc.) online and pay in advance to avoid further physical contact and waiting time.
9. Use the safety equipment kit provided at check-in
Wear the disposable mask over your own along with the visor provided in the kit at all times. Even during a visit to the washroom. It will be a bit uncomfortable but removing the mask or visor is not a safe option. While eating a meal, make sure you slide the mask to your chin and wear it again right after your meal. If the flight is a short one, avoiding eating is the best option.
10. Carry extra sanitizer
Even though you’re given a bottle of sanitizer by the airlines, it is rather small and gets over quickly. Make sure you carry extra, for when you land. Sanitize at every possible opportunity. You can never be too safe.
11. Avoid using in-flight washrooms
Even though air hostesses take all hygiene precautions and sanitize washrooms after every use, we suggest that you avoid using it as far as possible. While it can't be avoided during longer flights, do keep your mask on and that sanitizer handy!
12. Recommended luggage handling protocols
Wear disposable gloves to pull your luggage off the conveyor belt and sanitize its handles before putting it on your trolley. You could also use disposable luggage covers or the baggage wrapping facility that is available at many airports for maximum safety.
13. Pre-book a sanitized taxi from the airport to your hotel and vice-versa
Try not to use local cabs, as you cannot be sure about their sanitization protocols. Make sure both you and your driver have your masks on throughout the journey.
These safety measures may sound a bit intimidating but are really easy to follow once you get used to them. They even become second nature. Since this is the ‘new normal’ it might be a good idea to get used to these measures and not let them deter your travel and holiday plans in 2021!