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How to Plan Your Trip After COVID

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

For many of us who've been missing the delights of cruise & travel, it's probably starting to feel as though there's light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you're not yet comfortable planning your next trip, I've no doubt that you've been dreaming about it!


Those green shoots of recovery are promising, but the local situation varies depending on where in the world you're looking.


Related | Your Post-COVID Travel Hub


Sunrise and purple skies over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Christ the Redeemer Statue lit up and glorious clouds
Sunrise over Rio, there's light over the horizon but your options for international travel are still somewhat limited

You may be feeling confident enough to start putting deposits on those suites you want for next year or the year after, maybe you'd even consider a trip in 2021. It can be helpful to know if your ideas are realistic or if there's still a way to go.


We've taken almost a full year of observation and the challenges we've faced, but also the amazing successes our industry leading team has enjoyed, and turned it into 3 simple conclusions to help you plan a better trip.


It's never been so important to ask questions about your trip plans, just remember that these are suggestions and not advice.


1. You need to feel safe in your trip plans

One traveler might want to cruise exclusively with others who've been vaccinated, while the next might want to enjoy a week in paradise without having a single person ask them to put a mask on.

You'll likely find yourself somewhere in between.

How safe you feel on your selected transportation or how standards affect your enjoyment of an experience may be a bit subjective.


You may find that social distancing and mask wearing requirements (or their enforcement) varies across destinations, they may linger for the foreseeable future.

Scene from an airplane's interior, flight attendants wearing masks serving beverages during a flight to the Maldives
The Maldives have been a haven for travelers during COVID disruption, but you'd still have to wear a mask and respect distancing

How does that affect your planning?

No matter how confident you're feeling, a destination closer to home may be the most comfortable travel experience for everyone in 2021.


It's likely the most stress-free option in terms of testing requirements and you'll have more options for alternative routes home should you choose to fly - routes and schedules across the globe have been devastated during this last year, you may not have choice of airlines like you did in 2019.


Save the excitement of cruise and international destinations for mid-late 2022 and beyond, plan something bigger to look forward to in future and enjoy domestic bliss right now.

What are we doing for our clients?

We're able to help you understand the requirements for visiting a destination and to monitor any changes, or to share our observations of expected changes.


We also aim to paint a better picture of what you might expect from a cruise line or tour operator's approach to guest comfort & safety.


For example, and although it seems somewhat counter-intuitive, it was larger ships which were having the most consistent success cruising safely during the latter half of 2020.


We've also been reporting on some of the returns to (near) regular service for practical issues such as passport renewals and other government services at home.


Related | The Department of State Revisits Travel Advisories under COVID

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2. Your valuable time needs to be used well

You only have so much time to take a vacation. Life's obligations often mean your trip has to be planned around your calendar - or someone else's!


As pandemic disruption around the planet has stretched beyond the 12-month point, it is more important than ever to plan well for your trip's success.

How does that affect your planning?

Imagine traveling half-way around the world only to find out the experience you'd most like to enjoy suddenly wasn't available or the rules for participation had changed beyond your rigorous planning.

Blue sky, blue water, the beautiful coastline and mountains of Napali in Kauai, Hawaii
While Kauai enacted its own stricter measures, including the sights of Napali would have been impossible for most people visiting Hawaii

You'll need to balance planning those few important highlights well, while allowing yourself the flexibility to navigate those unexpected changes.


It can help to remain understanding that local perceptions may be different to your experience at home, and that both freedoms and restrictions can rapidly change.


For example, Hawaii has long been a popular domestic destination. We're finally seeing some numbers from 2020 and it appears visitor volumes were relatively high despite COVID disruption.


But Hawaii's approach to quarantine was severe, especially during the first half of 2020. Can you imagine flying across the Pacific to be confined to your room for 14 days?


Later, an exemption scheme was successfully implemented and which brought more visitors back to the islands - only for Kauai to separate from the herd and to unilaterally end its participation in inter-island connectivity and some of the quarantine exemption rules.


Now imagine you've gone through the trouble of rapid testing, correctly administered your paperwork for quarantine exemption, and you're ready to explore - only to find that many attractions and experiences are running at limited capacity, operating reduced hours, and have minimal staff.


As seen in the Hawaii example, it is increasingly devolved powers which cause concern.


Your destination's government may be opening borders and flight schedules have resumed, but even a worried mayor in your destination of choice can still shutter doors right now.


Or it may be unclear which localities are in charge when you're planning a trip half-way around the globe.


Dubai was for a time welcoming international visitors, but it isn't quite clear in the country's marketing materials that Ferrari World, the Grand Mosque, and a number of other incredible attractions are actually located in Abu Dhabi. You'd risk flying across an ocean and two whole continents just to miss out on half of the landmarks.


Will your plans hold up to similar disruptions? Would you still be happy visiting those far away destinations if you had to abandon 20% of your itinerary or more?

What are we doing for our clients?

It's not all bad news, innovating landmarks and locales have taken the opportunity to deliver an entirely new experience. For example, offering a private experience for the first time ever, how exciting!


Private tour of Bodley Hall at Oxford University's Christ Church College
Recognize this Harry Potter-inspiring landmark? We had the place to ourselves during this exclusive lockdown-inspired tour

I was able to explore Oxford with my family during a tiny break between stages of lockdown last August. Our hotel stay offered fewer amenities, the restaurant was closed altogether outside of breakfast - but!!! - Christ Church College was running a very unique semi-private guided tour option instead of their self-guided general admission.


Our guide, Peter, told us that an average day would see as many as 2,000 or more tourists bumping around the property with their headsets and smartphones leading the way.


On our visit, myself, my wife, and our son were 3 of only 5 guests permitted on site for our reserved space, we were joined by another couple who lived in London.


Peter had worked on campus for more than 30 years and led us on a far more engaging exploration of the landmark university site and all its intricate history, including that of authors such as Lewis Carroll, and modern cinema, including Harry Potter.

We're suggesting more private experiences and even buy-outs where possible. Generally, to put more priority on securing that exclusive experience and limited availability in advance of other visitors.

Looking at cruise travel, a cancelled call to port because of the weather or other safety concerns isn't all too common, but it does happen.


As modern ships evolve to become destinations in their own respect, you've got a sort of back-up plan for your day's entertainment. Ships can also simply sail to another port, sidestepping disruption altogether.


We'll be seeing more excursion bubbles for the near future, but cruise will remain our top recommendation for client travel in 2022 and 2023.

3. Your trip investment should be preserved

You're looking forward to making memories with the people who matter in your life, but your trip is also a significant financial investment. Your trust should be well placed.

How does that affect your planning?

Everyone should secure adequate travel insurance for the full duration of their time away from home.


Innovative tour operators have been turning their eye to domestic bliss long before the word coronavirus became a household name, there's a lot to see and do at home - with distinct benefits beyond convenience.


You might be surprised at what's on offer, Rocky Mountaineer now includes a full US itinerary, river cruises now sail the Mississippi and other majestic waterways of the interior, and a rich cultural tapestry featuring familiar customer service lies at your feet.


Landscapes of Canyonland and Moab, Utah, seen through the Mesa Arch
Visiting exotic landscapes doesn't always require a passport

A domestic trip can help keep this cost down, typically enjoying your regular health care coverage and reducing worries that your policy provider will deny coverage based on the jargon-laden terms relating to COVID issues, although you should still double check with your policy provider.


Pick the refundable rate for your hotel and stop booking non-refundable economy basic seating - even before COVID you couldn't cancel without 100% penalty!


Stop booking ultra low cost and budget carriers altogether.


Airlines aren't exactly high margin businesses, they need to hit roughly 70-80% capacity in order to break even. But if you pay tax, you helped pay for their bailout in 2020. The terms of which demanded those carriers refund their passengers for COVID-related cancellations.


This isn't the case elsewhere in the world.


In Canada, national carrier Air Canada has become one of the worst reviewed airlines on planet earth due to their poor response. It may be that WestJet doesn't survive.


In Europe, there were too many conflicting rules to keep track. It was rumored that a few of the popular budget airlines wriggled out of refunds by flying empty planes on their original schedules - apparently it was less costly to run an empty plane than to refund tickets. It wasn't their fault that lockdown and border closures meant you couldn't get to the airport...


More than anything, you'll want a good level of accountability when it comes to selecting which businesses deserve your trust.

The majority of reputable cruise lines received no taxpayer funding, yet they were among the quickest travel businesses to offer credits worth at least 100% the initial value entrusted to them by their guests.


This credit system hasn't been a universal success, mind you. Some of the smaller operators seem to have struggled to keep up. I might also observe that some of the earliest credits issued in March or April of 2020 have not enjoyed the same flexibility as those issued later on in the season.

MSC Cruises successful COVID cruise sailings on MSC Grandiosa out of Genoa, Italy
Cruise success during COVID? Look no further than the MSC Grandiosa in Genoa, Italy

But as the pause to global sailing continues, many cruise lines have improved their flexibility and expanded the inclusions offered with their standard sailings. Adding new beverage packages or including longer pre/post-cruise extensions in their promotions.


Some have made refunds instant and instead of bonus credit, they offer a promo rate you can use for a new booking made in the next 12 months.


Successful escorted tour companies which offered more inclusive itineraries continued to support their guests in a similar fashion.

What are we doing for our clients?


For the remainder of 2021 and likely into 2022, we're only booking flights as part of a unique package in conjunction with your cruise or tour itinerary. This helps us leverage those great supplier relationships to maintain the value of your airfare, typically gaining more flexibility while retaining the preferred rates.


And while we've always been selective of our supplier partners, our short list of trusted partners has become a very short list in the fallout from pandemic disruption.


We know which cruise lines and which tour operators were most respectful of their guests.


Let's just leave it at that.


Where can I get more information?


You're always welcome to call and speak to an advisor, or set up an appointment for a deeper dive on your trip plans.


Contact & Appointments (click here)


You can also check out the Post-COVID Travel Hub or simply ask a question for some community responses in our Travel Society forum.


 

Our Mission


Here at Odyssean Travel, our mission is pretty simple. We want you to make better vacation memories with the people who matter most in your life.


Because we’re a small, family owned business, we need your help to spread the word so we can aid more travelers in this mission! Simply by sharing this post or even just leaving a comment will help us help others enjoy a better, more memorable trip.


You can find answers to your cruise & travel questions in our friendly online community, our Travel Society and online forum (click here).


If you enjoy a superior level of service and want an unforgettable vacation experience of your own, contact us now to arrange a complimentary One-on-One Discovery Session with a qualified, professional travel advisor (click here).

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