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Exploring the world in the new normal: Tips and ideas

Most of the changes the travel industry is grappling with today due to COVID-19 are likely to outlive the pandemic. We might still need to pack hand sanitizers and wear face masks in planes long after locations around the world have fully opened for international travel. That being said, the world now has multiple COVID vaccines and, as a result, many tourist destinations have started to relax their lockdown and quarantine measures.

Now would be a good time for wanderlusts to dust their exploration gear and travel guides in readiness for their next vacation. However, you need to take some safety measurements especially if you are traveling with elders or children. Just remember to wear a face mask, keep physical distance, and then take note of these 4 “new normal” exploration tips:

 1.      Make flexible travel bookings

Start by managing your expectations because nothing is certain in the “new normal”. A lot has changed since we last traveled, and a lot is still changing as you read this article. Your mindset should be flexible enough to accommodate any abrupt changes that might affect your travels negatively. You might travel today, for example, only to come back home after a few days to find that your government imposed a mandatory 2-week quarantine period for anyone coming from abroad. While this may If that thought makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should put your travel plans on hold until the whole world is vaccinated.

Being flexible also means enlisting a seasoned professional in and for all your travel plans. This is because travel policies in different countries, tour companies, and airlines are changing too fast for us laymen to keep track of. You just can’t do without a travel advisor in the new normal.

Lastly, normalize reading the fine print in every booking you make. Scrutinize the cancellation policy pages of every hotel, airline, or Tour Company you browse. Call them if you can’t understand the flexibility of their cancellation policies. Make them commit to refunding your money if some of the services/facilities they provide won’t be open or available during your vacation. Leaving the fine print to chance during these uncertain times can cost you a lot in terms of money lost and emotional torture endured.

While traveling with all of this in mind is a lot of extra trouble, it is still easier to handle if you are an adult. If you are traveling with children, it is a different story. They won’t be able to understand what is really happening, therefore try to explain the situation in simple terms. You might also need to prepare some fun activities or have a storybook with you if you have to wait extra at the airport. In addition, in case the trip is completely canceled or you have to stay for a shorter period of it, promise them fun games for when you get back home. In case anything happens, they need to have something to look forward to so they don’t get sad.

2.      Whenever possible, explore in a rental car

First, try as much as possible to travel first-class; budget airlines cannot be reliable even when they promise space between seats. Also, opt for a direct flight to avoid unnecessary stopovers that could compromise your safety.

Open buses and subways used to be fun ways of exploring new cities before COVID, but not anymore. It is safer to rent a car because you cannot trust that everyone you interact with in public transit is responsible enough to obey all set safety guidelines. Just acquire your international driving permit in case it is mandatory for foreign drivers in your travel destination. And even if it is not mandatory, the identification information it contains (your name, photo, and driver information) can be life-saving in case you get in trouble in a foreign country. The document “speaks” over 12 languages- more than anyone can speak. This way you can visit all the attractive destinations for children and enjoy their happy faces when arriving there.

Do you need tips for finding deals on a rental car? Well, here you go:

  • The obvious tip? Book early! Advance booking will most likely not get you lower prices.

  •  Booking a rental car from the airport might not be the best idea. Book with a car rental company that operates from outside the airport because their taxes and operation costs are lesser, and that translates to more affordable rates than those that operate out of the airport. Don’t worry about getting from the airport because these companies offer customers free shuttle services to and from the airport.

  • It is okay to negotiate for friendlier prices. The worst that can happen when you ask for a discount is not getting the discount. Also, enquire if any of your memberships and affiliations (Amazon, AAA, or AARP, etc.) qualify you for special discounts or additional perks.

3.      Travel off the beaten path

Rural areas can offer you the same buzz of adrenaline that cities offer, they allow you to experience life as a local, and they are safer than urban areas as far as COVID-19 is concerned. You will truly explore and integrate into new cultures when you interact with people who speak languages you don’t speak and have delicacies you didn’t know existed. That is unlike when you interact with locals living in cities and who are keener on emulating the “civilized world” than embracing their native cultures.  Besides, locals in less-touristy areas are more open to engage and interact with visitors than their urban-based compatriots. Enjoy the small things like learning local songs, dialects, and how to cook local foods.

Traveling off the beaten path also means taking the back roads, especially now that you are driving yourself. Ditch the interstates or major highways for the smaller roads when exploring a new city. Go to the suburbs and small towns and you’ll be amazed by the interesting histories and hidden treasures no travel guide will ever capture. Your children will be absolutely in awe if they get to live this little adventure and experience a completely new world while on this trip. Even better, you could rent bikes if you see it fit. You could then explore roads that are impossible to reach with cars. If you plan to ride for a long time, you should consider taking gas powered bicycles since they are assisting bikes that will make your adventure easier and more entertaining. 

4.      Book a vacation rental

Short-term vacation rentals are the best accommodation option for people touring off the beaten path. You can get a good vacation rental in the heart of a forest, along “abandoned” beaches, or in the mountains. These isolated places can never be crowded, so you will be safer from coronavirus than you’d be in a city hotel. Remember to confirm that the amenities in the rental aren’t shared, the cleanliness and sanitation are up to WHO standards, and that it is safe. You might also want rentals that have a big garden where your children could play outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Don’t be too concerned about COVID-19 to forget many safety concerns that existed before the pandemic.

Final word

The bottom line is to be extremely sensitive to cleanliness in your travels. Always have several masks, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and/or spray, and hand sanitizer on you at all times. You can even bring your own bed sheets just to be sure of safety. You cannot be too careful in the “new normal”.

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