Nov 9, 2020

Give yourself the green light to start some travel planning for 2021

A "walk" light in Reykjavík Iceland

One of the best parts of travel is anticipation. Who doesn't love having a trip to look forward to taking?

Rather than give into into the uncertainty around COVID-19, go ahead, give yourself the green light to think about your next adventure. Pfizer's announcement that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing infection in volunteers could boost travel next year sooner than expected. The idea is to start the mental journey while at the same time avoiding locking into plans that could set you up for disappointment. 

One way to begin is to think about what types of travel might make sense when, then come up with a rough timetable, starting with what you think might be possible in the next few months, next spring, in the fall and beyond. 

Friends recently signed up for a Rick Steves' Spain tour for next September. That seems realistic, given estimates about when vaccines might be available, and the fact that Steves is not yet taking deposits. What we don't know, and what Steves no doubt grapples with in his own planning, is what familiar destinations will feel like post-COVID.

Will the same hotels be there? If so, what will they be like? TripAdvisor reviews will be outdated, and new ones will be scarce.  What restaurants and museums will be gone for good? Will street crime be worse due to job losses and unemployment?

Tour operators like Steves no doubt will have these things figured out. For independent travelers, it might be wise to think about ways to alter itineraries to take into account a changed landscape. 

Example: I'd love to think we could go to Italy next spring, but no amount of positive thinking will change the fact that it may not be possible or even wise. And when the time is right, we  might be smarter to look into renting a car instead of relying on public transport, and focus on smaller towns rather than crowded cities. My husband and I love using buses and trains, and  exploring big cities, but compromises might be necessary for a while. One question is, how many?

Hawaii: Will locals welcome travelers? 

Given rules about testing, re-testing, quarantines, face masks and social distancing -even when a vaccine arrives - our most favored travel destinations might have to wait. Others, not necessarily on our radar, might deserve a second look. Ireland or Iceland, for instance, might be more welcoming than Hawaii where locals worry about careless mainland tourists spreading the virus. 

It's important for everyone to assess their own risk tolerance level, keeping in mind some will decide not leave their homes until a vaccine is available, while others will travel outside the country the first chance they get. 

I start by keeping a list of trips that seem doable in the next month or two. These are mostly local two or three day getaways geared towards fall and winter activities in the Northwest in destinations where there are few COVID cases. We already have done a few of these, staying mostly in private Airbnbs where we're apt to encounter fewer people than in hotels.   

Looking ahead to spring, I envision being able to catch up on out-of-town family visits, then in summer, hosting houseguests who planned to come to Seattle last summer. By fall, I think it's realistic to think about getting back to international travel, picking destinations according to what makes sense post-COVID, rather than automatically falling back on cancelled plans. 

If the U.S. doesn't get control of the pandemic, then spring plans could become summer plans. Summer plans could move to fall etc. Nothing is certain these days, but having a mental game plan helps me keep my expectations in check without discarding the notion of travel all together.  

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