A guide to smart travel in the post-Covid-19 era – GQ India

For better or for worse, the pandemic has changed our way of life (and travel) permanently. Robotic interactions, touch-less buffets and Covid charges are all part of the new normal. Whether you’re planning a solo trip to the hills or a fancy staycation in a remote island, here are some tips to optimise and make the most of your vacay goals in the new decade:

1. Choose the less touristy cousin

Every hyped and over-marketed destination has at least one lesser-known locale that deserves your attention. For example, Bali has the nearby Lombok and Gili Islands, Switzerland is flanked by awe-striking Austria, a wildlife safari experience at Serengeti National Park can be substituted (even surpassed) at the Masai Mara in nearby Kenya, the crowded Amalfi coast can be replaced by the less frequented and much cheaper Cilento Coast and so on and so forth. They may be out of the way with bad last-mile connectivity but these alternatives are definitely rewarding. Raw unspoilt beauty, pocket friendly prices and just less selfie-wielding snap happy tourists make the trip worthwhile.

2. Planning is king

Be it airline tickets or hotel reservations, choose flexible cancellations and replacement policies over fixed and non-refundable options. A tad expensive perhaps, but it has a higher pay off in the long run. Just make sure to read between the lines and check them out thoroughly. For example, airlines will give credit points in lieu of cash which are redeemable as per the availability. If you are sceptical about early bookings or planning isn’t your forte, don’t fret! Last minute airline bookings will continue to trend in 2021 and getting a good deal is more of a possibility now than ever. However, the same can’t be said for accommodation and visas in foreign lands. While some countries such as Kenya have scrapped their visa on arrival making an e-visa mandatory, others have a 14-day long home/ hotel quarantine. Lastly, check whether your travel insurance covers pandemics as some don’t.

3. Go get your tech on

Smart rooms, robotic interactions and contactless check ins to facilitate safety and social distancing- the new world has a new order and the smart traveller will adjust accordingly. For a hassle-free and seamless trip, keep a hard and soft copy of all your documents so that you aren’t stranded anywhere. In fact, make digital copies (a screenshot/photo on your phone as well) and don’t forget your power bank. Gone are the days of going off- the-grid without a care in the world. With countries changing their border regulations at the drop of a hat, you need a reliable internet connection to stay updated on the latest travel related restrictions and updates.

4. Amp up your fiscal fitness

All trips start with sensible budgeting. With hotels, spas and restaurants including a new hygiene fee aka Covid charges, the bills can add up pretty quickly. Besides, street food is a no-no in 2021 and dining out for every meal can get expensive. Will you be carrying traveller cheques? What about cash? Credit card companies are now offering travel based cards with more cash back offers which you can optimise for points and rewards to get better deals at hotels and airlines.

Pro Tip: Not one size fits all. So do your research before signing up for a new card.

5. Work forward to bleisure travel

In the post COVID-19 era mixing business with pleasure is something to look forward to. The Always O (outside of office) trend is finally gaining mainstream popularity and a lot of hotels are offering tempting staycation packages and workcation deals. With schools shut and online classes going on, the lines between work and play are blurring for many. We are living in unique times where most people don’t need to ‘report’ daily to a brick-and-mortar office or be physically present at a college campus. Make the most of this by creatively blending school, office and vacation for a heady cocktail of wanderlust.

6. Consider Domestic Travel and Road trips  

With the intermittent shutting and reopening of international borders (not to mention the new strain of Covid-19) domestic travel has got a boost. Sometimes the grass is greener in your own backyard and road trips are a perfect way to explore the hidden gems lurking just around the corner. From short excursions on weekends to more ambitious 10-day tours, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Pro Tip: Carry a physical map or local guidebook in case you face signal issues or the data connection times out.

7. Above all protect yourself.

Safety first. And by that we don’t mean just masks and sanitisers but physical security. Invest in some anti-theft backpacks, a solid luggage lock, a security belt (depending on where you’re going) or perhaps just a hidden wallet. Especially if you are a solo female traveller. Download a travel safety app on your smartphone such as Geosure, Sitata Travel Safe or Smart Traveller and get live updates on strikes, flight delays, local laws, locality hazards and stay abreast with your surroundings. Another important thing is first aid- something you wouldn’t want to borrow in COVID-19 times during an emergency.

8. Get nature friendly

Nomadic hotels and spartan holidays with a focus on hiking, skiing, biking etc in the lap of nature are setting the tone for this decade and how. Ditch the concrete jungles and explore the outdoorsy wilderness in an offbeat location. This will not only be a treat for sore city eyes but also work wonders for your mental and physical health.  Pick quaint cottages and socially distant camps/campervans over touristy hotels in the Downtown Areas.

9. Pick your social bubble wisely

Travel bubbles and travel corridors at a macro level are mirrored in social bubbles at the micro level. For the uninitiated, a social bubble is an exclusive group of people you don’t have to maintain social distancing with. Once you have identified your core bubble, sticking to it is the smart way of travelling. Your personal social bubble can include your family, friends and siblings and the idea is to travel only with them and minimise interaction with strangers.

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