Everything feels a bit up in the air at the moment, and travel is no different. In fact, traveling during coronavirus is still a big unknown for many of us, and it can be a challenge to know exactly what to expect. Although the pandemic has invariably had huge impacts on the travel industry, from travel restrictions, canceled trips and uncertainty surrounding safe travel, our love of travel has inspired us to seek out ways to make the most out of a difficult situation. So, we spoke to some of Skyscanner’s most frequent flyers who have discovered some unexpected positives of traveling during this crazy climate. If you plan to travel in 2020, here are some silver linings* travelers have found first-hand.
*Please note: Even though we highlight the positives in this article, we want you to know that Skyscanner takes COVID-19 and its impact on travel, the people working in tourism, and the world very seriously. Therefore, please make sure you check government advice, travel responsibly, and we can work together to revitalize and rehabilitate this new world of travel.
Avoiding crowds is easy
A major upside to traveling at the moment? Some cities that are typically jammed with tourists are much quieter. Instead of queuing for major attractions for hours, or being shoulder to shoulder with camera-wielding visitors, beloved destinations are less crowded and more open.
“I spent a week exploring Lake Como, Italy in September, and it was one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever been on. I’d read that I’d need to reserve ferry tickets, face queues, book restaurants – basically, plan every detail. But none of this was true. I merrily swanned onto boats ten minutes before and turned up to restaurants on a whim. I think that’s the way to approach travel at the minute: roll with it and enjoy every moment.” – Lisa, Communications
Getting a perfect Instagram snap is a cinch
Since the advent of the smartphone, we’ve all embraced amateur photography—Instagram provided us with the gallery space. Trouble is, that sunset pic or cathedral snap looks a lot less cool with 150 people milling about in the background. A big bonus of traveling during coronavirus is that you don’t have to use trickery or the right moment to get a perfect picture with just you in it. It really will be just you and the scenery.
“My husband and I were desperate to go on a holiday, and we decided on Prague. It was my third time visiting the place, and our ability to freely walk Charles Bridge and Meridian Square made me discover the city in a new light.” – Anastasija, User Satisfaction
No 6 a.m. towel run for the sun lounger
We all know that if you’re booking a beach break over the summer months, you need to get up at the crack of dawn to secure that sun lounger by the sea. Short of flying to the Maldives on a private island, it’s rare to find stretches of sand without a crowd. This year, one of the things we’ve consistently heard is that the beaches are pretty much free of people. Meaning, no matter what time of day you stroll to the shore, you’ll just be able to nab a top sunbathing spot.
“The beaches of Mozambique have been virtually deserted, the flamingos have returned to the shallow waters of the beaches of Maputo and once crowded seaside locations such as Tofo, Bilene and Santa Maria have become zen hangouts where people escape the city and work remotely. You can have your pick of prime beachfront houses at a discounted price and experience the slow pace of life without the hustle and bustle of tourists in a hurry.” – Kirsteen, Legal
Queue? What queue?
The Big Apple! The Eternal City! The Big Smoke! Big name destinations with big attractions come with big ol’ line ups. Normally, the views from the top of the Empire State Building will cost you 1.5 hours of queuing time. The Colosseum? A lengthy 2 hour wait. The London Eye? Hold onto your hats, because the wait is 2.5 hours for that giant Ferris wheel. However, right now the queues have quite literally disappeared. If that’s not an unexpected upside, we don’t know what is.
“I spent some time in Paris this summer. It was both surreal and magical seeing it without tourists. To be able to pull up a chair outside a cafe or bar in St. Germain or Montmartre and be surrounded only by the locals made me feel like a local, too. The Metro was quiet, it was easy to get a table at top restaurants, and I didn’t have to book in advance for any galleries or attractions. It’s also amazing to see how well some European cities are handling the crisis and the length the tourism industry is going to keep people safe and sanitized.” – Kim, Content Writer
Flying is a lot less stressful
Almost every traveler we talked to commented on how the experience of flying was less stressful than they expected. From empty planes to fast disembarkation to even faster baggage pick-ups, our travelers reported that they felt safe and—dare we say it—rather spoiled.
“I took my two young sons on a flight and there were two bonuses I hadn’t expected: 1) the free water and snacks, which we’d previously had to pay for, and 2) passengers remaining seated on arrival until their row was called. It was the fastest disembarkment of a full flight I have ever experienced! So much less stressful than the usual leaping-up-to-get-your-cabin-bags-out routine as soon as the seatbelt light turns off.” – Davina, Learning Manager
“Although a quiet airport is an eerie place, everything happens so quickly. Arriving in Athens, I strolled through passport control only to
find that my suitcase was the one having to wait for me at the carousels! I was under the sunshine in minutes.” – Gavin, Business Analyst
Traveling feels safer than you’d think
The world is on high alert, and it’s natural to feel the same, especially if you’re traveling during coronavirus. However, another consistent thing we kept hearing from our intrepid travelers was that the travel and hospitality industry is going above and beyond to make people feel safe.
“We just returned from 10 amazing days in Turkey. We were in a coastal town, so spent the majority of our time on the beach and swimming in the sea, with little close contact with others. All dining was outdoors, so we felt safer than dining out at home in enclosed spaces. I felt much more present and grateful the whole time – it made me realize how much we had been taking travel for granted.” – Eileen, Designer
Getting away is great for our wellbeing
You won’t be surprised to learn that most people we spoke to waxed lyrically about how much better they felt after a break away from their routine and the same four walls of their home. Whether it was a two-week holiday or just a few days, the mental health benefits were palpable.
“I needed to collect my daughter after she’d been away for respite care. Seven hours by myself with empty roads and a nice hire-car, through beautiful countryside. It wasn’t a long break, but it really helped my mental well-being.” – Andrew, Developer
“Having been desperate to get anywhere, it was great to have the ability to spend a long weekend in Copenhagen. The biggest positive for me was how little we took for granted since we were so craving the trip.” – Lloyd, Software Engineer
We can work from anywhere
Flexible schedules and working from home have been on the menu for a while, but until COVID-19, not that many people had experienced the benefits of it. One of the biggest is being able to stay and work in new places and spend time with family. Who doesn’t want to spend their lunch break by the sea?
“My dad rarely takes time off, so we never had a long vacation together with my family. Now, since both of us are working from home, we rented a house for a month in Bodrum, Turkey (our home country) and worked together from the balcony, which had an amazing sea view, and we could take swimming breaks. It was really refreshing to watch boats while taking Zoom calls, cook delicious food together and just be together for a longer amount of time!” – Ezgi, Developer
We’ve rediscovered the staycation
Flying isn’t an option for everyone, and as such, the humble staycation has sky-rocketed into the hearts and minds of holidaymakers that still need a break away from the 9 to 5. Not only is this throwing some much-needed business to the domestic travel and hospitality industries, but it’s environmentally friendly too! It’s easy to dismiss the appeal of your home country, but explore your own backyard is becoming a 2020 mantra.
“For my birthday this year, I initially wanted to splash some cash on a fancy holiday abroad, but COVID-19 meant this wasn’t a safe option. Instead, my partner and I booked a fancy staycation in a London hotel. We went to town on balloons and food and had a great, COVID-safe time. The change of scenery was very welcome, and I felt good investing in local hospitality in the city I love.” – Tanya, Content Manager
Want to learn more about the state of travel? Download our New World of Travel report.
Responsible travel during COVID
There are so many positives to traveling, but we have to also knowledge that travel is different this year. Some tourist sites have seen upticks in crowds, such as the Great Wall of China and Mount Snowdon in Wales.
Avoid busy areas
One of the biggest perks of travel in today’s world is that once-crowded cities get a break. If you see that a destination is busy, opt to venture elsewhere where you can escape the crowds instead. Planning ahead will help you avoid off-peak times, which will be a win for you as well as those who live and work in the destination.
Pack masks and hand sanitizer
Masks and hand sanitizers are added accessories you might have to bring along for your trip depending on where you’re going. Be sure to bring enough face coverings to last you in between washings, and give your hands a good scrub whenever possible. Hand sanitizers will be useful in-between hand washings, so keep one tucked into your day bag. Some destinations mandate mask-wearing whenever you’re outside your accommodation, so having one on hand will keep you on the good side of local government.
Minimize hand-to-hand contact
Many businesses are moving to cashless payments in an attempt to minimize hand-to-hand contact. Give your bank a heads up before your trip so that your card doesn’t get declined while you’re buying a souvenir. This year, themed face masks are the new fridge magnets.
Travel might not be the same as it used to be, but there are still silver linings. Whenever you’re ready, the world is waiting for you.
Follow government guidelines
It’s important to do your part when traveling to a new city or country. In addition to physical travel restrictions, local governments usually have guidelines on social distancing, the number of people in a group, mask-wearing, and days to quarantine, if necessary. If you’re traveling domestically in the U.S., stay informed with the coronavirus safety measures in each state.
Discover where you can travel
Unsure of where you can travel? We’ve rolled out a new map feature where you can discover what parts of the world are open to you. You can even set Destination Alerts on dream locations that are not quite ready to welcome tourists. That way as soon as they open up for business, you’ll be the first to know.
Common questions travelers have about traveling during coronavirus
There are a number of ways you can mitigate the risks of exposure while traveling during coronavirus. These include wearing a mask at all times, washing your hands regularly, carrying alcohol-based hand rubs/hand sanitizers with you, and social distancing. You can read up on the full WHO recommendations on precautions to take here.
Each government around the world has put in place their own advice regarding flying during the coronavirus outbreak, and we recommend you check with your local advisory board for the latest advice.
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Find out everything you need to know about traveling during coronavirus with Skyscanner.