Two years into the pandemic and it’s little wonder some of us are getting seriously itchy feet. Whether you’re consumed by wanderlust or desperate to reconnect with friends or family overseas, it’s felt like a long time between stamps in the passport and like the light at the tunnel keeps getting further and further away. However, as the world learns to live with the pandemic, we’ve seen borders reopen and restrictions ease, and more and more countries begin to welcome visitors with open arms (albeit with some restrictions). Unsurprisingly, we’re feeling a little wary about hopping on a plane – it still feels complicated, confusing, and risky. So, is it worth it? And what do you need to know before you go?
Travel. It’s in our DNA
Australians and Kiwis are an intrepid bunch; in fact, it’s something we’re known for worldwide. Pre-pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for more than 10 million overseas trips to be made by Australians annually. Whether it was quitting a job to live overseas, heading to Indonesia on a surfing trip, hitting Hawaii for some serious shopping or hiking in Nepal, the motivation to leave our shores searching for something new is ingrained in our culture. While spontaneous trips may still be off the cards for a while, as border restrictions ease – with Australia fully reopening the borders and the New Zealand Government put a 5-step plan in place and reopened borders from 27 February – it’s entirely possible to reignite your passion for travel and start planning to board a plane destined for an overseas port. Here’s what you need to know…
Doing your research is more important than ever
Gone are the days of whipping out your Lonely Planet guide and planning your trip on the fly; the new era of COVID travel requires in-depth research about restrictions in the country you’re heading to, what would happen if you contracted COVID-19 while overseas, and requirements for returning home. Smarttraveller has plenty of helpful advice for Australian travellers, and Safetravel assists New Zealanders.
Ensure all your bookings are flexible
While you’ll be crossing your fingers, you won’t need it; it’s crucial to read the fine print and get across the cancellation policies for everything you’re booking ahead. From flights to accommodation to rental cars and tours, check what penalties you may face for cancellation and whether you would receive a credit or refund. If there is any room for interpretation, it pays to check in with the service provider and have in writing what will happen in the event of a last-minute COVID-related cancellation. Overseas holidays are expensive – and painfully so if a pandemic wreaks havoc with your plans.
Insurance is no longer a ‘nice to have’
Travel insurance is essential, but not just any insurance policy will do. The pandemic has changed the risk involved with travel significantly – not just in terms of health but also in relation to the costs of cancelled flights. As a result, insurers have tightened up their policies, so it pays to comb the fine print. For example, many insurers will cover costs if your trip is cancelled or cut short due to you getting COVID-19. Still, many policies won’t cover you for travel changes due to large-scale, government-mandated restrictions or lockdowns. And don’t forget to check that COVID-19 medical treatment and hospital cover is included in your policy; hopefully you won’t need it, but better to be on the safe side.
Check all the entry requirement boxes
Make sure you’re aware of all the requirements in place at your destination to avoid costly disappointment. Vaccination status is essential in many countries to avoid quarantine; however, proof of a negative PCR test is acceptable in some destinations.
Is your passport up to date?
It’s been a while…don’t forget to check the validity of your passport! And remember, while it’s officially valid until it expires, many countries require your passport to have 3-6 months of validity remaining on entry.
Get excited and make a plan
After two years in the making, you want this to be a trip to remember! Planning a trip and sitting down to work on an itinerary is fun and exciting, and believe it or not, research has shown that planning a trip makes you happier than actually taking it. Planning acts like a mini-mental holiday – every time we sit down to think about it and visualise what’s to come, our anticipation and excitement builds. Perhaps more importantly, putting together a plan will help you get the most out of this much-needed trip. And be sure to leave a copy of your itinerary with your loved ones to help ease any travel nerves.
Ready to go, but where can you go?
While we’ve become accustomed to searching and booking online, with all the red tape and various restrictions in place, the wisdom and experience that a local travel agent provides can be valuable for some much-needed reassurance. If you’re looking for holiday inspiration, destinations closer to home such as our Pacific Island neighbours (Fiji is currently welcoming fully vaccinated Australians, and the Cook Islands is welcoming vaccinated New Zealand travellers – quarantine free) both offer blissful island holidays and some desperately needed support to nations that rely heavily on the tourism industry. If you’re interested in heading further afield, Finder has a comprehensive and regularly updated list of destinations Australians can travel to. Remember to keep an eye on the requirements for returning home on Smarttraveller (Australia) or Safetravel (New Zealand).
5 quick tips to help you stay safe out there
1. Stock up on sanitiser and soap – look for sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content and pack bars of soap for thorough handwashing (which is often more effective than sanitising).
2. Keep your distance – putting distance between yourself and potential infection is one of the most effective barriers.
3. Mask up – face masks are an everyday essential, so make sure you stock up on both reusable and disposable masks for flights, and higher risk settings.
4. Glasses provide an extra level of protection – whether you’ve got perfect vision or a prescription, glasses can provide an additional barrier against the droplets of COVID-19. Wearing a pair of glasses in close-contact settings such as flights will provide you with extra protection.
5. Stay hydrated – hydration helps our immune system stay strong, so pack a reusable water bottle. A bottle with a straw can be handy for taking a sip without completely removing your mask.
Stay safe and make the most of the memories
Overseas travel right now isn’t the type of carefree adventure that some of us may be accustomed to, but with some careful planning and some safety precautions, it’s a great time to start thinking about your next journey. Happy travels!
Please note that the information provided here is general and should not constitute professional advice. You should always check and follow the latest state and government health advice.