The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty in our lives. The need to keep a safe distance from one another, a rise in unemployment, and misinformation have all contributed to disruption. While we’re not yet out of the woods, we are starting to see some semblance of returning to normal. Some of us are considering plans to take vacations to Europe.
This is a natural reaction to our crisis. Alongside the infection itself, the situation surrounding COVID-19 has taken a significant mental toll on many of us. As highlighted in the resource, a study found that 35% of Tokyo telecommuters reported a deterioration in their mental health since lockdown began. Between the upheaval in our lifestyles, concern about health, and changes to working practices, the general population is experiencing a lot of strain. One of the strategies that can help maintain our mental health is taking time away for some travel.
That’s not to say that we can just jump into a vacation. Parts of Europe are starting to open, but there are still restrictions in place in various areas. Not to mention that we each have a responsibility to ensure that we maintain COVID-safe practices, wherever we go. We’re going to take a look at a few areas of consideration to keep in mind while taking your trip.
Wherever your destination is, you’re going to have to figure out how to get there safely. Not to mention that you need to take into account any commutes, tours, and transfers that you’ll be taking after you arrive. How you approach transportation is one of the key areas of keeping safe while travelling in Europe.
Using low volume forms of transportation is one of the primary ways of avoiding infection. While the majority of flight passengers will be unable to afford a bump up to first class to increase their distance from others, it’s important to put in some research. Call the airlines and discuss what their policies are on maintaining distance during their flights. Are they operating on sufficiently reduced capacity? Do they enforce strict mask-wearing requirements for passengers and staff?
Once you’re in Europe, you’ll find that many of the local transportation operators already have safety measures in place. Most are limiting the occupation of seats on buses and trains, and taxi drivers are required to sanitize their vehicles and wear masks. However, you can reduce the risk by seriously considering the necessity to use transportation that is filled with other people. Are you able to take a pleasant, scenic stroll to your destination instead of the city tram? If you do have to use public transport, take portable sanitizing products in your day bag, and use antiseptic wipes on any handrails or plastic seats.
Accommodation and Visits
The first thing that you need to pay attention to while travelling to Europe is the quarantine requirements. It may well be the case that if you’re travelling from the U.S. you’ll be seeing more of your accommodation than you would like. Many countries will require you to spend up to the first 14 days of your visit confined to your living space — no trips to the biggest attractions, no sauntering along beautiful vistas. Don’t head to one of the countries with these restrictions expecting to be able to flaunt the rules. Check the relevant embassy websites for information, when you’re planning your trip.
However, if your choice of destination doesn’t require such restrictions, it’s important to review your living arrangements. A house sitting getaway may have made a good alternative vacation pre-pandemic, but it’s not wise at the moment. Airbnbs have become increasingly popular in recent years, but pay close attention to whether you’ll be staying near owners or other guests on the property. Whether you’re in rented accommodation or a hotel, avoid crowded communal areas. It might also seem like overkill, but pay attention to your use of doorknobs and surfaces such as kitchen countertops. While there may be strict cleanliness protocols in place, it’s still worth your while to give these an extra clean yourself.
But let’s face it, you don’t want to spend your entire vacation emptying the contents of the minifridge in your room — you’ll want to see the sights. Where possible, avoid tours that find you indoors with multiple people for lengthy periods of time, as this may increase your chances of exposure. Consider open-air alternatives for your visits. Take walking tours of local historical landmarks. Europe has many natural and architectural wonders to behold, not to mention alfresco dining opportunities for when you need to refuel.
COVID-19 is a distinct public health challenge. As such, it’s important to be cognizant of your healthcare needs and options for your time in Europe. While many countries have gotten their number of infected down to relatively manageable levels, there are still those experiencing rises or second waves. As such, you need to avoid putting additional undue pressure on local healthcare facilities.
This begins with some preparation for the health of you and your family. A well-stocked first aid kit is essential. Minor accidents will occur, particularly when it comes to travelling with kids, so it’s important to keep a basic treatment kit on hand. Bandages, antiseptic cream, and ibuprofen can all help you to patch up your family in the short term rather than head to a clinic. You should also ensure that you have a sufficient supply of your family’s regular medications, along with some spares. Doctors surgeries and pharmacies are both potential hot spots for transmission, so you’ll be keeping yourself safe alongside freeing the valuable attention of medical professionals.
If you do have to go to a doctor for non-emergency reasons, call ahead first. While some do offer walk-in services, there will be strict protocols that need to be followed. The reception staff at the clinic or surgery will also need to ask you pandemic-related questions before arranging an appointment, and may even need you to take a COVID-19 test. The best approach is to stay at your accommodation, make a phone call, and follow the medical professionals’ advice closely.
We are living in uncertain times, and taking a vacation to Europe can help ease your mental strain. However, it’s important to take responsible precautions both before and during your visit. Use transportation and accommodation that minimizes your contact with others, consider alternative tourism activities, and avoid putting a strain on medical services.