As we’re now all well aware, 2020 has been a dud for travelers. If you had plans to cross a legendary teahouse off your bucket list — or you had hoped for any sort of adventure, really — odds are you’ve had to put off the plan. But now as we begin to look ahead to a new year, there appears to be some hope of a return to normalcy.
Or rather, there seems to be a realistic possibility of a return to normalcy — the hope was there all along. But now, in light of promising vaccine news, there is legitimate potential that at some point in 2021, life will begin to feel a little bit like it did before 2020 (even if we should be patient regarding the rollout of the vaccine). This means a lot of wonderful things to a lot of people, but one is that it’s okay to think about travel again! Given this encouraging development, we decided to post a few handy words about preparing for a new adventure in 2021.
Assess Destinations on COVID Safety
A lot of the positive news we’ve been hearing and reading about vaccines concerns the U.S. specifically. Now, the companies on the cusp of distributing effective vaccinations will ultimately do so abroad as well. Furthermore, there are additional promising efforts abroad. The hope now is that several strong vaccines will be spreading around the world and gradually immunizing much — and eventually, effectively all — of the population.
From a travel perspective though, it’s important not to get too excited too quickly. Particularly if you’re looking into an international adventure, be sure to assess your planned destination with specific regard to COVID. Is it safe to travel there? Are you allowed to travel there? And is it a place where a vaccine is being actively distributed?
Naturally if you yourself are vaccinated, you’ll have slightly less reason to worry about some of these things. But responsible travel should still be limited to safer destinations for a while.
Consider Attractions the Same Way
You should also consider specific attractions you may be visiting in the same way. That is to say, even if a destination is safe in a broader sense, you should take the time to consider if the places you want to visit might still have restrictions, or pose greater risks.
Tea shops specifically may be more likely to be open or safe. Many of them have indoor/outdoor seating, or are simply small enough to have fairly well monitored health and safety protocols. So while there are no guarantees, you may have a fair bit of luck traveling with tea shop and tea house destinations specifically on your list.
On the other hand there are some other destinations that may be more questionable. A destination like a museum or public library for instance may still have restrictions in place regarding crowd size (and may feel a little bit enclosed for your liking if you’re being cautious). Similarly, venues that are traditionally more crowded, like sports stadiums or concert theaters, may also be difficult to visit in a “normal” manner.
None of this means you necessarily have to cross places off your list, but you will at least want to look into them more carefully than you normally would, so that you can plan according to risks, restrictions, and so on.
Renew Your Passport If It’s That Time
If you’re planning on international travel, you should also double-check your passport to make sure that if it requires renewal, you give yourself time. It’s easy enough to forget about this in the best of times, but with a whole year off from travel, the idea may slip your mind more easily. Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy process.
The first step is to obtain a suitable photo, which you can typically do at the nearest drug store. It’s a bit of a minor chore, but these stores specifically take passport photos for as low as $14.99 — as well as with occasional discounts from photo coupon options you can find online or through discount apps. So really, it’s a cheap and quick process to have a few passport-appropriate photos printed out.
Once you have the photos, all you need to do is fill out a form (it’s called DS-82 on the U.S. Department of State website), package it together with your most recent passport and your photos, and send it off. At that point you should track your application for a good idea of when you’ll receive your new passport (though you should of course allow a lot of time before any trip you have planned).
Prepare for In-Flight Safety
Again, if you’re able to get vaccinated (hopefully in the first half of 2021!) you’ll immediately feel a great deal safer going about your life. But until the virus itself is under control due to a worldwide spread of vaccinations, it will remain a threat — even to those who have taken the vaccine, in some cases. This, plus the need to reassure others can keep them safe, almost certainly means that basic precautions will persist throughout 2021 and then some.
This means that if you’re planning a trip that requires you to fly, it’s best to prepare for in-flight safety. This is a simple matter of educating yourself on recommended flight safety measures, and perhaps picking up some inexpensive equipment. But generally speaking, it will mean packing face masks, a face shield or glasses, and if you can manage it, your own blanket and/or pillow. On top of these, you may also think about wearing disposable rubber gloves and packing disinfecting wipes, if you want to be particularly cautious.
Pack Your Cleaning Essentials
Last but not least, remember to pack your cleaning essentials! This may be an obvious suggestion given that we’re pretty much universally prioritizing new degrees of cleanliness. But we mention it because wherever you’re traveling you may not have access to the products and materials you’ve gotten used to.
In other words, if you’ve come to rely on a given hand sanitizer, or a certain brand of disinfecting wipes, or even particular face masks, you may want to pack enough for the whole trip. You never know if local stores will carry what you’re used to, or if they may run out of supplies, and you’ll feel most secure in your health if you have the cleaning essentials you’ve grown used to these past several months.
It may seem like a lot, but this is ultimately a pretty simple list — and altogether a small price to pay in planning for getting back into adventures in a post-COVID world!
What new adventures do you have planned for 2021?