While everybody has strong opinions about when they will be ready to start traveling again, the fact is many Canadians have started traveling already, even if it just within their own province. As I am strongly considering traveling internationally next week myself, I figured I might as well share my thought process for those who are interested.
Tomorrow will be my first flight (a very short domestic one) after being grounded for over 4 month. So I’ll definitely share what it’s like to fly in Canada these days at the very least, as well as what it’s like to stay in a Marriott hotel.
But my potential trip to Turkey or Greece (or both… or others) next week is even more noteworthy, since not many Canadians are going abroad yet (at least compared to how travel within Europe has resumed quite significantly this summer).
So here’s the reasoning behind that one.
To be clear, this certainly does not mean that everyone should travel (even domestically), as we explained when we shared that Flytrippers was now recommending safe and responsible travel within Canada if it makes sense in your situation: the 15 important factors to consider to make your own decision are in that ultimate guide.
That update followed over 4 months of Flytrippers advising everyone not to travel at all. And I myself haven’t traveled since mid-March (an eternity for me, as you can imagine considering I took 12 international trips in 2019). In fact, I haven’t left home much since March: the goal of the lockdown also being to flatten the curve quicker so we can resume traveling quicker.
Now… it’s not that there are no more risks to traveling, of course not. There is:
- the risk for myself (which I accept if I go, while planning to minimize it of course)
- the risk for others at my destination (which I will try hard to minimize if I go)
- thankfully zero risks to others here in Canada (it’s actually better than domestic trips)
Not everyone is ready to travel and that is fine (especially internationally; a lot more complex). We should respect that… just as we expect others to respect everyone’s decision to travel, especially because of that last point of international travel actually being safer for others.
5 reasons I am considering traveling (that are very specific to me)
While the next section will apply to all those wishing to travel, I’ll start with these 5 reasons that are based on my own situation:
- I want to inform you of what it’s like to travel now
- I love international travel much more than domestic travel
- I had already booked my plane tickets pre-pandemic
- I am comfortable with these destinations
- I want to take advantage of great deals
It’s very personal, but many have asked for our opinion about international travel, as many do for everything related to travel… and the least we can say is that this pandemic has definitely affected travel.
1. Inform you about travel
This is a reason that is obviously very specific to having a travel website, but it’s still the #1 reason I’m considering this trip so I have to mention it.
Flytrippers’ reason to be is to help you travel. To share our travel expertise. So more people can enjoy the amazing benefits of travel.
We strongly believe it’s a vital mission at all times, but in a way, it’s more important than ever now. Travel has definitely changed and this new travel experience is unprecedented for everyone. Even the most experienced travelers will likely need guidance to plan a trip that is as epic as it can be in these circumstances.
Since we travel a lot in regular times to be pros and be able to help you (we really hate when “experts” talk about things they don’t really know that well), the fact of the matter is people are starting to travel (or will at some point). If we want to be able to continue considering ourselves travel experts on most aspects of traveling, we need to at least experience what it is to travel during the pandemic to better advise you.
On a personal level, I am also very passionate about the travel industry (and all things travel) so in a weird way, I am actually looking forward to see the new travel reality in airports, airplanes, hotels, hostels, buses, attractions, etc.
Sure, I could choose to be negative and just focus on the bad side of this pandemic (many certainly do), but that doesn’t really help anyone and I’d rather find some positives. I love to travel precisely to experience new things… and traveling during a pandemic will certainly be new, so I am excited about the idea of finally getting out there.
2. International travel > domestic travel
This is extremely personal but international travel is infinitely more appealing to me than domestic travel. Of course, it’s not that Canada isn’t beautiful (it sure is). That’s beside the point. It’s that I love to experience new cultures more than anything else.
And I love to maximize everything (that’s why I love flight deals and travel rewards points so much). Investing more than a week of travel (especially when they are so rare and precious) somewhere nearby is just not strategic for me personally.
So in my case, it will take more than a global pandemic for me to choose places that offer less of a culture shock over an international trip. Especially considering all the conditions to make international travel responsible are pretty much reunited already for me, as you’ll see below.
3. Plane tickets already booked
It sure is a convenient excuse, but the truth is I had booked flights to Turkey for a 3-week trip in August way before this pandemic started. And as we’ve told you all along, even if you are certain you no longer want to go, canceling early not only serves no purpose, it’s also a very bad idea that can be very costly.
In my case, I can still cancel up to 24 hours before for free (all tickets booked with Aeroplan Miles are refundable until August 31st at least).
To be honest, I think I would have probably booked some trip even if I didn’t have tickets yet (I really miss traveling)… but the fact I already have these nearly-free flights makes it even easier to decide to go for sure.
Turkey and Greece are open to Canadians, with no testing or quarantine requirements (as are many countries—our interactive map is coming soon, subscribe to our free newsletter to get it).
Also, one of the common mistakes many make when considering international travel is looking at thigs through the lens of the situation here. The stats I looked up last week when publishing our ultimate guide were that:
- 78% of the world’s countries have had fewer coronavirus cases than Canada per capita
- 90% of the world’s countries have had fewer coronavirus cases than Canada overall
- 70% of the world’s countries currently have fewer active coronavirus cases than Canada
And I live in Quebec, by far the worst province in Canada. Anyway, the point is… it’s pretty easy to choose countries where the risk of infection at your destination is not worse than it is here.
I am extremely comfortable with going to Greece, as they’ve only had 4,000 cases total for a population of 11M, compared to 114,000 cases in Canada for 38M (an infection rate about 10 times lower over there—and 20 times lower than in Quebec). The situation is still going well in recent days despite having reopened to travelers weeks ago.
Turkey was hit harder, but if I compare the daily new cases with the daily new cases in Quebec, it’s the exact same ratio, so I am also comfortable going there. The situation is stable and they are taking it seriously too.
5. Great deals
This is a trip that won’t cost me much, the kind of trip I love. Side note: in the media articles about refunds (that’s our next guide after the one about countries that have reopened, stay tuned), when I see the amounts that many people pay for trips, I am absolutely shocked. Budget-travel pro tip: to make sure travel agencies don’t owe you $5,000 per person, don’t spend $5,000 on a single trip. Okay, I’m sorry, I just had to tell that joke.
Anyway, I know not everyone wants to travel for less, but to give you an idea: my two trips to Turkey cost me less than C$30 a day. And this time I’ll get free hotels so I’ll need even less. The short version is that you can easily spend an entire month in Turkey for under $1,000 (plus your plane ticket) if you want to save money, thanks to the art of budget-traveling (and the fact it’s a country with a low cost of living).
I haven’t booked anything yet (I very rarely do so in advance when traveling solo) but there is an amazing Hilton promo that will give me 10 nights in beautiful Hilton hotels for just 1,250 points per night.
For those who aren’t yet into travel rewards points… first, you really should. Second, just know that that is an amazingly cheap cost and an exceptional deal. Enough to make me, as a Marriott Titanium Elite member, cheat on them with their big rivals. Anyway, I’ll tell you more in a separate post.
Also, having traveled to Turkey the week after the controversial constitutional referendum of 2017, during a time of significant political unrest where travelers were very scarce, I know how cheap everything got in this already very affordable country. Restaurants were fighting for our business by offering free desserts/appetizers and discounts for example, and rooms in beautiful hotels were so cheap (in one case we had an entire hotel to ourselves).
With the coronavirus impact on traveler numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation these days leads to some great deals, but then again even if it doesn’t, it’s such an affordable (and amazing) country regardless. I actually just went back last December and things were still extremely cheap.
As for Greece, it’s not one of the 60 countries I’ve been to yet… and the idea of going during the peak summer months, with hordes of tourists, would normally nearly make me sick. I’d personally go in May or late September, but not in August. But if there was ever a time to go island-hopping in beautiful summer weather without the crowds (and the high prices they bring), it’s this summer… so I’m tempted.
5 main factors keeping most of you from traveling internationally
Now enough about my own situation, what you likely care about is these 5 factors that apply to all travelers:
- the 14-day quarantine requirement upon return
- medical travel insurance abroad
- the risk of being stuck
- flying on planes
- the travel experience not being the same as before
Just to be very clear: these are not the only things to consider (our ultimate guide has 15 and we recommend you analyze each thoroughly) but those 5 are by far the most common hesitations so I’ll address them directly based on my own outlook.
1. Quarantine requirement
This is obviously the #1 hurdle for many who would want to travel internationally. There’s no way around it, so if you don’t want to lose 2 extra weeks of income and can’t work remotely, you can’t really consider going abroad until at least August 31st (that end date could be extended though).
I work on Flytrippers from wherever I want, so I really couldn’t care less about going into a 14-day quarantine when I return. That’s why we keep saying that every traveler’s situation is different.
And for all those who want to judge and shame those who will travel internationally, as I said… international travel is actually the more responsible thing to do for others: if you travel domestically, you might just as well catch the coronavirus without knowing it, and then you can spread it to many people when returning since you don’t isolate once you get back home (even if you visit one of the world’s hardest-hit cities that is here in Canada for example, aka Montreal).
When returning from an international trip, even if the risk of infection was higher (and I want to emphasize “if”… as it’s a big “if” given the above stats), there is a mandatory quarantine so there is literally zero risks of infecting others here.
No need to thank me for being so selfless and choosing international travel over domestic travel, it genuinely is my pleasure 😉
2. Medical travel insurance
The other major hurdle (and rightly so) was medical travel insurance. It no longer is an issue since two Canadian insurers now cover COVID-19 as part of their medical travel insurance coverage. I said pretty much everything that needed to be said in that article, so I won’t repeat anything here.
I’ll just say that I would have considered the trip anyway. Not because I would’ve traveled without insurance, of course not. But rather because Turkey is selling COVID-19 medical insurance plans for travelers and Greece’s official website says that medical costs for travelers are all covered for free.
The cost of Turkey’s insurance is the same as the Canadian plan, so I’ll choose that one since it covers me in any country. But had I gone to Greece only, I might have just screenshotted their website and hoped for the best, but I do want to say that I tried reaching out many times to their authorities to confirm rules and details and no one ever replied… so I recommend the Canadian plan, it’s really not that expensive.
3. Getting stuck
Many are quick to point out that things might go awry very quickly, and travelers could get stuck in a foreign country (either because they’re infected by the coronavirus and need to stay for 14 days or if flights are canceled because of the coronavirus like they were in March).
It certainly is a possibility, and that is why we might be annoying but we really insist that you consider everything and take the decision to travel very seriously.
The fact is that in my case, I really couldn’t care less about getting stuck. An extra two weeks, one month, two months… that’s my reality and why I am considering travel. But I know that not everyone can work from anywhere as I can. And not everyone is as easygoing as me and would almost see getting stuck somewhere as a somewhat unique travel experience.
Many are hesitant to get on a plane, which is understandable.
Even though the air quality on planes is excellent contrary to the widespread yet very wrong myth (it is better than the air quality in buildings on the ground thanks to HEPA filters that capture 99.9% of particles—facts are more important than unfounded fears), what is true on the other hand is that there is no such thing as physical distancing on a plane (whether the middle seat is blocked or not—even airline CEOs say that blocked middle seat aren’t a safety measure, they’re a marketing measure).
That said… masks and temperature checks are mandatory and airlines have rolled out pretty impressive cleaning and sanitization protocols, so I am comfortable flying personally, even all the way to Turkey. It’s worth mentioning that I am a total aviation geek and I love flying almost as much as the travel itself.
Obviously, not everyone has the same risk tolerance, but in all cases, as soon as Thursday morning I will share my experience on my two domestic flights to show you exactly what it is like to fly during this pandemic, at least within Canada.
5. Different travel experience
I don’t want to repeat everything I already wrote about this topic in our ultimate guide to decide whether or not to travel, but it is an often-heard argument against travel. And since I find it to be the worst one, I really want to insist on why I don’t care if the experience is not the same as before.
First of all, whether your trip will be as enjoyable as before is not really relevant. All that is relevant is whether it will be more enjoyable than not going on a trip (or going on a trip nearby). For me, that is a very very very very obvious answer. Even the worst trip is better than no trip. Maybe for you the answer is different, and that’s fine.
But most importantly, I honestly don’t think it will be that much less enjoyable than before.
I might be wrong, but in any case, if I do go, I will document the experience very thoroughly for you here on Flytrippers so you can see for yourself!
7 reasons why everyone should want to travel
Finally, in case you haven’t read this in the intro of our very exhaustive ultimate guide I keep talking about, I will repeat this here.
It is not 7 reasons why everyone SHOULD travel. Absolutely not. To decide whether or not to travel, you should consider every element listed in our ultimate guide.
This is completely separate, it is why everyone should WANT TO travel (and should therefore take the time to consider the elements).
There are 7 main reasons to want to travel during the pandemic:
- travel is awesome
- even the worst trip is better than no trip
- you’ll literally never get back wasted time off from work
- everything else is reopening in the safest way possible
- travel can be less risky than many other things
- travel is more essential than many other things
- the coronavirus situation elsewhere might be way better than where you live
I believe strongly in all those. So I have done the following step and looked at every factor to consider to decide whether or not to travel.
And in my very specific personal situation, every element leads me to believe it should finally be time to dust off my passport and get back to travel!
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Based on my own personal situation, I am now considering traveling internationally for the first time in over 4 months. Since I am insured, can do the mandatory quarantine upon return, don’t mind the other risks, and believe that any trip is better than no trip, it is certainly very tempting, especially so I can better inform you of what the current travel experience is like!
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Featured image: Bodrum, Turkey (photo credit: Mert Kahveci)
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