We know not everyone agrees with traveling internationally right now and that’s okay. But we figured we’d at least share our reasoning because it sure can make sense in some very specific situations (but not for almost anyone, of course) and Flytrippers provides travel content after all.
It’s not enough to just be absolutely passionate about travel like we are… it’s really that we are:
- in a position to take all the required precautions
- comfortable with the many risks of traveling during a pandemic
(the 2 vital and important elements for any trip, whether it’s close or far… as we’ve been repeating since July)
So we are now back in Europe after our very pleasant summer trip.
Our responsibility as travel experts
Honestly, we weren’t even sure we wanted to talk about this trip, we hesitated for the over 2 weeks since we left actually… (we were more than content with just traveling for our own personal enjoyment).
We definitely want to be mindful of not trivializing travel during a pandemic for those who aren’t wise enough to:
- heed our many many warnings
- take the decision to travel very seriously
- understand that it’s vital to travel safely and responsibly if you do travel
- realize that even if traveling is possible, it’s really not for everyone
But that race-to-the-bottom-leveling-down approach can be very pernicious…
So in the end, we decided we still prefer to:
- continue to inform you well about travel, as we’ve been doing for 3 years
- to not deprive the smart and responsible travelers because of irresponsible ones
- to not censor the facts, and rather help those who need/want to travel to do it safely
- to keep repeating very clearly that there are many many risks, as we’ve been doing for months
Obviously, no one should travel where there is a lockdown… everyone should follow lockdown orders and we are following all lockdown orders.
But plenty of places are not locked down.
(Although honestly there are fewer and fewer and it has gotten a lot worse since we left in early November—we don’t plan on traveling again until January at the earliest, to see how things evolve everywhere).
Also, even if it doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of people, it’s absolutely certainly possible to travel safely and responsibly. And as travel experts, it’s a bit frustrating to see every messaging elsewhere say only the opposite even if it’s simply misleading.
Of course, most people shouldn’t travel. But the fact that most people shouldn’t travel doesn’t mean that all travel is evil, at-large, with no room for a rational perspective.
The fact is:
- there are irresponsible people who spread the virus without traveling
- … and there are responsible people who don’t spread it even by traveling
It’s frankly absurd to say that:
- all travel is good and everyone should travel
- … but also that all travel is bad and no one should travel
- respect those who aren’t ready to travel
- … but the opposite is also true
There are plenty of factors in play:
- every traveler is different
- every situation is different
- every destination is different
So here we go with ours…
Our personal decision to travel
First, I want to reiterate the premise of our decision:
- We’re not putting anyone at risk back home
- We’re not putting anyone at risk at our destination
- We’re being extra cautious with all hygiene rules
- We’re only visiting countries where there is no lockdown
- We’re only visiting countries openly welcoming travelers
- We’re following every single rule in every country
The post title mentions the reasons why we’re traveling, so here they are:
- We want to inform you about the new reality of travel
- We love to travel
- We love to travel internationally
- We got great deals on flights
- We got great deals on hotels… and everything else
- We want to support those who depend on tourism
And while not reasons per se, there are many risks that we need to be comfortable with:
- We’re comfortable with the risk of our flights changing
- We’re comfortable with the risk of being stuck in a country
- We’re comfortable with uncertainty and change
- We’re comfortable with the risk of infection
Finally, there are 3 “risks” that are not part of our equation:
- The risk of infection on a plane
- The risk of not having medical travel insurance for COVID-19
- The risk of not being allowed back in
That’s the short version.
If you want more details, here is each point detailed in 1 sentence or 2.
Why we are traveling
We’re traveling because we are confident we can do so safely and responsibly, for both us and others. That’s pretty much it.
The bottom line is that we were ready to travel this summer when things were going well in many places, and our own situation simply did not change since then.
So we simply had to choose different destinations where things were going better than back home. And we’ve decided to take an extra precaution before leaving.
We’re not putting anyone at risk back home
We are not putting anyone at risk back home in Canada when returning: we’ve decided not to return via Alberta and so we will do the mandatory 14-day quarantine (despite the very deficient process we experienced last time; detailed post to come).
So we are arguably less of a risk to our fellow Canadians than even those who go out just once a week for groceries, since we will have 0 (zero) contacts with anyone for weeks. The lockdowns in Canada are to reduce contacts: we’re reducing our contacts to zero by leaving and staying home after.
We’re not putting anyone at risk at our destination
I’ve self-isolated for 14 days before leaving, out of an abundance of caution. It’s a great way to protect others at the destination and we recommend it. An alternative is getting tested instead, but staying home was not an issue for me (I’ve been pretty much doing that since March to do my part).
That way I didn’t use up testing resources in our not-very-hard-to-overwhelm healthcare system. For what it’s worth, none of the 8 European countries we’ve entered (including this summer) required tests: not every country does, contrary to a common myth.
We’re being extra cautious with all hygiene rules
We’re not only wearing masks indoors, but we’re also wearing them outdoors, at all times. We’re keeping our physical distance at all times. We’re never touching our faces. We’re spending as little time as possible indoors (except in planes, which have better air quality than every building on the ground).
We’re simply not doing anything proven to be a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, just like at home. We don’t really like to tell anyone what to do, but we’ll make just one exception: if you aren’t going to at least take the measures to protect others, just don’t travel.
We’re only visiting countries where there is no lockdown
We’ve chosen 3 of the countries in Europe with the lowest infection rates. Of course, as I mentioned, you should definitely not travel for leisure purposes somewhere there’s a lockdown.
But if there is no lockdown and everything is open, to us, it’s not any different to do activities that locals are doing. As long as everything is done with the necessary precautions, which is our case.
We’re only visiting countries openly welcoming travelers
Plenty of countries have no entry restrictions but aren’t actively promoting or encouraging travelers.
We’ve done our research and we’ve chosen 3 destinations that were very explicitly telling travelers to come and have been welcoming us warmly and with open (distanced) arms.
We’re following every single rule in every country
This is very important to us: whatever rules are in place, we follow them, end of story. Just as we did this summer. When one country we were in instituted a nighttime curfew, we decided to move on to the next destination earlier than planned.
It’s not that the curfew affected us (we don’t really ever go to bars or nightclubs when traveling), but just out of an abundance of caution, since they were restricting contacts for the first time, we helped by leaving.
Why we want to travel
More broadly, there are obviously plenty of reasons to want to travel. That doesn’t mean you should travel.
(Carefully considering the many risks is the only thing that should determine that.)
But these reasons meant that it was at least worth considering the risks that follow below, based on our own situation.
We want to inform you about the new reality of travel
This one is just for us, but one reason we’re traveling is to inform you about the new reality of travel, just like this summer. We spent the month of August in Europe, which turned out to be the ideal sweet spot between both waves of the coronavirus pandemic.
And honestly, there was almost nothing different from usual trips: everything was open, there were plenty of travelers, and life was normal except for masks and physical distancing.
So it was almost too easy because everything was so great. We want to experience travel when things are even more uncertain, as that might be the new reality for a while. That way we can better inform you and help you as we’ve been doing since Flytrippers launched.
That is arguably more important than ever given how travel has never been so complicated. It’s impossible to help travelers if we don’t know what we’re talking about and haven’t experienced it first-hand.
We love to travel
Obviously, we love to travel. We quit our great corporate jobs to travel more. Travel is part of our identity. We miss traveling.
Many countries were happily welcoming travelers, weren’t in lockdown like our home in Quebec is, and also had an infection rate lower than where we live… so we decided to go there.
Our summer trip was great so we were optimistic. But we were okay with the fact things could have been different this time during the second wave because, as passionate travelers… to us, even the worst trip is better than no trip.
Like many passionate travelers, our life purpose is to travel more. Our biggest obstacle is the lack of time, and like for many other travelers, the trips we don’t go on in 2020 will never be able to be recouped.
We love to travel internationally
What I love about traveling is discovering new ways of live and experiencing a culture shock, so I personally have little appetite for domestic travel. Even if Canada sure is beautiful, a pandemic is not enough to make me choose Canada over somewhere more different, especially when some countries are open (and in many cases doing better coronavirus-wise).
Finally, last year, in my quest to experience every country in the world, I visited 19 new countries on my 12 international trips. So far in 2020, I had only visited one new country… and there was one I’d never been to that was open, not in lockdown, and welcoming to travelers.
We got great deals on flights
There’s also the fact I got a great better-than-usual deal with Aeroplan points for my transatlantic return flight, which was canceled due to the pandemic earlier this year… and I was able to reschedule it for free in late November.
Arguably my best deal ever actually (and I’ve had many as a flight deals expert haha), in terms of value at least (that will be a topic for another post).
For my outbound flight, as you might know, some flight prices are pretty low right now: just $226 from Montreal to Europe (and that was a usually-very-expensive last-minute booking, as I actually decided and bought the plane ticket just a few days before leaving Canada… that is the new reality of travel).
We got great deals on hotels… and everything else
We also were able to go to a country where there are Marriott Category 1 hotels, meaning we could get 5 completely free nights in a 5-star hotel for just 20,000 points (for context, the Marriott Bonvoy Card‘s welcome bonus alone gives 50,000 points).
We love great deals; that’s why we started a deals website for travelers.
For everything else, things are also much more affordable than usual, as you’d expect. A very rare upside of the pandemic for us budget-travelers.
We want to support those who depend on tourism
Another upside for those who, like us, hate places with hordes of tourists… is that there are no hordes of tourists. But that means that many tourism-dependent places are struggling now, like many others.
It’s also good to go support them.
The many risks we’re comfortable with personally
We’ve been repeating it nonstop for months: there are many many many risks involved if you decide to travel now.
There’s a pandemic.
Every single traveler should consider all of them very carefully. We’ve covered the risks in our guide to help you decide whether or not to travel (which will be updated soon with additional risks, by the way), but I’ll highlight the main ones here.
We’re comfortable with the risk of our flights being canceled
One of the reasons we chose Europe is that even in March, many transatlantic flights literally never stopped operating and were for the most part essentially never banned or canceled.
That’s the advantage of not visiting developing countries or remote countries that nobody but tourists go to. The always-existent demand for essential travel means the risk of being stuck in Europe is pretty low. But we’re okay with it, in the unlikely event it happens (we have plenty of different point currencies to buy flights if the cash prices were to skyrocket too).
We’re comfortable with the risk of being stuck in a country
Once again, in Europe, it’s pretty unlikely to get stuck in a country if the situation deteriorates. But we’re also okay with that small risk to allow us to travel. In fact frankly, we could not care less about getting stuck… it helps that Flytrippers is a 100% remote business, and always has been.
Not everyone has been able to design their life around travel, so it’s understandable not to want to get stuck, but for us, it’s just not an issue at all. We can just work from wherever we’re stuck (the biggest issue would be breaking the news to my girlfriend!).
We’re comfortable with uncertainty and change
The only thing that is certain about traveling during a pandemic is that nothing is certain. Entry requirements, rules, and the situation on the ground change constantly. A country could decide to no longer let Canadians in (true story), but we simply change our plans.
We figured that if a country we were in decided to go into lockdown, we’d simply find a new one. We’ve never been too picky about destinations (being guided mainly by flight deals and the low cost of living—that happens to be why we get to travel a lot more than most) so we can adapt to the situation.
(Being easygoing has always been an asset for travelers, but it’s even more true now.)
We’re comfortable with the risk of infection
The science says I’m not personally at high risk of mortality or even hospitalization if I contract the virus. The virus obviously has other negative effects and there are still plenty of unknowns, so I’m certainly doing everything I can not to catch it. But the benefit of traveling, to me personally, is worth the tiny risk.
Again: based on the large quantities of data around the world about the virus’ effect on people my age. If I was older or had any underlying conditions, my decision would likely be different. I certainly prefer that my parents, both smokers, do not travel… not because it’s travel, just because I also want them to limit their contacts more than I need to at home, since their situation is different that mine.
This risk is a very personal decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly, even more so than all the other risks.
The 3 risks… to mostly put aside
I do want to end with 3 very commonly-mentioned “risks” that are worth debunking once more.
There are plenty of real risks and very good reasons not to travel right now as we just said, you should focus on those. Not these 3 risks that are nonexistent (or almost nonexistent in the case of the 1st one).
The risk of infection on a plane
First, the facts are pretty clear: study after study has shown that air quality on airplanes is better than in buildings on the ground, including by Harvard and MIT. After taking 20 flights since late July, I can say that everyone is following the rules too.
The risk onboard a plane is simply very small with HEPA filters that capture 99.97% of particles, with the air that is entirely renewed every few minutes, and with everyone wearing masks. Or rather “infinitesimally small” according to the Canadian Government’s Minister of Transport. Lower than eating inside a restaurant or going to the gym, according to studies.
The risk of not having medical travel insurance for COVID-19
Many who love to say things with no evidence to back it up kept saying that COVID-19 would never be covered by medical travel insurance, which we said very early on made no sense.
Since July, plenty of insurers now offer COVID-19 medical travel insurance so that’s not an issue anymore at all. We’ll soon update that post with all the many different options that are now available too. Some airlines also offer COVID-19 insurance but that coverage includes nothing but COVID-19, so it’s not very wise given that the insurance coverage included with many credit cards is invalidated at the moment.
The risk of not being allowed back in
Finally, by now I think most of you understand the basics of entry restrictions, but no: Canadians have simply never been banned from leaving Canada or re-entering Canada, even in March.
It’s just one of the many things that are misunderstood, like the fact that you can fly to the US with no restrictions despite the Canada-USA land border closure.
“Wait… isn’t Europe closed to Canadians?”
That will be a topic for the next post, along with our itinerary if you are interested.
But no, “Europe” isn’t closed to Canadian travelers, despite the many headlines you might have glanced over in recent weeks.
Want to get more content about restarting travel, for whenever you are ready?
We are now back in Europe to inform you about the new reality of travel in the coronavirus pandemic.
What would you like to know? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Malta (photo credit: Matheus Frade)
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