The hassle of travel planning in uncertain times

Travel is picking up, no doubt. But we are navigating a new world where planning for the unpredictable, more than ever, is part of the itinerary.
The hassle of travel planning in uncertain times

Chennai

Quandaries are prompting travellers to make adjustments, from being over-packed with snacks to paying bribes, and to dive deep into the dual reservoirs of patience and flexibility. Travel agents, hotels and other industry operators, building on what worked last year and recalling what failed, have also become wiser to coronavirus-induced obstacles and opportunities, prioritizing outdoor activities, coping with reduced capacity and promoting alternative, less congested retreats. Even for seasoned travellers, this year will be a test run. The goal posts keep moving.
Nico de Soto, 42, a French bartender and bar owner, is no sightseeing novice, having visited 98 countries. In Tanzania, in February, he found himself next to people yelling in protest at a coronavirus testing site near the Zanzibar airport. Certain travellers, de Soto included, were not going to be allowed out of Tanzania for a few days, it seemed: They had been told they tested positive. De Soto stayed calm even though he was convinced his result was fake and what was happening was a shakedown: Four months earlier he had recovered from COVID-19 and one month before his trip, blood work showed he was rich with antibodies. But he realised no amount of arguing would work.
“When you travel to different countries, you have to play by all the rules and regulations,” said de Soto, who is based in Dubai. Wendy Perrin, who runs a travel-advice website, has made five round-trip drives during the pandemic from her home in New Jersey to Georgia, to help care for a relative in Atlanta who was in hospice. On the first trip last June, she stopped for gas and shopped in an attached convenience store, an experience that traumatized her. “Many of the people inside were not wearing masks even though it was posted on the door,” said Perrin, who is scrupulous about wearing one. “People from all over are walking around, breathing on the bin of doughnuts, everybody touching the coffee pot.” From then on, Perrin would look for restrooms in breezy welcome centers at state lines and eat at outdoor restaurants or drive-throughs. And that didn’t mean being stuck with fast food. She searched online for award-winning cafes and barbecue joints, ordering takeout about 20 minutes in advance so it would be ready to grab.
For Americans and American-owned travel businesses, international travel remains tricky. The U.S. Department of State’s website shows a discouraging picture of advisories from country to country, predominantly “Level 4: Do Not Travel.” However, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, recently said that Americans who have received EU-approved vaccines will be allowed in its 27 member states this summer.
Last year, from mid-March to mid-July, Melissa Goodwin, the founder of Girl Gotta Hike, suspended her woman-oriented day hikes and multiday backpacking trips through New York’s Hudson Valley, Catskills and Adirondacks. When the business restarted, she and other participants wrongly assumed they could pick up where they left off. Instead, participants got winded much sooner going uphill, and sometimes Goodwin had to shoulder their gear. Fostering a sense of camaraderie helped. “After spending so long inside,” Goodwin said, “we should have patience with ourselves and each other.”
Besonen is a reporter with NYT©2021
The New York Times

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