The start of a new year means new adventures. Yet, today’s uncertain times have many of us wondering how best to make our travel plans.
To prepare ourselves for the journeys and joy ahead, we chatted with Cheryl Nelson, travel preparedness and lifestyle expert. Nelson is also the founder and owner of Prepare with Cher, a website which specializes in preparing you and your family for life’s next event.
With all the changes happening with travel because of COVID, how far in advance should we buy airline tickets? And where do we find the best prices?
To get the best airfare, book domestic travel between 4 months and 3 weeks in advance of your trip. For international travel, booking 4-10 months in advance is recommended. I typically monitor prices daily for a few weeks before purchasing. Some tickets are fully refundable if you pay a slightly higher fare (which, due to the COVID uncertainties, I would especially recommend for international trips that have been booked well in advance). Other tickets can be changed and you will be given an airline e-credit.
Keep in mind that many e-credits are only good for a year. I’d also recommend purchasing trip insurance when booking airfare.
What is travel throughout Europe like now? Tell us more about the important protocols in place.
It depends on the specific country, and protocols in Europe, like the rest of the world, are constantly changing. However, one protocol is for sure – wearing a mask/face-covering. Some countries require vaccinations, some require COVID negative tests, some require a quarantine period, and some require a mix of many of these. The EU has an informative up-to-date website, which is also available as an app.
Are there areas you’d stay away from now?
Since everything is constantly changing, monitor country/local COVID cases, hospitalizations, any COVID restrictions in-place and even mandatory lockdowns. Consider the state of your own health, vaccination status, and risks you are willing or not willing to take. If the country you plan to visit is open to foreign visitors, the decision to travel is an individual decision and the comfort level varies from person-to-person.
As Americans begin to dip their toes back into European travel, what are some of your favorite travel hacks for that continent?
Adaptors and Dual Voltage Appliances
European outlet adapters are a must (varies per country… some use type C, others G and others F). Research which adapter the country you’re visiting uses prior to your trip. You’ll also want to check the voltage of certain electronics prior to packing. I didn’t do this prior to using a US voltage curling iron in Ireland… and I fried my iron! I was using a 110/120V curling iron, but later learned that Europe uses 220/240V. The solution: bring dual-voltage electronics!
Mobile Phone Charging
Some hotels have USB plug-ins for phone charging, so be sure to pack USB cords too.
Rental Car Insurance + Old School Maps
If you’re renting a vehicle, make sure to book an automatic vehicle if you don’t know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle (many rental cars in Europe are manual, so you’ll want to check this). To protect yourself, I recommend purchasing rental car auto insurance in foreign countries, as these countries have different laws than the US. Also, GPS may not always be 100% reliable and if you’re not used to the road system, I’d recommend picking up local maps to keep with you.
Carry your vaccination card or a photo of it with you at all times. I was recently in New York City and had to show my vaccination card along with my ID just to dine at a restaurant. Keep your card in a sleeve like this to protect it. Don’t laminate it as you still may be adding to it with booster shot information.
Be Prepared For Travel Disruptions
Be prepared to extend your stay involuntary. If you test positive for COVID, you won’t be permitted to travel. Set aside some extra funds for unexpected lodging, food expenses, etc.
It’s always a good idea to buy travel insurance. If you get sick, the last thing you want is to be out a lot of money, along with your vacation. Many airlines offer airline e-credits if you have to postpone your trip. We all deserve a vacation, so think about just postponing your trip, rather than canceling it.
Traveling With Medication
Finally, don’t pack every single medication or supplement bottle… those take up too much space. Pack your pills in a pill container or small bags in your carry-on and label them so you know what each pill is. I also recommend having a cold-shortening product that contains zinc on-hand, like Zicam, to proactively support overall health while traveling.
What is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to?
My favorite place in Europe is Budapest, Hungary. Visiting the city is like stepping back in time with a mix of historical architecture and culture, with the convenience of modern amenities. Budapest is easy to access by air or train, is pedestrian-friendly, picturesque, and offers plenty of unique experiences like thermal baths and Danube River cruises. In my experience, Hungarians were friendly and many also speak English, which makes navigating the city more comfortable for Americans.
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A lover of all things travel, pretty running trails and good coffee, Analise Flatt is a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University studying Mass Communications with a minor in Travel and Tourism. Check out her Instagram to stay updated on her latest travel adventures.