Thinking of traveling in the near future? This post will discuss why Greece is at the top of our list of places to visit post COVID-19. You’ll also learn what to consider when planning your first trip and what makes for a safe (or safer) destination.
Many of us have had to cancel multiple trips and future travels due to the coronavirus pandemic. The majority of the population has been hunkered down and stuck at home for months. I know I’m not the only one researching when and where to travel once the situation calms down and restrictions are lifted.
After doing much research I have decided Greece will be at the top of our list of places to visit post COVID-19...once they allow Americans in that is. Which, according to the latest news will be May 14, 2021.
We will focus our time on the Greek islands where abundant sunshine, beaches, and quaint villages make it easy to spend the majority of time outside.
I’m also going to assume that massive cruise ships will not be returning in full force this year, which will significantly reduce the amount of tourist traffic to the Greek islands.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip, this post will share the most important things to consider when deciding on a destination. Many countries are opening their borders for tourists, but does that necessarily mean it’s safe…or safe enough for you to feel comfortable? No! There are several key points to keep in mind before booking your ticket.
I’ll take you through everything I researched, what numbers I looked at on caseloads and percentages, what non-negotiables must be available, and what setting (crowded, indoors, beaches, nature) is within my personal comfort zone. This post will not only show why Greece was a winner in my book but also what to consider for other cities and countries.
Continue reading why Greece will be my first international trip post COVID-19 or save it for later!
How safe is being on an airplane + my experience flying
There is no one answer fits all here. You'll need to do your research and determine what your comfort level is with air travel. I've flown about 20 times during the pandemic and have felt comfortable doing so after researching how airflow works on planes.
Airplanes use hospital-grade filters and the air is renewed with outside air every two to three minutes. The whole "airplane air is stale and recycled the entire flight" is entirely false. The airlines are going above and beyond to keep their customers safe.
Each plane is sanitized after every single flight and a deep clean is done each evening. At least, that's the case for the airlines I looked into. Do the research for the specific brand you're considering flying with.
I've flown American Airlines, Southwest, British Airways, Lufthansa, United, and Delta. Out of all the airlines, Delta has appeared to be the most strict on policies. In fact, Delta was the only US airline to continue blocking middle seats through April 2021.
Airlines are also requiring that both employees and customers wear masks and this has been enforced in full. No ifs, ands, buts, about it. I even had a flight attendant give me a mask once because she didn't like how mine was fitting my face.
BBC has an informative article on air travel, studies on how viruses and bacteria spread, how the air is renewed with outside air every two to three minutes, and more.
Everything must be refundable
Since nothing seems to be certain during this crazy time, everything I book is and will be fully refundable. No exceptions! I can't tell you how many trips I have booked this year with the highest of hopes...and then canceled. There have been multiple cases where a county has said they will open by X date, and then that never happens.
This is even more crucial if you're American since the US is constantly on the "red" list.
Are you allowed entry?
Make sure the country you want to visit allows visitors and more specifically, allows visitors from your country.
Also, check if the country you want to visit requires a set quarantine for incoming tourists. There's no point in traveling anywhere if the only thing you see is the four walls of your hotel room. Don't think I'm serious? Just search what Hawaii did to enforce the quarantine.
Hotels would report tourists to the authorities if they left their room. They would also give out one-time use room keys. This forced guests to ask the front desk to let them back in their room and explain why they left in the first place.
From the research I've done and from my own personal experience traveling from the UK to Italy in September 2020, each country seems to have its own rules of if/how Americans can get in. In some countries, it depends on the passport you hold. In other countries, it depends on where you've been the last 14 days.
Re-open EU is a wonderful resource for those looking to travel to Europe. Scroll down to the map and select a country. You'll find data on vaccination rates, COVID infection rates, travel restrictions, entry requirements, etc.
App in the Air is a similar resource but lists all countries instead of just the EU.
I do find that both Re-open EU and App in the Air aren't always updated in real-time. Because of this, I will often Google, "can Americans travel to X right now" and then work my way through news articles.
Are you OK with wearing a mask?
Many countries will have mask policies in effect with the potential to be fined if you do not adhere. Are you OK with having to wear a mask on the airplane, ferry, grocery store, etc.? If not, then I would hold off on travel.
Not only do you want to avoid a situation involving the authorities, but it is also your duty as a visitor to protect the country and city you are visiting.
I know many people have disagreements on the effectiveness of masks. If you choose to visit a country with mask requirements you need to be prepared to follow their rules out of respect for that country…whatever your personal views may be.
COVID-19 Case Counts and Percentage of Positive Tests
I visit Worldometers to see case summaries around the world. The first things I look at are total cases, total cases per 1 million population, and total tests per 1 million population. This gives a broad idea of how the country has been affected by COVID-19 and how complete the information is. If you’re looking at a country that has a very small number of tests completed, then I would NOT consider going there because you really have no idea what the actual situation is.
I also consider how I would feel about being admitted into a hospital if the worst-case scenario happens. That means no third-world countries or destinations that are extremely hard to get to or where you don’t have a fully functioning hospital nearby. Sorry Jake, that means the Sahara Desert is out.
Greece has more hospital beds per capita than many European countries and their hospitals were never overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now is the time to focus on small, boutique hotels and Airbnb stays. I currently don’t feel comfortable staying in a massive hotel where crowded elevators and busy lobbies are the norm.
A small boutique hotel means it’s easier for staff and owners to oversee quality control and safety measures. An Airbnb seems the best bet as you don’t have to share any common areas with other tourists. If you are really OCD, pick a place that has a washer so you can wash the sheets and towels yourself the moment you arrive for peace of mind.
Destinations that are spread out and require either public transportation or constant Uber rides seem like a recipe for disaster. Look for cities that are either walkable or where you can rent a car and drive throughout the city.
I’m fine with having to use an Uber here and there, like to and from the airport, but once I arrive at my final destination, I want to avoid public transportation as much as possible. The Greek islands are great because as long as you choose a good home base, you can walk to everything you need. If there are days where you venture beyond the city center, it’s no problem to rent a small car.
Keep transportation and walkability in mind when booking your accommodations. Pick a place that is centrally located and has parking available if you rent a car.
Atmosphere, activities, and environment
The last thing to consider is the environment. Is the city you’re going to overly crowded? Are the majority of restaurants indoor dining only? How will you spend your time? Will it be indoor museums or spacious beaches?
I personally am opting for vacations that focus on being outside. I am without a doubt a city lover and thrive in bustling capitals and lively neighborhoods. My current travel style will look a bit different for the time being.
When I visited the Greek islands, I spent 99% of my waking hours outside. Almost every meal and coffee I consumed was on a patio. My activities during the day consisted of hikes, beach time, and wandering quaint villages. If Jake and I visited a bar, it was an outdoor one with spectacular views.
What to pack to stay safe
Obviously, you will need to pack face masks since many airlines and other businesses are requiring them. Also, make sure you have a medical mask. On my flight from Naples to Frankfurt in September, the agent decided to wait until everyone was boarding to inform us that cloth masks were not sufficient and everyone needed a medical mask. It was mass hysteria. Thankfully, several fellow travelers had extras and were handing them out to those with cloth masks.
I also recommend packing hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. If you're planning on washing the sheets and towels at your Airbnb, bring a small bag of powder laundry detergent. Consider bringing your own travel blanket and travel pillow for long-haul flights. Many airlines are not providing items like this at the moment.
I hope this post helps steer you in the right direction on whether you’re ready to travel or not. Keep these things in mind when researching potential destinations to make sure you’re not in for any unwelcome surprises.
This is a time where you have to weigh if the reward of travel is worth the risk, which depends on each person, their health, and current circumstances. For Jake and I, we have decided as long as we are smart, plan ahead, do our research, and stay away from hotspots, we are ok taking the risk.