Traveling Safely During Covid: Research, Planning and Managing Risk


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure and privacy policy for more information.

How can one travel safely during Covid? What Covid research and travel planning can you do manage risk while still having a fun vacation? What any additional travel safety measures should one take? How might choices as to where to go, activities, accommodation and transport change during the pandemic?

In this article we address all of this, focusing on the stuff and choices in our control with the goal to mind the health and safety of others, as well as yourself. These lessons apply not only to travel but also to daily life, during the pandemic and beyond. We touch on decision-making, logistics, managing risk, flexibility, adapting to new information, managing expectations, gratitude and satisfaction. Oh, and how it's still possible to have fun and enjoy yourself even in the midst of pandemic challenges, risks and uncertainties.

Planning and Travel Tips During COVID-19
Navigating research, planning and execution right now: ups and downs.

When we traveled to Italy from Berlin, Germany to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, we had plenty of reservations. We questioned whether we ought to travel at all given the pandemic.

We were not only concerned about our own enjoyment and safety, but we were also more attuned to the safety of others and the impact of our visit. Our decision-making process while planning and taking this trip was more deliberate and careful than usual. We considered all potential impacts — good and bad — as we researched, planned and executed the trip with Covid-19 still a reality.

As we responded to questions from friends, family and readers about how traveled during the pandemic, it occurred to us that it might be useful to turn our travel planning and on-the-road process during COVID-19 inside-out here.

Update January 2022: Even though the trip we mentioned occurred before vaccinations were available, many of the same precautions, planning factors and considerations are still relevant now given the new variants and low rates of vaccination in some places. We've updated this article to take into consideration vaccination certificates, country-specific passes and other considerations to be able to navigate requirements, manage risk and have a good trip. This update also includes specifics and experiences traveling to and within the United States and to several EU countries (e.g., France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Moldova and Cyprus).

CAVEATS:

  • We understand Italy does not reflect travel realities across the rest of the world. Each destination is different based on their vaccination rate, Covid-19 case load, hospitalization rates, season, restrictions and many other things. However, we believe many of the travel planning, safety tips and recommendations that follow will resonate and apply on some level no matter where you live and where you wish to travel.
  • To be clear, we are not advocating that everyone travel right now. There are ethical considerations and even with vaccination roll-outs gaining speed around the world, COVID-19 rates are again on the rise in many countries with new variants like Omicron (see our COVID-19 Travel Resource Guide for more details on relevant data and considerations). However, people will continue to travel now and in the future. Our suggestions are aimed to help travelers plan and execute travel more seamlessly and manage risks for themselves and the host communities they visit. One of the best ways to do this is to get vaccinated yourself and visit places with high vaccination rates so that local people are already protected.

Mindful Traveler Oath Basics

First, consider the following basic elements of the as-yet-unspoken Uncornered Market Mindful Traveler Oath:

  1. Keep ourselves and others safe. And not necessarily in that order.
  2. Act mindfully and responsibly, for positive (or to minimize potential negative) impact on the people and places we visit.
  3. Enjoy ourselves.

We did our best on this trip to accomplish all three.

“Good Grief, What a Headache” Caveat to the Mindful Traveler Oath

Some of our suggestions may elicit a response of, “Oh Dan and Audrey, what a headache. I just want to travel.”

In turn, we offer the following perspective: “What do we most remember about the trip?

Travel Tips COVID Italy
What we remember most from our trip: celebrating at a mountain hut in the Dolomites.

In this case, we recall the phenomenal hiking, dazzling food, beautiful towns, pleasant people, and lovely interactions. Also expressing disbelief, usually over a glass of the local vintage or beer, that we’d been married to one another for 20 years.

Last on the list of our memories: any inconvenience of wearing a mask or having to mind the impact of our actions on the health and safety of others.

Now to the list.

How To Travel Safely* During Covid: Research and Planning

Note: *safely in terms of doing full research to understand the risks associated with the place you want to visit and the type of travel you want to do. Unfortunately, there is no 100% safe guarantee when it comes to Covid or anything else in life. The idea is to be prepared with relevant data and information to make a decision on whether to travel in the first place given the risks, where you can travel based on border and other restrictions, and then where you want to travel based on the current Covid situation, requirements, and other associated costs and time.

1. Do your COVID-19 & travel restriction research

Prior to setting off, we took our own COVID travel advice when deciding where to visit. Our goal: to make sure the places we wanted to visit weren’t identified as COVID-19 hotspots, had high vaccination rates and that we wouldn’t be required to quarantine upon arrival or encounter problems upon our return home to Germany.

Covid-related research and considerations to choose where to travel now include:

  • Country entry and stay requirements: Use tools like Sherpa, Reopen Europe, and country-specific government pages (always confirm information from secondary sources) to understand entry requirements. This includes not only whether proof of a negative test is needed to enter, but also whether testing is required upon arrival, quarantine times, and whether regular testing is required during the stay. Some countries also require you to fill in a government form in advance and upload your proof of vaccination or negative test as a sort of pre-approval process. You're usually required to show this — either in paper or app form — when you check in for your flight and upon arrival in the country. Many countries have different requirements for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated travelers, so be sure to double check the requirements not only for your vaccination status, but also for how old your vaccination is (e.g., whether you've gotten a booster).
  • Country specific Covid data: Be sure you understand the current local Covid situation where you want to visit to ensure this fits within your desired risk level. This means not only Covid daily rates, but also hospitalizations and ICU availability, vaccination rate (high is good), and where the concentration of new infections is happening (e.g., maybe you stay away from the cities or outbreak areas).
  • Re-entry requirements to your home country: Not only do you need to know what is needed to get into another country, but you also must be aware of what the requirements are to return home. Countries are constantly being evaluated based on their current Covid caseloads and put on low or high risk lists, with the latter having stricter re-entry testing and quarantine requirements. Be sure to check the status of the country where you want to visit so that you are prepared with what forms you need to fill out, if you need a negative PCR or antigen test, and whether you need to quarantine.
  • Availability and cost of Covid tests: In addition to possibly needing to show a negative test to fly home, some countries require Covid tests upon arrival or every couple of days. Do your research to understand not only the testing requirements (antigen or PCR), but how much the tests cost and how difficult it is to schedule. For example, during our recent trip to Cyprus, a PCR test upon arrival was required of all passengers. However, this was done immediately at the airport when we disembarked the plane, cost €15 (very reasonable) and the results were sent in 3-6 hours. This made it easy, efficient and inexpensive to fulfill this requirement. However, we're heard stories in other countries of the required tests adding hundreds of dollars or Euros to the cost of the trip, plus they were difficult to find and schedule. That sounds less enjoyable.
  • What happens if you get Covid on vacation – local requirements and restrictions: Imagine the worst case scenario and you test positive for Covid during your trip, either developing symptoms during your vacation or you get a surprise result when you do your Covid test to return home. What are the procedures and requirements where you are going in terms of where you are allowed to stay (e.g., some countries have quarantine-specific hotels or centers so you can't just stay in a regular hotel or apartment), quarantine length, required testing regime, access to medical care, and who pays for everything, etc.? We know this isn't a pleasant exercise, but it's better to be prepared for what could happen (e.g., we know several people who tested positive when fulfilling Covid requirements to return home). Then, you have all the information you need to decide if you still want to go to that destinations given the requirements and potential additional costs and time. For example, on our recent trip to Cyprus we researched that if we were to test positive then we would have to go an official government quarantine hotel for two weeks, but that the costs of this were paid by the government. Given that we mostly work remotely anyway, we decided that this was a risk we were willing to take.
  • On-the-ground Covid safety requirements: We now actively look for destinations with strict mask mandates and where proof of vaccination is required to access restaurants, museums or other indoor areas. This provides us with a bit more peace of mind and security that people are taking the risks seriously and are trying to manage them the best they can given the current tools and knowledge that we have.

This, of course, is all in addition to all the usual travel logistics and destination planning we do for a normal vacation.

How it played out: Although our goal was to hike the Dolomites in northern Italy, we identified several alternative destinations in case COVID-19 rates or travel restrictions increased there. We also regularly checked official government (German and Italian) websites to ensure we had the latest information before making any decisions.

2. Plan. Remain flexible. Adapt. Expect to cancel during Covid.

I’m with Dwight Eisenhower on this one. “…[plans] are of no particular value, but [planning] is indispensable.” Eisenhower was quoting a military officer speaking about managing peace after World War II, but the premise applies also to the winds of change of travel.

Plan, yet remain flexible. Accept that you may be forced to change plans or cancel at any moment, either while planning or on the road. Adapt your expectations and decisions to the discovery of new information. Preparation opens the mind to possible outcomes; the resulting flexibility helps maximize satisfaction. The less surprised you are as scenarios arise, the more equipped you will be to respond. And the more resilient you'll become.

If you happen to be a fan of the saying, “It’s all about the journey, not the destination,” this ought to resonate.

How it played out:  We postponed our anniversary trip once. The possibility of last-minute cancellation hovered over us right up to the time of our departure. We deliberately chose to travel by train rather than fly to Italy, since it featured fewer bureaucratic hassles and was less expensive, particularly if we had to cancel.

We also chose a rental car option with flexible cancellation and refund policies and were willing to pay a little more for that flexibility. (Note: If terms and conditions regarding cancellation aren’t clearly articulated, do not hesitate to inquire before booking so as to avoid surprises.)

Changeable weather is a key factor, especially during the shoulder season. It determined where we stayed each night and from which Dolomite trailhead we set off each morning. We checked weather multiple times a day (Wunderground and various mountain forecast sites were our favorites) for various cities and towns within the region. We adjusted our route accordingly and often headed to an area which promised the most sunshine and the lowest chance of precipitation the following day. Weather and forecast variation was remarkable, even between towns no more than an hour or two from one another.

3. Take advantage of the shoulder and off-seasons

We’ve always been fans of traveling in the shoulder and off-seasons not only because of fewer crowds, but also because it benefits local businesses by helping to extend their season. Prices and availability of accommodation and transport tend to be better, too. With social distancing and crowd avoidance concerns, this approach makes even more sense.

Research, Planning and Travel Tips During COVID-19
Shoulder season hikes sometime mean unexpected snow, which only adds to the beauty and adventure.

How it played out: Although we considered taking this trip for a while, including possibly during the summer when weather is more reliable, we ended up blocking out the end of September and early October for it. This was not only in light of watching COVID-19 rates, but also in line with the idea that there we would encounter fewer travelers after the traditional high season. This worked out well in terms of fewer people on the trails and better prices at hotels and guest houses.

4. Lifelines: Ask a friend to send you important updates

For the sake of joy, sanity and time management, we cut off our attention from most news during the trip. After a few days, however, we realized our disengagement and wondered whether we'd miss a news item which might affect our trip. We asked a friend in Berlin to alert us of developments like border restrictions or closures that might impact our trip or return home.

How it played out:  The day before our return, our lifeline (you know who you are), sent a Whatsapp message with COVID-19 rate increases across Central Europe. The following day, as we traveled by train from Italy to Germany, slow and tense border crossings caused us to miss our connecting train. While we weren't particularly happy about that, at least we weren't caught off guard.

Had such information arrived at the start of our trip, we may have opted to cut the trip short.

5. Be OK following the local rules.

When you travel, you are essentially a guest in someone's else home. Accept that you’ll be expected to comply with the requirements of the destinations you visit. That’s as true now with COVID as it's ever been, only the stakes are higher.

If you aren’t willing to comply with local laws and requirements -– either as they are, or how they may develop in response to circumstances — don’t go. This also applies to any possible quarantine and testing rules back home. Otherwise, you'll make yourself and others miserable.

Tourism Observations and Takeaways: Masks
Masks were the norm in the Dolomites of northern Italy, including in enclosed spaces like gondolas.

2022 Update on local Covid rules and requirements:

  • Mask mandates and understanding which type of mask is required: Some places not only have a mask mandate for indoor (and sometimes outdoor) spaces, but they also have requirements related for what type of mask you need to wear. For example, in Berlin, Germany where we live it's required to wear either an KN95/FFP2 mask or medical mask as these are higher quality masks than cloth masks and offer more protection. This means that cloth masks are not allowed and you might be rejected from a grocery store or given a fine on public transport for not wearing the proper mask. Even outside of whatever the local requirements are, wearing a high quality KN95/FFP2 is just better for everyone's safety – yours and the people around you.
  • Digital vaccination certificates: Many countries (or even sometimes cities like New York City) require you to show your proof of vaccination digitally, with an approved app. This allows restaurants, shops or other establishments to quickly scan your vaccination QR code to ensure that you meet the requirements to enter. Do your research to find out which apps are required in the place you want to visit and try to get yourself set up before you go by downloading the app and uploading your proof of vaccination. If that is not possible, then research what you need to do on the ground to get the approved digital certificate on your phone. For example, in Berlin some pharmacies will take the CDC vaccination card and provide an EU-approved vaccination QR code that can then be scanned and uploaded to approved EU app like CovPass.

How it played out. We followed the rules and did what was asked of us. We also self-quarantined when we returned to Berlin, even though it wasn't technically required. It felt good to do so and contributed to the feeling that we're all responsible and have a role to play in everyone’s well-being.

Choosing Safe(r) Activities and Alternative Destinations

6. Get Out(side)!

Outdoor activities are considered a much lower risk for COVID-19 exposure. We enjoy hiking, so it was an easy decision to make hitting the trails and spending as much time outside in nature a key focus of our trip.

To mitigate the risk of encountering crowds, we chose to hike at the end of the season. We also chose longer, more difficult hikes that were not as popular or well-known. As a result, we often shared the trail with very few people, or even had some entirely to ourselves. Social distancing was not an issue. Even in popular regions it’s possible to choose less trafficked trails and destinations (hint: choose the long hikes with a difficult rating).

Travel Research and Planning During COVID-19
Enjoying a mountain pass all to ourselves in Tre Cime Nature Park.

All of the vacations we've taken during the pandemic — Côte d'Azur, Cyprus, Baltic Sea, Portugal, Bavarian Alps — have focused on hiking, cycling or some sort of outdoor activity. This isn't just good from a health perspective to limit exposure and risk, but walking in nature or hiking is also good for one's mind and body. Immersing in and reconnecting with nature, especially during such a stressful time like the pandemic, can be so beneficial.

How it played out: At Tre Cime Nature Park, home to the iconic and popular Tre Cime (Three Peaks), we chose the Comici Refuge trail, a longer, more challenging day hike passing the back side of these heavily Instagrammed peaks. While we encountered only a handful of others on the trail during our ascent (whose views were the best we'd see all day), we observed a line of people on the traditional trail headed for us at one of the mountain hut panoramas. We took a requisite photo or two of the actual Tre Cime, but then quickly continued on our path less-taken.

7. Go off the standard path, find alternative destinations.

COVID-19 underscores this essential and timeless piece of travel advice.

Whatever you think the ultimate goal or crown jewel of the place you are visiting ought to be, there is always something else. Alternative destinations are out there; do your research to uncover them. You'll typically find that the alternatives are just as good if not better than the snaps splashed all over Instagram and in travel magazines.

Travel and Planning During COVID-19, Choosing Outdoor Activities
Our first hike, Piz Galin, remained a favorite of the trip.

How it played out:  The Sexten-Brixen corridor of the Dolomites was our original goal. However, at the start of our trip, it was raining there. Weather forced us to expand our view. We discovered some mind-blowing hikes in the Dolomiti Paganella area, including the challenging Piz Galin (Galin Peak) trail outside of the town of Andalo. It turned out to be one of our favorite hikes of the trip.

8. Visit secondary cities and destinations.

We chose smaller towns or secondary cities to overnight in the mountains. The idea: avoid busy streets full of people bumping into each other. There’s plenty of surprising beauty in the less visited.

Traveling During COVID, Trying to Avoid Crowds
San Marino: exploring the castle walls vs. the busy old town streets.

How it played out: Most of the small towns and villages we overnighted in had very few visitors. Streets were relatively quiet, humming with the pace of everyday local life. This allowed us to explore freely without having to dodge crowds. One exception to this was San Marino whose city center was surprisingly full. We outwalked the crowds to find more space.

Transportation During Pandemic Travel

9. Wear a mask on all public or shared transport.

Masks are typically a requirement on public or shared transport (e.g., flights, trains, buses, etc.). It makes sense since you are sharing the same confined space with others. When everyone wears a mask properly (yes, that means above the nose) it makes for a safer, less anxious ride for everyone.

Update 2022: We now know a bit more about masks and their efficiency in protecting against airborne Covid so it is highly recommended to wear an N95/FFP2 mask or a medical mask instead of a cloth mask. That extra layer of protection could make a difference when you're in a closed space for hours.

Train travel during Covid with mask
Wearing a KN95/FFP2 mask provides the most protection for you and others.

How it played out: We had to wear a mask for the entire 9-10 hour train journey from Berlin, Germany to Bolzano, Italy. Was this a delight? No. For collective health and safety, were we willing to wear a mask and grateful that most everyone else wore one properly, too? You bet.

10. Use private transport.

Our readers know that we sing the praises of public transportation. Especially now, it's a lifeline for many. However, private transportation (e.g., a rental car) makes some destinations more accessible. In Covid travel times, having our own car also reduces repeated exposure to groups of other people in shared transportation.

How it played out: We picked up a rental car in Bolzano, Italy. We appreciated having our own transport across the Dolomites and down to The Marche and San Marino. It not only provided us the flexibility to make plans on the fly as we responded to changing weather, but it also saved us from spending many hours on and waiting for local buses.

Choose Local Accommodation and Small Businesses

11. Choose locally-owned accommodation and shops.

Keeping your money local when you travel isn’t anything new, but it takes on increased importance now. Many communities have suffered from the loss of tourism business this year. And small, family-run businesses with limited resources have often been hit the hardest.

If possible, seek out businesses that align with your values regarding sustainability — caring for the environment, local community and economy. This could be efforts to reduce water and energy usage or a commitment to source food from local farmers.

Book local accommodation to support local businesses
Local accommodation in the Dolomites often came with an incredible view.

We also now look for apartments or hotel rooms that have some self-catering options. This makes it easier to avoid busy breakfast buffets, restaurants or other shared indoor spaces.

How it played out: We deliberately looked for small, local B&Bs, restaurants and shops to ensure our money remained local to the benefit of the community. This also contributed to a more unique experience since we interacted with families in a more personal setting.

12. Book directly to keep your money local.

Online booking sites are convenient. We use them often, but we're also aware they take a sizable commission from local providers. This is understandable. Booking sites offer a valuable service which requires resources to operate. However, given that many local tourism businesses are really struggling right now — and we need them to be around in whatever post-COVID-19 equilibrium emerges — you can support them even more now by booking directly with them.

How it played out: As often as we could, we booked our accommodation directly either through the hotel’s own website or at their front door. Local accommodation providers were able to keep the entire amount of the booking, and we often received the same or lower prices and upgrades by negotiating directly. (Note to hotels: make it easy for travelers like us to book online through your website with a credit card!).

Covid Safety for Restaurants and Dining

13. Eat outside. Or maybe eat in.

Our preferred mode of restaurant dining these days is outdoors, even if it’s a bit chilly. As the weather turns colder in the Northern Hemisphere, many restaurants and shops now offer outdoor heaters or blankets. Take advantage of that. Alternatively, be prepared for a bit of chill with a hat and scarf.

Travel Tips During COVID-19: Eat Outside
En plein air. Why not eat outdoors?

If eating outside isn't an option because of weather or lack of tables outside, consider eating in. Order food from a restaurant and bring it back to your accommodation or pick up simple foods at the grocery store that can be like a picnic. Pair it with a bottle of local wine or beer and you've got a memorable meal.

How it played out: When a restaurant offered outdoor seating, we took it and came prepared with jackets and hats if needed.

14. Choose off hours to eat in restaurants.

If the outdoors aren’t possible and you must eat inside, choose odd hours (e.g., when restaurants first open for lunch or dinner). Although eating in an empty restaurant sometimes feels odd, restaurant owners and staff are happy for the business. We still enjoyed wonderful food and interaction with them. In the time of COVID-19, this approach also helps to avoid crowds of people confined indoors.

How it played out: Because we had early mornings and long days of hiking in the mountains, we were often the first people at restaurants when they opened in the evenings. The food tasted just as delicious and we sometimes got extra attention.

Hygiene and Health Safety for Travel During Covid

15. Focus on behaviors that limit close human contact.

Science tells us that COVID-19 is transmitted mainly through human contact and interaction, airborne droplets and human concentration indoors, rather than through transmission via surfaces. Mask-wearing and controlling traffic or crowds is what matters most when it comes to COVID-19 travel safety.

Travel during COVID-19, Planning and Safety Tips
Going to extremes to avoid interaction with other people?

How it played out: We appreciated the constant signs and reminders at local accommodation and shops for travelers to wear their masks indoors, as well as behavioral cues and notices about maintaining distancing, minding elevator restrictions, and complying with limited seating. Signs aligned with behaviors not only help inform our immediate behavior, but they reinforce that we're in this together for the collective good.

16. Put hygiene theater in its place.

A lot of attention has been given to new COVID-19 hygiene measures, including the use of powerful disinfectants and the deployment of rigorous cleaning regimes. The urge to focus on what we feel is in our control — the cleanliness and disinfection of surfaces — is understandable. It makes us somehow feel safer, even if the science tells us that its effect may be marginal.

Cleanliness is crucial, but don’t get lulled into thinking that new COVID-19 hygiene certifications alone will protect you. Note: If you are unfamiliar with the term hygiene theater, check out this article from The Atlantic.

How it played out: To assess our potential risk of exposure in any establishment, we focused our attention more on how an establishment managed customer flow, numbers and crowds rather than how intensely or often it disinfected tables and surfaces after each customer.

17. As a default, wear a mask. And a high quality one.

If you think that maybe you should wear a mask, then just do it. Even when it's not legally or technically required, err on the side of yes. This is especially true anytime you are talking to or engaging with someone who is not in your immediate or family circle.

One of the safety campaigns said it best: “Für dich, für mich, für uns” (“For you, for me, for us”). We're in this together, all of us.

This includes keeping your mask on when you order and pay in a restaurant. Although we were typically allowed to take our masks off after being seated at a table, it occurred to us that we remained in close proximity to wait staff when ordering food or settling the bill. So we did as many others did in Italy, and kept our masks on (or put them back on) during these transactions.

Tourism Observations and Takeaways
Two decent behaviors for the price of one.

How it played out: We always carried our masks with us. We put them on anytime we entered busy streets, walked outdoor fresh markets, entered into mountain huts, and, of course, anytime we were inside a shop, hotel or restaurant. Easy.

18. Do a Covid test when you return. Maybe self-quarantine.

Travel and the movement of people are one of the ways that COVID-19 spreads quickly from place to place. Since asymptomatic carriers can still be contagious and unknowingly spread the virus to others, it's important to try to protect your home community from infection that you might have picked up on your trip.

As a courtesy and for the safety and health of your own community, get tested when you return home from a trip, even if it's not required. If tests are not easily available, then consider self-quarantining for 10 days to eliminate person-to-person interactions.

Update 2022: As we have testing easily and freely available to us in Berlin we will now get tested several times in the week we return from a trip. If multiple rapid tests come back negative then we won't do a self-imposed quarantine. We also usually take several Covid self-tests with us when we travel in case we start to experience a runny nose or sore throat and want to be sure it's a cold or allergies vs. Covid.

How it played out: Since Italy was not a hot spot at the time, German regulations did not require us to either quarantine or get a COVID-19 test upon our return. However, since we'd traveled to several locations and encountered people as we ate inside restaurants and traveled by shared transport, we opted to self-quarantine for two weeks upon our return. We did so because we wanted to protect our friends and to minimize any risk to our neighborhood and community.

Mindset: Expectations and Satisfaction

19. Manage your expectations.

None of us is entitled to circumstances which make happiness seem the easier choice. Nor are we guaranteed conditions so that our photos match those of our social media heroes.

Understand that the best laid plans can all go to shit. Then, manage accordingly.

Travel Satisfaction - Urbino, Italy
Even if it rains in your “escape from bad weather” destination. Urbino, Italy.

How it played out: Our expectations were half to all rain, and to be on the run from the Dolomites to southern Italy. Everything else, gravy. Though there was a bit of rain here and there in the Dolomites, the trip was generally incredible in the mountains as we navigated weather conditions and made choices in line with everything we mentioned above. Only when a wall of rain moved in, did we head south to Urbino in The Marche. It even rained a bit in the town of Urbino. Perhaps the rain is what made the town so dramatic and charming?

20. And if it turns to shit?

If things turn to shit, that’s all the more reason to be super-thrilled about the pre-shit moments and to reflect on what might be appreciated about the shit moment at hand.

How it played out: As we reached Pedrotti Refuge hut, the highest point of one of our hikes, fog accumulated and the wind picked up. It even began to sleet. Conditions were far from ideal in a spot where on a sunny day you might see for miles. Despite this, our ascent had been rewarding and dramatic. We felt like heroes for reaching the pass, especially since our muscles were recovering from our hike the day before.

At the top, we met a few other hikers — all very nice — including one who repeatedly referred to the “shit” conditions, especially in comparison to the sunny days he’d encountered in recent hikes elsewhere. On one hand, he had a point. The visibility was bad. On the other hand, I felt bad. For him. Disappointment seemed to define his moment.

We enjoyed a beautiful hike. Not only the morning’s crystal blue skies we all shared, but the same skies whose drama swirled the mountain peaks around us. We celebrated our accomplishment, ate our picnic sandwiches and reflected on the vastness and solitude engulfing that rugged little hut, a feat of human will which had no business being tucked away up there. Our minds were absorbed by the magnificence of the moment.

Only temporarily was our focus taken off-track by someone else’s preconceived notions and disappointments regarding the way life ought to be. That for us was a lesson re-affirmed. In travel as in life, one’s satisfaction has much to do with expectations and how those expectations influence one’s view of what is.

Spending your cycles atop a foggy mountain complaining about the weather condition: a waste. Things change. Witness the weather, especially in the mountains. And all of it out of your control. And yet, that changeable weather is part of the moment. Train yourself to see it, and that’s part of the beauty you’ll encounter. To us at least, that's what hiking in the mountains — and travel in general — is all about.

Life, too. You can play the hands you're dealt as best as you’re able. Or you can complain about what in poker is called a “bad beat” – where you did everything “right” and it didn’t work out. If things turn bad, recognize and maybe even celebrate that you did the best you could. And is it really so bad? If there’s no sun shining on you at the moment, don't forget the sun in your rear view. Celebrate that you carried yourself to the top of the mountain. Or just celebrate the mountain.

Stealing disappointment from the jaws of gratitude will only sour your travel experiences and your memories. With or without COVID-19.

About Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott
Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott are the husband-and-wife storytelling team behind Uncornered Market. Through their advisory, stories, and speaking they are creating a movement of travelers, businesses and destinations at the intersection of adventure, travel, and caring for our planet and its people. They help travel brands and tourism organizations develop sustainable and community-driven products and destinations through our boutique consultancy. They also connect travelers to meaningful experiences as they travel the world with curiosity and respect through our award-winning blog. You can keep up with their adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about them on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

9 thoughts on “Traveling Safely During Covid: Research, Planning and Managing Risk”

  1. I, too, have been grappling with both the ethics of traveling and of sharing said travels. Funnily enough, I was actually in the Dolomites as well around the same time as you. My family and I took the same precautions and chose Italy specifically because of its outdoor potential, but I haven’t shared about the trip at all for fear of encouraging people to travel and the potential backlash. Still not sure if I ever will—doing so would be even more loaded now considering the spikes throughout Europe—but this is an encouraging reminder of the value of showing how to travel safely. Thank you for this, and happy anniversary!

    Reply
    • Alex, we understand the hesitancy about sharing your travels in terms of the backlash. I think that if one explains the research and decisions that when into making the trip, with the focus on the safety of local people, that shows that all of these health and safety factors were taking into consideration when making the trip. What we thought was that people are going to travel, no matter what (and whether they should or now giving rates in certain countries), so if we could help present some decisions and factors that would make the travels more considerate and respectful of local people, including trying to spend money locally, then that would help the traveler and the places they visit.

      And yes, the Dolomites are just incredible!! I miss the mountains 🙂

      Reply
  2. Excellent tips Dan & Audrey. Outdoor activities are definitely low-risk activities as far as covid-19. Would you suggest taking some precautions that are particular to hiking/trekking during covid?

    Reply
    • Pawan, we’d recommend choosing hikes/treks that are less known so that you don’t encounter as many people on the trails. Same goes with going hiking in the shoulder/off season to avoid crowds. If there are rest points or stops along a trek where other people are gathering, it’s good to still keep your distance and not crowd together. But, in general, outdoor activities are much safer from a Covid-19 perspective than anything indoors.

      Reply
  3. Wow, It’s amazing that you guys still got to travel for your anniversary! I loved your tips, and I venture to say that these tips are great for traveling in general, but especially important now. I think staying flexible is always important especially when traveling to different countries. What amazing pictures and great tips, thanks!

    Reply
    • Laurel, we feel SO fortunate that we were able to take this trip for our anniversary. It really was start-stop-start-stop for the weeks before, both because we were trying to stay on top of Covid-19 related news and the weather wasn’t cooperating. Staying flexible is always a good tip, but especially now as things are changing so quickly from place to place.

      Reply
  4. A great tale about how to keep travelling and stay safe at this challenging time. We have used much the same principles to travel locally at home in Canada. It has let us enjoy our own country through the summer and fall. Not so sure I will be as happy as winter comes.

    Reply
    • Linda, it is more difficult to apply some of these tips during winter when everything is pushed indoors. However, they work for travel, as well as in regular life when trying to find safe ways to engage with other people and enjoy meals and activities outdoors.

      Reply
  5. I did travel to Poland and the Czech Republic in mid August 2020 when Covid numbers were quite low (fewer than 500 cases a day in each of Canada, Poland and the Czech Republic). I brought sanitizers and wipes and N-95 masks, etc. On most tours, I was the only participant. Other than transportation, most were outside. I never felt that I was at risk or put others at risk. The local tour providers were grateful for my business, as were local hotels and restaurants. I wore masks even when they were optional. It was easy to social distance and I did that at all times. Streets were not crowded. I was determined not to get Covid and I succeeded. I did quarantine for 14 days when I came back. I used more precautions than many do locally, when they aren’t travelling. But… I got a huge backlashing from people I don’t know on social media. I did struggle with the decision to go – but I feel that I did it responsibly and the timing turned out to be great. People have travelled during this time and will continue to. I think that those who are mindful of their environment and impact (as you suggest), are probably not the ones who are spreading the virus. The points in this blog are very well taken and are very relevant.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.