First vacation since COVID? What to bring and what to leave behind.
You’re probably carrying too much baggage. And as you prepare for your first post-pandemic vacation, maybe you need to lose a few things before you leave.
They include your pandemic inhibitions, old travel habits – and even your boundaries. In fact, downsizing may be the most overlooked travel trend of 2022.
“People want to rid themselves of anything that reminds them of the difficulty and tragedy of the pandemic,” says Jeff Galak, an associate professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “They want anything but to be reminded of the pandemic, and big changes in behavior can help with that.”
When major transitions in life occur, people hit a “reset” button. Galak says it feels as though a new chapter in their lives is starting.
“So when we see consumers shedding old favorites as they come out of the pandemic, we may be seeing some version of this shift to a new post-pandemic identity,” he adds.
I think the professor is right. I’ve watched the transformation happen in the last few weeks. Travelers, once reluctant to venture outside their cities, are planning ambitious trips to far-flung destinations. They seem bolder and more determined.
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So what should you lose before you leave?
Your sense of fear. “Fear has paralyzed many of us – including me,” says psychologist Louise Sattler. “I went from being an extrovert to barely wanting to socialize with other humans. I was paralyzed by fear.” Why lose the fear? Being afraid of what could happen when you travel can suck the fun out of your vacation. Instead, research your destination, get travel insurance, and go boldly on your trip.
The COVID 15. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. We couldn’t go anywhere for two years. Weight gain was inevitable. “I’m seeing a lot of people who are trying to lose a few pounds before they start traveling this summer,” says Jenni Hackworth, a yoga instructor. “We all fell into some bad habits during the pandemic and learned a lot about ourselves. I think everyone is looking at this summer, as we emerge post-pandemic, as a rebirth. We all get a fresh new start.” Hackworth says you can shed those unwanted pounds with expert guidance and a sensible diet. (But, speaking from personal experience, I think losing weight may be the biggest challenge for your first vacation after the pandemic.)
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All that stuff you used to take with you. Minimalism is “in” on your first post-pandemic vacation, say experts. “People feel that the less they carry, the more they can enjoy the trip,” says Johnathan Smith, founder of the website CamperGuide. “That’s how I felt.” And that feeling led him to pack less. “The less you pack, the more chances you are able to bring something else from the trip,” he adds. For him, the souvenir he’ll bring back will be therapeutic because it represents a victory over COVID-19 and the return to normalcy.
Your limitations. Marcelo Novais says the pandemic has opened our minds to possibilities that travelers can now embrace. Novais, general manager for North America at tour operator Ker & Downey Africa, says post-pandemic travel is “all about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new cultures, places, and a whole new way of living. When you travel to a new destination, you jump on a plane and arrive in a completely different and unfamiliar environment, which inspires your brain with new sensations and a whole mixture of new feelings.”
Your ambitious schedule. Instead of trying to do everything at once, travelers are focusing on just one thing. “I usually mix two or three destinations in a single trip, making sure I cover a lot of ground,” says Andreas Grant, a network security engineer from San Diego. But for his first post-pandemic vacation, he’s headed to just one place – the Maldives – where he plans to chill. “I’m looking for a peaceful vacation this time,” he adds.
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Your old travel habits. For many travelers, this summer is the equivalent of New Year’s Day, says wellness expert Sara Quiriconi. Everyone wants to push the “reset” button and start fresh. “It’s the perfect time to take on a healthier travel routine,” she says. “Improve your sleep habits before flying. Choose water or seltzer instead of going for that second scotch and soda. Pack better snacks for the flight. Wear proper travel gear for better posture. And perhaps open that book this time inflight instead of binge-watching a series you’ve already seen at home,” she says. In other words, be a better traveler.
Your sense of urgency. Remember travel before the pandemic? Everyone wanted to do everything at once. Now, people are trying to take things slower. “People should ease into their traveling experiences with patience and grace,” says Steve Schwab, CEO of Casago, a vacation rental company. “Be patient with yourself as you navigate unfamiliar waters with a different mindset. Traveling can become stressful all too fast.”
Your COVID-19 phobia. This may be the most important – and most difficult – thing to lose, says Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, who chairs the psychiatry department at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. “The fact of the matter is we need to get on with our lives and enjoy ourselves once again,” she says. “We can’t realistically live the rest of our lives in fear of COVID, as that is a life not worth living.” She says travelers should take precautions and get vaccinated. But beyond that, there’s not much they can do. Go out there and enjoy your vacation, she says.
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There’s one more thing travelers are losing, and almost no one is talking about: the need to book everything in advance. Travelers like Kathy Lopez, an author from Prescott, Arizona, say they’re booking almost nothing in advance.
“I’ve lost my sense of urgency to pay to prebook anything I don’t have to,” she explains. “Most of the time, if I’m flexible, there will be an affordable flight, safe transport, and a room to rest my head.”
That travel trend is driving hoteliers crazy because it makes it difficult to gauge demand and set rates. But it offers a glimmer of hope for your first vacation after the pandemic. There are a lot of travelers like Lopez out there, which means you might find a reasonably priced airfare or hotel room this summer. Just remember to travel light.
Don’t lose these on your first vacation after the pandemic
You’ll still need to remember a few things when you take your first post-pandemic vacation. Don’t forget these important items.
Masks and hand sanitizer. You may never need them. But if you’re traveling abroad, where some pandemic regulations remain, you could find yourself in a place where authorities require a mask.
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Your connection to people. Christine Petersen, CEO of tour operator smarTours, says she’s noticed more of her clients want to make a personal connection when they travel. “There’s a renewed urge to connect with others after feeling isolated,” she says. So don’t forget to take your kids, parents, grandparents, or friends with you on your next trip – and don’t be afraid to learn a few words in another language and make new friends.
Your travel adviser. Yes, travel during the pandemic was difficult, and it’s still complicated after the pandemic. A trusted travel adviser can help you navigate the ins and outs of post-pandemic vacationing. You can find one at the American Society of Travel Advisors site.