All Signs on Go? My 2021 travel plans- served up with cautious optimism
Do you have 2021 travel plans?
Within the past two, weeks, coinciding with the warmer weather, our incidence rates dropped from close to a hundred to just over twenty here in Germany, and everything seems to be opening up at rapid speed. What does that do to one’s 2021 travel plans?
It’s been quiet here as I might have trip on my mind, but reality had me work pretty much every free hour in the past six months, and that’s fine. Now os the time though to take a break from a schedule between working and falling into bed totally knackered, and to expand my horizon past the hospital, my garden and the supermarket again.
In view of sinking incidence, everything seems to be opening up
Last week, as we criss-crossed busy parts of Berlin in our vaccinatormobile, cafes appeared shut and there was little going on. When I was in Berlin again last night, it looked positively like in pre-pandemic times: People in the street, in parks, in cafes and restaurants… if it weren’t for the odd face mask here and there, it was almost like nothing ever happened. Is the mandatory testing to eat and shop over? Can people sit inside restaurants now? Are sports centres open?
Who knows? Rules are changing by the hour, and I have no idea. I find it hard to keep track. I am trying to keep up with the ever changing testing and vaccinating policy, and even I have missed when priorities got changed literally by the hour, in different fashion in different federal states.
Germany and EU travel policies and 2021 travel plans
What is clear now: Germany is getting ready to travel again. In some states, test are mandatory even for locals. Holiday apartments and hotels on Germanys narrow strip of seaside are pretty much booked for the summer. Travelling abroad is still a melee of rules, testing, filling in forms and quarantine rules that I have yet to fully understand and that is fluid and appears to change by the hour.
Do you “have to be vaccinated” to travel?
It appears that those who are fully vaccinated still have some privileges, but they are diminishing – if you choose not to be vaccinated, a test (or several tests) will usually suffice to let you travel. Therefore I do not understand this “well I had to be vaccinated because otherwise I am excluded” talk here in Germany. Well, big secret here. All those who choose to work in medicine, care and childcare have to have mandatory measles vaccine. Don’t do it, and you can look for another job. I am fully advocating to have a choice, so I don’t agree with the law, but I obviously had to comply with it, and having been vaccinated against everything going as a child in Eastern Germany in the 1970’s, it was an unnecessary discussion anyway because I have the measles jab in my vaccination records.
Anyway, now the vaccine is almost available to everybody who is actively trying, I feel less “privileged” I had mine in February (due to recurrent exposure and working in medicine) and I still think for us as Europeans it is an immense privilege to get access to the vaccine, free of charge, at a relatively early time. And I am ready to travel again!
My 2021 travel plans and a few things to consider
Several factors will influence my 2021 travel plans.
The holiday season and elections in early autumn
We have a general election in September. I suspect the current government will throw a lot of sugar lumps at the general population in order to become re-elected, and rules are loosened faster than perhaps appropriate.
The 20th of June marks the start of the German holiday season, as schools close for up to eight weeks in a staggered fashion. When the infection eased off over the summer, there were suddenly open borders, and free tests for those returning. I suspect it will be similar this year, and there will be relative freedom to travel in the period up to the middle of September.
Another wave with colder weather?
It is no secret that a booster shot is likely to be required around 12 months after the initial vaccination or after recovery from infection. Given we had a vaccine licence for less than a year, there are no published study results yet, but if you look onto pre-publication websites or the very own opinion of one of the vaccine manufacturers, it is likely. Also, variants of concern. I don’ t think we’ll be done at delta. There are still many unknowns, and caution is on order.
However, bolstered by some recent earnings from hours and hours of extra work, I made some vague travel plans for this year. This means, I booked some very reasonably priced flights, of which most came with the promise to be able to reschedule in case of coronavirus-related issues, and some hotels with free cancellation options. Also, a lot of them are quite close to home – with a twelve-hour train or bus ride possible should things go belly up again.
Dipping my toes: Italy
This is happening very soon, and I am so excited! I had three weeks of annual leave already, shortsightedly booked off work to avoid the main tourist season, but the second and third wave meant that for the first two periods, no travel at all, and then, I felt kind of bad to travel when most others were clearly unable to, so instead I did some vaccination shifts – good for more financial security, and future travel budget.
Now I accumulated tons of overtime, and asked for two days off as I had seen some super cheap flights to Northern Italy.
Visiting Venice again!
Most pressing reason is that I am running out of sun dried tomatoes, and they are really hard to come by here. But also: now might be my only chance for a while to see Venice without being rammed with tourists.
It is not like I have never been.
On my first trip in 1998, I had eyes for my travel companion only. The torturous romance of unrequited love. We should have gone to Frankfurt instead. If I look at that album now, it feels like we were forever sitting in squares, watching people or taking photos of each other. A total sightseeing fail.
On my second trip, the love gods acted in my favour by giving me the kindest, most educated, most well-read wonderful companion. Except, he really was not into churches. Or shopping. Still, we walked a lot and criss-crossed Venice through less-visited quarters. It is pretty insane this is 19 years ago, and that beloved friend passed away last year. I feel it is only fitting to revisit and remember these good times.
I will be flying to Bergamo in less than two weeks, and hopefully I am not too late to admire Venice without tons of tourists. I might hope in vain, as the first ginormous fugly cruise ship has already set sail from Venice just yesterday. And prices for hotels have certainly risen a lot, or maybe after holidays in Southern Italy I am just not used to Venice prices. I have some convent accommodation and plan to walk a lot, and apart from visiting a fancy perfume shop and Studio Fortuny I will concentrate my visit on the lesser known churches and their art, so perhaps I am still on time for a relatively unbothered visit.
Summer holiday: Italy again!
I know this may sound boring, but when I presented some reasonable holiday options to my husband and nudged him to book something soon, this is what he chose.
Of course we would have loved to visit Japan (booked it last year, canceled, got a full flight refund) or Thailand. Japan is still off-limits to foreigners and will probably stay so this year.
Thailand has a pathetic vaccination rate of 3 point something of the population right now and rising infection rates, but plans to open from July. But honestly, with VOCs still brewing and a holiday possibly related to sticking to a resort, no thanks. One restriction I really do not mind is wearing a face mask, everything else – forget it. I rather stay home.
So… flights to Treviso were going cheap, and I booked two. We are planning to hire a car, visit the villas on the Brenta Canal, Padova, Vicenza, Triest, Udine… and pop to Croatia (Istrian peninsula) for a little spot of bathing. This being Northern Italy and us loving good food, it’s not going to be cheap, but we can budget closer to the time and we certainly won’t be losing money from anything pre-booked. Also, none of these are touristy hot spot (notice the omission of Venice) so prices might be higher but not insane.
I have never been to Croatia, so I will visit one new country this year to go with my long term plan of visiting a new country each year. Last year, it was Jordan, just pre-pandemic.
Autumn bonus trip: Southeastern Anatolia
Here is where the beauty of planned overtime with the vaccination campaign is coming in! I have so much overtime that at the very latest, I will be encouraged to take time off towards the end of the year. A bonus to my 2021 travel plans! So I booked another week off in autumn. Okay, I am straying slightly from my plan to catch a bus home if things go belly up, but here is another region I have wanted to visit for a long time.
Lastly, doing a vaccination drive with a Turkish colleague from the Eastern Anatolia region who kept waxing lyrical about the food and the detox tea that lets you lose 10kg afterward. I got inspired and carried away on the Pegasus Airlines website where ultra cheap flights were to be had, so I just booked a flight to Antakya on spec – and one back from Istanbul.
My vague plan is to visit Antakya and its splendid Archaeological Museum, then leisurely make my way on the excellent public transport to Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, possibly as far as Mardin, and fly back from Mardin or Gaziantep.
Domestic flights are super cheap and plentiful in Turkey, so I can always adjust my travel plans – or finally go on a 20-hour coach ride if things go belly-up.
What if travel becomes more restricted again?
Easy. Then I won’t go. 2021 travel plans are to be chopped and changed and overthrown again. I have been through so many “what if” situations this past year and a half, and how many times have I hovered over booking a flight, hotel or train journey, then either got discouraged at the last minute – or I was so worried things might happen at home while I am away, only to realize that I have little control over so many things other than my work schedule, immediate workload, and my personal wellbeing.
For the next trip and perhaps the one after that, I may need a kick in the butt to actually make my way to the airport and not bail out the night before. If anything goes pear shaped, none of these trips was terribly expensive, so countries close up, then so be it, and I am well aware this might happen and not stress out about it.
Trying to support the “right” tourism with my 2021 travel plans
Just like I see in my (non-toursity) home town how hospitality businesses lost income for more than a year, cumulatively, I cannot even imagine how businesses that rely on tourism lost out in the past 18 months. Therefore, I really want to support tourism, but in places where my money stays with the owners of these businesses.
In Germany, our national airline and large tourism corporations have been bailed out with government funds and cosseted to no end. I understand that jobs are behind these companies. And I also understand taking yet another flight on Ryanair is not what one could call responsible tourism, but cheap flights aside, I have booked very small hotels. I will eat in local restaurants and will bring a big restaurant budget this time. And most of my destinations, Venice aside, are not those that profit from mainstream tourism.
I am not a green traveller nor do I aim to be, and going away three to five times a year is more than average. It is nothing compared to a full time travel blogger. But I will do my best that the money I spend stays with smaller businesses. Like Paracelsus said, “It is only the dose which makes a thing poison”.
Will you travel this year, and what are your 2021 travel plans? Will you be doing anything differently this year? Let me know!
The Small Print
Not much to see here. This 2021 travel plans post contains no affiliate links, but there are affiliate links to Booking.com throughout the blog but not the 2021 travel plans , which means that if you book through one of these links, I may make asmall commission but honestly I do’t care if you don’t cos I have a full time job and it is not my primary aim to make money with this web site.