Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic

Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic.jpg

We Chose To Only Travel Locally During The Pandemic

Some people questioned our decision to travel locally during the pandemic. Others wondered why we have not travelled further.

While it may seem contradictory, no decision was made without a lot of thought and assessment. We felt it may help to share our thoughts.

We wanted to stress that our decisions to travel or not are dictated by our situation and risk assessment. Any decisions we made should not be construed as an endorsement of travel at this time. Or as condemnation of those that made other decisions. The safest decision may always be to stay home.

Our resolve and decision making may be challenged with no escape in sight from the cold Canadian winter!

Should We Travel At All?

Making a decision to leave home for any reason required so much thought each time we did it. We are more at risk of getting the Covid-19 virus than many others. And our health is really important to us. And if we picked up the virus and wandered around asymptomatic, we would hate to put others in danger.

Several years ago we downsized to a small condo when we decided to prioritize travel. We bought a condo on the waterfront in Toronto with access to local waterfront trails. This was perfect when we travelled about 6 months a year. But not so great when we were trapped inside for long periods of pandemic lockdown. And not a great location when the city parks and paths were so crowded we often avoided going outside.

When the lockdown period ended and infection rates stayed low in Canada, we had options to travel locally during the pandemic. We followed and often exceeded all Covid-19 precautions. And used a set of decision criteria for our local travels. So we got fresh air, sunshine, exercise and helped our mental health. Local spots were discovered this year. And a little money was put into the local economies.

Covid Local Travel Social Distance - Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic.jpg

Over the 8 months we have been at home, these local trips account for only 20 days.  We believed when we chose to travel locally during the pandemic that the benefits far outweighed the slight risk we took. But on every local trip we took, we were fully prepared to abandon our travel and return home if it did not feel safe. And as infection rates rose in Canada, our local trips dwindled.

Our Local Travel Decision Criteria

Like so many others, we cancelled all of our travel plans for 2020. Although we were lucky and almost finished an amazing South America cruise before the pandemic sent us home. That early experience with the pandemic taught us some lessons and prepared us for local travel.

But during the summer and early fall in Canada, infection rates were relatively low. And local travel was safe and needed to help the economy. Even if we still could not travel to many of the other provinces in Canada.

We started to travel locally during the pandemic as mid-week day trips. When those were successful, we did a few small overnight stays. Our rules to travel locally during the pandemic were simple:

  • always followed Covid-19 precautions – wear masks, socially distance, wash hands and avoid crowded environments
  • travelled mid-week when crowds were smaller
  • visited places where infection rates were low
  • planned most of our activities as outdoor fun
  • took our own car
  • booked at the last minute and only did short trips so we had known local conditions and requirements to contend with
  • be prepared to return home immediately if we felt any risk

Covid Local Travel Masks.jpg

Covid Local Travel Masks.jpg

Covid Local Travel Masks.jpg

We took our responsibility to protect ourselves and others seriously when we planned and executed local travel during the pandemic.

Why We Limit Travel To Local Spots During The Pandemic

Travel requirements constantly changed at home, at destinations spots and for any interim stops. This resulting uncertainty stopped us from booking any long trips, international travel or cruise trips.

People wondered why we were ok to travel locally during the pandemic but had not booked any big trips. For us, the list of reasons was long:

1) What We Know About Covid-19 Kept Changing

So much of our knowledge of Covid-19 continued to change. Initially we worried about surfaces. But we learned that the virus was spread largely through the air. Results on immunity after infection and on gestation time remained variable.

The symptoms watched for changed regularly. Most places used temperature as a key gating factor. Even when it was known that fever was not always present. And so many people were infectious but asymptomatic.

Covid Local Travel Health Checks.jpg

Covid Local Travel Health Checks.jpg

While we had a better idea of the short term damage to the body, it will be many years before we understand the long term damage that people may live with. We worried that getting Covid-19 was a long term crap shoot even if we did not have severe complications or die!

2) Travel Offerings and Cancellations

With travel numbers down we saw there were limited flights and hotels available. We knew that even with booked reservations there were potential changes due to local situations on either end of travel.

We returned from Miami after we got stranded cruising in South America during the pandemic. And we were on the last Air Canada flight out of Miami for a long time. With the changing pandemic situation, we feared that it might be hard to get back home quickly, easily or cheaply.

3) Travel Bans

Every day it seemed there were changes to the list of who can travel where. In the early days when Canada’s infection rates were low, there were many places that still accepted Canadians. Even if there are still places in Canada we cannot visit!

But as infection rates at home and abroad changed, that list became hard to track. Booking travel for dates out more than a few days always added risk that the destination would be closed to us. And changing or cancelling booked plans was increasingly risky.

4) Quarantine Rules

Countries and even local places have implemented quarantine requirements for people entering or returning from travel.

We have the flexibility and means to travel for longer periods and could in theory be fine with spending 14 days of our vacation in quarantine. But that assumed there was a place at our travel destination that would act as a quarantine base at a reasonable cost. But for people wanting a short getaway, the quarantine requirements at the destination was not acceptable.

Canada required 14 days quarantine for anybody who returned from abroad. Although there are currently some trials being done to replace this with a series of Covid-19 tests on arrival.

We would not welcome a 14 day quarantine when we returned. But this time we would be prepared for that before we travelled. We would not clean out all of our cupboards and our freezer of food. Basic supplies would be well stocked. And we would order fresh groceries for delivery in advance of our return. We certainly were not that well prepared when we returned from South America at the beginning of a pandemic lockdown.

But many people could not take a 14 day quarantine when they returned home without major hardship.

5) Travel Destinations May Not Be The Same

With pandemic requirements in place, many activities were closed. If they were not closed, there were limits on the number of visitors. Reservations were required in advance. So we couldn’t always plan to visit at the time that we wanted. This was not the time to travel far distances to see things we may never get to see.

Covid Local Travel Closures.jpg

Covid Local Travel Closures.jpg

Covid Local Travel Closures - Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic.jpg

Hotels were also operated under strict requirements and many services were removed. So many hotel stays were no longer the luxury retreats we often sought when we travelled. We got lucky on several of our overnight stays with hotels that largely had most facilities in operation. But so much of what was available varied with local conditions.

6) Testing Requirements Were Challenging And Risky

As travel re-opened, Covid-19 testing requirements were put in place as pre-requisites. The testing requirements varied and changed. And which tests were needed also varied. We know people who travelled to distant places only to be turned away in transit or at the destination.

We were also quite skeptical about how safe some of the testing requirements were. Because of delays in getting test results, many places accepted test results from up to 72 hours before arrival. So much time to be infected in that 72 hours.

And even destinations that implemented additional testing on arrival have not kept infection rates at bay. The virus may not be detected for some time after infection! Several cruising companies thought they had enough testing until the infections spread onboard despite several rounds of testing.

7) Cost Of Cancelled Travel

This year we cancelled many of our travel plans. We still don’t have all the money back that we prepaid. Many companies never returned money for travel cancellations. And others offered only future travel vouchers that may never be redeemed.

Many travel brands changed their cancellation policies and made it easier to cancel and get money back. But most of these still had conditions that were buried in the fine print.

Sadly, we believed that many travel companies may not survive the pandemic. We were hesitant about putting down money on future travel. We were worried that companies will cease operation or go bankrupt in a way that put our money at risk.

8) Health Insurance May Not Cover Us

Most health insurance policies will be void if there are advisories against travel. In Canada, the federal guideline says “Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada”. It goes further and says “Avoid all cruise ship travel outside Canada”.

As such, it would be very hard to get any travel health insurance that covers regular medical emergencies, never mind the costs if we got Covid-19. There are now new supplemental health insurance policies available. But the fine print included so many restrictions that we would still be responsible for many health issue related costs.

The other health issue of concern related to availability of treatment at our destination. With health resources stretched to the limit in so many places, we worried about the ability to get care. And if we wanted to get that care in Canada, we may not be able to get home if we were sick with Covid-19.

For generally healthy people, it may be worth the risk to travel without adequate health insurance. It was not possible for us.

9) Beliefs And Behaviour Of Other People

We believe in the science and the Covid-19 precautions that are generally required. We do not believe this pandemic is a hoax. But we knew that not everyone shared these beliefs.

Even when businesses put the required processes in place, they were only as good as the people who followed them and those that enforced them. And even on our local travels we found far too many people didn’t believe, refused to follow or just paid lip service to the rules.

Covid Local Travel Business Posted Rules.jpg

Covid Local Travel Business Posted Rules.jpg

Covid Local Travel Business Posted Rules.jpg

When we travelled locally, we always had the opportunity to quickly, easily and cheaply remove ourselves from risks. We were always prepared to return home. We walked zig-zag paths to give ourselves social distance. And we stayed away from crowded places.

But if we travelled far from home, it would not always be possible to easily remove ourselves from risk. How do you get space in an airplane?

We Kept Posting About Our Travels On RetiredAnd Travelling

During this pandemic, we questioned whether we should continue to publish travel posts. We had about 100 travel blog posts in draft. And we started to travel locally.

We polled the people on our mailing list and the response was overwhelmingly in support of continuing to publish. Many people still dreamt of or planned future travel. And our travel posts helped fuel that wanderlust. And one day we got the most amazing email that spurred us to keep sharing our travels.

“Your creative work has been a tremendous source of vicarious pleasure … I’m trying to hold on to my dreams and your gorgeous photos and descriptions are facilitating my dreams and enhancing my life … Thanks for what you’ve created and the joy you’ve brought to me and many others!“

Thank you Andi for such encouraging words. They truly made our day!

As we travelled locally, we wanted to share our experiences for others who wanted some tips on how to travel a little more safely.

So we kept posting travel content on RetiredAndTravelling.

Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic And Not Further

We loved the opportunity to travel locally this year when it was safe to do so. But we never travelled without conscious thought or risk assessment. We believed the benefits outweighed the risks. We hope this blog post helps people to understand our decision. And provides some input on things to consider when making plans to travel locally during the pandemic.

Our long list of reasons why we have not travelled or booked longer trips may resonate with many people. But we accept that many people don’t have the same concerns. Or have different risk tolerance levels that we do at this point.

We look forward to the day when we can fill our calendar with travel bookings!

Did you travel locally during the pandemic? Are you travelling much further afield?

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About TravelAtWill 579 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

35 Comments

  1. After reading your post, it is clear how thoroughly you thought of all pros and cons of travel during COVID. I have also used this time to discover outdoor adventures close to home, which has been an excuse to escape cabin fever for a while. I think one of the best reasons you mentioned for traveling locally is putting money back into the local economy. It’s great to see communities doing what they can to support their favorite local businesses. Thanks for sharing!

    • Chloe, I am glad that you too have gotten out locally during the pandemic. We have been pleasantly surprised by how many of the small communities have gone above and beyond required safety measures. It has made visiting easier and we are happy to spend money in places taking this seriously. Linda

  2. I totally get what you mean by the fact that each trip required careful consideration. And yeah, the facts we know about covid keep on changing constantly, which doesn’t help. You’re lucky that you have so many options locally to explore, Canada is huge and gorgeous in every corner! Most people who have been deprived of travel during the pandemic, have started to travel locally, at least for now!

  3. I agree that Travel Locally During The Pandemic is much safer. And for sure, it is much better for local businesses. You can support them this way. So I agree that travel locally is a perfect idea. And I travel this way a lot now. I like your tips and rules on traveling locally during the pandemic as travel mid-week when crowds were smaller or plan most of our activities as outdoor fun. We do the same, and we also wear masks.

    • Agnes, It is possible to be careful and still get out a little when not in total lock down. It looks like we are going back into lockdown in Toronto. So we were sure glad we got out a little earlier in the year while it was still safe to do local travel. Linda

  4. Absolutely! We’ve also only been doing local trips that we can drive to to reduce risk. Mostly we’ve been visiting National Parks where we can wander around without a lot of people nearby. Love all the careful consideration you’ve taken weighing your options and doing your research. There is a balance in there of supporting the local economy while making sure there is mitigated risk.

  5. In Malaysia, our border is still closed. Foreign citizens are not allowed in, and Malaysians are not allowed to go out. Those returning from abroad will have to go thru a 14-day quarantine. In March, we went into a lockdown, where interstate travel was not permitted. In June, they eased it up a little, during which I traveled locally and rediscovered my own country. Then, last month, we went into lockdown again due to a sudden surge in cases. It’s very disheartening as a travel blogger to not be able to travel, and to know that people probably won’t be interested to read about travel for a while. But just like you, I’m taking this time to update my old posts and keep producing new ones.

    • Ummi, Sadly we just went back into lockdown in Toronto for a month. We will see what happens then. It sure made us glad we had travelled locally during the summer and early fall. Linda

  6. We preferred travel locally although last summer we did go further to a different state. I agree with you to choose destinations that are not too many people around and to avoid crowds. Just like you said, not everyone think this pandemic is a serious thing (= hoax.) And yes, we help local businesses when travel locally.

    • Umiko, Other people have been our biggest issue when we travelled. Most people took this pandemic seriously. But the ones that don’t ruin it for everyone. We are back in lockdown in Toronto because people can’t follow simple rules. Very sad for everyone. Because we all lose with lockdown. Linda

  7. I completely agree with you Linda. We also have been traveling locally and it’s been really nice. I also kept seeing flights being cancelled, and of course many hotels opening and then closing. On top of that, it’s not fair to visit places which cannot handle the pandemic, let alone take care of visitors.

    • Lisa, Every time we think we might want to consider a further trip, another place gets locked down or closed for entry. That becomes stressful and expensive. So better to be safe and wait it out a bit. We have so many great travel experiences to look back on. And many years for more memories. Linda

  8. My husband and I decided to travel locally this summer too. We stayed in a beach condo and brought our own food, and then we went glamping on an alpaca farm. Both of these experiences made it easy to social distance. I agree with you. You can travel responsibly during the pandemic. You just have to get creative.

    • Donna, Glamping on an alpaca farm sounds like a fun and different thing to do. And a great way for social distancing. I agree you just need to be a bit creative. And we have been surprised at the gems we have discovered. Linda

  9. Great post! I’m with you on limiting travel and trying to “keep it local”. I actually had a cross-country road trip this year, but it was unavoidable due to a family situation. Even then I did tons of research ahead of time to find a route that had lower COVID risk. We just cancelled a vacation that would have been just an hour from home because numbers are spiking all over the U.S. and we just don’t want to add to the increased risks. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • Nancy, We have thought about several trips further in Canada this year but there are parts of our country not open yet. With rates spiking again in Canada we are so glad we did some travelling when we did. Linda

  10. Thank you for writing this article! We too have decided to only travel local during the pandemic. If minimizing large travel is something we can do to protect ourselves and others, that is a small price to pay. It is great that you also have criteria to go by when traveling local since not every local play follows appropriate safety precautions. We are all waiting for a vaccine, but until then we MUST do our part by being responsibile.

    • Cecilia, I am glad this blog post resonated. So many people have found a way to travel locally and do it safely. Good for everyone – those that travel and those that get the business. If everyone could play by the rules, we would not be back in lockdown again. Sad and very disappointing. Linda

  11. I’m not in the more at risk group, but I’ve been travelling locally since the pandemic. I too share your fear of not being able to return home in this ever-changing pandemic situation. (It must’ve been so stressful when you got stranded in South America!) Plus, what you said about activities being closed is so true too. I’d rather wait to visit in the future than go and see nothing at all. Plus, there are actually so many gems in your backyard that you probably didn’t even know existed. It’s so important to support local businesses now more than ever and to explore locally!

  12. Clearly you thought this through, and I think the way you looked at, and assessed, the risk, both to yourself and others, was very thorough. We did one local trip this past summer – to Whistler for 4 days. It was so worth it!
    Alison

    • Alison and Don, We tried to be mindful of the current pandemic situation before we left home. And our brief outings always gave us a lift. So glad your trip to Whistler worked out. A change scenery does wonders! Linda

      • It sure does! Even day trips. There’s a place north of Vancouver where the eagles gather over winter. We’ve a day trip planned for that, and a few other ideas. We’re lucky to be able to get out, and have a heap of outdoor things to do here. Keeps us sane lol.

  13. You did an absolute amazing job with this post. Really shows how consciously you traveled and were so responsible. It was and is a very different case here in Thailand. For the better though. I am really loving local travel and don’t miss international travel one bit.

  14. This year has been really strange. I spent a few months abroad, but it was Slovakia and Austria, a maximum of 400 km from my hometown in Poland. Moreover, it was more business travel than tourism. We tried to combine it with sightseeing and it was even nice, but I must say that I miss the sea a lot… I haven’t seen it this year and I’m sad for that.

    • So much of business travel has been shut down. It was good you got to combine some business travel and sightseeing at the same time. I hope you do get to the sea in the new year. Linda

  15. I agree with so much of this!! We have been to neighboring states, but nothing to crazy and only by car. We keep a tub of disinfectant wipes with us, and lots of hand sanitizer and face masks (plus we social distance like crazy). When we stayed at a hotel, we took the majority of our meals to go and ate in our rooms. Mid-week has definitely been the way to go as well!

    • Lia, I agree that even local trips require a lot of preparation to do it safely. My car kit looks like yours and may stay that way for a while. We loved the chance to support local businesses. Even if most of our meals were take out or on the patios. Lots of ways to social distance if you plan for it. Linda

  16. Hi, so true think one of the best reasons to travel locally is to support the local travel community to survive. Still it is not that comfortable but we have no choice and life goes on. I really hope and pray we can one day travel freely without wearing a mask.

    • Mimmie, I just wish more people would observe the health precautions so we could move about more freely. We are back in lockdown again. So not even able to move about locally – since they don’t want those of us from locked down areas. It take so little for things to stay at some kind of new normal. Linda

  17. I absolutely agree with you that it’s a personal decision to travel or not to travel during a pandemic. like you, I too explored the local places. I am very safety conscious and a calculative risk taker. Although it might sound easy but a lot of preps go even in planning a local trip.

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