11 Tips for Planning Your Return Trip to Europe in 2021

Friends asked me throughout 2020, “When will you return to Europe?” My answer last March and April was, “Who the heck knows?” But now, as we’ve said goodbye to that ridiculously challenging year and hello to 2021, my answer has changed to, “hopefully Autumn.”

Do I have a direct line to researchers developing a COVID-19 vaccine? Nope. Do I know something you don’t know about what the outgoing or incoming U.S. federal administration is going to do with regards to vaccine distribution? Nuh-uh. Do I have a crystal ball? (It had to be asked.) No, I do not (we wish!).

Am I nevertheless going to plan my return to Europe for 2021? Yes, I am.

Here are 11 tips I think will make planning your return trip to Europe in 2021 easier, safer, and less expensive than you’ve been imagining it could be.

Tips for a safe and Cheapo trip to Europe in 2021

1. Go with a friend

When we get sick or are injured at home, we all need someone who will advocate for us with health care providers when we can’t advocate for ourselves. While we Cheapos do love a great solo adventure, during these times of COVID-19 I’m opting to travel with a buddy. Then, if I get sick or injured, my buddy will be able to make sure I receive the treatment I require and vice versa.

This was already a good point to consider pre-COVID-19, but now planning for the worst is the only sensible way to travel.

Athens Acropolis

Visiting Athen’s Acropolis helps the local economy — and is an open-air attraction. Photo: dariosusanj

2. Plan to visit places that rely on tourism

This has been a crazy hard year for most of us. But for nations whose economies rely primarily on tourism, this year has been especially difficult.

That’s why I’m heading to Greece. Not only has the nation suffered a TKO to its tourism industry, its primary source of income for the great majority of Greeks, but Greece has also provided asylum for more refugees per capita than most other EU nations.

And besides, after the year we’ve had here in the U.S., heading to paradise for my first trip outside the U.S. since the pandemic began seems like a pretty good idea.

3. Go during the off-season… for several reasons

Is there even still an off-season, with so many employees telecommuting and the majority of students studying remotely now? Yes, there most certainly is.

Even if students are attending class virtually, the majority of families who have taken any holidays in 2020 have done so during school breaks. That means the off-season is still when most schools are in session, so avoid planning travel for Thanksgiving week, the winter holidays, or June through August.

Why does off-season travel matter in the first place? That’s when the fewest people will be traveling, so you are less likely to find yourself seated beside a center-seat companion on airplanes, less likely to sit back-to-back with other guests at outdoor restaurants and cafes, less likely to have neighbors in the hotel room across from yours, and so on. Fewer fellow travelers almost always translates into cheaper room rates and flights, too.

Having fewer people to jostle around has always been a treat during the off-season, but during these COVID-19 times having more space to move and sit and eat is more than a bonus. It’s now a health consideration, too.

4. Buy trip insurance for peace of mind

You most likely won’t need to purchase travel insurance to protect you from expenses associated with rescheduling or altogether canceling your flights, because many airlines are including that in their airfares these days (of course, if the ticket you buy doesn’t include it, we always recommend purchasing it).

But medical evacuation and repatriation insurance are a must. Should you become ill or injured overseas, you may need to be evacuated in order to receive proper medical care–especially if you’re hiking or otherwise exploring more remote areas. Repatriation insurance covers the cost of flying your body back home, should you die while traveling abroad.

Of course, we hope you will waste your money on this and never have any need for it, but having it in your pocket is a necessity… just in case of the very worst-case scenario actually happening to you during your trip.

For more information on this topic, read our post on travel insurance.

JFK to Madrid in June… for under $500 nonstop? You could book it now and cancel if need be.

5. Book your airfare now for deals

We have no idea (though some speculate) how airfares will be impacted by COVID-19 or anything else over the course of 2021. We do, however, know how airfares are looking right now, and they’re cheap.

Really cheap.

We found round-trip September airfares from SFO to ATH with only one layover for as low as $687, and round-trip airfares as low as $603 for flights with two layovers. That’s less than we paid to fly to Greece in 2004.

6. Book a window seat to reduce risk

Studies have shown that the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 during a flight is derived from the people sitting two seats ahead of you, two seats behind you, and two seats to either side of you. So, if you select a window seat, you’ve just reduced your risk by 25% simply because there are no seats to one side of you. According to this article from MIT Medical:

… Whatever your airline’s middle-seat policy may be, when it comes to the risk of contracting an illness in flight, a window seat may be your safest bet. Having a wall on one side automatically reduces your number of close-proximity contacts. A window seat also protects you from the inadvertent close contacts that can occur when other passengers are hoisting bags into overhead bins at the start of a flight or crowding aisles to deplane after landing.

7. Book your accommodations now for deals

As with flights, there is no sure-fire way to know what will happen to hotel room rates in 2021. But many hotels are offering deals to encourage travelers to book now so they can have a sense of how many guests they might expect to serve, so they can entice travelers to take advantage of the lower rates, and quite frankly so they can determine if they can even keep their doors open.

Nevertheless, most of these hotels are still offering complete refunds if you cancel within forty-eight hours of your arrival date, so you win if you go and you win if you don’t. Check the full details before you book.

Search for hotels in Europe on EuroCheapo.

8. Pack these items for extra safety

  • A roll or two of toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Disposable protective masks
  • Cloth face coverings
  • Disposable safety gloves
  • Ballpoint pens

If you’re in the habit of getting off the beaten path quite often, you have probably long been in the habit of packing your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Continue to do that, even if you’re planning to stay primarily in urban areas when you return to Europe. Then, pack disinfectant wipes so you can wipe down high-traffic areas in your hotel rooms and at outdoor cafes, along with a supply of disposable masks that’s double the length of time you plan to be away.

So, if your trip will be for 14 days, pack 28 disposable masks. Here at home you use cloth face coverings and wash them after each use to limit your environmental footprint. Continue that practice by taking a few cloth face coverings with you when you travel, but in case you take one of your cloth face coverings off at a cafe to eat and then one falls onto the ground while you’re affixing it to your sweaty face before entering a shop, you want to have a back-up. (You definitely do not want to get stuck having to stay outside of a place you really want to enter and may not have a chance to return to simply because your mask fell on the ground or you left it behind and now you have no face covering to protect others and yourself.)

Though there’s not much use for disposable gloves if you are able to wash your hands, you may find yourself somewhere where you won’t be able to count on washing your hands before eating. What if you lose your hand sanitizer or it falls out of your bag and there is no sink available to wash your hands? That’s when the disposable gloves will come in handy. Just make sure you are smart about how you remove them.

Finally, bring at least three ballpoint pens with you so you always have your own to sign hotel guest registries and credit card receipts.

9. Take these precautions everywhere you go

Washing your hands often, wearing a protective face covering, and staying 6+ feet away from others isn’t just good advice for when you are around others back home; it’s good advice everywhere. Though you may be enchanted by your surroundings, always remember to keep your mouth and nose covered and keep a safe distance from others as you explore Europe.

And if you feel unwell while overseas, stay in your hotel and avoid potentially exposing others to your illness. If you test positive for COVID-19 while abroad, isolate yourself from others for 10 days, plus three more if your symptoms have not resolved themselves within seven days of starting your 10-day isolation period.

It will be a bummer to have to stay in your hotel room watching local television shows and reading the 99 books you brought with you on your e-reader, but that’s what must be done in order to be a good global citizen during these times of COVID-19.

Driving through Spain. Photo: kentwang

10. Stay safe while renting a car, and riding a train or ferry

Rent a car. Rent a car. Rent a car. (Seriously, rent a car.) Wear your mask when you initially enter it and for the first few hours of driving it, wipe it down with your disinfectant wipes, and drive with the windows down for the first few hours.

Just as you would here at home, wear your protective face covering when you fill your rental car’s tank with petrol, and apply hand sanitizer to your hands before removing your mask or putting your hands on your steering wheel once you’re back in your vehicle.

If you’re going to take the train (who doesn’t love the trains in Europe?), splurge on a couchette/sleeper car. You can wipe it down with your disinfectant wipes, wear a mask for the first few hours you are in it, and if the window opens you can open it up to get air circulating while keeping the door to the couchette closed so as to restrict air flow from the main cabin.

If you’re traveling to a country like Greece where you would typically use ferries to move from one island to another, consider staying on the mainland and solely using your rental car for transport, or fly among islands instead of taking ferries. Even if you can find sufficient space on a ferry to keep yourself and others safe, simply standing in the crowd waiting to board the ferry could be unnecessarily risky.

Search car rentals throughout Europe here.

11. Embrace the outdoors

If you don’t absolutely have to go inside shops, museums, and exhibits, skip them altogether this time around. Instead, enjoy the outdoor offerings of the place you’re visiting. For instance, although the Benaki Museum and Acropolis Museum are brilliant, during my 2021 return to Athens I will focus solely on visiting Lykavittos; the Parthenon; Hephaestus; other archaeological finds and architectural remains that can be enjoyed in open spaces; beaches; mountainous regions where we can hike to our hearts’ content; and the abundance of outdoor markets, cafes, and gardens.

Final thoughts

There’s no reason to fear returning to Europe (assuming those of us with U.S. passports are admitted…!) in 2021. Simply be smart about it and take every reasonable safety precaution, just as you would right here at home. Safe and joyous travels to you!

Your tips?

Planning a trip abroad in 2021? How do you plan to stay safe?

The post 11 Tips for Planning Your Return Trip to Europe in 2021 appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

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