Ten sleeps. I’m like a hyperactive child waiting for the holiday to begin…are we there yet? Two suitcases lie yawning on the floor beside my bed and every day or so another shoe, hairbrush or Covid test kit gets thrown into the overflowing pile. It’s one thing to pack a capsule wardrobe and quite another to have asthma inhalers, masks and sanitizer as travelling companions….. Yes folks I’m heading to the UK next week..23 hours entrusting Qantas to deliver me safely and healthily at Heathrow with only a short refuel in Darwin… Australia to England…. a great flight that I did in 2019 too..so much easier than going to Dubai or Singapore and having to transit. But it feels a very different trip and already I know that the world has changed, and the world of travel has changed with it.
Are you planning an overseas adventure? Here’s what I’ve learned so far…..
- Double the Preparation time for your trip…then add some more!
I allowed 3 months to renew my Australian passport because I needed to update a name change..the last remaining document in my married name. I divorced 9 years ago and have used my maiden name since then..time to tidy up this anomaly. Wrong. All government departments.. (and I ended up having to deal with 4 of them) are under pressure and time-frames have blown out. They are understaffed, sick with Covid, training new people and dealing with the flood victims in NSW and Queensland on top of nutters like myself who want to walk the Scottish highlands when there are perfectly decent hills here in Oz. One piece of paper, I was told by one government department, would take 20 months to be generated! I’ll deal with that when I get back!
I won’t try to explain the ” Yes Minister” feel to my 3 month escapade with government policies. Sum total? I have a new 10 year passport at a cost of $350 in my old married name, while I am actually divorced. After 3 months I’ve run out of time and needed an Australian passport to get out of the country. Consequently, My International Vaccination Certificate- (You MUST have one of these..not the domestic certificate) is also in my married name!… passport and International Vaxx Certificate have to be in the same name. My British passport is in my maiden name so….I need a statutory declaration to say that there’s only one of me but I seem to collect names like some people collect frig magnets!
I honestly feel like changing my name to Wilhelmina Popcorn after all the fuss!
Now in your world, you probably have one life-long name that will cause no dramas.. in which case just apply on line for an International Vaccination Certificate…very easy.. it spits one out is 3 seconds!….
2. Travel Insurance
I always get travel insurance and never had to claim, but this time, at 72 years old and in a time of Covid..Omicron..B12 variant, I looked more closely at the fine print of different policies. A friend had visited a travel agent and was quoted $1600 for travel insurance….. buyers beware!. When you google and compare different policies, really spend the time to read them thoroughly. Age and health status obviously affect the price. Many policies do not cover Covid related claims. The good ones will cover all medical, cancellations, loss of luggage, documentation etc. Mine also allows $300 for extra pet boarding in case I need to stay in the UK because of covid! Some policies state that if the government say of Britain, locks down the country because of covid many policy items cannot be claimed. The travel insurance policy document is complex and I suggest you prepare a list of queries to discuss with the insurer before signing on. My policy ended up costing around $360 for 6 weeks cover. It isn’t the cheapest available. Make sure covid related expenses are covered in whatever policy you select. I was really annoyed that I couldn’t get a discount because I don’t want insurance for a camera or DRONE! Yep Drone cover is standard in many travel insurance policies!
3. The Medical Kit
I spent a good amount of time chatting with my doctor about what to take with me. Of course they sell covid test kits, masks, ventolin and panadol in the UK and Australia has a reciprocal medical arrangements with Medicare and the NHS..but the anxious voice inside me whispered…take Everything!!! So next to the duty free perfume in my suitcase will be 10 Rapid Antigen Tests, a pack of masks, a squillion small sanitizers..mine smell of eucalyptus.. seriously! And then there 60 days supply of my meds. for high blood pressure (yes I hear you……….. lady I know a quick way to reduce your high blood pressure…Don’t go overseas!)
I also have basic panadol, sudafed, asthma meds and the rest will play out as it will.. there’s being prepared and being paranoid….!
My trip takes in England and Scotland… I’m staying in each place for about a week. London and a hotel near Hyde park that I love to stay in. On to my home turf of Nottingham where I stay in a hotel dating back to the 18th century in the Lace market area. Then on to a cottage in Skipton, Yorkshire and a catch up with my dear friend Julia, who you may remember from her wonderful Viva70 articles about herbal medicine and well being. After a week of Yorkshire wanderings with Julia, I head to Edinburgh and a hotel near the castle, where I meet up with Lesley, a friend from Australia. For 2 weeks Lesley and I travel to Skye, Mull, Iona, Inverness, Fyfe and join a 5 day Rabbies tour of the Highlands. Then I fly back to London.
So accommodation in a time of Covid? I’ve stuck to hotels rather than B and B’s assuming, probably incorrectly, that hotels are required to adhere to safe cleaning practices. My stays are a week long so I’m not hopping from one place to another so minimizing the number of places I stay. Accommodation is less available than in previous years. Many B and B’s have closed over the last 2 years. While booking, it was harder to find accommodation. Some hotels in London wanted to be paid in full on booking. Others were more relaxed and take the full payment 2 days before you arrive. One funny little request from the Yorkshire cottage chain..Please bring your own towels because of Covid! I asked if I also needed to supply sheets? ” Oh no luv..we give you sheets.” I didn’t question the logic!
In Edinburgh and London accommodation is expensive..more so than in 2019 when I was last there. So expect to pay more. In fact everything is more expensive than 2 years ago. Britain is expecting an inflation rate nearing 9% by the end of the year.
This may sound like gloomy picture of overseas travel in 2022..is that right? And the answer, leaping out of my mouth is a “ Hell No!!”
For all the waiting, bureaucracy and frustration I am over the moon about stepping on that big plane again..smelling that plastic scented air when boarding and that stale, stinky air of cattle class 23 hours later. I can’t wait to arrive at Heathrow at 5am London time, when the airport is still and only a few sad, sleepy airport staff shuffle around doing their work, while I grin like a crazy woman from ear to ear. I can’t wait to ride a London cab and rattle through Hyde Park as dawn breaks to unload at my hotel. I can’t wait to have the stern – faced Russian hotel receptionist admonish me for arriving early, when check in is at 2pm..but breakfast is being served downstairs if I’m hungry and they’ll store my bags so I can walk to Kensington gardens and check out Diana’s sunken garden.
Who knows how it will all play out… this travel need of mine.. this pilgrimage to my homeland..all I know is that after a 2 year hiatus and at the age of 72, it HAS to play out..no more tinkering at the edges of life..just walk forward and embrace whatever awaits! Stay tuned…..