When my husband and I initially started our travel planning last year for our summer 2023 travel, COVID-19 was still a part of the landscape. While COVID is still a concern for those at higher risk and when traveling to countries where it remains an issue, what travel planning has evolved into is planning around the post-COVID logistics of supply chain issues, labor shortages and general disorganization.
Based on that, here are my travel planning tips for the remainder of 2023:
Airlines continue to have fluctuating flight schedules.
During COVID, airlines became short-staffed at the last minute because of testing and quarantine policies. Then a few of them experienced crew shortages due to hiccups in staff scheduling systems. Flight schedules that used to be set at least 60 days out were changing up through departure. Currently, pilots and flight attendants are calling airlines to the carpet because they muscled through COVID without renegotiating their cost-of-living increases in salary and benefits, and now they say they’re due. Multiple airlines are dealing with the threat of labor strikes, so be ready to shift or cancel plans.
Labor in Europe is a hot mess.
Major travel destinations like France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom are dealing with planned work interruptions. While garbage collection employees walking out on the job in Paris may not affect your trip to Madrid, the walkouts by pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, and public transportation employees in the above-named countries can affect any of your travel plans to, from and within Europe. Fortunately, the labor organizations involved are (as of this moment) announcing their stoppages at least several weeks ahead of time, so be sure to check travel websites in your destination for updates so that you can create contingency plans or change destination plans all together. For additional tips on dealing with labor strikes while traveling abroad, check out these recommendations from Rick Steves of Europe Through the Back Door.
Be aware of local restrictions, mandates or entry requirements.
Search for the local municipality’s website of your destination to locate not only the most current COVID policies, but also any updated entry requirements. Remember that COVID policies can differ from county to county and region to region in the same state or country. Additionally, beginning in November of 2023, European countries belonging to the Schengen Zone will now require a special form to be completed (and fees paid!) prior to entry. For additional information, browse these updates from Allianz and Forbes.
Are your documents in order?
In the past, you could pay for expedited services to receive your passport within a couple of weeks. Currently, the average turn-around time for passport processing is 12 weeks (that’s three months!!). Expedited services are running up to 8 weeks on the turnaround, which doesn’t sound very expedited to me. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you know you’ll need some kind of government document for your travels, apply ASAP!
Travel-related businesses might have limited spaces.
During and emerging from COVID, many companies were struggling to find employees who would show up on time and remain on the job for more than a few days. Therefore, many businesses in the hospitality industry couldn’t open up to full capacity because of their labor shortage. Can you believe that in the summer of 2023, that’s still the case? Many companies are still struggling with unreliable staffing retention. Because of this, be sure to reserve ahead whenever possible to ensure your space at your first-choice locations, on your first choice of dates and times.
Check on the current cancellation policies.
During the height of the COVID pandemic, hotels, airlines, and other travel-related companies relaxed their cancellation policies, fully refunded pre-paid packages, or offered changes without fees. Many of these policies have been in flux for the past year – with some returning to pre-pandemic rules – so be sure to familiarize yourself with a company’s policies before booking, then take a screenshot of or print out their policies when you make your booking.
I realize that every topic discussed here is a negative and might make you re-think even going on vacation in the first place. I’m definitely not discouraging you! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you’re aware of these travel planning tips, and you know about the possible glitches ahead of time, you’ll be better able to plan for them, which will allow you to enjoy your travel adventure.
For tips on how to prepare to leave work and home behind no matter what’s going on in the world, be sure to check out The Great Escape: A Vacation Planner for Busy People Who Want to Take a Real Break from Work & Life.