Leisure travel has plummeted as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, and for those who spend a considerable amount of time planning and anticipating a terrific vacation, the void can have a negative impact on one’s state of mind. The following are just my thoughts why there is still a way to sustain your travel hobby without having a trip on the horizon.
Before I get to the subject of this post, I’d like to touch on a couple of relevant points.
The COVID-19 Outlook
Perhaps we can acknowledge but set aside for now the varying opinions on whether people should be travelling at all or how soon the crisis will be over. This debate can be a heated one. The fact is, people are not travelling like they did before the onset of the pandemic and there is no way to know for sure when travel will get back to previous levels. As long as there are restrictions and requirements for international travel along with frequently changing flight schedules and routes, many Canadians will hold back on taking major trips.
“First World Problems”
Another matter to dispense with is the notion that lost leisure travel is not worth being concerned about in the midst of a global health crisis. The ability to travel is undoubtedly a luxury and hopefully everyone fortunate enough to have ventured abroad in the past truly appreciates the incredible privilege it is to see the world beyond their backyard. For many, pondering future travel provides a significant boost to one’s mood, and a hobby that helps you get through life’s challenges should not be dismissed, even in the current situation.
Travel Research vs. Trip Planning
Now getting to the subject of this blog post…
In my view, there are two distinct elements involved in planning future travel. However, many keen travellers likely treat the first one as merely a component of the second and not a separate activity in itself. I believe it can be helpful to approach the two independently, especially right now.
Travel research is the gathering of potentially useful information about destinations you might consider for a trip in the future. It’s just daydreaming. You’re not even close to being ready to book anything. No decisions about the who, what, when, where or how have been made about your next trip. You’re exploring and gathering intel. It’s akin to shopping in a store with no intention of buying anything. You’re just browsing to see if there’s anything you like.
This is actually what I enjoy most about the at-home part of the travel hobby. Finding good information to file away is both fun and productive. There is no pressure to make decisions on an itinerary or lock in any bookings. There is also the great feeling of discovering something you had never heard about and could turn out to be the inspiration for a future trip.
There are many resources out there from which to glean lots of great tips – discussion forums, trip reports, blogs, Youtube channels, travel guidebooks and friends and family who have already visited places in which you have interest. Via these avenues I’ve come across loads of excellent info I hope to put to use one day or at least pass along to someone else who could benefit.
Trip planning of course requires research as well, but there is a different mindset and purpose involved. Things have progressed to a more serious phase. There is an actual trip to organize. I tend to think of assembling an independent, unguided trip as akin to putting together a puzzle, and even more so when you deal in points and miles. There are so many pieces to fit together to make it all work in a logistically sensible and cost effective manner. After one element of the trip has been chosen, whether it’s the dates or the destination, things are in motion and decisions have to be made about where to stay, what to see, where to eat etc.
I think some folks spend minimal time in the general research phase and jump right into specific research + decisions + booking. These are the people who most lament the loss of travel planning – they plan the trip and take the trip. And that’s not so feasible at the moment.
I know it’s especially challenging for anyone who had to cancel a 2020 trip. Some are holding vouchers or travel credits and the uncertainty of whether they can use them to replicate their derailed vacation makes it difficult to think about other future travel.
I believe there’s value in travel research for its own sake if you find it to be a pleasant escapist activity. Someday we’ll be travelling again and in the meantime you may discover a great destination that wasn’t on your radar previously.
If you need some direction, here are a few ideas…
Festivals and Events
Although tourists tend to gravitate toward the large well known festivals that attract huge numbers of foreign visitors, I suggest making the effort to find the less famous events where mainly locals are in attendance. These are where you’ll typically find wonderful hospitality and an authentic cultural experience. Some of my favourite trip memories are from these kinds of small-scale annual events.
If you’ve ever considered whether it’s possible to get around without a vehicle in a certain destination, find those trip reports that provide informative accounts by people who have done it. Personally, I find it quite annoying when someone says that you definitely need to rent a car in a particular place when it’s somewhere I’ve actually visited and managed fine with public transport. You really need to research it for yourself to find out if it’s truly necessary to rent a car or just more convenient with one.
Loyalty Program Sweet Spots
If you have any loyalty points or are interested in becoming more active in the points and miles world, take the time to familiarize yourself with the various programs and scour the web for tips and info on how best to maximize them. Get up to speed with the new Aeroplan that starts November 8th. Sort out a credit card strategy if you want to earn travel rewards from everyday spending. Just be aware that loyalty programs change things up once in a while so watch out for outdated info online.
Guided Tour Itinerary Examples
I generally choose independent travel over multi-day escorted tours because I prefer a slower pace with more flexibility and lower cost. However, the websites of reputable small group tour operators like Intrepid, G Adventures or Rabbies, for example, can be an excellent resource if you’re looking for itinerary ideas to tweak according to your own travel style. Look at their maps and descriptions to see how they’ve structured the tour and what sightseeing activities they’ve included.
From Intrepid Travel’s website:
If you have any curiosity about your ancestral heritage, this can be a good rabbit hole to dive into. Sign up for a free trial at Ancestry.ca and dig around to see what you can find. Once you have some place names you can read up on them and decide whether you might want to visit someday.
Normally I’d be in Europe right now or at least getting ready to take off soon. It’s a real downer knowing I won’t be enjoying a similar experience this year. But, I can still research future travel. I have lots of trips in the “daydreaming stage” and although I know I’ll never be able to take all of them, I nonetheless derive enjoyment from discovering new possibilities.
I realize that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for gathering information just to put in your metaphorical back pocket. However, if you’re missing the fun of planning a trip, think about what might spark your interest and see where it takes you. Who knows what you might find. And eventually we’ll be travelling again and you’ll not just be more thankful for the opportunity, but better prepared as well.