Pandemic Traveling Notes

14 September 2020

While the pandemic has changed the world as we know it, travel is not cancelled – well not entirely. Masks and hand sanitiser are essentials, and preparing yourself for procedures before you arrive at the airport is helpful. Your temperature will likely be taken before you are allowed to board the plane. Expect the middle seat to be left open. It has been shown that transmission is less likely in the airplane cabin, and a bigger risk is posed by train, bus or taxi transportation you take to get to the plane in the first place. Taking your own private transport too and from the airport is a smart move whenever possible.

This is the era of the justified germaphobe. Buy hand wipes, use hand wipes, buy more hand wipes. When you get on the airplane, disinfect all the areas you are going to touch. Shamelessly be that person. Even wearing surgical gloves won’t get a second glance at this point. Be fussy about which airline you use. If masks are not mandatory it is a red flag. Their safety procedures reflect your safety on their craft. Masks have become social etiquette and are as much about respecting the people around you, as they are about your own preferred fashion choices. We do it for the greater good.

Being quarantined in our homes has only intensified the itch to travel, with many people chomping at the bit to get back out there. There’s even a term ‘revenge travel’ that is derived from China, a play on their experience with ‘revenge spending’ in the 1980s after the recession lifted. This pent-up travel fever appears to be bursting out in a frenzy of ticket buying, spinning the globe with fury, and furiously ticking destinations off the bucket list. Safari companies are urging people to ‘postpone’ not cancel. There is a logic in booking for later and effectively ensuring that the place you want to visit will still be there for the visiting.

In an attempt to minimise the risk of spreading the virus airports have gone into hyper cleaning mode. The cabin in the plane is being fogged with an electrostatic disinfectant that coats high touch surfaces like seatbelts. In an attempt to encourage preventative methods for stopping the spread, some airlines have increased the size of bottles of hand sanitiser bottles you are allowed to take on board from 3.4 ounces to 12 ounces.

Some destinations insist on proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you are allowed to make your travel arrangements, while some others test passengers on arrival. Most countries require a 14-day quarantine, with some fitting the bill for certain passport holders only. The quarantine can include regulations such as first getting a plan of isolation submitted and approved, downloading a quarantine app or even wearing a tracking bracelet to make sure you adhere to the restrictions. Proof of vaccination certificates could be in our future when it comes to travel-but we’re not there yet. Meals will be delivered to your door, and you will interact with no one. All of this can sound complicated, and perhaps a little overwhelming, but as your personal safari planners we are here to break down all the details and make sure you get from point A to point B with as little inconvenience to you as possible.

A change of scenery can be a game changing parenting strategy. After months of being cooped up with kids bouncing off the walls, a beeline for Africa has never seemed quite this desperate. If schooling is your concern, there is no reason you can’t continue home school while on safari as most of the lodges have Wi-Fi access and quiet time can be prearranged. If your child has a more anxious personality and is aware of the heightened times we live in, it can be really useful to take him or her through the motions step by step beforehand, rather than just hitting the ground running.  Clarissa Simon, a health scientist in the Family and Child Health Innovation Program at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago says: “The relaxation you’re expecting and hoping for as a parent may not quite materialise, and you may experience actually an increased level of stress. Having conversations with your kids about what to expect and how this trip will be different from previous travel is also important, so they’re not surprised or overwhelmed’. These are valuable conversations to add to your packing to-do list.

There are several small choices you can make to provide yourself with extra peace of mind while traveling. For example, picking a window seat means you’ll have less foot traffic going past you, and therefore slightly less exposure. Packing your own meals and snacks also exempts you from having to go through the food trolley interaction, and for some this would be preferable to having to wipe down chip packets and cool drink tins. Planning an outdoor adventure, like a Safari, is of course the ideal because they can allow for social distancing. It is common practice now for game drive vehicles to leave a row between each set of passengers that are traveling together. If we are traveling with friends it’s a good idea to invoke the rule of ‘the bubble’. This means that everyone is required to quarantine for 14 days before they join the bubble, the only people they are committed to seeing in order to protect themselves and others. If you’re traveling solo, it’s acceptable that your fellow safari goers and staff at the lodge become your bubble for the duration of your stay. It is worth noting that Safari Lodges are making a considerable effort to ensure that the show can safely go on. The safety of the guests is paramount as these are the people who will save the travel industry. You are considered very precious cargo. Some safari lodges might have practices such as handing out a mask and hand sanitiser on arrival and taking your temperature before you join the breakfast table each morning. Game drive vehicles are often mask free zones. Sitting spaced out with empty seats between travel groups, and the naturally circulating outdoor air lessons the chances of any contamination. But if you prefer you may still wear your mask throughout the drive. Expect the game drive vehicle to get a thorough wipe down in between rides.

safariFRANK is here to personally manage your safety requirements on your travels, and will gladly discuss your concerns. We might have to wear masks, and carry out little vanity sized hand sanitiser wherever we go, but it is, rather comfortingly, still the same old Africa.

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