Travel in ‘new normal’ still delights
Call me psychic if you want, but I can honestly say that long before the words Covid or pandemic had entered our daily dialogue, I had always said travelling from 2022 onwards would be different.
Obviously, I am not psychic — if I were, I would have bought shares in Zoom and toilet paper factories a few years ago and would right now be writing this column from a luxury mansion somewhere rather than a slightly chilly office in Stratford.
My convictions about travel changes were more personal — for myself and my husband, not the rest of the world.
Having happily travelled a fair bit over the years with our three children, we have slowly been realising how much is due to change as those children inevitably grow up, and study requirements etc begin to get in the way of our previous carefree travel plans.
For the past five years, travel conversations have included phrases like “can only travel in the term breaks” and “two weeks isn’t long enough for that trip”.
Not to mention the fact flight costs dramatically increase when it turns out only your 10-year-old now counts as a child fare — the teenagers are apparently adults with most airlines.
With grandparents, a great-grannie and other relatives all inconveniently scattered around the globe, travel with those pesky adult-fare-priced children is still very much on the cards for future school holidays, but that hasn’t stopped us looking longingly at the travel features in the NZ Herald and doing a bit of “what if” thinking.
In June, we turned the “what if” into a “sod it let’s do it anyway” and, for the first time in our life with children, left them behind while we flew off into the US sunset (actually, it was a 9pm flight, so it was pretty dark, but sunset sounds better than pitch black doesn’t it?) and accordingly entered into our own new normal of travel — the child-free version.
Dear reader — it was brilliant! While all three of our children are excellent travellers and we have certainly enjoyed the adventures we have gone on with them, there is definitely something to be said for the child-free travel experience.
Firstly, there are the meals — no need to find places that provide childfriendly meals, or have a childfriendly 6pm, nor do we need to eat by 6pm. Instead, we can eat when we want, and can even trade out a meal or two in favour of a cocktail at a karaoke bar if we so feel like it. (Cocktails were great — the karaoke was so bad it was good).
Then there’s the entertainment — while we have taken the small people to Las Vegas a couple of times in the past, there is definitely something to be said for not having to check the age rating on any show before booking tickets.
There’s also the ease of finding a hotel room just to fit two of you, not five, you fit in a smaller hire car or taxi with all your luggage, and you can relax by the pool or sea without worrying about any risks greater than will the ice in your cocktail melt before you finish it.
Back in those pre-pandemic days, when I first daydreamed about travel sans kinder, I hadn’t pictured it involving masks, vaccination certificates, pre-departure testing and traveller declaration forms.
I had imagined a peaceful 12-hour flight where I could consume all the gin and tonics my heart desired, not one where every time a passenger coughed or spluttered the rest of us looked accusingly in their direction while spraying hand sanitiser into the air. And while sleeping on an aeroplane is certainly easier when you don’t have to keep one eye on the 10-year-old to make sure they aren’t watching an unsuitable movie, sleeping with a mask on isn’t the comfiest way to catch 40 winks.
On the bright side, when we disembarked, bleary-eyed and blinking into the bright lights of LAX, those masks at least provided a barrier between us and the LA smog.
A barrier to the smog, but not a barrier to us enjoying every minute of our child-free trip. Because while travel has undoubtedly changed thanks to Covid-19, it isn’t any less enjoyable. Sure, you might have to fill in a few more forms, check entry requirements of various countries and be prepared for things to be slightly different, but different doesn’t have to mean bad.
In fact, now is a great time to travel — to see the sights before all the tourists return, to enjoy concerts and shows as they first come back on stage, and to bring a much-needed boost into the tourism business.
Travel has changed for all of us, not just those of us beginning to look at our empty-nest futures, and the changes probably aren’t going to disappear any time soon.
So grab your masks, pack your bags and book that flight. Because while travel has undoubtedly changed, it’s still the great adventure it always has been.