So, we’re not fully out of the panny d, but restrictions are lifting and that includes travel- my biggest passion in life. Having spent the best part of the last two years on the island and in a (fairly remote) mountain town in the French Alps, leaving the island and visiting the big smoke last week had me feeling like an Amish person – and boy did it feel GOOD.
Travel can be anxiety-inducing at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. As someone who experiences travel anxiety anyway, it’s fair to say I had a few worries. However, having made it there and back safely, I’m here to let you know you don’t have to be worried.
For me, post-covid travel with the current restrictions is actually bloody great.
Getting off the island
The perks: No queue to get through security, free parking at the airport (I’m not sure how long this will last so check before you travel) and all the room in departures to sprawl. While Ronaldsway might not be the international terminal of our dreams, the double seating is world class with legroom galore.
The downsides: No Costa and a poorly stocked airport shop (they only had the Autumn and Spring Fynoderee and I was given a Christmas gift bag, not ideal for the last minute, super Manx gift I had planned).
Mask wearing is one of the restrictions the Island hasn’t had too much of. If you’re flying, you’ll only need to start wearing one when you board the plane.
Tip: While I’m all for sustainability, the reusable masks are arguably not easy to breathe through. Many times I’ve ended up with half the thing in my mouth as I gasp for air at the top of a flight of stairs. In my opinion, disposable masks are the best for ease of breathing when travelling.
Note: You don’t have to wear a mask when you’re walking down the street in the UK, just when you’re inside a building. For light exercise days, reusable masks all the way!
The perks: Masks are actually very comforting. I slept for two and a half hours on a train with one on, it was like having a little (breathable) blanket over my face- lovely.
When in the UK:
How busy is it?
The train I got (peak time from Crewe to London Euston) had only one other person in our carriage- lush.
I visited Chester and London on my trip and both were full of life. With the lack of foreign travel it was just the right amount of people for there to be a buzz without any overcrowding.
If you’re worried about queuing for shops, don’t be. There were only a few places I saw that had a small queue outside and the comfortable shopping experience it offers due to the limited capacity is well worth it.
Note: Zara didn’t have their fitting rooms open so consider the added logistics of ‘buy, try and return’ if you’re planning a shopping trip.
NHS Covid-19 App
Nearly all dining venues will ask you to check in using the ‘NHS Covid-19’ app, not to be confused with the ‘NHS App’, which is soon to be used for proof of vaccines, the ‘NHS Covid-19’ app only asks for a postcode. It doesn’t accept one from an IOM address so I used the postcode of the place I was staying in the UK.
Covid has seen the return of the QR code, which you use to check into a venue by scanning the code they display via the app. The idea behind the app is that everyone uses it to track their movements and record their rapid test results. Rapid tests are available for free in the UK, people test themselves at home and record their results in the app. If they test positive, the app will alert anyone who was in the same place as them and inform them of their need to isolate. A great idea, if everyone follows it properly. Whether you use the rapid tests or not, you will be asked to use the app to check in, so save yourself the embarrassment of standing outside Spoons downloading it while all your UK mates go in without you and download it before you go.
Wining and dining
For me this is the best part of post-covid life.
First off, the capacity. Venues have to seat you, no standing in a crammed bar, trying to perch on an amp near the stage or strengthening your quads as you lean against the wall in a glorified wall squat. If they have space, you’ll be seated at a table. You can’t sit at the bar. If they don’t, you’ll be turned away. From my experience, places aren’t overrun. Obviously it depends on when and where you’re going and who with: two people on a Tuesday night for drinks? Nee bosh. Eight people for Saturday night for a three-course meal? Call ahead and book.
And when I say call ahead, I of course mean go online and book. Because now everything is online.
Gone are the days of sticky menus on tables, nearly every restaurant, bar or pub will have a QR code that you scan, (simply open the camera on your phone, focus it on the QR code and a suggestion for the website will come up) visit the website and (depending on the level of service offered) order through the site and even pay. This is GREAT. No waiting around for someone to come over and take your order, no embarrassment of asking for a 2nd dessert or having to openly admit that you drink Blue WKD. Just click, sit back and wait for the
judgement food and drinks to be delivered- lovely stuff.
You are not allowed to go to the bar for service. Not even to ask for the bill. Everything comes to you.
Note: your server will be wearing a mask so that should hide most of their judgement.
FREE WIFI FOR EVERYONE
Due to the fact that so much is online, nearly every venue offers free wifi. No hammering your own data or unexpected roaming charges- this is on them. Like a complementary bread basket, but this one is limitless. Use all the free wifi your heart desires.
In my experience, people were much more spatially aware than pre-pandemic, even the tube was a comfortable experience. Lots of people seemed to be enjoying restrictions being lifted and the novelty of indoor dining definitely hasn’t worn off- in every dining experience I had, even the waiting staff seemed happy to be there.
If you’re a germaphobe, understandably this isn’t a fun time to travel but there are sanitising stations everywhere and people covering their breathing holes is always a nice reassurance. Even post-covid, I’d be happy for this to stick around. There are some people whose breath I don’t wanna smell.
The return journey
This process seems to be changing almost daily so I won’t go into the finer details about the logistics of my return travel but it wasn’t a hassle. I had to fill in a landing form and book tests. This was easy enough for me but I do know people who’ve had issues with the online system not working.
Test results are supposedly guaranteed within 24 hours but I have known them to take longer. You can call 111 to check on the status of your tests, sometimes they come in earlier, other times you’re chasing them. It really depends.
Overall, I had a lovely trip and while things are different, travel processes have changed and there are new restrictions to consider, in my opinion it is WELL worth it. I came back feeling refreshed and with a more positive outlook on this post-pandemic life (if we can call it that now). After such a long time living in a bubble it felt so good to burst out of it with an off-island adventure.