Post-Pandemic Travel: What Can Young People Expect?

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This year, like a lot of students, I had plans to explore Southeast Asia during the summer before my third year of uni (cliché, I know). Needless to say, the pandemic, lockdown, and Vietnamese border closures swiftly put a stop to that. Many people (myself included) have been lamenting a desire to return to normal, particularly with regards to the travel industry – but is that even possible? What might “normal” travel look like in a post-COVID world?

1. Staycation

In summer 2020, we were forced to ditch Bali, Barcelona, and the Balearics for beaches a bit closer to home. Although not quite as warm (or sunny, or sandy, or nice in general), it tends to be much easier to organise an afternoon trip to a beach in the UK than a big group holiday abroad. Your tan might not be quite as bronze, there are still countless things to do in Britain’s countryside, coastal areas, and national parks – especially if you love the outdoors (and being kind to your bank account). It’s also a surefire way to avoid the risk of getting stuck overseas or having to quarantine upon returning home.

Staycationing has other benefits too: you can support independent, British businesses whilst reducing your impact on the environment. A return flight from London to Mallorca generates more CO2 emissions than the average person does in an entire year! As sustainability becomes more and more important to consumers, it seems likely that holidaying in the UK is here to stay.

2. Road Trips vs Interrailing

Interrailing around Europe is a classic choice for students finishing school or during summers between uni – but will it still be possible post-COVID? After a year of being advised against using public transport, the idea of constantly changing trains, moving between countries, and interacting with different groups of people seems like a distant dream. Could the fear of sharing a stuffy train carriage with a bunch of strangers or the prospect of having to wear a mask for hours at a time put a stop to interrailing completely?

Okay, perhaps the dream of visiting multiple countries in one trip isn’t dead just yet – this year has seen an increase in popularity for road trips around Europe. As well as being a way to avoid the crowds, having a car means you’re not restricted to places with train stations and can travel more easily off the beaten track.

3. Making The Most Of Our Holidays

Until this year, I had definitely taken the ability to freely go abroad for granted. But now, 2020 has left me promising the gods of air travel that I’ll never again complain about waiting around in airports, in the hopes I’m not stranded in Italy over Christmas during my year abroad.

It seems likely that COVID-19 will lead to a total rethink of how much we appreciate our holidays. Travel experts like American writer, Elizabeth Becker, have suggested we’ll view travel as much more of a privilege. This means valuing quality over quantity – making a bit more of an effort to get to know our surroundings and the local communities. Perhaps it’s time to learn a bit more Italian than just “un Aperol spritz, per favore…”

4. What Does The Future Hold?

With that being said, will the pandemic mark an end to the era of students travelling far and wide before settling into life in the real world? I doubt it. As a third year who still has no idea what they want to do after uni, I’m still deflecting any questions about the future with one simple answer: “travel.” The rest of the world will still be there waiting – it might just look a bit different than before. 

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