Sun, sea and sanitiser: Are holidays worth the hassle?

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In the pre-pandemic days, planning a vacation was half of the fun. Before the trip had begun, the process of researching hotels and plotting out itineraries was a way to ramp up the excitement and stretch out the experience, like getting an anticipatory sip of the poolside cocktail before it has even been served. Now, however, it’s a less enjoyable affair. Keeping up with ever-changing government guidelines, checking the status of your flights, packing your masks and antibacterial supplies: none of these are likely to get you raring for travel. And yet, many are still braving the borders for a chance at relaxation. Have they got the right idea, or is it worth postponing your holiday abroad?

There’s certainly a strong case for the latter. Even Grant Shapps (who is apparently our transport secretary, though until last week I would have just as easily believed he was my milkman) has  conceded that the varying approaches which England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are taking when it comes to post-travel quarantine in Europe are, even by the government’s standards, “confusing”. While some of the UK have implemented mandatory isolation for those returning from countries such as Portugal, Greece and French Polynesia, the rules are not consistent, meaning constant confusion and concerns for those who can’t afford to lose a fortnight of work. For those who do get away, unless you are on an all-inclusive, there is no guarantee that local restaurants or museums will even be open.

There is an alternative, however. With many people uncomfortable with the idea of flying, the option of a staycation is more popular than ever. Indeed, despite Airbnb’s 90% drop in future bookings in April, the service has since sprung back to life, with customers favouring home-share platforms over traditional hotels. Although branded chains are associated with a greater level of cleanliness, the rental of entire properties has seen a boom, with these private spaces considered a safer way to maintain social distance. On top of this, Airbnb offers a more eclectic mix of eccentric lets, from converted orangeries to lakeside cabins and boho boathouses. Those who are more adventurous can satisfy their lack of a culture shock with a jolt of quirky décor and experimental architecture.

Even travel within the UK is not feasible for all. Those who are shielding, for example, might not be convinced by the idea of staying in someone else’s apartment despite the assurance that every surface has been drowned in Dettol. Fear of contracting Covid-19 for anyone with underlying health conditions is perhaps a risk that outweighs the attractiveness of even the most remote rural retreat. There have been some inventive solutions to the problem. For example, Myles, a new app for Android and iOS which allows you to complete virtual fitness challenges, can provide a cure for wanderlust as well a regular exercise regime. By connecting with Strava, the software equates the distance travelled with iconic trekking routes across the world. Another resourceful programme – annoyingly only available on Apple – is Explorest, a network for photographers where they can share the best locations and insights. With the help of local professionals, Instagrammers can source the most beautiful shots on their own doorstep.

For a lot of us, the idea of holidays is still a hazy mirage, equal parts idyllic and unattainable. However, thanks to the increasing opportunity for domestic travel and the wonders of technology, getting a change of scenery needn’t require a boarding pass. If you are erring on the side of caution, you may just find that staying at home and supporting the dwindling economy is an easy compromise.

Rosamund Kelby

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