15 Travel Writers Share Why They’re Not Traveling Right Now (and Why You Shouldn’t Either)
This holiday season, many are gearing up to fly to see their families or soak up the sun in warm-weather destinations. After eight months of being cooped up at home, the appeal of travel is inarguably greater than ever. Self care, a desperately needed change of scenery, and even altruistic motivations — such as supporting the struggling travel industry and destinations that rely on tourism for survival — can all make that getaway seem like the right choice. Pandemic fatigue is real. But traveling right now is not the answer.
Around the world, the second (and in the U.S., third) wave of COVID-19 is raging. Just a handful of countries are currently allowing U.S. citizens, including Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, and in the Caribbean. Some don’t even require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of travel health insurance to enter, which is frightening and may pose fatal consequences. The CDC continues to urge people to stay home and only travel when absolutely necessary.
As people used to packing our bags and flying somewhere new every week, we feel the pain of this prolonged grounding. In normal times, our globetrotting lifestyles make us the people you turn to for the lowdown on which destination to visit next, where to stay and what to do when you get there, and for all other sorts of travel advice.
Our top recommendation right now: Think twice about taking that trip.
While we all cover different destinations and types of travel, we share a common stance that continuing to travel as normal during a pandemic will only prolong everyone’s pain, and contribute to even more dire outcomes. Keep reading for the personal perspectives of 15 travel writers on why we’re holding off on booking that flight for the foreseeable future, and why we encourage you to do the same.
Read and share this post. The more people that see this, the more lives are saved. Contributors are listed alphabetically by last name.
1) Corrina Allen-Kiersons, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
A lot has changed in the few short months since I traveled to Germany this past summer. I went because I was planning to move there this autumn and wanted to get started on chipping away at some of the bureaucracy that surrounds an international move. I also did some hotel visits for a piece I was working on. Surprise: both the move and the piece have been delayed.
I (mistakenly, naively) believed that after the devastation of the first wave of the pandemic, both in terms of lost lives and livelihoods, we wouldn’t let ourselves slip back into a second, worse wave. But I will not travel again in the next few months.
While I want to commend the travel industry for doing all that they can to keep people safe, I think it would be selfish of me to travel right now considering the worldwide spike in infections. It’s great to see testing being implemented at airports, and quarantine periods being enforced for arriving travelers that do have an essential reason to travel. But for the rest of us, the more we stay home and follow protocols, the faster this second wave will be over and we’ll minimize the damage it will undoubtedly do. Travel isn’t a right. Indoor dining isn’t a priority. Wear your damn mask.
2) Margot Bigg, Portland, Oregon, United States
I have no intention of getting on a flight or traveling outside my region until the virus is under control. I don’t want to risk potentially exposing others to a deadly virus just for the sake of a vacation or work trip. As a youngish, healthy person, my biggest concern is not about getting sick, but about spreading it to others.
Before the pandemic, I was abroad almost half the year, often taking on assignments and projects that would keep me overseas for months at a stretch. Many of my friends and relatives are outside of the U.S., too, and it’s certainly been hard not seeing them. But it would be much harder to live with myself if I passed a deadly disease to another person, be they a loved one or a stranger, just so I could go on a trip.
We still know very little about COVID-19 and its potential long-term implications, but we do know that it doesn’t show up on tests right away and that asymptomatic spread is responsible for more than half of infections. As such, there’s really no “safe” way to travel, even if you get tested right before. Fortunately, a vaccine is on the way. Until then, let us patiently embrace this liminal period.
3) Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I don’t particularly want to catch COVID-19, so I am limiting all of my interactions and staying close to home even within my own city.
Canada also requires anyone coming in from another country to quarantine for 14 days and that would greatly disrupt my work and family life. But, beyond that, I don’t think it’s ethical to travel during a global pandemic. Not because I’m worried about getting sick myself, but because I don’t want to perpetuate the spread.
I think back to the early days of this virus, back in January and February when it hadn’t yet spread widely around the world. But spread it did… through travel. I don’t think anything can really contain the virus at this point — it’s far too late — but I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus to a place that has a relatively small outbreak or bringing additional virus home with me, making the outbreak worse in my own community. Travel usually means more interaction, be it by visiting people, going to restaurants, or even just being on the plane, and every one of those interactions gives the virus more opportunity to spread.
I love to travel. I can hardly wait to get out there and see the world and tell people’s stories again. But this won’t last forever and I need to do my part in keeping the communities that I one day want to be able to support with both my words and my dollars safe and healthy. I know that the lack of tourism dollars is taking its toll on many destinations around the world. I hope that Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and other people who would otherwise be spending their money on travel this winter will consider making donations to people in those areas to do their part in ensuring their well-being.
4) Kaeli Conforti, Woodbridge, Virginia, United States
I’m a freelance travel writer and editor currently based in the Washington, D.C. area. I had been traveling around Australia and New Zealand after doing the Working Holiday Visa for a year in each country when suddenly, I was forced to make a gut-wrenching decision: risk running out of money and being stranded — I wasn’t allowed to legally work there on a tourist visa and freelance writing and editing gigs were drying up as a result of COVID-19 — or head back to the U.S. to ride this out with family. I’ve been back since March, playing it safe and working from home because my sister is immunocompromised.
I will not be flying anywhere, especially internationally, until it is safe for everyone everywhere to do so. There are just too many things that could go wrong because not everyone is being as careful as they think they are; you might not even know you have the virus yourself. The idea of accidentally infecting someone else because I’m on vacation is something I just can’t live with.
What we really need to do is buckle down and crush this thing like other countries have done, then travel. In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on writing travel news and stories about places to visit once it’s safe. Now is the perfect time to plan and save up for your dream post-COVID travels, not go gallivanting around the world like the pandemic has already ended. Because it hasn’t.
5) Rebecca Hallett, Cornwall, United Kingdom
As I write this, the UK has just gone into our second lockdown, but once it’s lifted I’m still going to limit my outings. I haven’t traveled overseas since March. I’m certainly not going to go abroad for travel writing, even though my income has fallen dramatically. I live with vulnerable people, so I couldn’t even self-isolate on returning without risking other people’s health.
Once there’s a vaccine, I’ll probably visit Japan for a couple of months, as I’m a Japan specialist, but I’m not expecting to be able to do that until mid-to late-2021. There’s too much at risk right now, and although it hurts me financially and personally not to travel, the alternative is so much worse. England has had one of Europe’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks so far. When the government isn’t doing enough to keep things under control, I think it’s our responsibility as individuals to do our best to make up for it. And as I’m in the privileged position of being able to stay home and still get by, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
6) Johnny Jet, Los Angeles, California, United States
I definitely have strong, mixed feelings about traveling right now. On one hand, I can understand writers/bloggers wanting to report on what it’s like to travel internationally. But on the other (stronger) hand, it’s irresponsible to encourage travel since COVID-19 cases are going up and not down. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people! And the health professionals are still recommending only essential travel. So unless their trips are essential, it’s a disservice.
Before the pandemic, I was averaging one flight a week. Before kids, I would go to 20 countries a year. With them I visit about five. But I’m not traveling until they get COVID-19 under control, and they either find a treatment or do rapid, reliable and accurate testing, before getting on planes, ships, or entering countries.
7) Laura Kiniry, San Francisco, California, United States
I haven’t traveled by plane since March. In fact, I had a plane ticket to Philadelphia to help care for my dad, who’d recently had surgery, scheduled for March 16, 2020. I canceled it and have instead Facetimed with him practically every day since COVID-19 began.
I have considered traveling in the next few months, but only to fly into PHL and stay with my family in South Jersey. My dad is 78 and lives alone (though my brothers and nephews are nearby) and has had some recent health issues. But honestly, I’m still torn, and know that if I do go this route I will be quarantining for two weeks somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic prior to seeing him. I haven’t considered traveling elsewhere via plane.
This being said, I’ve gotten to know every nook and cranny of SF’s Golden Gate Park, which sits right in my own backyard. Honestly, it’s been a life-saver for someone like me, who loves exploring but also knows that we have to focus on the greater good. I really do believe the more we all work together on this, the sooner things will improve worldwide.
8) Hana LaRock, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
I was in Thailand when the borders started to close. We flew back to the States within 24 hours, even though we didn’t really have anywhere to go aside from my parents’. We had just moved out of our home in Mexico — where we had lived the last three years — in January. The plan was to travel and then get a new place. Then, this all happened.
We have not traveled anywhere by plane since that traumatizing trip back to the U.S. — and I won’t be traveling in the near future unless it’s absolutely essential. For a bit we were considering more domestic travel, but with cases increasing drastically, that’s not going to happen, as it can really put others at risk.
Mexico may be the one country that Americans go to, but as someone who lived there for three years, I strongly advise reconsidering a leisure trip there, or anywhere. This is an issue for a variety of reasons. What’s a vacation to you, could literally kill someone who is there to serve your needs while on the trip.
I totally understand there are so many extenuating circumstances that may lead to someone needing to “travel” and, for that, I’m not judging. I trust that people who must travel are doing so responsibly and following guidelines to keep themselves and everyone safe, whatever those guidelines may be. But, for those just wanting to take a trip for the hell of it — because you’re bored — try exploring somewhere close to home for now.
9) Brianne Miers, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
I returned from visiting friends in Los Angeles on the morning of Monday, March 9, and I haven’t flown since. This summer, I started taking day trips, driving within an hour or two drive of my house on weekends to go hiking or do some sightseeing — I created a new bucket list focusing on local attractions, and I’ve been able to check off a few, including a scenic reservoir in central Massachusetts and a town with a vibrant public art scene.
I’ve made the five-hour drive to my parents’ house a few times now, being sure to quarantine before and after (I’ve been tested a few times too). I stayed in a hotel only once — one night in Brooklyn, N.Y., in September — to meet up with a friend for a socially distanced get together. With winter quickly approaching here in New England and the COVID numbers rising, I’m so glad I was able to safely see my loved ones when I did.
I have no plans to travel outside of a few hour radius anytime soon, particularly by plane. I’ve been quite disappointed with how most of the major U.S. airlines have handled the pandemic. I’d be much more likely to fly if they were consistent with enforcing mask policies, and if they reduced their capacity indefinitely.
10) Danielle Oteri, New York, New York, United States
The farthest I’ve been from NYC since March is Philadelphia for dinner outside at a friend’s restaurant. I won’t be traveling for the next 2–4 months minimum as these months are projected by epidemiologists to be the very worst of the pandemic.
I own a travel business called Feast On History with a food and wine school in Capaccio-Paestum, Italy, so not traveling to Italy for an entire year has been personally and professionally devastating. However, being in NYC during March and April was a searing experience. I’ll never forget seeing the parking lot of the Bronx Zoo, normally filled with school busses, filled with ambulances from around the country. And we could hear their sirens night and day for almost two months.
The 7pm clap outside our windows for healthcare workers was always emotional and reminded me that while I was watching movies, others were fighting a war. I thought a lot about others emergencies that could go untreated because hospitals were so overloaded with COVID-19 patients. I consider it a sign of respect for the common good to minimize risks until our healthcare system and others around the world are under less stress.
11) Megan Padilla, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
I will not travel in the next few months. Based on the surge and spread of coronavirus cases, traveling now makes the least amount of sense. We have no family in Minnesota and I haven’t seen my own mom in California for 20 months (and counting).
We have only traveled by car, within four hours of home, and 100% of our away-from-home nights since March (20 in total) have been spent in a tent. While I do think there are many ways to mitigate risk for safe road-trip travel, I believe that in order to reduce exposure and possible spread, it’s better for my community and our country if people stay closer to home.
Like you, I want to go and do and explore. But I accept that sticking close to home is better, safer, and healthier.
Throughout the pandemic, I focus on what I can control, which is primarily my bubble of my home and family life — both of which are benefitting from all of my attention. We may have given up travel in the traditional sense, but we’ve found a silver lining and are exploring new perspectives.
I have mixed emotions about international travel. I’m a tad envious when I see others doing it, and even have some anger: if I’m staying home for the good of others, why aren’t they? I also fear what they may be bringing to communities who don’t have access to the level of health care to which we, as Americans or Canadians, are accustomed.
I’m learning that every person approaches day-to-day life choices during the pandemic differently. Some people think, “I got a COVID test and it’s negative, so I’m fine to travel.” I don’t think that is enough to safeguard those with whom you’ll come in contact as soon as you begin traveling through airports and on airplanes. If the standard operating procedure was a mandatory 14-day quarantine no matter where you go, that would be one thing. But there are no standard travel protocols. If we can’t even agree from state to state about wearing masks at the grocery store, how can we really get this thing under control if people continue moving around so much?
12) Alyssa Schwartz, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Since lockdowns ended and some borders opened up in late Spring, I’ve seen countless articles pondering how safe it is to travel during the pandemic. I’ve seen far fewer that examine whether people should be traveling right now at all. Many articles point to testing as a safety strategy. But just as making people take their shoes off or dump water bottles is airport security theater, in a travel context swabs up the nose feel like COVID theater: a person could test negative and then contract COVID-19 on the way home from the clinic; they could already have contracted COVID and be incubating illness when they get swabbed; some people with probable cases never test positive at all.
It’s impossible to measure how many cases that fall through the cracks go on to infect others because that’s precisely the thing — they’re missed cases. But we can compare numbers in destinations that allow free or testing-based travel to infection counts in places that are restricting tourism.
Here in Canada, where I live and where a second COVID wave is currently surging, there is one corner of our country that has so far been spared. In four East Coast provinces — New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, collectively “the Atlantic bubble” — they’re seeing fewer or just a handful of new COVID cases most days. You read that right: day after day of combined numbers in the single digits. The New York Times singled out the provinces for their success at keeping numbers low. And economic recovery in Saint John, New Brunswick is outpacing the rest of the country, with more new businesses opening than shuttering.
One big argument I’ve repeatedly heard in favor of travel is that vulnerable economies built on tourism won’t otherwise be able to survive the pandemic. But I’d argue that with most people not traveling right now anyway, there is insufficient mass to support tourism-dependent economies in any meaningful way anyway, and that spreading the virus will only hurt the very people we want to help. The bottom line is in a pandemic we can’t have it all. But the Atlantic bubble experiment suggests we can better support both health and economic outcomes if, for now, we just stick a little closer to home.
13) Hannah Selinger, East Hampton, New York, United States
My trip to St. John, in the United States Virgin Islands in January, was my last overseas trip. At the time, we had no idea about the pandemic and my family and I booked a trip to the same island for the following January. I have since canceled that vacation, as I am dissatisfied with my country’s management of the coronavirus crisis.
I don’t feel comfortable traveling with my small children, both for our safety and for the safety of others. Since our country has an increasing number of cases, I believe that traveling would be ethically unsound. Even if my family were to remain safe, we could conceivably spread the disease to people in a country with fewer medical resources than we have. We could arrive as asymptomatic carriers.
While I hate the idea of spending another year separated from a place that I love, there is absolutely no moral choice in my mind. Either you’re the type of person who believes that you have the right to enjoy corporeal joy in the middle of a pandemic, irrespective of what damage you reap, or you’re the type of person who believes in necessary self-sacrifice in the interest of the common good. I count myself among the latter, and so I remain grounded until further notice.
Part of being a traveler, for me, is being part of a global community, and there is no global community without a sense of common decency. While my sense of wanderlust hungers ever for the road, my sense of ethos points me toward the couch, which is where I’m staying — for now, at least.
14) Lavanya Sunkara, Long Island, New York, United States
My last trip out of the country was to British Columbia, Canada in early March. I was scheduled to visit Australia, Switzerland, and other parts of Canada in the coming months. I was extremely disappointed when they were canceled and realized I couldn’t fly for a long time. But I listened to the scientists and took the COVID-19 guidelines seriously, especially because I suffer from asthma, and didn’t want to risk getting a respiratory illness.
Thanks to a Governor who took the pandemic seriously, New York shut down and we succeeded in flattening the curve. Still, I chose to stay in my bubble — consisting of my husband and two dogs — not only because I am terrified of being infected, but I am also deeply concerned about spreading it to family and others. I didn’t leave New York for eight months and, when I finally took a road trip, it was for a quick weekend getaway where we took all the safety precautions, cleaned meticulously, and kept to ourselves the entire time. This short getaway proved to me that I don’t need to get on a plane to somewhere far away to experience a change of scenery or end the monotony.
As someone who has traveled within six continents, most of the United States, and Europe, I know that I can wait to revisit these places and experience new destinations when the time is right. They will still exist when this is over and we make it out alive. The Taj Mahal will still be glimmering, the crowds at Santorini’s Oia will gather again to watch the sunset; the waterfalls of Switzerland will continue to thunder down cliffs and the dramatic and sacred Uluru in Northern Territory will remain an icon worth visiting. I will fly again, but only when it’s safe for everyone.
15) Ginger Warder, St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
I have been a professional travel writer for more than two decades. I split my time between my home in St. Petersburg, Florida and my home state of Virginia, where my family lives. One of my specialties is European travel, but I haven’t been out of the country, on a plane, or in a hotel since the lock-downs began in March. Why? Because I think I have already had COVID19 and I think I got it — you guessed it — from the last trip I took in 2019.
I do not have any travel plans for the near future. Even if I could afford to go to Europe for a month or more, be quarantined there for a full two weeks and risk being stuck there in a lockdown, I think it would be totally irresponsible.
One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively.” Traveling right now might make me happy. But knowing I might endanger other people, either by taking the virus to them from my highly-infected state of Florida or by bringing more virus back to my state, my friends, and neighbors, makes it an utterly selfish thing to do.