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Plan C

My husband and I (60 and vaccinated and healthy)have the month of September for travel. Right now a trip to France/Spain is looking tenuous. Thinking about a possible plan C. Looking for “Covid safer” countries that would take U S citizens. We’ve been away from news sources for over 2 weeks, camping and visiting family so I don’t have details of what is going on in terms of Covid in Europe just that like the U.S., cases are rising again. Some thoughts would be an all Spain trip concentrating on the more Northwest, (Cantabria, La Rioja, Basque) Switzerland, or central/northern Italy (Tuscany, Umbria, around Milan, Venice, Dolomites) Comments/ideas?

Posted by
5198 posts

We have plans for September as well, and the trends are not encouraging. Just as in the US, rates are rising nearly everywhere, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, etc. Perhaps expectedly, things are beginning to improve in the UK, as they started the Delta Variant cycle early.

The real question is if individual countries will restrict travel from the US due to high case rates, limit entry to their own countries due to case rate, and implement measures such as quarantines or limiting inter-region travel or closing of sights and restaurants, that would make a trip impossible.

We are still hopeful for Italy, though Sicily may prompt a change in plans as it is becoming a hotspot. I think Greece, Croatia, and a few other countries would be reluctant to shut things down, so we are reviewing those options.

Posted by
377 posts

That’s a tough one. I don’t think you’ll have a good idea of what Sept. will look for another couple of weeks. I have plans to travel to Switzerland in early Sept. and I have no idea what the entry requirements will be then. The Swiss gov. is meeting on Aug 11th. I’m hoping to have a better idea after that meeting, but even then, things could still change prior to my Sept. 2 departure date.

I’m trying to remain hopeful, but have been thinking of some possible alternative ideas. I do think it’s too early to cancel any current plans and schedule something else at this time. So, I would suggest thinking of some other options like you are, but don’t change and make new plans at this time.

Posted by
2520 posts

Drücken die Daumen/fingers crossed... hope to make it to Germany at the end of the month for a wedding, an outdoor concert, and a week in Berlin.

Then there is Bosnia in September -- a trip that is designed to be away from crowds and outdoors. I'm hopeful that one holds up (though it requires transiting FRA).

Posted by
1352 posts

Would you consider Eastern Europe? I just arrived in Tallinn this morning and it is almost empty. A few tourists but no crowds and lots of the restaurants are almost empty. Had the same situation in Lithuania- mainly local tourists with almost no foreigners.

Obviously, impossible to predict the situation in a months time

Posted by
5899 posts

jules m, I am curious as to what you would consider "COVID safer" to mean? It would seem to me that, generally, the tighter the restrictions are now, the more "safe" a person will be, but that seems to be the opposite of what most travelers here are meaning, and impossible to plan for. Not looking for an argument from anyone, just curious.

Posted by
3861 posts

Stan, to me COVID safer would be where the number of cases per capita is trending down or at least not spiking up. Mitigating factors might be how dense the area is and whether activities are inside vs outside and if social distancing is possible. The plan is to avoid large cities. As examples, I wouldn’t go to Florida, and a handful of other states. The last two summers we’ve taken camping vacations to places less crowded, and brought everything we needed with us. I flew to Hawaii twice in the last year to visit my daughter who moved mid pandemic for grad school. Hawaii has been quite safe and they’ve had significant restrictions which made traveling there a hassle, but my daughter needed company and their restrictions made it a safer place to travel.

Posted by
9719 posts

Both Switzerland and Italy allow vaccinated Americans in with no test required. Just don’t change planes in the UK which requires a test and also results in a quarantine in Italy. Might it change? You bet, but we can only plan with the facts we have at the moment.

Posted by
200 posts

I agree with Stan's query for clarification- as a former frequent world traveler pre- Covid I am now in a panic about a cross country domestic flight for a family event in several weeks. The news that the new variant is as, if not more, contagious than chicken pox, even for the vaccinated? And the ongoing and shifting changes to regulations (testing protocols and quarantine) as countries deal with a global pandemic. I am still a reader of these forums and posters seem to fall into two camps- those who are going to proceed with crossing the Atlantic to a destination anyway and those who are putting plans on hold for (yet another) year. No judgement from me- I don't think anyone can predict what the situation will be in your choices weeks from now- you just need to balance your own risk tolerance. Another option, since you enjoy camping and are fortunate to have an entire month is that you will have less crowds at popular outdoor US national parks.

Posted by
3861 posts

Karen, I hear you, and we just drove halfway across the country, actually Seattle, to see our new grandson rather than fly. We’ve kept ourselves pretty isolated and celebrated holidays alone hoping for better days. But, it’s been a year and a half and I don’t see things changing much. I evaluate each situation when it arises.

Posted by
2980 posts

We are also 60-plus and vaccinated. For today we're sticking with our Plan A - traveling to Spain in mid-September. Our flight is direct to Madrid. We are keeping our itinerary fairly simple and hope to spend time in Andalusia and the Basque region plus Madrid. We check the data daily and will decide for sure, closer to our travel departure date. Even though the numbers have increased recently, the vaccination rates in Spain are excellent.

Everything can be canceled. We appreciate people like Carlos (and others) on this site who provide good information about the current situation in Spain. Of course, we realize that things can change quickly and are prepared to cancel if we feel that's the best thing to do. Luckily, we have the flexibility in our schedules.

Italy might be a good option too. Switzerland is much more expensive for travel (hotels and transportation) so that would be our last choice.

Best wishes as you weigh your options!

Posted by
484 posts

Looking at Plan C ourselves! September is the month we can travel as well due to work. Germany’s numbers look good although I’d be starting from scratch there - it is on my list but I know nothing about it!

Posted by
1874 posts

Greenland? We have only visited the central western portion (August a handful of years ago w/ National Geographic/Lindblad) , but truly beautiful.

Posted by
3861 posts

Another point in terms of Covid “safe ish” if you will, I believe there are many places in the U.S. where I would not set foot and probably drive straight thru if I needed to, and many places in Europe much safer Covid wise than the U.S. Granted, if I get sick here, I can use my own, familiar healthcare.

Greenland is an interesting idea, I had also thought Iceland, tho the next time I go to Iceland, I want to go in June or July.

EDITED to add—I was surprised to see Iceland on the Level 3 “reconsider travel”, they had been doing well.

I’ve also considered a Viking cruise. We’ve done one, and had decided to do a few more when we get less able to travel on our own. One thing about a cruise or tour, if something happens, a border closes or restrictions are increased, someone else has to handle it.

So many places to go, and I’m starting to feel a bit maniac about getting there!

Posted by
12 posts

I live in Valencia, Spain with my family including 2 teenagers. Although the case counts have recently increased, most new cases have been younger people (18-35) who haven't been vaccinated yet. They like to get together for impromptu parties in squares, parks, beaches and streets. Those parties picked up speed earlier this summer when the various communities removed curfews at night. The street parties are a big problem even in normal times.

To be honest it feels pretty normal around town. You can eat inside restaurants no problem. All stores are open. Masks are required indoors and on public transport. Not required outdoors unless near people. We eat in restaurants all the time. We take the bus around town frequently as we have no car and live in the city center. We were in Madrid at the end of June for our once a year Costco shopping trip. Had a great time.

As long as you take the same precautions you would take at home you should be fine. Ironically we had a trip to Germany scheduled for later this month. We had to cancel it because our kids aren't vaccinated yet (Spain won't start vaccinating kids until September probably) and Germany requires 5 day isolation for kids older than 12 not vaccinated. Made no sense to go. We just changed our trip to Switzerland, where kids under 16 don't need a test to enter unless coming from UK/India. By the way Valencia is a great place to visit. The Fallas Festival is Sept 1 - 5 this year (usually it is in March). Fallas is crazy.

Posted by
285 posts

Hi SamC,

I agree with your assessment of the situation. Here in Logroño it is very similar, life goes on, and people wear their masks in the stores and crowded streets. The weak point is at night when the young people come out and fill the plazas and are very "social" without the distance.

BTW, my son in is Valencia, with a friend who studies there. They are both 20, and today the friend went to get his vaccine, and they let my son go with him and offered him the vaccine too. So that is done.

Posted by
3861 posts

Sam and Dave, thank you so much for your input. I agree, I think Spain's situation is improving. I live in Minnesota and some thought our governor was too strict. Who knows, hindsight is always 20/20. When he closed down bars, restaurants, etc., one thing the bar owners argued, and I have tendency to agree was that at least with young people in a bar, the bar can try to control certain factors. When bars were closed, many young people just started having parties at their homes and the crowds were huge. I want to be careful, here, since I'm the proud mom and mom-in-law to six amazing young adults who have been extremely careful during COVID and protective of their parents and grandparents. I felt like I needed to ask their permission to go to Target.

Now, my trip. In very brief, this is what I have, written in stone (except I could probably change my air travel) I have almost a month. I fly into Paris. Because I wanted to purchase train tickets in advance, I'm staying two nights in Paris, so if Paris hotels close, we'd be sleeping on the Champs du mars, which might be ok ;) My train goes to Bordeaux where I have a car reserved for quite an excellent rate compared to what I could get now. Then I have reservations for Bordeaux, Dordogne, Basque France. Then, I cross the border for Basque Spain, a brief visit into Cantabria and over to La Rioja and then into the Pyrenees, back to France and eventually returning my car at Toulouse and train to Paris.

I have worked out a Plan B, which keeps me in France and dumps Spain. However, right now, I'm inclined to think that in a few weeks, Spain will have improved and now France has been going downhill. When I look at the stats for France by region, it would appear that I purposely only picked regions that are now in red print. :(

If I want to do a Plan B.1 staying in Spain, I'd have to change my air and go in and out of Madrid and get a refund from SNCF for the train tickets. Likely doable. Except rental cars now in Spain, are extremely expensive, so I wouldn't be able to do most of my Spain itinerary.

Looking at a Plan C, I could be excited about flying into Venice and doing friuli venezia giulia, Slovenia, possibly Dolomites, possibly Vienna/Bratislava/parts of Austria. Except that I would need a loan to pay for the rental car. ;) I'm not sure why but Slovenia and Austria seem to be doing COVID fairly well. Knock on wood.

I also could be interested in trying to do something in Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Venice area, Bologna area, and around Milan. But parts of that again require a car.

One advantage of a B.1, is that it makes my husband less stressed. The idea of running off to someplace in Europe in a month, that we haven't planned and made reservations for makes him nervous. He is 6-2 and doesn't like sleeping in a car. HaHa

In any scenario, I know about picking up a car and returning it in the same country. Also, we've only rented in Spain and France, but we do know there are some kind of stickers needed for some countries. Also, any trip departs from MN. So I need to be careful of connecting flights. I know London would be a problem, and probably Amsterdam. I'm not sure of the ramifications of connecting thru Paris. Most any reasonably priced flight out of MN, goes thru Amsterdam, London or Paris.

Not to sound whiny, but for two years, I've been a really good girl and now, I need to go somewhere!

Posted by
3861 posts

@Tom, in regards to Icelandair, I just checked for my dates, not remotely what I consider inexpensive. Same with United, Cheapest flight is just under $1000, with 2 connectings, I'm not sure its changeable and no preassigned seats. At that point, I didn't bother with American. In any case, since my current flights are with Delta, I obviously can't change airlines. I also checked Delta. Their flights to Venice aren't what I consider inexpensive and the layovers in Atlanta for the dates I looked at are too short or WAY too long. Plus, I paid with Delta miles.

In terms of London, I'm not sure what your point is in terms of my travel. It's pretty clear that U.S. travelers can't fly thru London.

Plus, it isn't the air that is causing me problems. It's the rental cars. I work with Delta. When I have some sort of Plan C that seems like it will work, I'll then look at the exact flight arrangements.

I'm not at all sure what "I’m vaccinated and traveling as pre-covid and not worrying. I am not sure your concerns are supported by data" means. Are you quoting me, because I don't think I referred to "pre-Covid" at any point. Are you saying you are traveling and not worried? Or that I should travel and not worry? Everyone has their own circumstances and level of risk they are willing to accept. Mine may not be the same as yours.

Posted by
2980 posts

Wow! So many options!

For simplicity, could you keep your Paris flights (especially if they are non-stop) and fly to Spain (the day you arrive) on a discount airline. Spend most of your time in Spain since the situation there might be better in a few weeks. Fly back to Paris and spend a few days there - by that time, maybe things will be better in France. Home from there!

Posted by
3861 posts

Sharon, in theory, that's a great idea. I would have to reschedule all my hotels, etc., but I've already done the research. The slightly difficult piece is the rental car. I need to pick up and return in the same country. Most of what we plan to do pretty much requires a car. I could change my flight to Madrid. Just off the top of my head, I'm struggling with an itinerary that would make sense. I think a high speed train route goes to Zaragoza (we don't drive when we arrive and tend to avoid driving in big cities). I wish a high speed train went to San Sebastian. We don't even want a car for San Sebastian, we could pick one up when we leave. The rental cars in that region seem to be at least a bit better than what I'm finding in other countries. Still it's almost twice the amount I have out of Bordeaux France. I will ponder this idea a bit. Thanks!

Posted by
2980 posts

You could fly from Paris to San Sebastian or Bilbao to begin your time in Spain. I'm not sure how that would fit with the rest of your itinerary...I'd aim for keeping it as simple as possible for this trip.