2021 has been a year that keeps giving, and I’m already wondering where I’ll land by the time it comes to my end of year wrap up post. One change in my life that I never, ever would have called back in January is currently occurring as I wrap up on 1.5 months of gardening leave today. Indeed… 2021 marks the end of 5 years at a great firm where I kicked off my career, as I move over to new great opportunity! 😉
As exciting as a this is, this post is actually not about that but rather about what the decision brought with it – . It has been the battery recharge I didn’t even know I needed. I’ve been able to rest (although my body still doesn’t know how to sleep in… help), spend a bit of time on personal projects and on the more exciting spectrum – travel for the first time since the pandemic began!
I had a vacation in Ibiza, and a staycation in Bath.
But first of all – something practical for anyone in the UK wanting to travel abroad this summer. Whilst getting over to Bath was headache free, delving into the world of cross-country travel was a big faff. When I last travelled, I could book a flight to Europe right now and be there tomorrow, but now in the UK, there’s a traffic light systems to consider, tests, forms and a whole host of red tape to get yourself over the line. It’s costly, timely, and quite frankly very confusing; so if you’re planning travel for this summer, I also hope this serves as a guide for you.
What to do when travelling during the pandemic
In 2020, I chose not to travel abroad during the summer; at the time it felt uncertain and irresponsible, but by the time we got to the winter months, which brought more lockdowns, crap weather and darkness, I was yearning for a trip abroad to hot country. With all of this time off work now in my hands, I knew that I had to utilise it to get myself abroad before getting back to the desk. If you’re in the UK and uhm’ing and ah’ing over international travel this month, this is really what you need to consider:
- 1. Where can you go? In the UK there is a green/amber/red traffic light system to give guidance on where you should be going. Red countries are generally off limits (unless you want to stay in a quarantine hotel, no thank you), green countries come with little life disruption aside from tests, and for amber countries – unless you are already fully vaccinated (unlikely for u30s without medical conditions given they started these vaccinations mid/end-June) – you will have to quarantine for between 5-10 days (leaving quarantine on day 5 requires even more money). This list is updated every 3 weeks and once updated, the government tends to give 5 days until any change is enforced. The next update is likely Weds/Thurs this coming week, and those rules will come into affect 5 days later. My advice is to book a holiday which starts an ends within that timeframe to avoid the chance of being in a green country which suddenly moves to the amber list and thus you’re required to quarantine. Everything needs to be last minute in this current situation – so have your week or two off of work booked, and whatever the government announces, plan your holiday around that. Perhaps you had your eyes set on Mallorca, and that went amber, so you pivoted to Croatia which went green. Nimbleness is key…
- 2. Do detailed research around the requirements to travel to your chosen country Now that you’ve got the country you’re going to, you need to do very, very detailed research on what the requirements are to get into that country. First of all – what countries are they allowing in? Some countries on the UK’s green list are not opening their doors to UK arrivals either at all or not without a 10 day quarantine. The next question is about how to get in – what forms do you need to fill out, what tests do you need to do (e.g. PCR or rapid antigen), what is the timeframe within which you need to take the test (and is it a timeframe referencing your departure or your arrival)? The little details matter here so you absolutely need to treat it like homework. You can find details on the UK gov website, the gov website of the country you’re travelling to and also on certain travel provider’s websites (Jet2 had quite a clear guide to getting into Ibiza). Making a mistake is very costly, so just do the work
- 3. Plan, plan, plan Finally, you need to plan when/where you’re going to get tested, when you need to fill in certain forms, what the costs are etc. Mistakes are costly – I first ordered a pre-departure home test from a Government recommended provider, but after the tests were dispatched late, I did a bit more digging into the provider and saw terrible reviews about the timeliness of their results. Because of that, we went to do an in-person same day test at a clinic instead which was way more expensive but put our minds at ease; the last thing we wanted was to not have the green light we needed to actually get into Ibiza. I also pre-booked the pre-departure test we’d take in Spain to get back to the UK, and basically had a calendar where I’d mark every important step we needed to adhere to and when we needed to cross these bridges (e.g. filling out our “UK passenger locator form”). As much as I wanted to get to Ibiza, I didn’t want to get stuck there as I still had obligations in the UK that I just couldn’t afford to miss. You show all this information at the gate, or at check-in
Hopefully the above is helpful! Quite frankly I found the whole process an absolute faff and I made a few mistakes a long the way, complained at a few test providers and equally had my share of refunds (or sunk costs). For me personally it was worth it in the end but it certainly is not conducive to any spontaneity which is how I’ve travelled in the past at times.
With the boring stuff out of the way, some quick wrap-up travel guides for Ibiza and Bath…
Where to stay: We stayed in Ibiza Town, a stone’s throw from Playa d’en Bossa which is typically known as the party area of Ibiza. Another popular place to stay on the Island is San Antonio, it’s said to be better priced and also hosts it’s own little collection of bars as well as the famous Sunset Strip. Away from these two locations, there are a number of spots on the island if you’re looking for a quieter stay/family visit. Important to be aware of is that due to the reduced amount of people on the island currently, taxis are few and far between, so to get from A to B I recommend either hiring a car or asking e.g. hotels or restaurants to call taxis for you. Flagging one down on the road is almost impossible… Accommodation wise, there were tons of nicely priced hotels when we were looking with their own pools too. I personally did not like our hotel so won’t even bother mentioning it here. 😉
What you can actually do right now: I went to Ibiza in July and it certainly was not Ibiza at it’s prime. In July (and currently I believe), all of the clubs were closed, and whilst bars were open, nobody was technically allowed to dance. Because of this, there’s some friendly competition amongst the bars around who can most closely resemble the “typical” Ibiza. That said, there are loads of beach clubs open where you can still enjoy yourself, drink, dance and even chill; we spent a day at Nikki beach which was my favourite day of the whole trip. Some others on the island include Bora Bora and Ocean Beach.
Where to eat: It’s easy to wander around and find some nice places to eat in Ibiza. My favourite restaurant that we visited was called Tatel, which was quite a fancy and equally very delicious restaurant near Playa d’en Bossa beach. Special mention also goes to Sate House, a family owned restaurant in Ibiza town with delicious food and a lovely owner, as well as a nice fast food burger joint called Stake n’ Shake, also near Playa d’en Bossa beach.
Overall, the trip to Ibiza was a lot of fun! Crossing my fingers – I hope travel has come back to some more normalcy next year because I’m trying to get my ass to the US or the Caribbean for a 2 week baecation!
Fatigued by all the testing, forms and fears that we would not be able to make it either to or from our original destination, Levi and I decided to go to Bath, Somerset for our first ever, genuine staycation. I suggested Bath mainly because I’d seen clips and photos of the Thermae Baths (heated rooftop pool/spa in Bath), and I really wanted to go. If we had that as the main attraction, I figured we could find other things to do and that we did…
River Avon, Bath
Where to stay: Bath is a super small town – actually called a heritage site as it has so much history in a super concentrated location; so staying in the City Centre had us within a 10 minute walk from pretty much everything. We stayed at Apex hotel which was a super nice stay – we had a big comfy room (they offered us an upgrade to a superior double for only £30), breakfast was delicious and best of all – they had a gym, sauna, steam room and swimming pool. It was honestly fantastic and I do recommend that hotel if you’re staying in Bath!
What you can actually do right now: Bath, similarly to the rest of the UK, currently has no restrictions. With BoJo announcing a July 19th “freedom day”, you currently can do whatever you want over there. Here’s what we did:
- Visited the thermae baths – Britain’s only natural thermae spa, with wonderful spa facilities, a restaurant, and 2 heated pools (one on the rooftop of the building). You don’t have to pre-book, we basically walked in and had 2 hours with full access to all facilities
- Got professional full body massages!
- Visited the Roman baths – These are very well preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world – still flowing with natural hot springs (which, in the UK, you can only find in Bath)
- Took a boat and walking tour of the city. There was also a tour with unlimited prosecco, which was unfortunately sold out (but we did get a nice cocktail during our trip!)
Where to eat: Whilst we ate at a lot of standard places – a cheeky Five Guys and a full English at Spoons – we also had some absolutely delicious Thai Food at a place called Giggling Squid (books up, so pre-book 1-2 days before), and also some delicious Italian food at a charming restaurant called Amarone.
I was worried that the visit to Bath would be underwhelming and struggle to live up to other adventures we’d had abroad of the years, but honestly… I absolutely loved it. In fact, we’re already thinking about where to go for our next “staycation”. Bath was a city packed with so much history and charm, and I always have so much fun when I travel with Levi, so honestly it could even give the Ibiza-in-a-pandemic a run for its money.
That was a lengthy post! But, a real summary of what I’ve been up to. Now onwards and upwards to a brand new challenge. Have a good week!