Travel Notes with Tom Breathnach: Travel rights amid Covid-19 outbreak are a quagmire

Travel Notes with Tom Breathnach: Travel rights amid Covid-19 outbreak are a quagmire

National treasures

As a travel writer, I may be a little partisan. But of all the impacts the coronavirus has lumbered upon us, surely the global travel clampdown is one of the greatest of all. And the air of surreal looms far higher than 36,000 feet.

I had planned to be gorging on sunshine and hummus in Beirut this week but instead I’m stressing about social distancing alongside an Aldi conveyer belt. However as holidays, honeymoons and business trips have all been axed, one thing is comfortingly clear. We are all on this same grounded Airbus together.

So what are the current travel updates? As of going to print this week, we’re essentially on a tourism lockdown, following Simon Coveney’s government advisory against all non-essential foreign travel until (a tentative) March 29, with border hops to Northern Ireland excluded.

Travel Notes with Tom Breathnach: Travel rights amid Covid-19 outbreak are a quagmire

In terms of operations, our airports (and ports) are still open with skeleton flights to the UK and a number of largely repatriation services to the continent and North America.

Given the unprecedented circumstances, travel rights amid the melee are an ever-evolving quagmire. Aer Lingus has now joined Ryanair in waiving change fees for all travel planned before May 31, allowing passengers to rebook their trip within a one year period for free. But what, given the cloudy horizon, if you may not want to?

If your flight route is still operating, you may only be entitled to a tax refund.

However, if your flight has been cancelled, most airlines are offering the option for a refund or a voucher — though you’ll find it’s a lot easier to secure the latter.

Irish Ferries meanwhile are offering either a free date change with current bookings or a refund, minus a cancellation fee, which can be credited against a later booking.

Not content with those outcomes? Your next recourse will be contacting your travel insurance provider and if you have an upcoming booking, now’s not a bad time to consider buying some.

A silver lining? If you have an existing booking for the summer and are still keen to travel, consider holding tight. Fingers crossed, we may just all be able to make our great escape soon again.

As for our travel pages from here, for the coming weeks, our content will ramp up the focus on home attractions, while also profiling some of the Irish tourism businesses behind the headlines. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, don’t worry, we’ll also be continuing with a little armchair escapism, too. This crisis will pass, and don’t forget we’re going to want to snap up those early travel deals when it does.

COUNTRY WALKS

With overseas travel curtailed for the foreseeable future, expect Ireland’s great outdoors to enjoy a spring in their step this year. Everybody seems to be curbing their cabin fever with a walk or wander even already; I passed the Cliffs of Moher this week, which despite the closure of the visitor centre, was thronged with people on a fresh air fix.

Travel Notes with Tom Breathnach: Travel rights amid Covid-19 outbreak are a quagmire

A tip? Don’t beeline to blockbuster highlights for your exercise; check out Irish Trails who offer a handy bank of routes nationwide to suit all levels (irishtrails.ie).

WILDLIFE SEASON

We may not make Yellowstone or Kruger this summer so what better time to celebrate our own native wildlife. Spring in Ireland makes a great season to fawn over fauna with an ark-load of creatures gifting exciting nature trails for both grown-ups and kids.

This spring, keep an eye out for red squirrels fresh from hibernation, buzzards soaring the skies, while along the coasts, massive basking sharks can also start to appear in April. Follow the Irish Wildlife Trust on Instagram (@irishwildlifetrust) for a peak of what’s in season.

PICNIC PEAK

Grab your gingham: One of the biggest trends I’m expecting to see this year will be the boom of the humble picnic. They’re outdoorsy, family-friendly and are the kind of Insta-friendly pursuits which will appeal to influencers on lockdown.

Travel Notes with Tom Breathnach: Travel rights amid Covid-19 outbreak are a quagmire

For a scenic backdrop, our national parks are still open for business but think local too; from urban parks and woods to even the back garden. Yes, wicker just got wicked.

VIRTUAL TRAVEL

Virtual reality indeed. With the travel lockdown, there is now a growing number of virtual travel sites where you can teleport yourself (and the kids) from the comfort of their own self-isolation.

Google Arts collaborated with over 25 world famous attractions where users can online-ogle the likes of Guggenheim in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

More the outdoorsy type? National parks feature online, too. (artsandculture.google.com).

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