Click on the questions below for our latest thoughts and updates on planning in the time of Covid.
Is it safe to travel now? Is it even possible? I can’t keep up. What’s the picture?
The picture at the moment is still confused and rapidly changing. Many countries have far-advanced vaccination programmes, and many don’t. There are countries which you can visit with very little restriction, others that are still locked down. There are some where non-essential travel is possible, but with certain rules and requirements for entry, and others where you’ll have to quarantine when you return home. As a general rule, restrictions around the world have remained resolutely hard to predict, and in practise it’s still quite hard to have confidence in any specific situation, since fourth waves, spikes or reciprocal arrangements can see closures or requirements suddenly slammed into effect. Which makes planning and travelling a risk-laden affair for the foreseeable future.
If I can travel, is it fun when I get there? Is anything open? Is it responsible? Is it worth the risk?
These are relative questions which each person would answer differently, and the answers also differ greatly from one country to another, one trip to another. But after over a year of pretty generalised shut down, many countries are beginning to open up in such a way that makes the idea of meaningful travel possible and enjoyable. Or, if they’re not yet opening up, they’re making time-lines to come out of lockdown. Many of our planning team live in the countries in which they plan, and can give first-hand, accurate and up-to-date reports on life on the ground right now, as well as information on the near-term travel horizon. The short answer to the question is yes, it is now possible to start imagining and planning travel to many destinations, and the best place to start is with a conversation with our planners to compare travel wishes and ambitions with Covid realities and restrictions.
Bottom line: can I call you to plan a new trip in the near future?
Bottom line: yes. Call us and we’d like nothing more than to have a frank discussion with you. We have not been encouraging travel since the beginning of the pandemic, but that’s slowly beginning to change. Where before we were not convinced that the balance of fun, responsibility and risk could be safely achieved, now the balance is changing as vaccination programmes roll out even in the face of continued waves of Covid. We review the situation constantly, and as a general rule, we will always err on the side of caution and care. However, by the time you finish reading this, the ever-evolving situation may already have ever-evolved some more, and opened up new possibilities.
I haven’t travelled since 2019 and I’m keen to make plans. Even if I don’t know when I’ll travel, can I start planning?
If you’d like to travel internationally in 2021 or 2022, even to a place that is not currently ‘open’, then we’d still say you should start planning now. It doesn’t mean you’re betting your house on all restrictions being lifted by summer 2021 – it’s more a question of hedging your bets. If you plan travel for September ’21 and Covid complications arise, your trip can be adjusted, postponed or in many cases (though not all) cancelled at no cost to you (see below). However, if you wait until there’s an entirely clear travel horizon, at that point you’ll find many of the better travel options will have been snapped up by others. Furthermore, taking longer to plan a trip, to prepare and to anticipate always makes travel better. Plan a trip to Italy for May 2022 and you have time to learn Italian. It’s a fundamental principle at Trufflepig that travel is better when you’re prepared, and now we all have time on our side.
Of course, you could also simply decide to hold off for another year or so for your international travel, and we’d heartily applaud you. Travel should be a privilege not a habit, and there are plenty of other ways to spend one’s time, just as there’s lots to see and do at home.
How is Trufflepig handling planning for later on in 2021 and 2022? What about the idea that some hotels or suppliers might end up closing before the trip takes place?
For trips in 2021 and 2022, flexibility, late payment, and cancellation terms designed to encourage planning are the name of the game. To be precise, we will not put non-refundable money down on travel arrangements booked for travel in 2021 or 2022 unless there are specific lodges/camps/boats/guides in your itinerary that require it. In all instances travellers will be making informed decisions, so there will be no surprises.
What if I book a trip for, say, September 2021 and it ends up being impossible – what are cancellation policies like, and what insurance can I buy?
At present we are operating with exceptional Terms & Conditions to provide travellers with as much booking confidence as possible. Deposits are still required to confirm arrangements, but these are fully refundable with rare exceptions (eg certain safari camps or uncommonly small properties with uncommonly high demand). You will therefore not be putting down non-refundable money for a 2021/2022 trip until you know it’s going to take place. That said, these exceptional terms in no way diminish the need for travel insurance, for they apply to Covid-related reasons for cancellation, not to any and all situations. If your trip is confirmed but you unexpectedly need to cancel for reasons that are medical, personal or professional, then travel insurance is where you would turn. That is why in these turbulent times travel insurance is more necessary than ever, and Cancel For Any Reason coverage (“CFAR”) is on the rise. Trufflepig has a dedicated insurance expert who can walk you through the finer points.
How did Trufflepig handle cancellations and postponements for the trips you had planned for 2020?
When Covid hit we had the lion’s share of our trips for 2020 all planned, paid up and ready to roll. We also had a bullet proof and time-tested set of Terms & Conditions to protect both us and our clients during the normal course of business. But pretty quickly we ripped those up, and in place of a wasp’s nest of small print and legalese, we used our values, relationships and sense of fairness to guide us. Correction, we used our sense of Fair + 1. We postponed, cancelled, refunded, credited, rearranged, explained, negotiated, and in the course of many, many thousands of conversations, we had about 5 arguments, and none of those with clients. So this is our non scientific, imprecise, but entirely human and meaningful way of saying that we know what fairness looks like, and our record speaks for itself.
Aside from the whole COVID situation, I’m new to Trufflepig and simply wondering how you work. I have questions that aren’t answered here. Where can I look?
You’re reading our Covid W.T.FAQ, intended to answer questions specific to the problems of planning in the time of Covid. We really look forward to taking this section down. For our normal modes of functioning, you can look at our How It Works section, or at our Common Questions. Or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will my travel dollars go to those who need it most? How can I use my travel dollars to support a version of tourism that is good for all?
Great question. Considerations of the impact of our trips and of the money that goes into them has always been front and centre of our planning process. Our approach has always been that our trips must be beneficial for the three ‘stakeholders’: the client, the environments in which we operate, and the Trufflepig community (including our staff as well as our partners and suppliers). That means working with smaller locally-owned businesses; it means directing what tourism traffic we produce away from the over-visited hot spots to the lesser known places where the dollars are more welcome, more helpful, and have less negative impact. It means taking into consideration the questions of C02 emissions and of pollution, as well as of cultural impact and social equality. We are currently undergoing the B-Corps certification process to help us align our operations with our ambitions in this regard. We actively encourage you to engage in these questions with us, and get involved in them as part of the planning of your trip. Even if you don’t, you can be sure that we are thinking in these terms as we work hard to produce a trip that will answer your request, and more.
You’re a travel company but there’s been no travel for 12+ months. What have you been doing with your time?
After 17 years of running trips around the world, one thing we have is a lot of contacts, and so a great deal of 2020 has been spent talking with our clients, our suppliers, our partners and even – gasp – our competitors. Aside from the obvious challenges of managing a travel business in a total travel shut-down (while home-schooling), we’ve tried to identify the opportunities arising from an imposed lull in activity and a pause for reflection. We’ve identified, encouraged and joined a number of carefully selected groups and affiliations working to tackle the problems of leisure travel’s negative impacts on the global climate and on local environments, as well as to encourage the beneficial outcomes tourism can create for fragile eco-systems and cultures. We’ve completed and submitted our B-Corps application. We’re doing lots of engineering work backstage (read: computer systems). We have been reading, shooting photographs, and writing (check out our magazine, The Sounder). We’re a Trufflepig, after all; we don’t sit still very well.