I made the decision to travel to Majorca with two fellow Travel Counsellors and my son to go and test for myself what the “new normal” feels like in the world of travel. I will be honest and say I was nervous beforehand, especially taking my 9-year-old as I had no idea how he would cope having to wear a mask for such a long time and whether I was making the right decision to travel at all. However, me being me needed to experience this myself to confidently be able to talk you my customers through the process and truthfully answer questions on how it is.
Masks are compulsory throughout the airport and on planes now, but each airline have different policies in place for children. For example, children under 12 years old flying with Ryan Air are exempt from wearing them whereas EasyJet and Jet2 require all children over the age of 6 to wear them. Those with breathing difficulties are also exempt but please be aware, you may be required to show medical documentation to cabin crew and airline staff.
The airport was quiet, naturally but security was amazing, 5 minutes and we were through! I did take advantage of booking a free 15-minute security slot but to be honest as the airport was so quiet I did not need to use it. However, I would still recommend taking advantage of this as more flights commence over the summer period. There were no specific distancing markers in place, but regular announcements reminded everyone and to be honest, a general common sense approach was being applied by my fellow travellers.
Once through security, spacing signs are seen at regular intervals and there is an abundance of hand sanitisers to use. These are situated close to the lifts, food areas etc, generally where there are high touch points. We flew from terminal 3 which had only opened this week (all flights prior to this point had departed from Terminal 1) and Duty Free, WHSmiths, Boots and the bar were all in operation and there was a lovely buzz in the air. Terminal 2 is due to open this week although please check which terminal you are flying from as some airlines have moved to T1 so it is still unclear whether it will be operational.
Many countries are now asking for additional information prior to you arriving in their country. Spain for example now require you to register your details 48 hours in advance of your arrival as part of their Track & Trace system and each member of your party are given a unique QR code. This must be presented upon arrival alongside your passport. I am staying in regular contact with my customers due to fly out in the next month and I highly recommend anyone who is due to travel to make regular checks on the FCO website as requirements can change without warning.
The taxi from Palma to our hotel was quick and simple and every taxi has a clear glass window between you and the driver giving passengers additional peace of mind. In our hotel, and I know it is similar for all the major hotel chains, there is socially distanced queuing at check-in & hand sanitiser dispensers are everywhere, especially by the lifts, and only people staying together are allowed in the lift at one time.
The main area where everyone gathers, the restaurant, is well managed and does take a bit longer to enter as you must wait in a socially distanced queue to be seated. Then there is a spaced-out queue for the buffet, which is chef served to minimise contact with the serving utensils. All the usual food is available, salads & desserts pre-prepared in little individual pots, cooking stations, tapas and fresh locally caught Mallorcan fish.
Masks to be worn at all times around the restaurant apart from when seated at your table and everyone complies, and it is easy to get used to. After the first time in the restaurant getting used to the procedure it just feels normal and, dare I say it, even a more pleasant experience to enjoy your meal (once seated with mask off!)
In the outdoor areas around the pools and the beach, the experience is no different from normal, no special rules above general distancing guidelines. Everyone was happy, chilled and respecting personal space, even in the swimming pools and that included the children. Our hotel was operating at their now “full capacity” which was circa 70% to what they can normally accommodate and there was plenty of space for all to enjoy the facilities as normal.
The rules have changed slightly now in Spain from this Monday and masks are mandatory whenever you are in any public area including when you are walking to the beach etc. Once there you can remove it and enjoy your time as usual, you can also remove it once seated at your table to enjoy your food and drink.
The resort of Playa De Palma where we were was busy enough to have that “holiday resort feel” but much quieter than normal when the beaches are packed. I loved this, and it is definitely how I prefer my holiday experience. Another great addition now is that rather than having menus, most bars and restaurants have QR codes so you are not having to pick something up that has been used previously and it downloads the menus straight to your phone. Waiter service is offered pretty much everywhere, and we witnessed regular cleaning in the resort establishments.
I must be honest and say it really felt no different (apart from it being quieter than normal) if I had been there 6 months ago. None of the new measures including wearing a mask on the flight or whilst we were out and about phased my 9-year-old. In fact, he had to remind me sometimes to put it on. I had the most wonderful two nights (I wish it had been longer) and it has made me look forward to our holiday to Italy at the end of August even more!
If anyone has any specific questions about the hotel or airport experience, please just let me know