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Monday,  May 20, 2024 4:52 PM 

Op-ed: Planning a vacation is good for our mental well-being, says travel advisor Karen Gill

Op-ed: Planning a vacation is good for our mental well-being, says travel advisor Karen Gill
Karen Gill, owner/operator of Plan A Vacation, an affiliate of The Travel Agent Next Door. (Supplied)
Karen Gill

I have had many interesting conversations lately with clients, family and friends in regards to travel and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

I have not been vocal over the past few months because it truly was a period of craziness.  

Lately, the discussions on my business page on Facebook have revolved around this question: Why am I promoting travel on my page? 

Why are travel advisors talking about travel right now? Well, it’s a known fact that up to 90 percent of clients start planning and booking travel 12 to 24 months prior to departure. (Yes, they do).  

Yes, Canada is currently reopening safely and slowly. Yes, this past summer, Canadians did travel within their communities and provinces. They did stay in hotels.  

Why were they able to do this?  Because our health and safety protocols allowed people to enjoy their vacation. Safely.   

Yes, we’ve all gone through hell since March. COVID-19 is very real. We did what was needed to grab hold of this crazy disease. We did what we needed to do to get to where we are today.  

Yes, it is weird wearing a mask and sanitizing our hands many, many times a day. Oh well. It was weird when wearing a seat belt became a law. It is now a new normal.  

I completely respect that not everyone is comfortable with eating on patios, going to get groceries, and even travelling for that matter. That is totally fine. Each person is entitled to feel the way they feel. If they feel that way, then they need to evolve in their own personal way. 

We have to start working through those fears at our own pace and getting back into society, safely, by following protocols and by keeping a distance when we can. 

The state of mental health and wellness is a real problem. It was prior to COVID-19 and it is even more so now.  

Did you know that when people are planning travel, it has the equivalent impact to that of the trip’s experience itself? True story: planning a vacation is good for our mental well-being. 

I speak for myself and my team: I would never recommend or send a client into harm’s way. We educate, we plan and we are there for every client sometimes on hold for seven-plus hours at a time on their behalf.  

So, if we are talking about planning trips within our magnificent country or around the world, we are doing so wisely using information that is relevant. 

It’s OK to start planning a trip somewhere this winter in Canada and to safe destinations with our valued tour operators that now provide COVID-19 coverage. 

To clients: it’s OK to start planning that trip to Europe next year or the year after. Advisors will plan it with you with our valued tour operators that have the best practices in place if the world continues down this path.   

Travel is important to people and to our world. Travel is responsible for billions of dollars of revenue, jobs…the list goes on. 

Travel doesn't always mean far away either. It can be somewhere close by. 

The one thing I do know is that the future is bright for travel consultants as those people out there who thought they could do our jobs themselves have learned that it it pays to leave it to the experts. 

Again, it is OK if people do not feel comfortable travelling. (They will someday).  

It is still OK to dream and read about interesting places.  

It is OK if you are not ready to go to a store or send your kids to school. It is OK to continue curb-side pick-up. Whatever you do, follow the protocols and do it safely. 

It is also OK if people want to plan a trip safely and if their employers are OK with Canada's 14-day quarantine order. There are protocols in place to travel safely to safe places.  

I often think about what it will it be like if we ever go back to Stage 1. 

If that happens, (and I hope it doesn't), I feel it will be easier this time as we have already been through the worst. If it does come to that, I pray it will be for a shorter period of time.

Seriously look at how much has been accomplished in 2020 when it comes to safety. 

This year has forced us to look at what is important and what is not. I focus on quality, as opposed to quantity, in all areas of my life now. That goes for material things, dining experiences, relationships…and vacations. 

We need to start planning vacations again. The state of our and our clients’ mental health and well-being is depending on it.

Karen Gill is the owner and operator of Plan A Vacation, an affiliate of The Travel Agent Next Door.  

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