On the 26th September 2020, I made the controversial decision to follow through with my holiday plans to Mykonos for a seven night break. At the time, the travel corridor for Mykonos from the UK was closed meaning I needed to quarantine for 14 days on my return.
Fortunately for me I had been working from home, so I was able to do this quite easily. However, I have a received a lot of criticism for travelling at that time, even though the rate of infection back then wasn’t anywhere close to what the situation is now. So I thought I would talk through my decision to travel and go through the procedure and my experience of travelling back then. I must add, my opinion on travel has changed entirely, and this is purely a post about my experience back in September 2020 and has no relevance to the current situation surrounding covid-19 and travel right now.
We arrived at Manchester airport for our early morning easyJet flight over to Mykonos. I won’t lie, it was scary. I hadn’t been on a plane Since November 2019 when I went to New York before the Pandemic even started in the UK so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard stories, which made me nervous and the thought of having to wear a face covering from stepping foot into Manchester airport, to stepping foot out of Mykonos airport made me anxious and I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually fine. It was genuinely one of the most pleasant airport experiences I’ve ever had; Everyone kept their distance, there were hand sanitiser stations everywhere, everyone wore a face covering, it was quiet, the dreaded security check where you have to empty your pockets of liquids and electrics was absolutely fab, the trays were disinfected after every use and all in all, it was a really pleasant and reassuring place to be. Inside the terminal it was so empty. Shops were open and there were a couple of restaurants open too to get a quick bite to eat. The seats were cleaned and had a sign placed on every other seat so you couldn’t sit directly next to eachother. It was fine!
I was expecting the plane to be empty to be honest. I thought people wouldn’t want to travel knowing they had to quarantine on return, but there was quite a few more onboard than I originally thought but the plane wasn’t even half full and we got moved (free of charge) to have extra legroom seats, heck yes! The crew onboard made it very clear that only 2 people could queue for the toilet at any one time, nobody could be standing in the aisles or moving around and you had to stay seated with your mask on at all times unless you were eating or drinking. The majority of people obeyed the rules, but of course you’re always going to get that stag-do that just think the rules don’t apply to them. Four hours later, we touched down in to Mykonos Airport.
Mykonos Airport If anyone has been to Mykonos before, you’ll appreciate how small the airport is. You literally get off the plane via steps and you’re at the door of the airport to go through customs. It’s tiny! Everyone needed a passenger PLF form which had to be completed, with a QR code that the security scan on entry. If you didn’t have one of these forms, you wouldn’t be allowed in. Simple as. So we had our QR codes scanned, temperatures checked and we were asked a series of questions about where we had come from, if we’d had symptoms, etc. No to all. And we were free to get our suitcases and leave the airport. FINALLY – I could remove my mask, but I didn’t. In fact I don’t think I took my mask off until I got to my hotel room!
We stayed at the beautiful Petinos Hotel in Platis Gialos, a slightly quieter part of Mykonos with a more chilled out atmosphere, away from the party place. With this hotel, we had private hotel transfers included. And they really were private – There was only us on the bus! Our driver was stood with a sign outside the airport waiting for us (I wish I could remember his name!). He was fantastic! Very informative, explained the situation surrounding covid-19 and what it’s been like over in Mykonos and he put our minds at rest straight away. He had hand sanitiser on the bus, wore a mask and gave us advice on where to eat and drink and where to avoid which was very useful!
I’d stayed in Platis Gialos before on my first time to Mykonos back in 2017, so I knew exactly where this hotel was. Right at the top end of the promenade along the beachfront up a slight incline to the beach and a little mini supermarket and of course the stunning restaurants and bars. We were greeted by Elena, the receptionist, who checked us in and made us feel very welcome. She explained that masks need to be worn inside the hotel and also in bars/restaurants until you take your seat, there was hand sanitiser stations everywhere too so we had no complaints whatsoever. You were made to feel like they really cared about your health and safety and everything was fantastic. Our rooms were cleaned daily, with new towels and robes, new bedding and everything had been disinfected and wiped down. The pool area was small, but because it had been recently refurbished it was also very modern and clean and tidy and the tables were wiped after every use. There were cleaners working at all hours of the day to ensure you had a safe stay. We stayed at the Petinos Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. The breakfast was a buffet, which again was entirely new to me and I wasn’t sure how they would control the use of utensils, etc. But again, they had a system and it worked. You would be greeted by one of the waitresses who would walk around the buffet with you and plate up your breakfast for you with whatever you wanted so you didn’t need to touch anything. Tea and coffee was brought to our table. There was hand sanitiser on the table and all of the staff wore face coverings. There were no issues whatsoever with ‘cross contamination’ or feeling like you were too close to the table next to you, etc. Everyone stuck to the rules and it worked!
Shops, Bars & Restaurants
Face coverings needed to be worn on entry into a shop and they also asked people to wear face coverings when entering a bar or a restaurant, but to be honest not many people did which was a little bit unnerving. Most of the restaurants were also bars and were outdoors/sheltered along the beachfront so you weren’t inside at any point unless going to the toilet. Everywhere was table service which was good and meant there weren’t crowds of people waiting at the bar. It also helped that we went towards the end of the season so the crowds had died down, and the thousands of people who would usually be visiting Mykonos as part of their cruise itinerary also weren’t there, because obviously all cruses had been cancelled. It felt pretty safe going to any shop, bar and restaurant – people still kept their distance and there was only a limited amount of essentials in the shops so people wouldn’t be lingering too much.
Public spaces and transport
We spent most of our days at the most beautiful beach called Psarou beach – If you ever get the chance to go to Mykonos you must go to this beach. It was incredible. I have never seen such clear blue sea in my entire life, and I’ve been to the Caribbean! It was like nothing on this earth. Just amazing. Everyone on the beach kept their distance, it was quiet anyway and people kept themselves to themselves which was great. We also took a day trip to Mykonos Town to have a walk around and do some shopping. It was a 15 minute bus ride and everyone on the bus wore a face covering. This was probably the only time I have been in an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers (apart from the flight). We wore face coverings inside the shops and also in the café bar we went to as we’d heard the rates for covid were higher in Mykonos Town due to the party scene, so it was probably a good thing we decided to go during the day rather than at night. There was a few people around but not too many and you were able to wonder the streets without crowds, unlike the previous time we’d visited Mykonos Town. It was completely different and felt very safe. If you forgot to put your mask on to go into a shop, the assistants would remind you. It all felt very under control and everyone was playing by the rules.
Returning back to the UK
On our return back to the UK, the airport security checks at Mykonos airport were very much the same as before – Everyone stuck to the rules, there was no crowding, security was well managed and controlled, the seats were limited, cleaners were everywhere and you had to wear a mask inside the airport. The plane only had around 60 people on it and everyone was well spaced out. The worst part of the entire trip was landing back into Manchester airport – social distancing didn’t exist when you were lining up to get through security. There were two flights which landed at the same time so everyone was mixed and the queue was backed up for a good few metres. It was quite stressful. You also needed another PLF form which had to be completed prior to your return back to the UK which SO many people didn’t do and obviously that held the queue’s up. It was just a mess. Waiting for the luggage to come off the conveyor belts, everyone was stood around crowding and the rules completely went out of the window. It was quite bad really. We managed to keep our distance and fortunately our bags were one of the first off so we managed to get out pretty quickly. This was the worst part of the trip and you felt like everyone had had their holiday and that was it, it was time to carry on as ‘normal’.
Quarantining for 14 days on return wasn’t a problem for me at all, I didn’t mind as I was working from home anyway. I didn’t get any symptoms, I feel like I did everything by the book and I feel it was worth it.
Would I do anything differently? No, absolutely not. I work in travel so it was good to get an insight into how the airport processes worked and what it was actually like in another country. You see so much negativity and we all know the media blow it out of proportion so to see it for myself was very useful, and educational. And again, from as very selfish point of view I had a lovely relaxing time and I actually got a holiday in 2020 – Not many people can say that.
As I said previously, this was back in September 2020 when the rates were nowhere near what they are now. Not even close. Had the rates been this bad back in September and travel was still allowed, I absolutely would’ve refused to travel. There is no way I would be on a plane travelling overseas now knowing there’s thousands of covid related deaths happening every single day, people fighting for their lives in ICU, frontline workers in our NHS putting their lives at risk every day, and hundreds of thousands new confirmed cases every week. Nope. I just wouldn’t, out of respect if nothing else.
I really hope travel is reintroduced very soon, for leisure purposes, for everyone.
But the only way we can make sure this happens is if we all follow the rules now. So do your bit.
Stay at home, save lives.