Those two words pretty much sum everything up from a travel point of view since Covid-19 came to be a thing.
It’s hard as a travel writer to know what to write about now as travel has changed so much. For weeks we weren’t even allowed to go anywhere. Now places are opening up again, but things are different. In some cases very different. Lots of people are (understandably) nervous about heading out, and everyone is clamouring for information about what places are now like in this post-Covid world. I see plenty of people online asking what going on a train, or even just into a specific shop, is like now. Some places have really got it right. Others are still trying to find the balance in this new world.
What I plan to do here though is start to share our findings of what the world looks like with Covid in the hope that it helps some of you get out again. In as safe and enjoyable way as possible.
Woodside Animal Farm
Our first proper family day out post lockdown was to Woodside Animal Farm. A small farm attraction just down the road from us on the outskirts of Luton. We visited towards the end of July, at a time when Luton itself had a rise in Covid cases and everyone locally was on high alert, despite not being in a lockdown situation.
Now, my eldest two kids have been to Woodside before, but for us adults and 20 month old Tube Stop Baby this was our first trip. I asked the kids to compare it to life before, but to be honest they were just so excited to be back at a place like this that I didn’t get much sense out of them!
Before our trip
Now, this is where an attraction’s website really is important. Before going to Woodside Animal Farm I went onto their website to book tickets (something you must do now) and also see what they had to say about how things are running at the moment.
I’m delighted to say that there was loads of useful information on there. Not only things about regular cleaning etc, but also details like needing a face mask as the exit from the farm is through the farm shop where they are compulsory. It also explained how tractor rides are operating at the moment. A fact that is vitally important for visitors with kids.
Arrival at the Farm
With a pre-booked time slot we arrived at Woodside and only had one other family in front of us in the queue to enter. There were signs about social distancing and plenty of reminders about hand washing. Staff on the gate were behind a plastic screen and entry just required them to scan a QR code that I’d been emailed when I booked.
We had booked to arrive after lunch, but you can choose time slots throughout the day easily enough and there is no time that you need to leave the site by.
Inside the Farm
Once inside the farm, it generally felt much the same as these places normally do. With the exception of hand cleaning reminders everywhere. I was pleased to see how many places there were to use hand sanitiser and old fashioned soap and water hand washing dotted around the place. Another delight was the fact that there was also hot water to wash your hands with! Not something that all farms manage.
Visitors inside the farm were generally pretty good. Some were choosing to wear face masks for the whole of their visit. Some didn’t. There was plenty of stepping out of people’s way in places where paths narrowed, but generally there weren’t that many people on site so social distancing was easily possible.
My kids were all delighted to find that the play areas were all open at the farm. Again, it was down to parents to make sure the kids social distanced as much as possible on the play equipment, but this seemed to be working well.
On the jumping pillows (there is one for over 5s and one for under 5s) there were signs up for maximum capacities due to Covid. There was no one there enforcing these and many parents either didn’t seem to be bothered, or simply hasn’t seen the signs. Whatever the reason though, the pillows didn’t seem too crowded and the kids were no closer together than they were on other bits of play equipment.
The ride on tractors and bikes were also open, but once again overall visitor numbers meant that this wasn’t a problem in terms of overcrowding and children were encouraged by signs to wash their hands when they’d finished on them.
The tea cup ride was operating with just people from one bubble allowed in a tea cup at any one time. Again, hand sanitiser was positioned right on the gate so people could use it on their way in and out. The carousel was closed with the sign (and website) explaining that this was because it was impossible to social distance on it.
I enjoyed a round of crazy golf with the kids. There was a separate place to leave used clubs and golf balls when we finished so that they could be cleaned for the next people going round.
The indoor play barn was also closed as per current government rules.
It can be easy to come to places like Woodside these days and forget about the animals as there is just so much other fun to be had. For TSB though the animals were a highlight. With lockdown, this was her first visit to a farm since she’s been talking properly and so she was in her absolute element shouting out animal names as we walked round. Goats confused her a bit as she thought they were dogs and Alpacas blew her mind Sheep, cows and chickens though went down an absolute storm with her.
It was also nice that you can still buy animal food at Woodside and feed the animals as you go around. The only thing that I felt was missing (and this is a non-Covid thing) was signs telling you that it is OK to feed them. My elder two are so used to places where it is very clear to tell you what you can and can’t feed that they felt a bit nervous at first in case they fed something they shouldn’t.
All three kids were delighted to see that tractor rides were still running. The only difference was that it was one bubble at a time. If anything I felt this made the whole thing far nicer than being squashed in with strangers. Again, hand sanitiser was there for you all to use on the way in and out and everyone I saw was doing this. The queue was nicely socially distanced and the staff members driving the tractors were always wearing face masks.
Food and drink
As we only visited for the afternoon we just took a few snacks with us and plenty of water as it was a hot day. The kids did visit the kiosk though and we had ice creams there. They also seemed to be selling various snacks and hot and cold drinks from the same kiosk. I believe there was also some food available inside from the cafe area that is normally next to the soft play. There were plenty of spaced out picnic tables and again it was easy to socially distance whilst enjoying something to eat and drink.
To be honest I didn’t see many staff in our time at Woodside Animal Farm. There were a couple going round emptying bins etc and making sure that the hand washing stations were well equipped, but the only other we saw were either driving the tractor, manning the entrance, running the tea cup ride or serving food and drink at the refreshment kiosk. All that I encountered were friendly and professional. I heard a couple talking over their walkie talkies about someone needing to go and clean up some tissue paper that was blowing around near one hand washing area and saw one guy going round checking toilets periodically.
One comment that I made to Bonn as we went round was about how much I actually preferred our post-Covid farm visit over others that I’ve done before. Maybe lockdown has made me realise how much I don’t like other people and the way some of them behave, but our visit to Woodside was lovely as it wasn’t too busy at all, but yet the farm had a lovely relaxed vibe about it too. There was space to see and do things and we liked not being jostled by other people all the time as often happens at family attractions in summer holidays.
We certainly felt safe at Woodside, and as our first real trip out since lockdown this was particularly important for all of us. The older kids described it as being “like a normal trip” which I think is possibly one of the most important things. I don’t want them feeling scared to go out anywhere, but they’re also children and I want them to be able to have fun. That’s exactly what they did.
Disclaimer: We paid for our own visit to Woodside Animal Farm and I decided to write about our visit as a way of sharing information with readers. I was not compensated in any way for this post.
For more inspiration for family days out take a look here.