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Back on the horse

Looks like I'll be traveling again this year, yay! I'd like to ask some of you regulars how you have been dealing with the "new normal" (gag). I am not worried about testing regulations, or regulations in country etc., as those will change before I go anywhere. This is sort of like "share your packing/to-do list" kind of question. I am asking as a teleworker who has just not had to deal with covid restrictions in my daily life very much, giving me anxiety about traveling. I feel like masking on the plane is here to stay (and I love the idea of not getting a cold on a trip ever again), but I have only taken brief business class flights since 2020 (wearing N95). So, when going on longer flights, what are your procedures? Like, how many masks do you pack and stuff like that. I know I will not be wearing the same mask for eight hours, and I rarely eat the airplane food anyway. there anything you have built into your new routine that you can share? It's amazing how quickly you can feel like you have never left the country before...

Posted by
7545 posts

I wait a bit away from the gate until boarding time to be able to maintain some distance. I wear a N95 mask. I wipe down the seats and trays right away. I use hand sanitizer.
I pack enough for 2 masks/day

Posted by
492 posts

I'm sure there are at least a couple posts on here from 12 or 18 months ago when I said stuff along the lines of, "I don't see myself doing any traveling until we don't have to wear masks". My stance on that has certainly changed - they just don't bother me much anymore, and it's become second nature to wear them when out and about. Further, it's clear they will be a part of our lives for awhile (at least on planes and other designated places like that, though they certainly seem to be entirely optional in some parts of the country and world). It's now at the point where I am genuinely comforted by their ubiquity and second guess entering any establishment or indoor space that doesn't require them.

That last point, about comfort, is key. Really, I'd say we just have to go with our gut instinct more often nowadays than we had to in the past. There might have been a time not too long ago (and heck, maybe it's still that way for some people) where you'd walk by a restaurant or bar and see it packed and lively and full of happy patrons and think, "What a wonderful place to be!" whereas I'd walk by such a place today and think, "No thanks...". Your planning and trip research might suggest certain destinations are way better about mask usage and vaccination rates than others, and so you might do well to pick those places over others; when on the ground at your destination, you might feel like a certain restaurant or business you're in or contemplating entering seems lax on their mask usage so would be entirely justified to move on to the next one. It all just comes down to deciding what's comfortable for you.

On the practical front with masks, if you're worried about wearing them for an extended period of time perhaps try a couple different models on at home. Spend 6-8hours around the house with a mask on. If it starts digging in to your ears or is a real hassle, you may want to try another kind. It's better to figure that out ahead of time when you can shop around and find out which masks are more compatible with you than it is to find yourself halfway over the Atlantic realizing your masks are torture devices. Keep in mind as well some airlines require you change your masks out every couple/few hours, and others do not allow for cloth masks.

Posted by
6245 posts

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway because that's me: be sure you are fully vaccinated and boosted, as jabbed as you can be, to make yourself as-close-to-bullet-proof as one can get. (Yes, knowing that it's not 100% foolproof, since they keep making more powerful fools; still, it increases your odds.)

Bring a good supply of disinfectant wipes (in a ziplock to keep 'em moist) and liberally wipe down every surface that you might come into contact with in/around your seating area, don't forget the seatbelts including buckles, window shade, tray table, basically if it's within reach, wipe that down. Take a couple with you when you head to the loo, and limit your contact in there even more than in the Before Times). Save some disinfectant wipes (or get more while there) for the return flights.

Best things you can do IMHO is start off healthy, keep rested, work to stay that way throughout your trip, and keep distance from others (especially from those who do not seem to be showing much evidence that they are careful about anything) as much as you possibly can...then once you arrive, don't spend all your time completely obsessing over it, and have a great trip.

Posted by
15984 posts

I understand and respect all the concerns and precautions expressed here. But I know if I lived in that world, I would not enjoy travel.

My "new normal" is my old normal ... follow the rules and relax.

Posted by
73 posts

We have flown to Maui in November and Orlando in December. Maui flight was very strict and very few people on the flight. I would definitely have your patience pants on. Things take longer to get. Things are sold out. At the Maui Costco many items were just sold out. So, supply chain was down. Plenty of lines to get into quick serve places, etc. Maui was fairly strict as far as masking and showing proof of vaccine or recent test, etc. Some places have limited hours or just plain shutdown. So, lots of preplanning involved.

Our second trip to Orlando was the opposite. The plane was packed. Every row was taken. Most people wore their masks, but some just didn't especially at our layover. We went to WDW which was pretty strict for masking indoors. There were lots of crowds. I know, WDW isn't where a Rick Steve's tourist would go but I just wanted to show reference of the difference. Lots of stores were just sold out of stuff like t-shirts, etc. Restaurants had limited seating and many menus have changed. It was crowded sometimes outside, and you had to know when it was out of your comfort zone and do something else.

Both trips felt different. I really hope masks aren't here to stay. I can see wearing them on the plane but other than no everywhere else. It is hard to have conversation with a mask. People can't hear you or you can't hear them in a crowded place. You miss out on the human interaction of a smile. Both trips felt very isolating in the sense people weren't eager to strike up a conversation. I did not enjoy the trips as much as my prior travel trips.

I brought two masks for each day. I made sure I drank lots of water. For some reason, I felt more thirsty walking about in the parks with a mask. It was pretty warm, low 80s. If you are walking a lot, a fresh mask is nice when your old one gets gross.

Posted by
4301 posts

I just returned from our first international trip since the pandemic began. We opted for business class for our flights for 2 reasons. First was the increased spacing between passengers in the cabin, and second was the ability to use the lounge, to keep a decent distance from other fliers while waiting for the flight. Oh, and the bonus - a separate check in and boarding line also meant no crowding around us at those times. And priority tags meant our bags were amongst the first on the carousel, so minimum time in the baggage area.

Sanitizing wipes and an extra mask were provided for each passenger on boarding. I used the wipes immediately, but also had a stash of my own in my bag. We wore our own N95s for the flight, and didn't find them uncomfortable at all. Mask enforcement by the FAs was strict, and announcements were made before each food/beverage service that they wanted the masks off for no more than 15 minutes for meals. Each flight was only about half full.

The only big lineups we saw were at immigration. But I got to sidestep those as well. When they saw my cane we were directed to the disability line, which was completely empty at the time.

We selected our vacation spot specifically because they were very particular about covid precautions being enforced. We always wore our masks when inside (except our room, of course, or when seated for meals/drinks). And wore them outside whenever we encountered large groups of people. I packed enough N95 masks for 2 masks per day each. And we each carried, and frequently used, our bottles of hand sanitizer. It got to be second nature by day 2.

Now that we have that first trip behind us, we're much less nervous about traveling. And I don't mind the precautions. In fact I welcome them. I think, at least for the near future we will still limit our travel choices to places that are enforcing them.

Posted by
6777 posts

Our trip to Italy last September/October went pretty smoothly. The Verifly app employed by American Airlines required registering, completing a passenger locator form, providing a photograph electronically, and a negative Covid 19 test before flying. The app wasn’t completely iPhone friendly, but with time and patience, it worked. It was reassuring that fellow passengers had been similarly vetted.

One mask (regular “medical” mask, not N95) on the plane, and subsequent 3 1/2 hour train ride after landing. The back of one ear hurt a bit from the elastic strap after all that time, and it was good to get it off once we reached our apartment in Bologna, after the landlady’s lengthy welcome and tour of the place. The plane was only 2/3 full, and flight attendants spread people out into empty rows. I had the mask off while eating, and didn’t use the habit of taking a bite, then putting the mask over my face whole chewing. After I was done with my meal, then the mask went back on. Flight home was fuller, at the end of October, but I wasn’t stressed.

I will say it was a bit unnerving at the beginning at the airport, when mandatory mask rules were ignored by a few careless people wandering the Denver airport. Then in Bologna, where masks outside weren’t mandatory, and the majority of people wore them nevertheless, but it was uncomfortable walking among those who didn’t wear them. I guess that if I’m wearing a mask, and so are many others, I expected everybody else to be wearing one, too. That’s still happening at the grocery stores at home, some requiring masks, some not, but there are always people without masks. They all seem to be scowling. I scowl behind my mask, seeing them without theirs.

Largely trusting the vaccine, and holding my breath as I pass non-maskers (or smokers!) got me through Bologna. My second through fifth week in Italy was less of a concern, and as I continued to make my way across Italy, the masks were only needed indoors - restaurants, stores, and museums. There, tourists and locals were uniformly exercising proper (required) precautions, and that was reassuring.

London and southern Africa are coming up in 2 months. Have K95’s and will be OK for the 2 lengthy flights. Will have hand sanitizer, so even more OK. On safari, the guides will all be vaccinated/boosted. We'll all be in good company, and I expect to be much less nervous.

Posted by
3962 posts

Thanks for the input everyone. I am absolutely triple vaxxed. Sounds like I just need to follow the country/airline rules when the time comes and primarily focus on relaxing (pharmaceuticals are a usual part of my flying experience, since I can't afford business class for international travel).
happy travels everyone!

Posted by
12575 posts

I'll just add that I traveled to France for a month in Sept/Oct, part of which was 2 weeks on a Road Scholar bus tour. I took N95's for every day and a few extra. I was diligent about wearing them where required but also kept them on outside. I wore them all the time on the bus although some of my fellow tour members did not. The guide and bus driver were masked the whole time. I was unmasked only in my hotel room and at meals and discarded my mask every night. There are masks for sale everywhere in France but I wanted to make sure I had an N95 that is comfortable to me so I took my own. (3M Aura masks which I've been purchasing at Home Depot)

I just got back last night from Kauai and masked from the time I entered the car rental drop-off/airport (coming and going) until I was in the car on either end. I'll do a self test on Saturday to make sure I didn't pick anything up. I was on Alaska and there is very little food service so I ate my snacks and drank water quickly and tried to keep my mask on most of the time. I noticed the Flight Attendant announced that they wanted people to remask between sips and bites.

On the flights to France in the Fall I took my mask off for the whole meal but that was pre-Omicron.

I did a few other things to try and keep myself well including using a neti pot which I do anyway for allergies.

To me, Europe was WAY better for compliance than where I live! Once I got over my anxiety about traveling again I settled in and enjoyed it immensely.

I DID have difficulty packing, lol! I recommend you do a trial pack well ahead of time so you've got your packing list, 3-1-1 bag sorted if you do carry on, etc. I had forgotten SO much over this Covid time of no travel! Yeesh. It's coming back to me though. It was much easier for me to pack for this trip to Hawaii than it was for the trip to France as I felt more back in the swing of things.

If the self-test kits are available to you, I recommend you take a couple of test kits with you just in case you feel you may be coming down with something. I picked up a heckuva cold right after Christmas (exposed to a 3-year-old with a runny nose over several days). It laid me pretty low and I kept thinking I might have Covid but tested twice and was negative both times. IS possible to have something other than Covid but it's nice to know whether you are exposing others or not.

I'd also seen a blog from Cameron Hewitt, one of Rick's guides, before I went to France. He recommended carrying a thermometer and a pulse oximeter. I got both for travel, never needed them but had them if I felt ill.