Time to Travel
I love to travel. But it’s been so long, I feel like I’ve lost my bearings.
Getting ready for our first post-pandemic trip beyond U.S. borders has taxed my resources and challenged my memory. My always-ready medical supplies are out of date and picked over, as are copies of relevant documents I normally take. Put together with the constantly changing flight schedules and complicated testing requirements, I’ve been unusually stressed. I feel like a first-time traveler.
Instead of researching the best restaurants and interesting off-the-beaten-track details about our destinations, I find myself constantly reviewing the airline’s info, country testing policies, and CVS procedures. Time to take a breath and get used to the new normal (in which nothing really is normal). I think these rules and regulations are going to be with us for a while. So, with both booster and flu shots complete along with a supply of N95 facemasks and faceshields, we are jumping back out into the world.
We have just completed the first leg of our trip which was full of major drama. I was about to accept the fact we would not make the flight because United didn’t seem to be able to issue boarding passes for a trip ending up in Canada. Not 24-hours prior on the app, or by several hours on the phone, a visit to unstaffed United counters the evening prior, or even the very harassed counter agent at dawn this morning.
After the agent placed another call (with a painfully long hold time) someone magically fixed the problem. It’s a good thing we have carry-on bags, checked would never have worked. Added to the situation at the Charlotte airport was the fact that thousands of unhappily stranded American Airlines passengers mobbed every available space and made for incredibly long lines at security. I have never seen chaos like this morning, too much going on at 4:30 AM for this night owl. But now we are relaxing in the United lounge in Chicago and waiting for our next flight . . . which is late.
It will be worth all the effort if we are successful seeing Polar Bears (fingers crossed) in Churchill, Canada!
If you are interested in a checklist with a few reminders for getting back into the travel mindset, read on:
- Buy good travel insurance and pay attention to the details for cancel for any reason coverage and medical coverage (do you want to be the one medevac’d on a dingy or a helicopter); carefully review coverage you might have with your credit card, many companies have reduced or dropped travel coverage
- Check your travel docs and make sure none have expired (passport, Global Entry, etc) and make sure your personal info is up-to-date with airlines and other travel providers
- Double-check every doc airlines and governments are scanning for travel these days – trust me, they make errors
- Order some small, clear pill bags, they are handy for transporting meds/ vitamins/ pro-biotics (much less bulky) and you can easily label and write instructions with a permanent marker
- Take 2 credit cards and make sure they have little or no foreign transaction fees
- Double-check your passport is still current and not within 6 months of expiration. It’s taking much longer to renew passports these days, so don’t get caught with expired docs
- Make a list of what you need to pack
- Make sure your standard travel kit is good (has the shampoo turned goo, meds up to date, what’s missing)
- Take extra camera batteries, SD cards and device cords you need
- For long trips with no power access or remote travel, carry a phone charger device
- Don’t forget to activate your mobile phone’s global plan, if needed
- Make fresh copies of key docs and electronic copies of your Covid vaccination card
- Pack a copy of your passport in each bag
- Put apps on your smart phone for the airlines and/or travel companies you are traveling with
- If you are taking clothing that hasn’t been used in a while (think, boots, heavy coats, ski socks, gloves), check them out and make sure all are still good; not a great feeling to put on socks that have lost their elasticity or boots with linings that are disintegrating
- Try out new gear (and electronics) in advance
- Use shoe bags to keep everything inside your suitcase
- Seriously consider carry-on luggage, with all the flight changes it may be your best bet
- Get a little of the currency for the first country you will visit, this will be less expensive than airport change fees and can ease arrival if transport and/or tips are needed. Banks will need to order foreign currency in advance, so do this several weeks ahead; once you’ve arrived, you can get additional cash at an ATM
- Don’t keep all your money and credit cards in one place
- If you have mobility issues, order wheelchairs at the airport in advance, most ticketing system have the option to arrange assistance; having one can be a necessity in larger airports when connections are required
- Pack a foldable bag for souvenirs or use during on-trip excursions
- Don’t forget extra N95 masks!
Overall, try to be flexible and patient – not always my best attributes!