And I thought pre-2020 travel was cumbersome.
My decision to leave Grenada in July wasn’t one that I took lightly. But, after much deliberation and preparation, I was ready. And, I had important business to take care of.
Honestly, traveling right now is stressful. There may be more than a few anxiety-inducing moments and maybe even a few mishaps. Or that might just have been me. Either way, here a few tips to help you travel in the time of COVID-19.
*This is by no means a call to action to drop everything and jump on a plane. But, if you are planning to travel soon, please take all the necessary precautions to do so responsibly.
Before Your Flight
Double-check the entry requirements for your destination.
The only thing certain right now is change. Make sure you are aware of the current entry requirements at your destination. Things may have changed from the time you booked your flight. This is especially important if your itinerary has stops in different countries.
Since I was flying to the U.S., I was required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of departure and complete the CDC attestation form.
Consider downloading Verifly…
…or the document management service that your airline uses.
When I attempted to check in online for my American Airlines flight, I was prompted to download and create an account with Verifly, a digital wellness application. Through Verifly, I was able to upload my test results and digitally sign the CDC attestation. Verification of my information took less than 20 minutes, and then I was able to check in.
Having Verifly didn’t make much a difference at the airport in Grenada, but it certainly did for my return flight.
Up, up & away!
There’s no specific tip here; however, I hope you enjoy reading about me at my awkward best on the plane.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought this was my first time flying. I was nervous!
As I settled into my seat, I became aware of how uncomfortable I was. There were so many people around me. Oh boy, what had I done?
By the time the beverage cart appeared I was on edge again. Should I let it pass me straight? I hadn’t practiced airplane mask dining. What was I going to do?
Time was counting down. I had to decide quick.
A pack of pretzels was thrust into my hands. Too late now. I put my tray table down.
“Something to drink?” Umm, Sprite please.
Still unsure of the best way to approach consuming my snack, I quickly pulled down my mask and shoved about 10 mini pretzels into my mouth, pulled the mask back up and started chewing. What a terrible idea.
But then I did it again.
And then I spilled some of my Sprite.
I had failed the challenge.
And there was still plenty of plane ride left.
With just about 20 minutes left in the flight, I felt a familiar tickle in my nose. Oh no, not now. I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. And then again. I should state here that I don’t sneeze like normal people. It’s more of a squeak than a sneeze. But sometimes they are violent, squeaky sneezes.
A few minutes after the sneezes, my nose started to run. Like, someone had turned on a tap, run. Discreet sniffs weren’t working. I tried to surreptitiously wipe my nose while remaining mostly masked. My seat mate threw nasty looks my way. Ugh.
Clearing immigration in Miami was relatively easy. The line wasn’t as slow as I’ve experienced in the past. I got the usual “what do you do for work and why are you traveling by yourself questions”, but there were no Covid symptom related questions.
I had long given up on trying to make that tight night-time connection, so once I got my luggage I went straight to my hotel. Time to get some rest to do it all over in the morning.
This time when the beverage cart approached I politely declined. I wasn’t trying to choke on pretzel dust again.
At Your Destination
Be aware of local regulations.
I spent most of my time on this trip in DC and Virginia. When I arrived, the regulations related to masks specified that masks were required at all times for everyone on public transit, and only required for unvaccinated people in places such as stores, museums and restaurants. As case numbers started to rise again due to the Delta variant, mask wearing was strongly recommended for vaccinated people too. By the end of my trip, whether vaccinated or not, in order to enter and remain in the people place, you had to be wearing a mask.
This is why it is important to keep an eye on the news and be aware of the local regulations. You don’t want to get stuck in a situation claiming that you didn’t know.
Respect the policies in place.
One of the things that stood out to me the most about being in the US compared to Grenada, was that there was no one aggressively sanitizing my hands when I entered an establishment. There was no requirement to provide contact tracing information either.
So, even though the policies at your destination are different from those at home, you need to respect and follow them. Rules still apply to you even though you’re visiting.
Double-check the entry requirements.
In order to board my flight to Grenada, I knew I needed my Pure Safe Travel certificate and a negative PCR test result. But, with the Delta variant causing a ruckus everywhere, I made sure to check that Grenada’s entry protocol had not changed.
My poor nose.
I actually did two PCR tests before returning to Grenada. I did my first test at a nearby Walgreens on the Wednesday morning before my Saturday flight. “Results in 1 – 2 days,” the website said. Perfect. Thursday came, no test result. Friday morning, no test result. Friday at noon, still no result. At this point I started to worry.
Luckily though, my cousin directed me to a quick-turnaround testing location at Miami International Airport. My friend took me there on Friday afternoon, and $175 and 45 minutes later I had my negative PCR test result.
When you’re getting your PCR test done for travel, it is important to check the fine print/all the details for some of these testing locations. Even though the Walgreens website said results in 1 – 2 days, the actual PCR test was being done at an off-site lab. And that provider’s website said results in 1- 2 days from *receipt at the lab*. So, even though I had my nose swabbed on Wednesday morning, my sample did not get to the lab until Thursday evening.
Yes, the same-day testing locations are a lot more expensive, but I don’t think the anxiety of not knowing if your test result will get to you in time is worth it.
Verifly for the win!
Concerned about long lines and potential airport chaos, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. When I approached the check in area for international departures, I noticed a long, winding line. My stomach lurched; then I saw a separate, much shorter line for passengers with Verifly. My documents (Pure Safe Travel certificate, PCR test results and vaccination card) had already been reviewed and approved by Verifly, and I was able to head straight to the check in counter. Yes!
Grenada currently has 2 quarantine requirements for arriving passengers: 48 hours for fully vaccinated travellers and 7 days for unvaccinated Grenadian citizens and residents.
Since I was in quarantine at True Blue Bay Resort, I was confined to my room and balcony. The pool was screaming my name but I had to stay put.
One more thing…
Prepare for unexpected expenses.
Travel in the time of COVID-19 means testing fees and quarantine accommodation for sure, but what if the borders close again? Or your flight gets cancelled and you need to stay in a hotel? Or you test positive and have to isolate? Can you handle these unexpected expenses?
Organize your travel vex money/In Case of Emergency Fund before your trip. If you don’t need to use it, perfect! But at least you’ll have the peace of mind that it’s there.
I don’t know if we’ll ever return to pre-pandemic travel experiences. Some requirements may disappear, but others, like pre-travel testing, might be around for a while. In the meantime though, wear your masks, wash your hands, and get vaccinated.
Have any other tips to add? Have you mastered airplane mask dining? How did you do it? Let us know in the comments!