What is it like to travel during the pandemic?

It was not planned, but I ran into an urgent need to make a short trip and actually fly during the pandemic.  I thought this was not going to occur until I had a vaccine, most areas are no longer locked down, the herd immunity was in place…but we must all be agile sometimes.

I will share some of the good, the bad and the ugly from my experience.

First the good:  Delta has a great model and policy for booking flights with a 24 hour risk-free guarantee.  When I was unsure if I will have to fly the next day or not, I was able to book a flight immediately at the best price, reserve a seat and then have the luxury of cancelling just a few hours before the actual flight and get a full refund.

Next, the Delta SkyClubs were open.  I should have taken a picture, but they were a pleasant and safe place to stay distant, yet still have a quiet place to eat food that is conveniently pre-packaged for you to eat.  I found the variety to be quite good and generous in options.  I found most people wore their masks and only took over their masks when eating.

In Washington state, the current (regulations) do not allow alcoholic beverages to be offered or consumed in the airport.  In Colorado, there was no restrictions, so a full bar service was available in the Denver SkyClub.  Naturally, I did observe that when alcohol is available, most people were not wearing masks most of the time in the club.  Coincidence?  Probably not…

I found the people and setup in the Seattle airport to be quite safe.  Despite a typical weekday afternoon timing, I found most people stayed very distant from each other, 99.9% were wearing masks except when they were clearly eating and everyone was very careful to stay distant from each other.

In Seattle, the TSA were very efficient and were pretty good on keeping from being bunched up together in line or waiting for a long time in a confined space to complete the security checks.  It was great to be enrolled in Clear as that made the line time to be very short.

I have to say, it was a very different story for when I arrived and when I departed the Denver airport.  I found some gates were CROWDED and over a hundred people were sitting right next to each other waiting for a flight to Orlando…they were all wearing masks, but they were very crowded.  It was uncomfortable to see.

In Denver, like many large airports, they sometimes have “trains” or subways to transport people between gates or terminals.  In Denver, despite the reduction in air travel, there was a lot of people in the airport and the trains were often very crowded.  People often did not seem to be “close” and had no inhibitions of being inside very full train cars.  You had to be very careful and avoid trains that were full of 25+ people or wait for when the next train arrived to avoid a large comingling of people.  It was also uncomfortable when seeing 1 out of 20 people not wearing masks on the trains and everyone not minding to be close to them.

When departing Denver, I was very thankful to have Clear in Denver as well as the TSA lines in Denver were long.  It was a busy airport and people do bunch up and stay close to each other for a long time.  Is it because Denver is a major hub?

When boarding the plane, since there was not many people actually flying, there were no long lines of people queueing to board the plane.  They actually take extra time to clean and sanitize the plane and casually distance passengers to board with social distancing.  Well done!

When you board, they hand you Purell wipes and will give you a small bag of water and snacks.  No complaints here.

The one question that comes to mind: Why do they not take temperatures at security or certainly boarding a plane?  The numbers are so small, why not take quick temp checks?  That might be a reasonable safety precaution IMHO.

It was great that the plane is mostly empty and people are distanced.  The downside is that with very few people, everyone wants or “is” upgraded to first class.  It is still spread out and a lot of empty seats, but if you want a lot of distance, you must sit in the back of the plane.

There is no hot food on the plane and no formal drink service, but they will offer some limited packaged drinks and snacks.  They are not heavy or fancy, but they were decent choices for short flights.  Recommendation: during these times, make sure you eat your full meals, etc. before you fly.

Everyone wore their masks the entire time and I could not see or observe anyone that was taking their mask off.  The exception is when they are eating or drinking.  I found most people would pull their masks up and down when grabbing a chip or sipping a drink.  This was good.  This is where a mask choice/type comes into play.

What do I mean by that?  Some masks have cords to adjust size, length, tightness, etc.  Let me warn you: this will become very painful on the ears when you pull them up and down a large number of times.  Not a good choice.

I recommend softer cloth masks with soft ear bands that will not irritate or be uncomfortable to be stretched or moved multiple times.

I only had a short stay and only needed to stay in a hotel for one night, so I chose the Westin airport hotel connected to the airport.  Very convenient.  Great staff, all guests and staff remained comfortably distanced.  No crowds, very quiet and hand sanitizers were everywhere.  The restaurant, store and Starbucks were all open and everything was strongly distanced.  I felt comfortable having breakfast as the tables were in excess of 10 feet apart and the staff very accommodating to provide good service, and keeping everyone safe.

Update: One person asked, what about transportation to and from the airport?  Fortunately, in Denver, I was able to walk to the Westin hotel which made it very convenient and no risks.  That is one of the reasons I chose it.

The challenge was travelling to the Seattle airport and back.  I had very little notice, so it was a gamble between driving myself with traffic and parking or not. I chose to take the risk of taking Uber. The drivers were clearly masked and in interest of keeping safe and we kept the window(s) slightly open to keep a good airflow.  One of my drivers was in their residency at UofW medical school and already had their vaccine.  Fingers crossed on this one!

Summary:  I think you can travel safely right now, but you must remain conscious and diligent as not everyone will apply the same precautions and distance as yourself.  I feel much more comfortable than I did previously, but I now know that travel is safely possible again.  It is clear both Delta and Marriott are doing a good job to provide the best possible service and safety to their customers.

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January 2021 Travel Planning Update

Good afternoon everyone:

I thought a quick vodcast (video blog) would be good today to provide some perspectives on travel in 2021.

Travel all appears to be hinging on vaccinations for people and countries

  • In the US, they are going a little slow (WSJ article)
  • Israel is leading the way (WSJ article)
    • But what does that mean for travelers?

WA state (where I live) now has published their vaccine schedule.  That is great for me as I ma next on the list, but my wife and other family members will be much later in the year.  That will not travel planning very easy…

 

It is unrelated, but I thought it was interesting that all the major airlines in the United States have no banned “service animals” on their flights: Delta, Alaska, United and America

My recommendations:

 

  • Keep your status updated with airlines and hotels

 

 

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Travelling in 2021

Kicking off a new year of travel!

What a bleak start as a long time Delta Diamond member.  This really provides a blunt state of the travel world doesn’t it?   Well, given the challenges and stories of 2020, I thought it was appropriate to reflect on the past year and also do a little forecasting for 2021.  Sound good?

Looking back at 2020, it has been a challenging year from a travel perspective.  My only (minor) trip was in March and it was it was the last time I flew on a plane in 2020.  As a result it was my post popular posting of the year.  Which one was it?

Now which was the posting that was the most popular post of all time and the second most popular this year despite the world being in lockdown?

I think we all look forward to concerts, events and travelling again! Hence, the third most popular posting this year was a posting that I kept up to date on travel planning:

Now, that will be the theme a little later below, but first, let’s look at a few stats from the year in totality that I thought were quite interesting.

Overall, how did the site stats compare to last year?  Overall, it had 7,500 views and 3,800 visitors which is approximately 45% less that 2019.  Wow, only a 50% drop versus almost a 90% drop in most travel!

Now, one of the more interesting stats is the top countries of followers or readers.  What countries outside of the US and UK were in the top ten?  It is fascinating that China is in the top ten, I actually thought that WordPress might have been blocked in China!

OK – with that done, let’s look forward to 2021.  Yes, I am craving to start travelling internationally again, and it is still not clear when that will be allowed, safe and what restrictions we will face.  This guy cannot wait to show up in the next picture in the next country to say the least.

I do have to agree with this great NY Times article which basically reminds us: when the pandemic ends, don’t wait or delay to plan your next adventure!  I know that when I encountered a potential life ending event, I was not mad that I might not be able to ever travel, because I never delayed or waited.  I am always looking forward and never missing a moment to plan and take my next trip.  My goal is still to visit 100+ countries before I can no longer travel…but I am not looking forward to wearing a mask for 10+ hours while I look out the window towards my next destination.

Although I have been to all continents, above the Arctic Circle and even to Antarctica, I have only run on 6 of the 7 continents which I have tried to capture in many of my running posts.  I still have not RUN in Australia yet, the question is whether I will be able to do that in 2021???  I hopeful that we might be able to take a potential A&K trip towards the end of the year.

So, what does the year look like for a chance to actually accomplish that goal?

  1. We will need a vaccine
  2. Most of the world will need a vaccine for places to be open
  3. People will need vaccine passports (like this article suggests)

Building on that, I had a guest author capture some great summary guidelines in her posting, and regularly checking on where the lockdowns have ended to plan your flights and stays as soon as they become available.

I do want to take a cruise again, but I hate to say it, until we have worldwide (herd) immunity, I just don’t see cruises being safe, attractive or a great choice in 2021.  Let’s be hopeful in mid 2022 given all the data and stats we can observe at this time.

So, do not wait wait to plan your next adventure.  Pick your goal (destination) and keep a very close eye on when that country is open again. I think this is the best site to track all countries status and is regularly updated.  Assume (and yes I know you should never assume, but…) that flights, hotels, tours, etc. will all be snatched up quick once a country opens again.  Be ready and go fast (once you have your vaccine!).

Happy New Year and Happy travels in 2021!

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Wallace Falls

It is December 2020 and we are still locked down due to COVID-19.  I am still keeping an eye out for international travel planning opportunities like in this post here, but due to the restrictions, in 2020, we mostly focused on day and weekend trips in the great Northwest.  Here are a few previous ones:

We also hiked Kendall Lakes over the holidays to check out the snow as well:  Kendall Lakes hike

Now, this one was Wallace Falls which I had never heard of before despite living in WA for 30 years!  It is a gorgeous state park with a large number of easy and medium trails and many places to have a picnic.

One of the disadvantages is the route is on the way to Steven’s Pass (where many go skiing in the winter months).  This means VERY long backups and bumper to bumper traffic in both directions in Monroe and Sultan sometimes.

But, once you arrive, and even when the parking lot is overflowing and many people are in the park, you have a LOT of space to yourself.  You have a choice of both easy trails and medium challenge trails depending on you feel.

Some of the mountain views are gorgeous, but be prepared for temperature variances as the temp can rise and fall quite quickly based on where you are on the trail.  Goes to warm to quite chilly in just a few minutes.

Depending on how far you want to hike, there are many falls and rushing water to capture your attention.

Plenty of room great pictures on large bridges.

I think there are 4 falls altogether.  The lower, small, medium and large.

Great naming!

The smaller is the most popular as it is approximately a 4 mile round trip and can be easily be visited in 2 hours if you take an easy pace, avoid people not wearing masks and keeping yourself socially distance on a few of the tight corners on the trails.

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Thank You to Everyone: My 10 Year Anniversary of Travel

I want to celebrate Exactly 10 years ago, a had a ruptured brain aneurysm.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, an estimated six million people (one in 50) in the U.S. have an unruptured brain aneurysm.

On December 14th, it ruptured after no previous side effects, indicators, migraines or warnings.  Within minutes, I lost all senses and no idea what was happening.

8 days later, I woke up from a coma.  Thanks to Dr. Kim, I was a survivor. A brilliant surgeon, researcher and dedicated to understanding what actually causes aneurysms and how they can determine which ones will burst.

I had a lot of brain damage and now a permanent titanium clip in my head.  I never gave up and to this day, I continually work to improve my speech which was the area that was damaged behind my left eye.  It is amazing on what the brain can do and shift functions when trauma occurs.

and quickly went from being fed from a tube to demanding a Happy Meal and Top Pot donuts.  10 days later, I left the hospital and enjoyed a glass of champagne on New Years Eve, 2010.

What was I thankful for?  Of course, I was thankful for the medical staff of Harborview hospital, University Of Washington and all my friends and family that were there for me when I needed it.

But the one thing I wanted to call out today: from the moment I woke up in the hospital and had no idea if I would ever walk or talk again, but I was thankful for all the travel and experiences I had been able to experience to date. I was not sure if I would be able to travel again, but I was so happy of how much I can been able to accomplish to date.  And now, 10 years later, I still thankful for everyone and how I can still look forward to traveling again when it is safe and the world opens up.

The goal I set 10 years ago was to visit 100 countries by the time I could not travel any more. I have reached 63 so far, and I think I can still achieve my goal despite all the challenges COVID-19 has been presenting to us.  But I am always planning as you can see in these posts. 🙂

Thank you everyone, I look forward to experiences and opportunities ahead of us!

 

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A Guide to Planning Future Travel After the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week, I have a guest author contributing with a great article on how to plan for future travel after the pandemic!  I think Emma provides a more holistic perspective than the posting I try to maintain with some overall travel details.

On to the story!

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every facet of modern daily life, including travel. Globetrotters have found opportunities to see the world severely limited in the last year. Meanwhile, the tourism industry has taken a serious hit, leaving many to wonder if it will ever recover. Even with a vaccine, it’s doubtful that things will return to like they were before. Instead, it’s time to adjust to a “new normal.”

It might seem like travel is impossible, but that’s not the case. David Cross Travels is finding unique ways to keep moving. From charting out local hiking trips to scouting out lockdown-free beach vacations, David offers resources for those who have been bitten by the travel bug and don’t want to stop exploring.

With some research and advanced planning, it is possible to keep traveling. The below guide provides actionable tips on how to plan for future journeys while staying safe.

 

Prioritize destinations within driving distance.

International travel for Americans is particularly difficult right now, as many countries have put restrictions in place barring entry from the United States. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest avoiding airplanes, which are riskier in terms of potential COVID-19 exposure than driving. Airports put you in contact with many people, while social distancing is virtually impossible on planes.

Instead of jetting off to faraway locations, look for spots you can visit within driving distance. Get inspired by The Culture Trip’s list of top sights in the U.S., which covers everything from The Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore and the Hollywood Sign. Alternatively, pick a city on the map and create your very own city trip. For example, Bellevue, WA, offers museums, a botanical garden, a lakeside beach, and more.

 

Chart out road trips in advance.

Spontaneous travel is a thing of the past. Future trips will require more advanced planning. Before you jet off, check state restrictions in advance. Look at the official website of the state to see if stay-at-home orders are in place. Scout locations where you can enjoy a lockdown-free vacation. You can also check COVID-19 cases by county using this handy tool from Johns Hopkins.

If you’re headed on a long road trip, plan your pit stops beforehand. Prioritize restaurants and hotels that have COVID-19 safety measures in place. When it comes to accommodation, consider getting a vacation rental. In Bellevue, for instance, there are many vacation rentals that are professionally cleaned, come with their own kitchen, and accommodate different group sizes. Best of all, you avoid contact with other people in hotel lobbies, elevators, and dining areas.

 

Play it safe if traveling by air.

If you’re intent on going further afield, air travel is still possible. However, check current government advisories before you go ahead and determine whether restrictions are in place for U.S. arrivals. You may have to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter and/or quarantine yourself for a specified amount of time upon arrival. Find a participating health center or pharmacy in your area to get a test.

If you are flying, take preventive measures to stay safe during your trip. Wear a mask and face shield and wash your hands regularly. If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Finally, maintain distance from other people whenever possible. Many airlines have put in place measures to support social distancing, such as keeping middle seats free.

As the above guide shows, you don’t have to stop traveling altogether due to COVID-19. Future globetrotting will require added precautions and advanced planning but it won’t be impossible. Let the above tips inspire as you plan your journeys.

 

Emma Grace Brown lives her life by her rules; and it works! When she’s not snuggling puppies, Emma promotes female empowerment through her website. Her mission is to help those who live with self-doubt to realize they don’t have to mold themselves to conventionality.  emmagracebrown.com

 

 

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Hike – Franklin Falls

It has been a little while since the last hike and even though I am tracking when we can travel again internationally without a lockdown, it appears that it is not happening any time soon!

So, let’s go on a hike!  Despite living in the Seattle area for ~ 30 years, I had never heard of this place previously.

It is just as easy and accessible as Gold Creek Pond, and it is a delight to take a quick drive and check it out.

It is called Franklin Falls and it is just 2.5 miles off the I-90 expressway at exit 47.  In the winter months, it does snow quite a bit, but that makes it more fun.  It can get a little tricky to drive if you do not have AWD car.

We arrived early, which is a best practice, because despite the winter months and snow, the trail will will get full of people and packed quite quickly.  We could have parked in the empty 60 car parking lot, but I also predicted that once it got full of visitor cars and icy, it would be very difficult to get out of the lot safely since the snow/slush was quite deep there.

Although trail was quite scenic and very fun to find all the places the water was running and exploring additional trails that veered to different places. What was disappointing on this trip, is that only 75% of the people wore masks.  And when you encounter people not wearing masks, and you step away to the side of the trail to avoid them, they look at you are the weird ones and they treat you as being silly for being cautious due to COVID-19 recently spreading wildly.

But…it is all worth it when you get to the falls!

If you go early enough, it can pretty much have the falls to yourself!  It is quite fun an amazing to be inches away from the falls.

and yes, you will get very wet and cold very fast, but it is a great quick hike when you need a quick getaway from the lockdown with a fast and safe hike.

If you want to check out some other great hiking locations in the snow, check out my postings on Cougar Mountain, Kendall Lakes and Gold Creek Pond.

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Toucan – Will it Change Business Conferences?

It is clear, we are not going to travel soon for business and even Bill Gates commented on CNBC that > 50% of business travel will disappear long term.

I have been watching tracking closely on my blog with a regularly updated posting and even some Vodcasts, but it is hard to predict what the future will be for business travel.

I do like and watch the weekly business travel briefing: https://www.businesstraveller.com/ which is very informative.  But I cannot see much changing for conferences any time soon.  Even with rapid testing prior to boarding, I think most conferences will be virtual in 2021.

The real concern/downfall/disappointment is the networking and hallway conversations that you have at conferences.  Really hard to replicate or simulate when virtual.  Slack channels and discord don’t really work well…

and then I was introduced to Toucan.  It was so different and so much comfortable having casual conversations that are not limited to one channel like Zoom.

and it is launching publicly for free with no limits on November 24th.  I think this is something that will be the tool for hallway, speaker and meetup conversations when conferences are live and occurring in the background.

Recommend checking it out.

 

 

 

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Vodcast – Lockdown free vacations?

Show notes:

WA State locking down again: https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/governor-jay-inslee-washington-state-new-restrictions-covid-19-coronavirus-spread/281-6aa36caa-8201-43ff-94de-127737049b8a

Will we have a Seahawks home game this year?  https://www.seahawks.com/

When to travel?  https://davidcrosstravels.com/2020/04/19/travel-covid-19/

WSJ – lockdown free locations on the beach: https://www.wsj.com/articles/travelers-seeking-lockdown-free-vacations-head-to-the-beach-11604491202

BI – what is the Delta lounge like during pandemic?  https://www.businessinsider.com/delta-sky-club-jfk-lounge-visit-tour-photos-details-2020-10

 

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1st Travel Vodcast!

Hello everyone – I decided it was time to try creating a weekly travel vodcast (video podcast) since we are all mostly locked down from international travel.

I thought this would be an easier way to inform and connect with the community on the updates on the ability to travel again.

I know this this is the first one and it was not well prepared, try to not be too brutal — I will promise to improve in coming weeks! 🙂

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