Vaccination for Travel: Part 1

The reality is travel is dependent on vaccinations, both personally and for the world. If we are not vaccinated, we are not likely to be allowed to travel to some locations, internationally or attend certain attractions.

Example – countries are starting to fight for vacationers who are vaccinated: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/vaccinated-travelers-in-demand/index.html

I have been anxious to get vaccinated as soon as I qualified and it turns out I met multiple criteria in the state of Washington. The earliest and most open is the fact that I am a US Navy veteran and enrolled in the VA health system due to my service. In WA state, one of the best tools that someone has created is the WA Vaccine Finder portal. It makes it much easier to find places that are available and you can schedule an appointment (when you qualify).

So what was my experience?

I was offered the first dose of Moderna. It fast and easy and not immediate reactions. A few hours later, my arm was definitely very sore. and 4-6 hours later, I do have to admit I started to feel a little fatigued and the joints feeling a little achy. No fever, no nausea. It might have just been a long work day combined with the vaccine.

I had a good nights sleep and Saturday’s are my long running day. That raised a question: should I still work out? Should I still go for a long run?

I sought out some advice and recommendations thanks to the Internet! 🙂

I found this article to be a good guide for myself. It all depends on how you feel. It is like when you have a cold or the flu. How do you feel? I felt a little achy and sore…and my injection arm HURT to the touch, but I wanted to go for a run.

I sought some additional information and it appears there are no risks or negative side effects for athletes continuing their routines after vaccination.

So I gave it a shot! the results? I did not feel up to running quite as long or as fast as normal, but I must admit that the run really helped to reduce the achy and painful joints and I felt much better after the run. It was a good choice and I would recommend to others to not fear any major side effects after their initial vaccination.

Update:  after 1 day and the run, I really felt no side effects outside of a sore arm and redness near the injection site.  This seemed to last about 3-4 days.

Stay tuned, I will report back after the second vaccination in about 4 weeks. One step closer to planning travel!

Second shot side effects now posted here!

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Snow Camping?

I guess snow this is a continued theme this travel season.  With continued lockdown and travel restrictions, we must continue to be careful and explore opportunities in our local area for short vacations and getaways.

Across the United States and the Seattle (mountains) area, the snow has been dumping!

We decided to pack up and head for the mountains and do some heavy duty snowshoeing and hiking into the mountains and doing a little snow camping for the weekend.

It is a little tricky getting into the mountains lately, so you must plan carefully and watch the weather as Snoqualmie Pass can get closed very quickly and have blockage due to avalanche prevention.  That is the easy part.  One you get off the highway, you have to plan that all roads will be closed and blocked.

It is OK, there are always porta a potties available as long as you have a good 4-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the slippery and snow covered roads.  I recommend if you are going to hike or camp, you travel very early because these access points are super popular on the weekends and many inexperienced people combined with non 4WD vehicles jam up, get stuck and block the roads very quickly.

We packed our heavy duty backpacks which weighted approximately 45 lbs for the needed provisions and clothes and strapped on the snow shoes for a 2 mile hike into the Gold Creek pond area.

It is quite a hike and a workout as the snow is DEEP and in many of the places, you will sink 2-3 down which is very tiring to lift your knees and snowshoes up so high to take the next step.

But the views and serenity you encounter on the way, is simply amazing.  Quiet, peaceful and tranquil.

Here is a great view of Heli’s Pond which was mostly frozen when we trekked north a little to see how it would look.

Quite a beautiful place to spend a morning.

Because we had to blaze a trail through very deep snow, we could not resist the temptation to create our own sledding path!

Here is the really weird thing we found on our hikes.  These very strange grey bugs that were quite common in the snow.  Anyone know what they are?

It is also good to pack not only some good vittles to heat up some good food to replace all the calories you burned during the hikes.  The cabins get buried in the 12 feet of snow, and sometimes it can be hard to even find them in all the drifts!

 

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Running in the Snow

OK – it is the annual snowmageddon in the Seattle area!

That pretty much means that there is no travelling this weekend.  Some people do not listen and as always think that if they own an SUV, they can handle snow much more easily than a regular car.  This one eventually gave up and backed down the hill once they realized that front wheel drive is not the same as true “all wheel drive”.

This trucker somehow had the illusion that they could go up a steep hill in 10 inches of snow as long as they built up speed and went faster.  Then they slid down and then got caught on the sidewalk curb and blocked all traffic in that direction.

OK – let’s talk about running in the snow! It is actually quite fun and a great workout.

One of my favorite snow runs was in Antarctica a few years ago.  I still have and use some of the same gear.  I also ran approximately the same distance – 5K in both cases.  When the snow gets deep (like today), it is a much harder workout.  You have to lift your knees higher and you have much more friction on the leg motion as the shoes drag in the snow.  The general rule of thumb I have found is that you will slow down approximately 1.5 minutes per mile from your normal running pace.

Let’s talk about gear.  I highly recommend Gore-Tex shoes.  They will surprisingly keep your feet dry and repel the snow quite well.  Myself, I prefer the Brooks Cascadia GTX.  I also recommend thick wool running socks.  They help to keep the snow from melting into your shoes and they keep your toes warm.

I know this is debatable, but there is the philosophy of do you run in other people’s tracks or do you blaze your own trail and only step in fresh snow?  It depends on your goal.  If you want a harder workout, the fresh trail will generate much more friction and require more energy to lift your shoes on each step.  Finding another runner’s trail and stepping in their indents in the snow will enable you to go much faster and not require as much energy to cover the distance.

Hint: bring a smartphone with a camera.  I still use my Lumia 820 running Windows Mobile.  It still supports podcast downloads, takes good pictures and is small enough to carry in my running belt.

Last, but not least, running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

 

 

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My Top 10 Travel Videos

I thought I would share a quick fun one this week.  What are the top 10 videos from my travels the past 25+ years based on views?  The number one will surprise you!

Here we go:

#10 As expected, it is related to the Lady Gaga concert we attended a few years ago.  Here was the entrance of Lady Gaga to the Park MGM hall.

#9 Continuing the theme from above, it is Lady Gaga and her popular Poker Face song.

#8 This one may surprise some people.  This was a great private introduction to a famous Opera singer when visiting the Opera House in Budapest, Hungary.

#7 I have to admit this was a fun one from a few years back when attending an attendee party at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.  Some people may disagree, but Paris Hilton was a fun DJ!

#6 This one goes way back to my military service and when the Spanish Air Force visiting the JFK Kennedy with some of their Harriers and I filmed them when taking off and landing on the flight deck.

#5 Ever hear of the carnival in Grenada every year?  It is pretty popular and so is this one video I took of some of the locals in the parade.

#4 This was the number one video on my YouTube channel for a while and after you watch/listen Lady Gaga see the song Shallow, you will know why!

#3 This is an older one of a cruise video that I converted from VHS tape to digital video from a 1992 cruise video for the CV-67 carrier.  Classic government video, but popular with many veterans.

#2 Related to the military service theme and aircraft carrier flight operations, this video has been growing in popularity with many with its daytime and nighttime launches and recoveries on the JFK.

OK – what is the number one video that has gone viral all of a sudden?  It is now starting to get 3K+ views a day for some reason!

In Chengdu China, some people can have the rare opportunity to feed panda bears by hand.  It is a bit dangerous and very sensitive.  And as a result, sometimes the interaction can be a little hilarious for some.  I will not spoil it, but if you watch the short video, I think you may get a giggle yourself and see why it has become popular.

What do you think?

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Benefits of a Platinum AMEX Card

I decided to share a different topic this week that might actually be interesting to many travelers.  Let’s talk about the American Express Platinum Card.

Disclaimer: I have not been solicited or been compensated for any endorsement or statements from any parties.

The Platinum AMEX is a very popular and useful card for active travelers.  It has many benefits like its Fine Hotels program, travel counselors and the concierge service.  So why in the world should you keep the card and pay the really high fees if you cannot travel due to the pandemic (COVID-19).

Well…there are lot of benefits to encourage you to keep the card.  Here is a list and believe me, I am using a LOT of them!  This one has recently expired, but it was a good one: AMEX gave you streaming credits for every month you used your Platinum card for services like Netflix, Disney+, HULU, etc.  It has gone, but maybe it will come back.

On to the active ones!

TSA Pre-Check:  First, lets start with Global Entry and TSA Pre-check for US travelers.  If you use your Platinum AMEX, the fees are reimbursed when you apply.  Major benefit, but a lot of other cards are offering this perk for some reason.

Uber:  Next on the travel side, if you link and use your Platinum AMEX in your Uber account, you receive $15 each month automatically loaded in your Uber Cash account plus a $20 bonus in December.

If you are not traveling and taking rides, you can use the cash for Uber eats orders in that month.  I do not think the money rolls over month to month though if you do not use it.  In addition, you automatically get an annual Uber Eats Pass when you have your Platinum AMEX as your payment card in Uber Eats.  Good benefit here if you are  frequent user.

PayPal:  Since many people are not travelling, here is a new one that is quite a surprise.  Through June 30, 2021 you can earn up to $30 in statement credits each month when you use your Platinum AMEX on PayPal.

Best Buy:  You can claim this one only twice, but when you purchase something online for $50 or more, you can get a $50 statement credit!

Home Depot:  Similar to Best Buy, you get a $50 statement credit on purchases of $50 or more for a maximum of two times at Home Depot.  I think it is a good idea to use these ones fast!

Dell:  I missed this one previously, but thanks to Ryan Sleevi, I have added the Dell special which gives you a $100 statement credit when purchasing from Dell.  It looks like it might apply to all American Express cards.

Wine Insiders: Spend $30+ on eligible purchases, get $30 back, up to two times.

If you add these up, they are worth more than the annual card fees! Know of any others?  Add a comment and I will update and spread the word!

Now, if you still do not like the fees, you can get a Platinum AMEX card for free (actually they reimburse you) if you open up a Platinum CashPlus account.  A win-win if you ask me.

 

 

 

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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.

I have updated this blog with a second trip in February, 2021.

The first good: with the new administration in the United States, masks are mandatory in all planes, busses and airports. We can expect far less “Karens” who refuse to wear masks while travelling.

The second 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. They are 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.

They also have cool UV sanitizers to clean your devices, cables, etc.

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 rooms were very comfortable, modern and very quiet. 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.

In Denver, and Colorado, they are allowed to keep gyms open.

Early in the morning, they were not crowded and it was easy to keep distant. Unfortunately, I would say only 25% of the people wore masks. Myself, I wore a sports mask. The more you train with one, the easier it is to wear one 100% of the time, even when running, working out, etc.

Uber/Lyft

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

 

 

Posted in International, planning, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

 

Posted in COVID-19, Travel | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments