Travel During COVID-19
These are unprecedented times. These are unknown times. This is the new normal, but we'll get through it together. Let's just cut the shit. We're living through a clusterfuck right now and it isn't fun for anyone. No amount of cliché phrases can mask (ba dum tss) this fact, but doing what makes you happy can. For me, that's getting on a plane and seeing parts unknown.
This year, for the second time, my husband and I earned the Southwest Companion Pass. Just a reminder, the Companion Pass is a special travel deal where when we buy a flight for my husband, I get one for free - minus taxes, so it's about $10 for a roundtrip domestic flight. You'd spend more on a Chipotle burrito. So, we made an agreement that in 2020, we'd travel by plane somewhere in the U.S. at least once a month. January brought us to Orlando to celebrate my 32nd birthday at Disney World. February was supposed to bring us to Niagara Falls, but well... I forgot to book my companion flight and then the flight sold out. Making up for my utter lack of attention to detail, March was laying the foundation for two trips; one to Baltimore and the other to New York City.
Then, coronavirus took the world stage and put everyone's travel plans through the shredder, doused them in gasoline, threw in a match and burned down the venue before anyone could even see the opener. We were forced to quarantine and #staythefuckathome. Everything was closed. Some lost their jobs and some lost their sanity, while others worked from home and walked around their neighborhood for the 87th time. The commercials got cheesier, reminding us that during these unprecedented times, you might still need a new Toyota to go nowhere in because we're in this together. Made total sense. People posted their fears, doubts, hopes, anger, blame and shaming for all to read. Toilet paper was nowhere to be found thanks to hoarders. People started sewing homemade masks because, again, hoarders. The days blurred together and no one cared what day it was anymore. The times certainly were unprecedented. Can I use the word "unprecedented" one more time? Unprecedented. UN-PRE-CE-DEN-TED. OK, that was twice.
States started reopening in May and my wanderlust followed. Call me stupid, call me selfish or call me brave, I booked a Southwest flight for the middle of June to go home to California to celebrate Father's Day with my dad. I wasn't sure what to expect at the airport or on the plane because there's so much conflicting information available on The Google, but here's my experience.
Airports post signs encouraging social distancing and mask wearing, but it doesn't always happen and isn't enforced.
I flew through three different airports - Indianapolis, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Generally, 85% of my fellow travelers were wearing a mask inside the airport walking around; however, when people were seated socially distanced waiting for their flights, this seemed to be an invitation to remove the mask. Generally, more people wore masks in Los Angeles because of the local mandate, but some still had them off while seated around the airport. When walking around the airport, no one is really distancing themselves from each other.
It is mandatory to wear a mask boarding a plane and throughout the entire flight.
I flew Southwest and these were their rules. If you didn't have a mask, they would give you one. If you took off your mask in the middle of the flight, the flight attendant instructed you to put it back on, along with a "friendly reminder" announcement to the entire flight that masks are required the duration of the flight. Side note - it's really not so bad wearing the mask the whole time because the air was always so cool on the plane, so I didn't get overheated with my recycled breathing.
The airline doesn't voluntarily provide disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer.
Again, I flew Southwest and they weren't handing out packets with these items like other airlines I saw handing out in the news. Thankfully, I don't always rely on what I see on TV, so I packed my own sanitizer and wipes, so I was covered. Oddly enough, I didn't see any other person on my flights wiping down the seats, armrests or tray tables before they sat down.
You'll have a lot of space on the plane because the middle seats have to remain empty to encourage social distancing.
Granted, you're not six feet apart, but you're apart. The exception to this rule is if you're traveling with family and want to sit together; otherwise, everyone gets a little more elbow room and area to cross their legs. Let's be real - there really is no such thing as social distancing on a plane, but the extra space is lovely.
You'll board the plane in smaller groups, so everyone isn't rushing to the check-in counter at once.
Southwest has it's own boarding procedure that greatly differs from other airlines in that everyone is assigned a boarding group and number and you board chronologically. They still boarded sequentially, but would only allow 10 people through at a time. After you pass the ticket scanner and walk through the jetway to board the plane, no one is really socially distancing.
You're not offered a full drink service on the flight.
I had two differing experiences with this. Heading to California, I was given a can of water. Heading back to Indiana, I was given a cup of ice water. I couldn't choose a Diet Coke or purchase alcohol - a can/cup of water was it. Additionally, the drink menu has been removed from the seat pocket in front of you, so you really know you can't order anything.
Security lines are about the same.
I can't speak to this because I have TSA pre-check, so I always have a shorter wait time. My wait time this trip was per usual; however, I would imagine wait times aren't as long because there are less people traveling.
I missed the view from above.
|Somewhere over Arizona|
I got to California on time and enjoyed the days that followed eating some of my favorite West Coast food, going to the beaches, visiting a new tiki bar (some started opening in LA County) and spending time with my dad, family and friends. It felt just like the "olden days" that I've learned to miss so much.
|Deciding on a Tiki Drink|
The Bamboo Club - Long Beach, California
I'm back in Indianapolis and committed to quarantining myself for a couple of weeks just in case I am sick. I feel fine, but it's too soon to tell.
I decided to write this blog for those of you longing to travel again, but you're not quite sure if it's the right time, the right decision, if you're ready, if it's smart, etc. I decided I felt comfortable with the decision to travel again, so I did, but with precaution. A few of my friends also traveled by plane the same weekend as me, so that was comforting. I hope this blog is reassuring to you or maybe you still think I'm stupid, selfish, brave...
Whatever you decide, it'll be the right choice for you.