Traveling during the Coronavirus pandemic - 2021 edition
The world is traveling again! Fully vaccinated Europeans are finally allowed back into the United States after an almost two-year travel ban. Italy has been open to travelers for months now. Even Australia is talking about opening its firmly shut borders.
Traveling is a privilege. It’s also a little bit more difficult these days. Here are a few observations from my month crisscrossing the US and flying over oceans for traveling during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are so many forms to fill out now.
You will need to check the rules for every country you are flying through, even if it is only for a few hours in transit. Mark had to test and fill out a form for a brief stopover in Spain and I had to fill out a UK passenger locator form for my few hours at Heathrow.
My pro-tip: The EU locator form is easier to fill out on your computer than on your phone. Save your work at every.single.step. or you will have to start from the beginning.
A lot of people are traveling and it is only going to get busier. Almost every flight I took was full and asked for volunteers to free up seats. Despite all the news stories, my experience was that people are kind and wear their masks on airplanes.
I used Verifly in both directions. It made every step infinitely easier.
Sherpa is also a useful site to figure out visa/testing/vaccine requirements.
Every single flight (mostly on American Airlines; their customer service via Twitter is top-notch, British Airways is mostly a bot) was on time, even after a weekend of mass cancellations. I flew on 10 flights through 8 airports. My two hometown airports, Fiumicino and McGhee Tyson are both the best. The part of the newly refurbished Laguardia that I flew through is wonderful (yay for Juniors Cheesecake and Shake Shack!), I just wish it was better connected to Manhattan. I would not choose to fly through Philadelphia again.
The planes are full, but the airports are not. Not everything is open and many shops and restaurants shut early, like at 5pm early. To make sure you don’t go hungry, plan ahead or bring a snack.
I changed a lot of timezones. I use the app Timeshifter. You should too.
Service in restaurants is slow. In LA busboys & dishwashers are servers now, in NY it’s difficult to find & keep staff.
Be patient, tip well.
Covid-TestingCovid-testing is available in the US, but it can be complicated.
In New York and California, it was easy peasy to find free testing centers and get results quickly. You do not need to pay the outrageous prices at one of the fancy-looking clinics that have popped up in mid-town. In Tennessee, information was confusing, but actually getting tested was pretty straightforward. I booked online at both CVS (note: You may not be able to access this if you have a foreign SIM card in your phone. I had to use my laptop) and Walgreens. You do the test yourself, in the car, with the nurse watching you. CVS sent the results via their online portal in about 24 hours. I’m am still waiting for my Walgreens results (it’s going on 3 days now)