Travel has changed. While I was still excited about heading overseas, I feel the logistics of travelling since Covid takes a bit of the edge off the excitement. For those of you who don’t follow us on Facebook I’ll catch you up. I’ve travelled to the US, Florida and Arizona to be precise. It’s a work trip for Travel Without Limits magazine so I’m travelling solo. Braeden’s inability to wear a mask, and his desire to befriend everyone he meets, means taking him on a plane still concerns me while we are living with a pandemic.
I thought I’d share the travel process in the hope it may assist some of you if you are considering travelling overseas. Obviously, the pandemic means the rules are constantly shifting and what’s relevant as I write this, may be out of date by the time you read this. Given the regular changes in relation to travel requirements, I made the decision to book through a travel agent who could keep me up to date and assist me if needed. When I received my tickets I also received an email listing the processes I needed to complete, including getting an international vaccination certificate and the necessary Covid testing information for entry into the US.
Before I even booked my airline ticket I applied for and paid for my travel insurance. To receive cover for Covid related changes or cancellations, Covermore Insurance (the company I chose to book through) required that an insurance policy be taken 21 days prior to departure. After this time, they would not cover Covid related changes. Tip – if you are likely to do a few trips, it’s worth looking into an annual policy. Not only does it save filling out the form numerous times, it can also save you money. You really need to carefully compare. Also, make sure you declare any existing medical conditions. If in doubt, list a condition.
Covid testing for travel
For entry into the US, Australian travellers are required to have a negative Covid test no more than one day before travel. I’ve seen many people posting in travel forums that they have tested positive on the day of departure which obviously ruins plans and causes great disappointment. As a result I decided to isolate myself as much as possible for the two weeks prior to departure and put a hold on any plans. With Amelia at university, Mark at work and Braeden out and about (only outdoor outings) it has still been a nerve wracking process. In Australia you are required to isolate for 7 days if you test positive to Covid so I took several RATs in advance of my trip to ensure I wasn’t A-symptomatic.
For the certified travel Covid test I opted for a supervised virtual rapid antigen test which I booked via Rapid Test Australia (no affiliation) and could do the night before in the comfort of my home over Zoom. It was a simple process to book online and cost $40. At the time of booking the company provided me with information about what I needed to have ready for the test. The lady supervising my test was pleasant and walked me through the process. I had to hold up the test and be in view at all times. The test was recorded. Once the test was negative I received an email certificate.
I travelled to the US with Delta Airlines and was offered the option to upload my vaccination certificate and negative Covid test result online. This simplified the check in process and I gather by my chat with the airline staff not many people opt to upload documentation ahead of check in. The extra documentation seemed to be holding up the check in of many using other airlines and that resulted in many stressed travellers in the immigration queue who were cutting it close with their flight’s boarding time. There was queue jumping, cranky fellow passengers and high anxiety for many. My advice is to upload the documentation if you can to save delays at the airport. I’d also avoid having the test at the airport on your day of travel. Although I’ve heard it’s a seamless process I don’t think another element needs to be added to the travel day if a perfectly good solution can be found, like home testing.
In Australia it is still a requirement to wear a mask within airport terminals and on flights. I had planned ahead and had two types of N95 masks. I had the usual over-the-ears masks and some which go around the back of the head. I find my ears ache wearing the ones over the ears for several hours. When I got on the plane I changed to the mask that went behind my head and stuck with that for the flight. In Sydney I’d estimate around 95% of travellers were wearing masks. The majority of people seemed to keep it on during the flight too. In the US masks are not required in airport terminals or on flights and the majority of people are not wearing them. I had my mask on, except for eating which meant I had one door-to-door which was approximately 24 hours. I was extremely happy to part ways when I arrived in my hotel room.
I’ve only been in the US for two days so I have limited experience with how things are, but life in the theme parks is pretty much business as usual. Perspex remains in some situations but meet and greets with characters are back and aside from hand sanitiser stations dotted around the park and some Disney cast members wearing masks, life is “normal”. I’m still extremely cautious and wear a mask on the bus to the park, on any rides which are enclosed or anywhere that I find is super busy. It’s hot and humid though so my top tip is to arrive at the parks early and take a break at lunchtime when it seems at the busiest.
I’m staying in a Disney hotel and they provide enhanced cleaning and even the television’s remote control is wrapped in plastic as a sign it is clean. I’ve chosen not to have my room serviced every day as a way to control my environment a little. All housekeeping staff that I have seen wear a mask so I’m sure it’s fine but given I’m only in my room for three nights cleaning is really not necessary.
The other thing which hasn’t changed about travel is the wonderful feeling of being somewhere different, exploring new sights and hearing different accents and languages. Travel is back and while it’s changed, the rewards have not.
I’m keen to hear how others have felt when taking the plunge back into international travel.