As a travel agent and travel enthusiast, 2020 travel bans have been sheer agony on a personal and professional level. After carefully planning nearly 50 vacations for my clients, ALL required cancellation and/or rebooking in the midst of prime Spring Break season. As bans begin to lift and restrictions loosen, travel has changed, perhaps forever, requiring preparation and awareness. So I “hit the road” to experience air, hotel and rental car travel in today’s world to provide a first-hand update along with travel tips from my first trip after the virus whose name shall not be spoken.
Pre-Trip Tasks I took advantage of technology prior to and during our trip to reduce contact for air, hotel and rental car check-ins. I downloaded boarding passes to my phone (or you could print it at home), which has been a standard practice. I also completed online check-in for a park/sleep/fly airport hotel which offers the opportunity to skip the front desk and open the room with a cell phone app. Going this route also allows you to select your own room at most hotels - a high floor, 2-3 doors down from the elevator is perfection! Upon arriving at our destination, picking up our rental car was a breeze with Alamo’s Skip the Counter pre-arrival check in which enables you to go straight to the lot to access your car and be on your way!
At the Airport With this being our first visit to the airport since early March, we allowed an extra 30 minutes, arriving at Chicago Midway airport a few minutes after 5 am for our 7 am departure time. There were signs throughout the airport encouraging masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Despite the signs, approximately 15% of the people we encountered did not wear a mask.
The procedures at the self-check in kiosk, airline counter, checked bag drop and security were all routine and pretty much as it was before other than the new plexiglass counter barriers and 6ft markers on the floor. The only inconvenience we encountered was limited food service options. The few quick service options available were in the A terminal. All other quick service food and all table service restaurants were closed throughout the airport. (Water bottle filling stations were still available.) With extremely limited food and beverage service on flights (canned water only), this was the last stop for coffee. Even with the extra jaunt for breakfast and coffee, we had plenty of time to eat before the boarding announcement.
We flew Southwest with boarding positions A25 and A26. (Click here for more information on Southwest Boarding procedures: https://mobile.southwest.com/boarding-the-plane) Instead of asking all of group A, B or C to line up, groups of 10 were called and boarded the plane one at a time. Although the media has mentioned full flights in the past few weeks, approximately 1/3 of all seats were open. Southwest gate agents encouraged leaving the middle seat open upon boarding unless traveling with family members.
The plane was exceptionally clean, but we still wiped our seat, tray table, seat belt, arm rests, etc. with an antibacterial wipe. The airplane bathrooms were also immaculate. The flight crew and most passengers that we observed wore masks for the duration of the flight. Although I dreaded having to wear a mask for the 3-hour flight, after a while I got used to it. I found myself lifting my coffee to my mouth several times with my mask still on, forgetting that I was wearing it!
Destination Airport Arrival
Arriving at Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport was uneventful but exciting! Signs about masks, social distancing and hand washing were also present here. There were no social distance markers on the floor indicating 6 feet in the baggage claim area but everyone kept their distance. We noticed the same ratio of mask wearers (approx. 85%) verses no mask (15%). After collecting our checked luggage, we were through the airport and in our rental car in under 20 minutes which is typical of our experience in the past. Surprisingly, we didn’t notice any enhanced cleaning measures information from the rental car company but we may have missed it because we used the Skip the Counter self-check-in.
Summary of Travel Tips
Pack antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, lip balm for dry lips due to mask and hand lotion (or Aquaphor) for dry hands due to sanitizing.
The liquid limits have changed allowing airline passengers one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces, in carry-on bags. For up-to-date information on this and other new post-virus guidelines visit: https://www.tsa.gov/news/press/releases/2020/05/21/tsa-prepared-summer-travelers-updated-security-procedures
Pack your own snacks and bring a water bottle to fill at the airport due to limited food and beverage service at the airport and in flight.
Have your travel agent help with recommendations on hotel and rental car options that provide low-contact check-ins.
Check out this germaphobe survival kit offering great suggestions for other ways to sanitize your travel experience and stay healthy: https://www.smartertravel.com/products-for-germaphobes-survival-kit/
I hope this summary of my first-hand experience traveling from Madison, WI to Fort Lauderdale, FL along with corresponding travel tips helps you prepare for and start planning your next destination. It’s time to head to Hollywood Beach! Check out this video of the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, my first stop in my 7-day “road trip” in Florida: https://youtu.be/jKi8-Am-d14
Holly Poast, CTA is an agent/independent contractor with Magical Moments
Vacations specializing in Disney
Destinations (land and sea), the Caribbean, select European Markets and Alaska. Ready to plan your next adventure? Contact Holly for inspiration and complimentary concierge-style vacation planning services! Ready to get started? Schedule time to chat here: https://calendly.com/hollypoast/30min