Travel and COVID

Planning to travel during COVID raises several questions.  Personally, I’m pretty COVID-cautious so feeling safe and protected as best as possible while traveling is extremely important to me.  Among the questions I asked myself as I prepared to travel to Miami and the Florida Keys were:

How serious will the airports and airlines take their stated COVID protocols?

At the Oklahoma City airport, the crowd at security was pretty low. I had to pull my mask down briefly for TSA to match my face to my ID, but otherwise, TSA was smooth and physically distant.  

At the gate it was a mix of people fully masked and people with their nose sticking out. There was a group of 12 or so passengers who didn’t have their masks on much at all.  They were, however, all traveling together and stood away from the main gate area prior to boarding.  

The DFW airport was similar to Oklahoma City. Groups traveling together often had their masks down below their chins, but they sat removed from the larger boarding section.

I was most impressed with the Miami airport. Easily 95% of the people in the airport were fully masked (noses and mouths) everywhere I looked.

The airline worked to keep passenger groups spread out during the boarding process and all passengers had their mouth and nose covered once on board. The flight attendants kept an eye on it during the flight and made reminder announcements when needed.

A small bottle of water, Biscoff cookies, and sanitizer wipes

For the flight to Dallas there was no food or drink service (usually it’s only long enough for a drink to be served).  Food service between Dallas and Miami was a bottle of water and a biscotti in a bag which the flight attendant passed out during the boarding process. With only 2 hours and 45 minute for the flight time, I was fine with the limited service.

Disembarkation on arrival is still pretty clumped with minimal physical distancing.  I’m not sure how the airlines could do this better since everyone wants off the plane the minute it lands and going by rows could cause a missed connection.  If being close to other passengers as you wait to disembark is concerning to you, allow extra time between connections so you can wait as other passengers leave the plane.

How COVID-safe will I feel at my destination?

I was again impressed by the services as the Miami airport. Dollar car rental workers were masked through the entire pick up process as well as when the car was returned.

I stayed in four different hotels during my time in Florida.

  • The Reach, a Curio Collection in Key West, has a restaurant on site that offered outside dining. The wait staff and host were masked and patrons were distanced.  At the pool and on the beach, once guests were settled, masks could be removed, but in the lobby and moving between locations required masking.  There was space between the beach chairs and reminders to distance.  Keyless check-in through the Hilton app minimized time at the front desk.  They also provided adequate access to sanitizer and reminders for limiting the number of people in elevators.
  • In Marathon, the Hampton Inn had reminders to limit elevator capacity, contactless check in, and boxed breakfast.  I didn’t have the Hilton clean seal on my door when I arrived, which was disappointing, but the room was clean and it didn’t appear anyone had been in since the cleaning process was finished.
  • The Baker’s Cay Resort, a Curio Collection, in Key Largo is a large beach-side resort.  The contactless check in through the Hilton app did not work for me with this resort, but check in took place in my car at the resort entrance gate.  This still allowed a limited exposure to others.  Masks were required except while dining, at the pool, or at the beach.  Resort employees were serious about masking. I overheard the beachside bartender tell a guest that she needed to put on her mask before she came up to order.  Hand sanitizer and outdoor dining were easily accessible.
  • In Miami, the Marlin hotel required in person check-in, but masks were required to enter the building and the check in process was quick.  They had reminders to distance, reminders to limit the number of people in the elevator, hand-sanitizer available, and had lessened their in-room cleaning during the stay to help limit the number of people in and out of rooms.  The only change I would like to see is correcting the valet’s masking.  He didn’t wear his mask inside my rental as he pulled up nor when bringing me the key.
Miami COVID signage
Miami Beach

I also took part in an organized tours of the Everglades and the Marathon Turtle hospital. 

  • The Everglade: The airboat usually holds 25. The staff said they were limiting the seating to half capacity but there were 20 people on my boat.  Masks were not required on the boat since it was open-air.  I kept my mask on and there was only my fellow traveling companion in my row, so it was still okay.  The tour company required masks inside their building where guests purchase tour tickets, food, and souvenirs.  Masks were not required on the ground outside the main building.
  • The Turtle hospital: They’ve limited their guided tours to half capacity. This allowed for spreading out inside the educational center. Their waivers are available online to limit touching the iPads inside their checkin area and asked were required for all guests and guides. Even the staff nurses wore masks.

Will the the other tourists follow the city ordinances?

The city ordinance of Key West requires masking inside or outside when you’re within 6 feet of another person.  During the day about 85% of the time this was followed.  However, night on Duval Street was not a place for the COVID cautious. At best 5% of people walking around were masked.  Restaurant capacities were full in most cases as well.  There is not a lot of room on Duval to spread out making distancing at the restaurants difficult.  While waiting for the sunset in Mallory Square face masks were also rare.  If it’s important for you to be away from unmasked strangers, staying inside a Key West resort, especially in the evening, would be the safest option.

In Marathon and Key Largo most of my time with other people was at restaurants, which were nicely spaced out, and at the hotel/resort pools.  There were no issues in either place.

As with the airport, I was most impressed with Miami. The city ordinance requires masking at all times unless working out or eating.  It was a very rare occasion when I saw someone without a mask on while walking around Miami. At restaurants people were masked except when eating, servers were masked, and tables were spread out.  While in the area I visited South Beach, Mid-Beach, North Bech, Surfside, Wynwood, and downtown Miami. In all locations the people of Miami and my fellow tourists appeared COVID-serious as they followed the protocols.  Hands down, I would come back again without hesitation.

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Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami

The decision to travel during COVID is extremely personal.  Whether you choose to plan now and travel later or plan now and travel now, KaliKosmos Travel would love the opportunity to show you the Professionally Planned Travel difference.  Contact us today and let us work for you.

The Hair Goes RV-ing

My family has the goal of visiting all 48 contiguous states before my oldest, now a senior in high-school, goes to college. 

Cruise America RV

COVID closures, reduced flight capacity, and the unknowns from the virus threatened to delay our 2020 summer travel plans.

Enter “Harvey” the RV.

I’ve never traveled by RV before. It’s really not anything that interested me before this summer.  But, it was the answer to the question of how to see the 8 most western states in the middle of the pandemic.  

In a COVID world, with an RV, we had our own place to sleep, cook, eat, go to the bathroom, shower, hang out, and drive all without being near people outside our bubble.

For those planning to take an RV trip, here are some tips we learned along the way.

1. Know Your Rental Plan Pricing

The price of our RV rental was based on the number of days and the total number of miles we expected to drive.  For our rental if we drove over the pre-paid number of miles, the price per mile was higher.  If your rental plan is like ours was, to allow for spontaneous detours, plan the route and then generously round up.  For a example, we expected to drive about 5300 miles.  We prepaid for 5500.00.  We actually drove 6205.00.  

If there is no difference in mileage cost prepaid or postpaid, rounding up may not be warranted. With our rental there was no refund for unused miles.  Had we driven 5305.00 we would not have been refunded 195 miles.

Know how the rental plan pricing works and make the most of it.

Two boys facing away from the camera, at Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah

2. Pick up the RV a day early.

This could add a little to the price (it did for us) but the benefits outweigh the cost.  We plugged in the RV’s electrical system to the house allowing the RV fridge to cool overnight.  We also had time to consider the best way to pack up the vehicle.  Another bonus to packing at home is that we reused home storage bins for the RV. 

3. Rent Round Trip

We had issues with Harvey part way through the trip. The rental company was amazing to work with and got us back on the road as quickly as possible.  But the new RV had quirks. The water heater didn’t really work, the sewer wouldn’t completely drain, and we found water leaking inside one morning. 

When we retuned Harvey 2, the woman at the rental agency said that’s normally how it is with one way rentals. The dealer will send out their “problem child” on a one way because they won’t have to hear about the issues when it’s returned.

If you’re able to rent round trip, your chances of getting a problem child are, apparently, less.

Yellowstone National Park

4. It’s a truck

The RV was basically the cab of a truck welded on to the RV body. This meant the “RV part” was not wired in to the “truck part” like you’d have with higher-end RVs.  The result is that the radio speakers and air conditioner are only in the front “truck part.”  

The mix tape is a huge part of our in-the-car-time on these trips, so front radio speakers would not do.  We solved the speaker issue by bringing a small Bluetooth speaker.  

In the cooler areas, like Montana and Idaho, we didn’t have an issue with the A/C, but the RV part definitely got hot when we travel across Arizona and New Mexico.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a solution to the A/C issue but – you’ve been warned.

The truck part/RV part also means it can get pretty loud inside. When we drove through 45 mph wind gusts and down bumpy roads everything would shake and rattle.  You just kind of get used to it.

Four kids in front of a spray-painted bus with "COVID Days" written on the bus.
COVID Days

5. If you can, tow a car.

We did not. With our family size, we had to rent the largest RV. I can’t imagine trying to keep the RV in line AND tow a car. It would be hard. But since we didn’t have a car there were places we couldn’t go (like driving through the giant redwoods in California or down Lombard Street in San Francisco) and when we did go somewhere we ALL went. There was no making a fast run for coffee in the morning or a late-night snack run- we were like a turtle and the whole house came along.

6. Consider reservations.

This is especially true if you’ll need a spot over the weekend or on a holiday (FYI Father’s Day is both). In most places there are more RV parks than will actually show on KOA website or RV Life app. This allows for flexibility and driving as much as you’d like until you find a place to stop. BUT doing so also means you could end up without a place to stay.  

If you go without reservations at all, each time you have access, fill up on gas (so you can run the generator), empty your black and grey water, and top up your water tank.  This will make the best of a Walmart parking lot campout or dry docking* at an RV park for the night.

Also, if amenities are a factor, you’ll 100% want to plan out and have reservations. There are some amazing RV parks that have lovely amenities. Those places go first. The dark woods with no water hook ups off the two-lane road in the middle of Montana- those are the ones left for the seat-of-your-pants drivers.

four boys by a large Redwood tree
Redwood Forest, California

7. Don’t forget to pack:

– disposable gloves. You’ll need to dump the black water (bathroom waste) and grey water (sink and shower water) pretty regularly. When you do, trust me, you’ll want gloves and you’ll want to throw them away when the job is done.

– a bath mat. Harvey the RV had a shower that worked pretty well (if you’re under 6’3″) but there’s not much of a place to dry off after. Putting the bath mat down helped the floor stay dry as we all cycled through the shower.

– twine and clothes pins.  We used the clothes pins to attach the trash bag to a cabinet handle and keep our little artists’ papers together, but the twine and clothes pins also allowed us to hang dry wet clothes.

boy with two cherries and a COVID mask.

– a laundry bag. We hung a communal bag on a peg to keep the clean from the dirty. Part way through the drive we used the laundry facilities at an RV park to clean the clothes.  The bag helped us transport the clothes back and forth from the laundry room.

– bedding. The kids just used sleeping bags with a top sheet and an extra blanket. This made packing up easier in the morning since each person could roll up their bedding and store it for the day.  But the master bed was a different story. It felt great at the end of the day to crawl into an actual bed with actual sheets.  

Sheet clips are also helpful. The master bed was not completely queen size and not very thick so the sheets didn’t want to stay on like they would on a thick mattress.  The clips help hold it all in place. 

If you’re picky about your bed, lay on for a bit the night before you leave. You may want to add an eggcrate topper or something extra.  The mattress works, but it wouldn’t win any awards.

a dad with four boys around a campfire in Utah
Around the campfire in southern Utah

 – firewood. We tried to start a fire in our site’s fire pit one evening and it wasn’t pretty.  We had no wood with us and the kindle around the site was too wet.  Trying to start a fire with cardboard boxes and paper we snuck from the artists’ box didn’t work very well.  The nice man a few slots over noticed our attempts and took pity on us. Learn from others, bring wood.

– an extension cord. Most nights pulling into the hook ups wasn’t a problem.  But, one night, moments after a close call with a utility pole, we were expected to back in between two large trees and hug close to the RV parked directly behind us.  To avoid disaster we pulled in instead. This left us a few inches shy on the electrical hooks up.  Because we had an extension cord we could navigate the difference and still have power.


From the other side of the experience, I can say- it wasn’t half bad.  I don’t mean I’m looking to sell my house and live on the open road, but I can definitely see the appeal.

Crater Lake, Oregon
At Crater Lake, Oregon

*dry dock – when an RV park allows you to park for the night without any water, sewer, or electrical hook ups.  The price is lower when dry docking.

COVID 19: What Airlines Are Doing

May is here and many stay a home orders are lifting. As they do, people will start to travel again.

For those who are comfortable traveling at this time, the travel world you return to will be different than the travel world you left. Below are details of how several major US airlines are adapting to provide health and safety in the age of COVID19.

Please remember that, like the COVID19 situation itself, the measures airlines take to keep passengers healthy are fluid and evolving. If you have travel coming soon, please check with your KaliKosmos Travel advisor on what you need to know.

Alaskan Airlines

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 11.*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

American Airlines

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 11.*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

Delta Airlines

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 4.*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

jetBlue

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 4.*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

Southwest Airlines

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 11.*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

United Airlines

*Face masks/coverings required beginning May 4*

See airline’s COVID readiness details here.

COVID-19

KaliKosmos Travel understands the concerns surrounding COVID-19 and especially how it relates to travel.

When we work with you to make your travel dreams become a reality, our service does not end when the reservation is finalized.  We are here for our clients through the entire process: before, during, and after travel is complete.  We advocate for our clients. This is true when all is right with the world, and especially when it’s not.


Updates:

On March 19 the Department of State advised U.S. citizens to “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the US should arrange for immediate return.” Contact your KaliKosmos Travel advisor to discuss options for any upcoming travel arrangements.

On March 12, 2020 the a Presidential proclamation was given that limited travel to the US from certain countries and limited which airports will accept repatriation of US citizens.

On March 11, 2020 the CDC issued a Level 3 warning for all international travel. This does not mean that travel cannot take place, only that non-essential travel is discouraged. The CDC’s warning also does not mean travel vendors are offering refunds, but many are offering modified change and cancellation penalty options.


Should you travel?

We understand that, given the current concerns, the decision of whether to travel or not is deeply personal and multifaceted. We respect this and want to help our clients have access to the most factual and up-to-date information to help you make the best decision for you and those traveling with you.

We recommend that you monitor

These sources will help guide you to make the best decision based on your comfort level and travel plans. 

Consider if you have any special circumstances such as health or immune system issues or pregnancy. Those types of risk assessments are important when deciding to travel anywhere, any time, but are especially important to consider now. People with compromised health are at greater risk for coronavirus infection.

What about travel insurance?

As you decide if you should postpone or cancel your trip, please review your travel insurance policy description of coverage. Many insurance plans don’t cover coronavirus under their standard coverage.

If you purchased your insurance through Travelguard, information about the virus and their coverage can be found here. For specific questions regarding coverage, Travelguard can be contacted at 1.800.826.5248. Please have your policy number handy.

If you decide to travel:

If you do travel in and around impacted locations, be prepared to follow the CDC recommendations for health screenings and quarantines. Please also travel with an extra 14 days of required medication in case your travel time is extended.

Whether traveling domestically or internationally, we encourage you to purchase travel insurance for an additional layer of protection. 

If you decide not to travel:

In the end, only you can decide if now is a good time for you to travel, but don’t assume you’ll have to skip your trip all together. If you are uncomfortable traveling to a certain destination or at this time, talk with us. We’re here to listen and help. Together we can we can find another place or season for you to travel that can give you a similar experience.

If you purchased travel insurance always file a claim just in case, even if you think your reason for cancellation may not be covered.


As always, we are here with you and for you. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions you have. We are here to help find answers and help you make the most informed decision possible about your travel plans.