Traveling has been more difficult in the past two years than any time my generation can recall, and sometimes, it just all goes wrong.
Shifting Entry Requirements Force Cancellations
As the world shows signs of shutting down again, traveling can be a game of whack-a-mole. For example, France just closed its borders to the UK regardless of vaccination status or negative COVID-19 test result unless visiting family for a compelling reason. Greece just changed its requirements for entry for everyone, now requiring children over the age of five (previously 12) to submit a negative COVID result before entry.
The list goes on, and there’s no need to examine each one. My wife and daughter have not been on an international flight in two years, and I haven’t been on one in nearly as long. While summer would have been a better time to go, admittedly, I didn’t think that the lockdowns would happen again given the availability of the vaccine, declining positive results/deaths/hospitalizations, and the new COVID pill.
That’s, unfortunately, not the world we live in, but we aren’t content to stand on the sidelines anymore. Knowing this, however, we also are aware of what happens to best-laid plans.
Ours were about to change.
Full Resuscitation Mode
Our travel plans changed just 48 hours prior to departure, we had to switch arrival countries and methods. Fearing additional changes, we opted to move our flights up one day and change destinations with a number of switches and changes.
First, we spoke with our carrier to learn what was available on different routes to nearby destinations. While I was on the phone with them, my wife checked train schedules for times, costs, and options. After the flights were changed, it was on to the hotel who had the same room available a night earlier for the same cost, and finally a rental car switch by one day.
We also had to find COVID testing that could see us the day of travel and provide rapid results without charging an arm and a leg.
Within two hours we had completely adjusted a significant portion of our travel plans we made months in advance. And just like that, we had a very different trip.
When I Knew
I’m not sure if I have shared this story on the blog before, but regardless, I am going to share it now. When my wife and I were just dating and unbelievably young (22 and 23) we took a trip we would never take now. It was five cities in five different countries in just nine days. That trip was built using Ryan Air and EasyJet like some people use a rail pass. Each trip was dependant on the other. For example:
- Fly Chicago to London Heathrow (stay overnight)
- London Stanstead to Madrid to Tangiers
- Tangiers to Madrid
- Madrid to Paris
- Paris to London
- Day trip to Amsterdam
- London to Chicago
But EasyJet and Ryan Air don’t offer connections so if you book them as connections, you’re essentially on your own if something goes wrong.
And, of course, something went wrong. EasyBus, sold by and owned by EasyJet but also not responsible for delays they cause that may force you to miss your EasyJet flight (naturally) arrived with too little time to make our flight to Madrid and then our onward flight to Tangiers. Counter staff was unmoved by my tale of why we arrived late and had nothing to Madrid for some time.
In what might be the most generous offering ever made by EasyJet staff to any customer, they offered to protect us on the next day’s flight to Tangiers from Madrid while keeping our connection and a short change fee if we wanted to try to make a flight to Barcelona. It wasn’t free and we had to make the decision right then and there. Even then, we would be on our own to get from Barcelona to Madrid to make that connection and at our own cost (we were young and broke) which added to the risk.
It’s important to note that we were traveling with a 20-page dossier holding all itineraries, hotel reservations, train tables, and small maps because this was a time before smartphones. Barcelona wasn’t in the notes and we were completely hanging in the wind, but then again, the trip was botched if we couldn’t get to Madrid anyway.
This was my wife’s first international trip of any kind, we were from Nebraska and adventure and risk were not really baked into our upbringing. I looked at her and told her the option to go to Barcelona with zero guarantees and no idea how we would make it work and asked her what she wanted to do. “Let’s go to Barcelona,” she said. We grabbed the flights to Barcelona which became one of our favorite cities in the world and in the end, it all worked out.
I knew right there in London Stanstead (or was it Luton?) that I would marry her if she’d have me. Not six months later, we did just that, and four days after walking down the aisle at our wedding we walked down the aisle of a 737 and moved in only suitcases to our new life in Manchester, England.
Why did I mention all of this with the COVID changes? Because all of these years later (almost 14 since that day in a north London airport) plans changed on the fly and we had to make quick, difficult decisions on the fly. Just as she had been before, there she was again, ready to dive in, save the trip, and go on an unexpected adventure.
Lucy, a bit jet-lagged and wary of walking in London had just one thing she wanted to see while there. We didn’t know we would be there, so it was an added bonus, but as you can tell from her tearful expression, it was a disappointment.
Travel plans right now are just destined to change, shift, and sour. We have to be flexible if we choose to go out to the world, and adaptive as the world grapples with how to fight, treat, or accept the COVID world we now find ourselves living in two years since the first virus was reported. If you are flexible, and especially if you have a partner like I do, it will all work out just fine in the end.
What do you think? Have your travel plans changed recently? What did you do about it?