05 November 2021

Traveling For The First Time Since Pandemic

 Like most of us, many have not traveled in almost two years.  The last time I was on a plane was the Winter of 2019, just before things were shut down.  That was just a domestic flight, so no big deal.  The last international flight for me was late 2018.

I just got back from a quick business trip from US to UK, then to Switzerland, and back.  That is four plane trips in three countries over five days.  This worked out to be over 11,800 miles and almost 24 hours sitting in a plane. Fun times!

Because of all that has happened the last two years, things have changed.  There are many forms to fill out, and many apps to download to make your travel experience a lot...easier...and stressful.  You pretty much need to be vaccinated in order to travel and/or enter another country.  If you happen to be one of the 'red flagged' countries...good luck with that. 

Side note:  Plane tickets are relatively cheap, it is the taxes that make it seem expensive.  The itemized breakdown of the tickets show that about half the cost is just in taxes.  Yikes!

Here is a fun tip.  If you happen to have 'special dietary needs', remember to request that when booking your tickets.  I usually go with vegetarian, just to be safe, since I am a picky eater.  No meat for me, but I can go with seafood.  I doubt they would serve seafood on a plane.  

While the plane will usually have a selection of meals, options like vegetarian meals may run out, depending on how far back in coach you are sitting.  When you pre-order a meal, you get served first.  Yeah, while everyone is waiting for the cart to roll to them and hope for some good choices, you are already munching down on some sweet plane food.  I actually like the food that is served on the plane.  Maybe because, the special meals are better prepared...or just easier not to mess up.

Also, this is a good time to travel, since not everyone is traveling.  You, like me will mostly get a whole row to yourself.  It seems like the airlines are assigning seats with an empty seat in between, then filling those when/if needed.  I was lucky to have the whole row on three of the four flights, and on both long haul flights.  Yay!

Traveling to UK

Going to visit the Queen?  You will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form.  Whether you are transferring at a UK airport, or staying for a bit, you need this form.  This form is a little tricky to fill out, as there are many questions regarding your heath status.  One thing you will need is a Booking Number.

What is a Booking Number?  The UK wants you to be tested to really make sure you do not have the cooties.  So, you will need to book a testing either in person or by self via mail.  How do they know you are going to be tested?  Well...this is open to debate.  You are required to have that booking number, but it really does not say that it is required to actually take the test.  Hmm...loop holes.

But!  But, you will need a negative test, within 3 days of travel, to return to the US. So, you should take that test.  Oh, me?  Yeah, I took the home version and mailed it.  It has been about three weeks, I still have not received results from them.

Pro tip:  If you are flying British Airways, download the VeriFly app, as it will help you through security.

Traveling to Switzerland

I traveled to Switzerland from the UK, so things might be different depending on where you are arriving from.  There where no special forms to fill out or yet another app to download.  

But!  But, you will need a special form, proof of vaccination, to enter certain facilities, like restaurants.  Out of all the forms and QR codes printed and saved on my phone, this was the only one that was actually scanned.  Most of the time, they just do a quick glance at your form to make sure you have it filled out, then send you on your way.

Since I was heading back to US in two days, I needed to take a COVID-19 test, and needed fast results.  There are stations at airports that will provide this service.  Very quick, very easy...but not cheap.  Cost was $75.  Yikes!  Results are emailed to you within the hour.

Of course, you will need these results to fill out more forms before you are allowed to fly into the US.  Still waiting on those results from the test I took in the UK.  Okay, this is probably my fault...I may have forgotten to fill out the information on the test tube.  Hey, there were a lot of steps to register the kit, and after partying for a few days until 4AM, I missed an important step.  Or, maybe the people I left it with, did not put it in the post for me.

So, there you have it.  A quick reference to international travel.  Check with the airline and local government for up to date requirements before traveling.  There is a lot more to do, but relatively easy.  Heck, if I was able to do it, anyone can.  Good luck and have a fun and safe trip.

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