We have all seen the pictures on the news and social media of empty airports, social distancing on planes and even some packed flights. All airlines have come out with guidelines, but don’t assume they are following the same rules! After reading through some of the guidelines, passengers may have varied travel experiences based on how an airline is choosing to state their guidelines.
Between United, American and Delta Airlines, Delta has taken a more direct/firm approach (which is why we are not seeing Delta shamed on social media). American Airlines states “We’re restricting access to some seats, when possible, to give more space.” United Airlines states “While we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the implementation of various social distancing measures, that is the likely outcome.” What do these 2 statements even mean? Seriously!! It means absolutely nothing!
Delta, on the other hand, states a more clear plan...Blocking select window & aisle seats in all cabins with 1x2, 2x2, and 2x3 seating, all middle seats are blocked from sale on all flights, 50% max capacity in 1st class and 60% max capacity in all other cabins. See links at the bottom to each airline's guidelines.
Call me crazy, but I can’t help be curious about what it is like to fly right now. I was able to get the inside scoop from an acquaintance of mine that was on a flight this week. Based on their experience, Delta is indeed following strict guidelines. If you find yourself on a plane sometime over the next few months, you will probably feel like my friend…”it was like stepping into the Twilight Zone”. Almost empty airports, face masks everywhere, an eerie quietness, an airplane that smells like the inside of a clorox wipe container…just an overall strange experience!
On the positive side, the cleaning measures taken created some comfort. Wipes were given at the gate and again as passengers were boarding the flight. The snacks were distributed in a clear plastic bag for each customer. United, American and Delta seem to be taking cleaning measures very seriously. My guess is we will see these measures continue even after travel resumes. Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, said in a recent press release, “As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home.”
Another positive is how quickly you can get through the airport, but we all know this will change. Just like 9/11 brought about changes to the airport and travel experience, Covid-19 will do the same. TSA was created in direct response to 9/11, two months after the attacks. Remember the good ‘ol days when you could greet your loved ones at the gate or you never took your shoes off...not after 9/11! We will likely begin to hear of new changes this summer/fall. A regional website owned by The Boston Globe, Boston.com, posted an interesting article earlier this week titled “5 Ways Flying Could Change In The Future”. We may walk through a disinfectant tunnel...really??
Even with all of the potential changes, I still continue to dream about future travels with my family and friends. We will get back to exploring the world one day when it is safe to do so!
The Coronavirus has temporarily taken away many things from our daily lives...visiting with friends, our kids going to school and going on vacation to name just a few. That said, it has not taken away our ability to dream about future travels with our family and friends. This experience should have everyone looking forward to those times and there are certain action items that you can do while we all shelter in place.
1) If you received a credit voucher during the pandemic, make sure to review and note the re-booking rules and expiration date. If it’s an airline voucher, continue to watch for updates as the policies are changing often. If it’s an accommodation or activity, make sure you have it in writing.
2) Check to see if any of your credit cards include travel insurance. Despite the fact that most travel insurance will not cover pandemics, this experience will have most travelers considering travel insurance for future trips. One lesson we can all take from this pandemic is be prepared for the unexpected!!
3) Check your passport expiration date. Many people don’t realize passports must be valid beyond your travel dates. Many countries require it to be valid as much as 6 months after your return date. If it expires before that 6 month time period you can be denied the boarding of your flight. Talk about a party foul! It’s best to go with the 6 month rule as I’ve seen countries change the required time period with zero warning.
4) Go on-line shopping for the perfect carry-on luggage. One has to wonder what the airport experience will be like when travel resumes. Will there be longer lines, new health screenings or less staff dealing with checked luggage? It’s too soon for any of us to know, but doing what we can to shorten our airport time could become important. Becoming a carry-on only traveler will save time. Take this opportunity to purchase or upgrade your carry-on bag. I personally switched to a hard-shell carry-on bag several years ago and it has transformed my packing and traveling experience. It doesn’t look like you could fit more into a hard-shell compared to a soft-sided carry-on, but the 50/50 split opening allows you to pack two sides equally. A hard-shell is also more protective if you are traveling with any breakable items. Regardless of whether you decide on a hard or soft-sided carry-on, the key reason to upgrade is to have a 4-wheeled bag. In my experience, the 4-wheeled bags of any size are so much easier to maneuver and manage...truly a game changer!
5) Start a travel bucket list if you don’t already have one. This is a great time to do some reading/researching on where you want to explore when all of this craziness is behind us. It will be a positive exercise as well, compared to the time we put into watching the negative news! If you are a family, turn this into a fun family activity! Tell each family member to do their own research on where they would like to go, write down the place and why you want to go there. This would make for some good discussion over dinner.
6) Start a travel fund for those hopeful future trips, especially if it is more of a bucket list type of trip (which tend to cost more). Many travel organizations are predicting bucket list trips instead of long weekend trips when we return to more normal travel (when the virus is completely behind us). Or maybe you have been financially affected in a negative way during the pandemic, but want to have something to look forward to in the future. Having a travel fund would be helpful.
7) Give the gift of a past vacation. This last item is not really a tip, but a great idea when you have extra time, love and miss travel and want to do something positive! Create a slideshow of your favorite trip or simply give your favorite photo from a memorable trip to one of your travel companions. Everyone can use something uplifting right now! After one of our family ski trips out west, my husband used iMovie to create a slideshow of his favorite photos to music including some funny texts. He sent it to everyone on that trip. Looking back I wish we had taken the time to do that for each one of our trips, as it made for a truly special memento that we have watched many times!
In the midst of this Coronavirus outbreak, many people are navigating the difficult decision to postpone or cancel upcoming vacations. This can be stressful due to the many variables that need to be considered before making a final decision. I hope the information below will help you during this uncertain time.
Where to start? If you are undecided, start by looking at the cancellation policy for your accommodations and tours. Note your last day for free cancellation. Depending on your vacation start date, you may have time to watch the situation unfold over the next month or so. May international travel is looking less realistic, so rescheduling certain kinds of May trips now makes sense. Family summer vacations are tricky because your children’s school schedule doesn’t allow you to reschedule anytime in the near future. Waiting until May to make a final decision on your summer trip may be a good option, but remember to check on your cut off day for cancelling!
Airlines are being very flexible. Most airlines will allow you to make changes on-line, however, not all airlines have user friendly websites. And if you are hoping for some further flexibility than what is being stated on airline's travel alerts, you must call! Agents have the ability to do much more over the phone. It may take a long time to get through, but it’s almost always worth getting a live agent on the phone.
Most of my experience is with Delta. I have interacted a lot with Delta agents over the last 2 weeks and each time I have found them to be more than accommodating for my clients. I have been very impressed with how Delta has handled waiving change fees even when it’s outside of the official time period; even not charging the difference in fare if rescheduling to future dates. If you are not getting as much flexibility as you would like, ask for a supervisor or hang up and try again later with a different agent.
MOST IMPORTANT, be nice! Ask them how they are holding up! We are all in this together and they are stressed too. Kindness goes a long way!!
On a side note, I had an unfortunate situation with another major airline this week. In general they did not have a very helpful attitude, but the most disappointing thing was they tried to charge my client a $250 change fee per person (because May is currently outside of their official time period of waiving change fees). Just asking to speak to the agent’s supervisor resulted in that agent waiving the change fees. My point in telling you this is you may need to push to get what you want. And be careful of some airlines trying to get change fees from people when the reality is fees can be waived! Enough of that….I feel my blood pressure rising! :)
For hotel or tour bookings that fall into a non-refundable time period, ask for a credit. Most companies are already offering this option, but some are only giving a few months or so. Ask for a one year credit and make sure to get this in writing! Speak to a manager or supervisor if necessary. I’ve had to do this several times already and was granted the request each time. Remember this is all unprecedented, so there are no rules/policies in place for something like this, therefore, don’t take no for an answer.
For an Airbnb booking, check your cancellation policy. If you are in the refundable time period and choose to cancel instead re-booking new dates, make sure to check on the amount that is refunded. Many times you will not be refunded the service fee, but a call to Airbnb customer service will typically end with them refunding you the remaining service fee. If you are in the non-refundable period, call Airbnb! They are being flexible resulting in Airbnb refunding even non-refundable bookings under their extenuating circumstances policy.
Reschedule your dates instead of cancelling. This pandemic will affect the global economy, so in my opinion we need to do everything we can to return to our normal lives as soon as possible. I understand the loss of jobs or schedule conflicts may not allow for this, but at this point I’m choosing optimism. Places like Italy, other European destinations and the Caribbean will need tourism to start back as soon as possible. If you reschedule for the Fall for example, the worst thing that could happen is the need to reschedule again. If we are still dealing with this virus come Fall, we have much bigger issues than rescheduling our vacations. If you are rescheduling your trip, make sure that you are re-booking a refundable rate even if it requires paying more per night.
Keep perspective! This is a tough situation for all, but try to remember that for most of us it’s just a major inconvenience. I had the experience of visiting Guatemala for a mission trip several years ago. The living conditions were unimaginable, meals were a luxury, children were walking around with no shoes and clean water was non-existent for most. I have found myself thinking about my Guatemala experience many times over the last 2 weeks. We are all fortunate and will get through this time...hopefully with even more appreciation for our families and each other….which will make our next vacation with the people we love even better! :) :) :)
Posted on the AHA Travel Talk, Aha Connection
December 13, 2018
When helping people plan their vacations, I’m often asked about travel items that are needed for their trip. I love passing my travel experiences on to others! When I travel I’m very particular about having certain accessories with me. Below are a few of my recommended travel accessories that will make your trip more enjoyable and may be the perfect gift this Christmas season!
1) Hard Case Carry-On Luggage. One of my most asked questions is about packing/luggage. I typically try to talk most clients into using a carry-on only, which means no checked luggage. This seems like a daunting task and I understand that! I used to be one of those over packers lugging around half of my items that I never wore! Then I experienced lost luggage (twice on a non-stop flight with a reputable airline). I have been a carry-on packer ever since! I went to Europe for 2 weeks in a carry-on...it can be done! The type of carry-on you choose can really help. Two years ago I switched to hard case luggage. I was very suspicious whether my things would actually fit, but they are surprisingly more spacious than your typical soft case. There are many options out there, but Costco has a great carry-on bag for only $45 on-line (shipping included) or $40 in the store! I liked it so much I bought a second one for my college student. Another bag I’ve had my eye on and hoping Santa delivers this year is the Away carry-on bag. These are hard case bags with a built in USB port! If you are interested in the Away bag, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a $20 discount.
2) Crossbody Purse. This is especially important when you are traveling overseas or to big cities like NYC, as a crossbody purse is more secure and convenient. The last thing you want to deal with while on vacation is your stolen purse. However, your crossbody purse may not be large enough to carry those items you want with you during the flight. I always travel with a larger “travel bag” that I carry on the plane and I put my crossbody purse inside for later. I have a couple different crossbody purse sizes I use depending on if I’m on a trip with my kids or just adults. For family trips, I like the NeatPack Crossbody Bag. A slimmer option with lots of color choices is the Baggallini Hanover Crossbody Purse.
3) A Scarf. This is a big one for me! I am very cold natured, so if I don’t have one of my scarves with me it’s not a fun flight. I’ve been on too many flights when all of the blankets are taken. I will typically bring one of my larger scarves (fabric will depend on season) that can also serve as an evening shawl or a blanket for warmth. Two summers ago my family was in the Greek Islands and I made the mistake of not packing a thin larger scarf to use for the evenings. Athens was very hot, but the Islands had a breeze. So I now own a beautiful, thin turquoise wrap from a shop in Milos that is perfect for those breezy summer evenings!!
4) Portable Charger. This is another must, especially if you are on the go a lot. There’s nothing worse than being in an unfamiliar area with a dead cell phone. This is the perfect gift if you have a college student planning to study abroad. Teenagers love them too! My 16 year old son, Chase, is the tech savvy one in our family. He recommends the Anker brand for portable chargers because of their charging speed and capacity. The Anker PowerCore ll Slim 10000 is a great option for travel.
5) International Power Adapter. A must for any international travel. I personally like the ones that are universal and have multiple USB ports. What gets confusing is the wattage converter. You can buy a combo adapter/converter but many of those cannot handle the higher voltage of hair dryers, hair straighteners, etc. As a result, I recommend buying a separate wattage converter. For a universal adapter for many countries, check out the Power Adapter by SublimeWare. For a more simple adapter for just Europe (does not include UK countries), check out the Tessan European Travel Adapter with dual USB ports.
6) Electronics Travel Case. For the person that prefers to have all of their techy gadgets in one place, a case/pouch for all electronics is ideal. For a simple smaller case, check out the AmazonBasics Travel Case. Amazon offers many other options in different sizes, styles and colors.
7) Neck Pillow. For those long international flights, this is a must if you would like to be more comfortable. I recommend buying one in person instead of on-line. There is a lot of variation in the firmness and having the right support and comfort is key. Another great gift for that college student studying abroad and or that person in your life that travels a lot.
8) Foldable Travel Bag. Packing an extra bag that folds up to nothing is a handy idea for international trips, NYC trips or any trip that may involve shopping or bringing home souvenirs. This bag can serve many purposes, but I specifically like it for those family trips when I know I will be coming home with a lot more than I left with. It’s also a great college student gift or a weekend getaway bag. The Wandf Foldable Travel Duffel Bag is water resistant, comes in a ton of colors and is under $20!
9) Headphones. A great stocking stuffer idea, especially if your teens are always taking your headphones like mine! And for your little one, have you ever been on a trip and your kid doesn’t have their own pair of headphones? Enough said! :) Another option are the noise cancelling headphones. These are great during flights, but the best quality ones are not cheap! Chase recommends Bose or Sony as the best. Sony also has an option at a lower price point.
10) Quart Sized Travel Pouch w/ Travel Bottle Set. If you are traveling with a carry-on, then this will be important for your liquid items. They must be packed in a quart size clear bag and the bottles cannot be more than 3.4 oz. This TSA approved pouch is a set with 3 leakproof bottles and 2 jars.
Posed in the AHA Travel Talk, August 2017
In the last AHA Travel Talk I promised some more info on different areas throughout Italy. I decided to start with a question that I get a lot. Should we go to Venice?
First about Venice….AHHH Venice! Venice is universally considered the most beautiful city in the world. Many would say the crown jewel of Italy. This can be argued, but Venice’s fascinating and unique structure definitely supports that argument. The city is famous for it’s canals built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by 150 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands on which the city is built are connected by 400 bridges. These canals and bridges are what create Venice’s magical setting. In the old center, the canals are their roads and every aspect of transportation is on water or on foot. Jumping on a speedboat to taxi to your next stop is definitely unique!
There are many must sees in Venice like the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco to name a couple. But the magic in Venice is away from the touristy area, in the charming back streets and off the beaten path neighborhoods where the locals hang out. Venice is a very walkable city and easy to explore (however, you will get lost...more on that in TIPS). If traveling to Venice in the summer (which is most families only option), you need to know that it will be crowded and very touristy. July will be the most crowded. Spending time outside the touristy area will help.
Venice should definitely be on your Italy list, however, there are many variables to consider. These include how many days are you going, where are you flying in and out, what are your personal must sees in Italy to just name a few. If this is your only trip to Italy, then absolutely Venice should be included!
Fun Facts about Venice:
TIPS for Venice:
This past spring I decided to become more intentional about certain trips that I wanted to take with my family. More experiential trips to create lifelong memories. Special time that is just ours. We went to The Keys for spring break and accomplished just that...many memories that we have laughed about and reflected upon since that great trip. I highly recommend The Keys!!
This summer we decided to take a low key vacation to the beach. It was a much needed time of relaxation, but my itch for our next family bucket list adventure continues! Next up...New York City! One of my favorite places to visit, if not the favorite for me. Most people think big city, bright lights, Broadway, iconic landmarks. All of that is wonderful, but NYC offers so much more!
I booked our NYC adventure for Thanksgiving week. So, they will have the added bonus of experiencing this special city all decked out for Christmas. I am particularly excited about this family trip. My husband and I had a wonderful opportunity and experience of living in the city in our early married years (it was a blast). My oldest son's first real word was "boat" because our apartment overlooked the East River. Besides loving so many things about the city, NYC holds a special place in our hearts. I have been back many times since for couples trips and girls trips. NYC is always a winner! I can't wait to watch them experience it for the first time (isn't that half of it for us parents). We will be taking them to the classic NYC sites, but I'm even more interested in them experiencing NYC well beyond the Empire State Building and Times Square. The hidden gems, the history, the charming neighborhoods and uniqueness of the atmosphere that can change within blocks.
Since we have the entire Thanksgiving week off, I am taking a unique approach. We will drive to NC to visit my husband's (Matt) big family for our annual Garrett Thanksgiving dinner and skeet shooting contest. Matt had to hand over the winning trophy last year to his Uncle Mark. My middle son has become quite a good shot himself, so the NC stop was a must on the agenda! :) After a couple nights with the family, we will drive to Charlottesville, VA (which is a fantastic destination in itself...more on that later). We will spend one night in Charlottesville then hop on Amtrak for a 6 hour train ride into Penn Station. Train travel is always a big hit with the kids! I love the idea of arriving right smack in the middle of the city instead of the airport. Not your usual path, but it will be a fun adventure and save us at least $500. One more added bonus is that Matt can get some work done on the train (perfect since we are traveling to NYC on the Monday before Thanksgiving).
My family bucket list continues and I hope yours will as well. One piece of advice that I told myself a lot before taking my kids overseas...this is an adventure, not a vacation. Let's be honest! Traveling with your kids is not always a leisurely vacation. At times, they may drive you nuts (insert: ice cream)! But, in my opinion totally worth it!
Do you ever feel like the time with your kids is speeding by you? Fast forward to the teenage years and the time increases to lightening speed! Ever since my 16 year old started high school I have felt a persistent urge to create more experiences together as a family. I want these memories for myself, but truthfully I want even more for my kids to have the memories to reflect on as they grow up and live their own lives.
So, I've decided to treat the heaviness in my heart with some really fun, experiential trips. My oldest graduates in 2 years, so there's no time like the present. We kicked off our string of adventures with a Spring Break trip to the Florida Keys. If your family enjoys water activities like snorkeling, jet skiing, boating, para-sailing and fishing mixed in with beach time, The Keys are perfect for you. This trip gave us some family beach time, but in a completely different environment. The Caribbean vibe, abundant wildlife and panoramic water views create a family paradise. There are multiple Keys to visit, all within driving distance. And of course you have the Granddaddy of all Keys...Key West, an easy day trip.
Some of my other Family Bucket List recommendations are as follows (in no particular order):
There are many other worthy places to visit, but these are easy options to create unforgettable family memories. Two other options that I have not personally done yet are The Grand Canyon and an RV road trip. I hope to add this to my list one day.
Our Florida Keys trip lived up to our expectations! Now on to the next experience...
After 20 years of marriage and plenty of travel experience, I've had lots of time to reflect on our honeymoon choice - a tropical island. We had a great time just being together, but in hindsight we wished we had chosen a more unique experience. Don't get me wrong, I love tropical islands. But a tropical honeymoon may not be the right fit for everyone. So, for our one year anniversary we decided to make up for it by planning a romantic trip to Europe. It was such a special trip and we both agreed that a European honeymoon would have been a better choice for us.
The honeymoon choice is an important decision...the icing on the cake...the bow to perfectly wrap up your entire wedding journey. A European honeymoon would certainly be a beautiful bow and Italy may just be the prettiest bow of all.
Below are the top 5 reasons to choose Italy for your perfect honeymoon!
5) STEP OUTSIDE THE HONEYMOON BOX. Are you are looking for something different....something that will create an experience, not just a honeymoon trip? Tropical islands are wonderful and the most popular kind of honeymoon destination. But a honeymoon to Italy provides a magical combination of charm, romance, rich history, delicious food & wine and breathtaking views at every turn.
4) YOU ARE NOT A LOUNGE CHAIR JUNKIE. Every bride and groom is typically exhausted after months of planning and from the wedding weekend itself. Building in down time is important. But if you (or both of you) are the type to get bored by day 2 of laying on the beach, then striking a balance of relaxation and exploring is ideal. Italy easily offers both, as the Italians know how to relax and the country itself offers as much exploring as you'd like.
3) HIGH QUALITY EXPLORING. Speaking of exploring, you have struck gold when it comes to exploring in Italy. Whether you are touring the Colosseum, taking a romantic gondola ride in Venice, visiting a vineyard in the countryside, day tripping it to Capri or strolling through a market...it's endless!
2) CITIES, COUNTRYSIDE AND COAST ALL IN ONE. How many honeymoons offer you the ability to see a romantic city, the countryside and the coast all in one trip?! What a perfect solution to satisfying differing preferences. Each region will offer different sights, food, wine, views and culture.
1) ROMANCE. And the #1 reason to choose Italy for your honeymoon is romance (of course). If you weren't the romantic type before embarking on your Italian honeymoon, you will certainly get a crash course while there! Imagine you and your spouse on your balcony in Venice listening to the gondoliers gliding by while singing in Italian. Or lounging poolside at your Tuscan farmhouse with 360 degree views of rolling hills all around you. Or waking up in your cliffside bedroom overlooking the Amalfi Coast. I could go on and on and on....
Last week a friend of mine texted me and a few friends calling for a girl's trip in 2016. We all replied IN! This got me thinking about two things...Is this part of her New Year's resolution....take a girl's trip or traveling more in 2016? Or maybe her New Year's resolution was to stop thinking about it and make it happen. This lead me to my second thought of how easy it is to think and talk about, then later we worry about the details (especially us Moms) and nothing happens. I have been on lots of hypothetical vacations!
There is actually a term called Travel Paralysis. Sounds scary, huh! I thought I may have coined this phrase, but some other travel junkie beat me too it! An article I read recently suggests that it takes 80 plus days for the average consumer to make just two travel decisions. I'm talking minor decisions. The loads of information on the internet to wade through can be overwhelming and over the top time consuming, thus leading to the dreaded first world problem of Travel Paralysis! In our case, my girlfriends are good. I'm a travel planner so there will be no Travel Paralysis on my watch! But how many of you out there are suffering from this wretched condition? Too many!
Include some travel decisions in your 2016 New Year's resolutions. Take that overdue romantic trip with your spouse, take your kids somewhere else besides the beach, take a girls trip to NYC or splurge and finally take that trip to Europe you've always wanted to take. I hereby free you of your Travel Paralysis!
Don't make these packing mistakes, especially the ones related to lost luggage! I've had my luggage lost twice! On both trips it was a big inconvenience and not a fun way to begin a vacation. But I learned a good lesson and it has effected the way we pack ever since. The first time my bag went MIA was on a ski trip. I had to wear my friends ski clothes for 2 days. Now we pack one carry-on with 1 day of ski attire for everyone. The second time was a doozy! Two of our bags were lost going over to Europe with our 3 kids...their first time overseas. I will never forget that airport experience! I was sleep deprived, it was 3 am our time, everyone was crabby and no one at the airport spoke good English or seemed to care. Probably not my personal best moment! ;) Always make sure those items you cannot do without for 1-2 days are on the plane with you, whether on a carry-on or in a backpack. Actually, you can go overseas with just a carry-on for up to 2 weeks...I'll show you how in a future post soon!
CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE ON BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKES