Written by Roberta Whitney Hughes, Founder of PeaceFull Living and PeaceFull Living TV
Traveling Can Be Stressful Under Normal Conditions
It has been more than a year since I have traveled. Even before COVID, I never loved the process of traveling. The logistics of airports and being in tight quarters with strangers causes my stress levels to rise. I am also a creature of habit; a true introvert. I love my nest, which makes being away from my home hard for me. However, I love to visit family, I love to be on the beach, and I love to see new places. The only way to do any of these things is to travel.
Choosing to Travel During COVID
If you have been following me, you know how committed I am to my family. Noah is close to choosing a college, and I have made a promise to myself to support him. Part of that promise means making it possible for him to see his top college choices in person. COVID has already altered his last two years of high school. While he has been resilient, I want nothing more than for him to feel fully informed and prepared to choose his college. Noah’s college experience will shape the next four years of his life and set the foundation for his personal growth and development.
Smaller Airports Have Less Traffic
Fueled by my desire to support my son, I plunged out of my comfort zone and booked a trip to Santa Barbara. I chose to fly directly into Santa Barbara since Westmont College is right there. Plus, I knew the airport was small and would likely be less crowded. I also knew that flights into Santa Barbara would be on a smaller plane. The plane had only two seats on each side of the aisle, so Noah and I didn’t have to worry about anyone else filling a third seat.
What to Expect When You Travel by Plane
With Spring Break coming up soon, I imagine many of you may have travel plans. If you are planning to fly and aren’t sure what to expect, I’d like to share the highlights of what it may be like for you.
Airports are not very crowded.
Our flight took off at 11:30 a.m. and it was decently busy. The lines for security were quite small. I imagine crowds will get bigger as Spring Break travel begins.
Security is easier but slower.
DIA did not require passengers to take any items out of their bags when going through security. Instead, we placed all items into bins and were required to stay with our bins until they passed through the screening. While convenient, the security process took much longer than usual.
TSA agents wear face shields and masks.
There is plexiglass separating TSA security and passengers. The agents who helped us were all friendly, happy and conversational. Their friendliness put me at ease.
Social distancing is supported in airports.
The floor in the airport was marked with circles for social distancing. Many signs were posted to remind people to stay six feet apart. While the effort was appreciated, I was disappointed that not many people followed the guidelines, especially not on escalators or the train to terminals. I did my best to keep my distance from people but it wasn’t always possible to stay six feet apart.
Travelers are good about wearing a mask.
Everyone I saw was wearing a mask. People seem to be following this guideline much more than the social distancing guideline.
Restaurants and food court areas are open.
You will find tables spaced out for social distancing. Many travelers, including Noah, seemed comfortable sitting in these areas to eat. I felt more comfortable getting a smoothie and slipping the straw under my mask for a few sips here and there.
Social distancing is in place for boarding and de-boarding the plane.
Flight attendants call passengers to board the plane in rows. They board the back of the plane first and work their way forward. If you have special needs, are a first class passenger, or active duty military member, you will be offered the opportunity to pre-board. Once the plane lands, flight attendants de-board in rows beginning with the front of the plane.
You get a sanitizing wipe when you board the plane.
As we boarded the plane, the flight attendant offered us an alcohol wipe. Noah and I wiped down the arms of the chair, back of our seat, headrest, and tray tables. I also wiped down the metal parts of the seat belt, the air controls above, and the surface next to the window. If you have additional snack or beverage requests, the flight attendant will get them for you.
You will receive a pre-packed snack bag.
United offers a pre-packed snack bag that includes a small bottle of water, two packaged snacks, and another sanitizing wipe. The drawstring bag holding the snack also serves as your personal trash bag. When you finish your snack, the flight attendant will collect your trash bag.
Flight attendants make sure passengers wear their masks.
Flight attendants are good about making sure passengers only remove their mask between bites and sips of water. The safety demonstration now includes specific instructions for all passengers to follow these guidelines.
You can re-book your flight if the plane gets full.
If the flight is full, you will receive a text message from United offering you the opportunity to change your flight to one that is less full at no additional charge.
What is Your Comfort Level?
The thing that stood out to me most on this short trip is how differently people respond to COVID policies. While I don’t think I saw anyone who lacked respect for the policies, I did see diversity in people’s comfort levels. I especially saw the contrast between Noah’s comfort level and my own.
Noah has been in school full time since August, so he has a strong comfort level with COVID policies. He is used to wearing a mask all day, being around many people, and sharing public spaces. I, on the other hand, have been working from home for the past year. I have minimal contact with groups of people, only wear a mask for brief periods of time, and spend little time in shared public spaces.
The More You are Out and About the Easier Travel May Be
For most of the trip, I caught Noah chuckling and shaking his head. I could almost hear him say, “Mom, relax.” I finally acknowledged out loud to him how different our experiences have been. He is seasoned and practiced in being out and about in our COVID world. I am neither seasoned, nor practiced.
I am happy to report that the trip was good for me. Both Noah and I remained healthy and each day I gained more confidence in being out and about in public places. By the time we were ready to travel home to Denver, I felt more at ease and knew what to expect. I even removed my mask for a few sips of water (something I didn’t have the courage to do on the flight to Santa Barbara).
In March, over Spring Break, I will take Noah to see another school. I am mentally preparing for the fact that more people will be traveling by that time. While I cannot yet call myself seasoned, I now have a bit of practice under my belt. More than that, I have some confidence in traveling again.