Like so many event professionals, I have spent less time flying in the past year than at any other point in my entire (adult) life. I went through a real grieving process for being grounded from traveling. But then I decided to channel that energy into obsessively walking all over the streets of Santa Monica, where I’m fortunate enough to live. But still…I missed the traveling.
At Event 360, we’ve worked from home since our company was founded (way back in 2003), so traveling to work events is one of my very favorite aspects of my job. It means we get to play and work with our co-workers and see the actual fruits of our labors. And don’t even get me started on missing out on my annual trip back home to Ireland (something I’ve been doing since 2008).
I have flown only twice since last March and both times it’s been a really trippy experience (pun intended). While I wouldn’t consider myself a COVID travel expert, I do want to share a few things for you to consider as things start to open up and we return to the business of event execution and travel:
Expect things to be different.
Flying during a pandemic is weird. Full stop. You’re used to crowds and having your choice of places to shop or eat at surrounding your flight. Nope. Those days are over. For now.
You will likely marvel at how quickly it takes to get through security and to your gate and how limited your options are to get a bite to eat or a drink (to ease your nerves before boarding your plane) as you walk through the airport. When you’re on the plane, food and beverage options will be quite limited as well. Bring your own so you don’t have a blood-sugar induced meltdown! Take things into your own hands by being prepared for when you get hungry or thirsty.
And while all this weirdness and change can be unsettling, it can also be nice. But don’t get used to that either 😉. We know (read: hope and pray) that things will be returning to normal before too long.
Mask up! Social distance!
Airlines are doing their very best to make sure people feel safe while traveling. But it ultimately comes down to each individual to do what’s best for them. If you’re not comfortable being around people right now, traveling just isn’t for you.
During my two flights over the past year, the middle seats were occupied and when it came to boarding time, it appeared as if no one remembered the 6’ of social distancing requirement we’ve come to know and love. That probably stressed me out more than anything. I wanted to scream “BACK OFF” but I just put my head down, took some deep breaths, tried not to crowd the person in front of me and walked onto the plane.
I also put my mask on, and then put another one over it, as soon as I opened the car door and stepped my foot curbside at departures and I didn’t take either of my masks off until I was safely in the car that picked me up from arrivals. On my first flight, I didn’t eat or drink anything. I was too nervous. But on my most recent flight, a 7-hour flight from JFK to LAX (thanks for nothing, head winds), I momentarily lowered my masks so I could eat and drink.
I know this goes without saying, but honor social distancing guidelines and be an overly respectful passenger. More than ever, you may be surrounded by nervous travelers and how you interact with them can make all the difference in their maiden post-Covid voyage. Maybe you’re the nervous traveler and you need some kindness and compassion. Be the person you need those around you to be for you!
Do your research
Do you have to quarantine when you get to your final destination? Do you need to provide a negative COVID test for where you’re flying or returning to? As vaccines are rolling out and more of us will be fully vaccinated before too long (fingers and toes crossed!), will you need to provide proof of vaccination? Know your requirements and take them seriously. Don’t end up like this family who had to fly back to DC immediately after landing in Hawaii because they didn’t provide exactly the right type of COVID test.
Things definitely get more complicated when you’re flying outside the United States. But regardless of where you’re traveling to/from, take a look at the CDC’s travel recommendations to make sure you have the latest and greatest information before getting on that plane. You can find those here.
Keep air travel to a minimum
On the heels of doing your research, it’s important to point out that we are still, in fact, in the middle of a global pandemic. And while we’re all eager to get back to the event work we know and love and are itching to execute, you should only travel if you absolutely have to.
There will come a time in the near future where we will go back to being annoyed by the inconveniences of air travel and all of this may seem like a socially distanced memory (too soon?). Until then, be the safest traveler you can be and take responsibility for your own comfort and safety.