Now that we’re back and our house hasn’t been broken into and all seems well, I can tell you that we snuck away on vacation!
Honestly, I was very apprehensive about flying during a pandemic. But we did it, and it was TOTALLY worth it!
Buying the Flights
Chico is the family travel agent. He does all the booking of flights, paying for checked bags and choosing seats. I have had plenty of experience doing these things, but because this is an area of interest of his, I let him handle it.
The prices were good. We were lucky in that we booked early enough, before prices skyrocketed. Chico did have to sleuth around a bit, but he found us transatlantic flights for a reasonable price.
Our flights were with multiple Star Alliance airlines, and we had difference stopover cities for the flight there and the return. If you see this kind of booking, just be aware that it can complicate things a bit, just in terms of airline health requirements, local Covid-19 restrictions in your stopover countries, etc.
Check for Checked Bags
Beware, though! We were always used to getting one checked back per traveler included in our international air fare, but it would seem that in a post-pandemic world that is not necessarily the norm.
We had to pay for one checked bag on our way to Europe. On the way back, we remembered we had a Star Alliance gold card, and called the airline ahead of our flight to ask about checked bags. We were told that we were allowed ONE checked bag (we had purchased four tickets), but we would have to pay for a second checked suitcase. BUT we couldn’t do it over the phone or online (confusing!) and would have to do it at the check-in desk upon arrival at the airport for our flight.
In the end, we just went to the check-in desk on the morning of our flight and presented two suitcases to check-in. The airline employee didn’t bat an eyelash and did not charge us for either bag. Go figure!
To Pay for Seats or Not
If you’ve booked a flight for your whole family, you will automatically be seated together (or at least close together). This is especially true if you’re traveling with underage kids.
You will have the option to pay to secure your preferred seats (this was true before Covid, too). I would only suggest you do this if you have strong feelings about where you sit on the plane (forward or aft, close to the toilets or not, aisle seat or window, etc.).
The major difference since Covid is that flight attendants will not let you change seats once you’re on the flight. Even if your flight isn’t full, they may not let you relocate. It’s because they want to be able to do accurate contact tracing should anyone on the flight later test positive for Covid-19.
Knowing that, you can decide whether or not you want to fork out for your seats ahead of time.
Pre-Travel Covid Tests
Whether you have to take a Covid test before you travel will depend on several things:
- Your airline–or airlines if your trip is with multiple carriers
- The country where you’re stopping over (if applicable)
- Your final destination
A couple of weeks before you fly, you’ll want to get onto the airline’s website and read up on their requirements. You’ll also want to check requirements at your destination and in your stopover countries.
We actually got emails from the airlines ahead of our trip, which was very helpful. However, one of the airline’s information was confusing so we ended up giving them a call.
On our way to Europe, we did not have to have Covid tests. Tests were not required for those who are vaccinated, and they were not required for children under age 12. We just made sure we had printed out our vaccination certification from the CDC.
On the way back, the United States requires Covid tests for all travellers over the age of 2, regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not. The good news was that both the United States and Germany (our stopover country on the way home) allowed the rapid antigen tests.
Was it Worth it, Though?
We desperately needed to see our family. And they were desperate for us to come. (Since the US is still not allowing travellers from Europe, that was the only option.)
Also, Chico hadn’t had a proper vacation since we moved to the States. We were away for 2.5 weeks, and for one week Chico was actually on vacation (the rest of the time he worked remotely). He turned off his phone for several days, and we loved every minute of it.
We spent quality time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. In Spain, people do not consider wearing a mask to be a political issue, and everyone wore masks everywhere (other than in the home). It was remarkable and very comforting.
We may not be able to travel internationally as much as we used to in the future, but that will make each visit all the more special.
Despite the stress of international travel, despite the anxiety about Covid, the Delta variant, etc., we would absolutely do this again.
It was absolutely, totally worth it.