Wednesday, December 29, 2021

New Year's tips in COVID times: For a fun, safe, virus-free 2022!

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers off to board 
a Cessna for a fabulous tour around the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
Entering the state called for patience, QR codes and long lines.

PANDEMIC TRAVEL CALLS FOR CAUTION, CARE, COURTESY, HOPE AND FORTITUDE
Keller and Cookie put a lei-clad cap
on 2021, with caution, masks and hope.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

TRAVEL TODAY in Covid times is unlike anything we've experienced anywhere in the world.
It calls for courtesy, patience, flexibility, adjustment -- plus the ability to land on one's feet.
If one wants to travel again -- and we do -- it's important to soldier on, obey the rules and pick up the pieces of life "B.C.," (before Covid.) 
On our current trip, we found entry to Hawaii to be time consuming and stressful.  We're here now, spending a couple weeks during the year's busiest travel season.  It's much like entering Europe, Asia or South America and takes equal time.
While as U.S. citizens, we don't have to contend with a customs line, travelers must line up to show IDs and QR codes -- an electronic version of health documents, verifying vaccination.
QR codes must be shown
entering Hawaii. Rules change
quickly so check the website. 

 
WE SPENT nearly 90 minutes in a line at Honolulu International Airport, waiting to show we'd followed the "Safe Travel Hawaii" protocol to prove vaccination and allow us entry into the state. Because of the delay in working up the long line, we missed our connection to Lihue, and had to  rebook for a flight to Kauai two hours later. This involved retagging our bags (another long line) which resulted in our nearly missing that second flight, too.
Although this sounds like a lot to contend with, it's nothing compared to intra-Europe travel.  Israeli friends tested a half-dozen times on a recent trip to the Greek Isles and Italy, then a trans-Atlantic sail to Madeira and on to the U.S.  Vaccination proof was carried with passports for frequent use.
IT'S BEEN TWO years since Covid introduced us to our new reality: masking, distancing, vaccinations, cancelled trips, frustration, testing and worry.
Our Hawai'i resort on Kailua Kona required our QR codes, proving
 vaccination. We must also wear bracelets and masks on the property.
We knew when we booked this trip, it would be a close call to make the inter-island connection. We were grateful our Hawaiian fire dance banquet was the next evening -- or we might have missed that, too.
 Other aspects to note:
*Hotel maid service is bare bones as the industry recovers from closures, lay-offs and employee shortages.  Our pricy resort requires 24-hour advance request for room cleaning and provides bags for setting out our own trash and towels.
*Many hotels now require proof of vaccination; the word is that airlines will soon follow suit.
ALTHOUGH OUR "travel wings" have been clipped, we are "triple vaxed," and back on the road, writing this piece from a hotel overlooking Kauai's Wailua Bay at Kauai's lovely Hilton Garden Inn, and the splendid, showy Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Roosters and parrots are singing, greeting a splendid time in paradise.  We've had sporadic rain for days -- "liquid sunshine"  -- but are thankful to be traveling again.  
A few weeks ago, masks briefly off at Palm
 Desert's Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.  
Who would have guessed our pandemic purgatory would continue into a third winter?  "First Covid winter, second Covid winter," our niece Amarylla says. Now we embark upon "third Covid winter."  Instead of lions and tigers and bears, oh my, we have masking, distancing and fears. Double oh my!

A few years ago, New Year's Day in Rome before
masking, at the beautiful Trevi Fountain. 

WE ARE
lifelong travelers, born and bred.  Keller grew up with an Army dad and adventuresome mom.  He spent the first two years of life on a military base in Europe.  Cookie's dad was a pilot and her mother loved travel, too, so she grew up in the back seat of a Cessna, taking family train trips to New York to see plays, baseball games and a memorable 1964 World's Fair.
Traveling domestically with elderly Yorkie Nick is nothing
compared to traveling to Hawaii in COVID times.
When Keller and I met 14 years ago, we began a tradition of "holidays on the road."
It has taken us to New Year's Eve climbing Sydney's famous Harbour Bridge in Australia, to Singapore, Barcelona, Rome, the Austrian Alps, Iceland for the Northern Lights and on many cruises. Last year -- before our first vaccination in late January -- we spent the holidays in southern California, at our nearby Hotel Del Coronado.  We brought our aging, loveable Yorkie, Nick, and with the vaccine still weeks away, we were in full-out masking mode, using room service, making our own hotel bed.  
New Year's Eve just before Covid, December of 2019.
Since then, we've had six cruises cancelled and continue
to rebook and hope we'll be cruising again by spring. 
MANY OF OUR friends in Europe, New Zealand, Israel, the UK and Asia were disappointed when trips cancelled. English friends had planned to be in Austria for the beautiful Christmas markets this year, but that plan fell apart because of high Covid numbers in Austria. Our Israeli friends experienced their British Air flight from Washington, D.C. to Tel Aviv cancelled.  They had to rebook on El Al, at a much higher price, lost their business seats and departed from JFK instead. Says our friend, a seasoned traveler, "As far as I am concerned, traveling in COVID times, especially long trips, is a 'No No'."
Full vaccination is required for anyone travelling abroad and we recommend it for domestic travel, too -- in fact, any travel at all, even a simple auto or train trip within the same county, state or district.  The CDC advises against travel unless fully vaccinated, and as of Dec. 6,
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers brave
the 2021-22 holidays at Hilton Waikoloa Village.



insists that international travelers show negative Covid test results.
WHEREVER YOU are as the ball drops Saturday in New York's Times Square, may your 2022 be filled with love, kindness, caution and good health. 
For the mandatory state of Hawaii travel and health form, go to:
travel.hawaii.gov You'll need to create an account, upload required documents and receive a QR code to present upon entering Hawaii. It's a long, laborious procedure.  You'll register with Safe Travel Hawaii, and follow instructions. If you don't, you'll be pulled aside and mandatory quarantine will be strictly enforced.
cdc.gov.coronavirus for the most recent recommendations and rules.


Cookie and Keller set sail in Key West, about to board a
famous boat, "When and If," designed for famed Army
general Patton, for "when and if" he could sail after WWII. 
UP NEXT:  Key West calls.  The furthest point south in the United States is a lively place with plenty to do, plus history, cats, roosters and museums. We recently spent a week in this lively town, famous for watersports, an energetic nightlife, beaches, historic sites and its lovely pastel, conch-style architecture which reminds of the nearby Caribbean.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, dining, travel, the arts, family and more: www.whereiscookie.com

5 comments:

  1. Happy New Year to intrepid, curious travelers. May your joyful journeys continue. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Minnesota MavericksDecember 31, 2021 at 3:10 PM

    Fabulous optimism as always. Hopeful for all of us to be safe and healthy in 2022.

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  3. Borrego Springs BachelorsDecember 31, 2021 at 10:21 PM

    So nice to see this piece, which conveys our similar sense of "sea change."

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  4. Looking forward to a healthy 2022.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fun piece, great photos. Inspired us to book a trip to Mexico!

    ReplyDelete