Travel planning used to bring me such joy.  Even the more stressful aspects were tinged with excitement and possibility.  Nowadays, not so much.

In the past I could spend months blissfully engaged in the two main pre-travel activities: the painstaking and practical planning/researching/comparing/chart-making/note-taking/deciding/booking piece, and the more fanciful dreaming/fantasizing/envisioning/imagining piece.  These two components always occur in concert with one another—the yin and yang of travel planning—the former taking place in front of computers and surrounded by books, the latter occurring whenever there’s time for the mind to free-roam, perhaps while driving, doing dishes, or drifting off to sleep.

Long or short, domestic or international, relaxing or adventurous, I could rest assured that, barring some unlikely event outside my control—an untimely death in the family, for instance—the trip would actually happen.

This is no longer the case.

Back in mid-December, after several weeks of travel browsing, the look-but-don’t-book, pent up tension had escalated to a crescendo so overpowering that I finally succumbed, buying the husband and myself two airline tickets to Palm Springs in southern California for our mutual spring break week (only our third shared break in 17 years) three months hence.  The stress release was immediate and palpable.  My spirits soared—I had travel to look forward to!  The virus was peaking but would be beaten back by departure day.  A vaccine was just around the corner and a new, better year was about to dawn.

Then we got wind of the UK variant.

Inevitably, I felt a dip in my elation, but I controlled the freefall with a mix of reason and delusion:  I had booked fee-free changeable tickets on an airline that rated high in COVID preparedness.  The middle seat would be blocked for safety.  This variant wouldn’t end up being that bad. Our first accommodation was a free-standing cabin.  We’d be recreating outdoors. We’d be masking, keeping to ourselves, refusing maid service, hand-washing, and practically bathing in that god-awful hand sanitizer.  Perhaps we’d already had the disease and been asymptomatic, our blood now teeming with protective antibodies. Maybe we’d be vaccinated by then . . .

This string of self-talk buoyed me for a while, but experts started hand-wringing in earnest over the variant, and not long after, new, even more worrying mutations emerged.  Also, California was on fire with COVID.  Doubts began to creep in: What if we got exposed at work and had to quarantine right before the trip? Would the gloves, masks, and face shields be enough of a barrier at the airport?  Could I hold my breath for the four hours of the flight?  Would the Golden State impose a mandatory quarantine or prohibit out-of-state travelers as other states had done? Should I wear a hazmat suit on the plane? After a while, I couldn’t keep the dementors at bay.  My search for the second accommodation of our trip—a fancy one that I was most excited about and that I’d narrowed down to two equally compelling choices—was abandoned as I felt myself sliding inexorably into despair.

My inner travel lover wouldn’t be easily subdued, though, so instead of throwing in the towel, I’d come up with a Plan B.  No, several Plan Bs:  places we could get to in a (long) day of driving; someplace warm—either deserty or by the ocean.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • To get anywhere that fits my definition of “good” and ticks all the necessary COVID prevention boxes will take a minimum of 17 hours of driving.
  • If you’re looking for warmth—lounge-by-the-pool-all-day warmth—there are very few places in the US that reliably supply it in springtime.  You either have to go to southern Florida (25 hours of driving and awash in spring break partiers) or hold out ’til summer.
  • Obnoxious, drunken spring break coeds flock to Florida’s panhandle (18 hours of driving), too, not just to the southern reaches of the peninsula like I’d thought.

So where does this leave us?  With one single, tenuous Plan B: Texas.  Our celebratory trip to San Antonio 18 months ago brought Texas Hill Country to our awareness.  Full of cycling possibilities, pretty scenery, and hopefully some degree of sunshine and warmth, it may be reachable in a day if we start early, share the driving, and drink lots of coffee.  It would mean driving through “Tornado Alley” during tornado season, so weather-watching vigilance will be required.

Don’t get me wrong, flying to California is still in the cards.  A lot can change with the virus and the strain on hospitals in two months.  The husband and I will be watching all the metrics, listening to the news, taking the bi-monthly COVID tests offered at our schools, and regularly conferring over our comfort and guilt levels associated with these travel plans.  Anything could derail either version of this trip—exposure, symptoms, positive test results, travel restrictions, virus spikes—so chances are the whole endeavor will be in flux until the last minute.  Whatever happens: flying to Palm Springs, driving to Texas, driving somewhere else, or staying home (nooooooo!), one thing is certain: this last-minute, uncertainty-laden, rollercoaster-of-emotions travel planning has—for the time being at least—rendered my favorite pastime into a real downer.

66 thoughts

  1. I’m with you. I can’t tell you how many different plans I’ve had to come up with when trying to plan a trip. I’m currently trying to figure out where to go for my daughter’s spring break and Florida looks like the best choice at this point for us but that could change between now and then. I’m also trying to figure out how to get vaccinated sooner but since my daughter won’t turn 16 until September she can’t even get a vaccine until they do studies with children under 16 or when she turns 16 but I really don’t want her to wait that long.

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  2. I can totally relate, except have zero travel plans and in fact didn’t even request any vacation time for the first quarter of this year. At this point, I’ve stopped thinking about travel for 2021 and am simply looking forward to hair salons reopening!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m with you! I have multiple plane ticket credits at this point and no idea what I’ll ever be able to use them for. I do appreciate the increased booking flexibility though, it does reduce some of the anxiety. At this point, I won’t book anything that’s non refundable.

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  4. It is impossible to know what to do about travel plans. I imagine that TX would be a good idea, but who knows? We’re not planning even one trip in 2021, having learned our lesson about travel optimism, and crushed hopes, in 2020.

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  5. Travel planning is one of the best parts of travelling, that’s for sure. Our plans and dreams to travel someplace this summer were completely shattered a few days ago when the Irish government deemed overseas travel non-essential. People caught trying to holiday abroad will face €500 fines. So we are pretty much set on staying in Ireland for another year! 🙂

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    1. Oh, I’m so sorry. Not that Ireland’s not lovely – you’ve shown that clearly with your posts. However, having dreams crushed like that just adds to people’s stress and unhappiness. We, too, are thinking we’ll need to stay in the US this summer. No fines if we don’t, just the threat of catching COVID abroad and not being let back into our own country! Fortunately, the US is huge and there are plenty of places to explore safely, like we did last summer. I hope you can do that, too.

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  6. It’s pretty rubbish! I’ve got nothing booked yet, any travel I end up doing will be last minute planning and suffering any extra expense for it. Hopefully the second half of the year will be better though.

    I’m sure you’ll have a blast wherever you end up. Just make sure you do drive and the hubby doesn’t talk you in to biking down to Texas if it comes to plan B 😉

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    1. Ha! More than likely he’d try to get me to “support” him. So he’d ride 50-100 miles a day and I’d drive that same amount, driving ahead and waiting for him. What would that take? Like 3 months to get to TX? Not bloody likely!

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  7. Hang in there. I think our days of travel certainty are long gone and we have to adopt the new normal of being flexible and endless Plan B’s. Stay positive. Good things wait for us out there and will be all the more enjoyable for the ‘trials’ we have to go through to get there. 😉 The most important thing is to stay healthy and safe. Keep dreaming.

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      1. We are all going in the same situation but I can see the best time in the future to try to make it better

        I depend on tourism it difficult situation for us, we still having tourists in Tanzania but another side we are trying to keep our self safe

        Try to be safe

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I used to love travel planning down to the minute detail…but after COVID happened and the uncertainty settled in, I’ve put travel planning on pause. Instead, I have a general bucket list of places I hope to visit after it’s over, so I still hold on to hope!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s a nightmare isn’t it. Well done for actually trying to plan! I haven’t bothered, the only plan so far is just to see what happens this year and play it by ear. I can’t see overseas travel being on the cards, unless it’s a necessity. It will probably a UK break, but we’ll see. I’m making do with lots of lovely inspiration from here and other sources for the moment!

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    1. We actually had necessity/emergency in the UK recently but simply can’t go over with all the restrictions. There’s a very real possibility of catching COVID abroad and literally not being allowed to board a plane back to the US. Tolerable if you know it’s going to be a 2-day illness, but if you get what they’re calling “long COVID,” gosh, I hate to even contemplate that. The job, the mortgage, the pet… yeesh!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. This pandemic has stolen so much for us, including the ability to be with loved ones, which is particularly heartbreaking if there is an emergency. I hope everything is ok.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a relatable post! I’m applying to a lot of postgraduate programs overseas for the fall, but it’s so important to stay flexible given that nobody knows what this year will look like…

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  11. This is so relatable! My boyfriend and I watch travel videos together most nights and always talk about where we want to go first when all this is over (we think greece or italy) but we’re holding off booking anything to avoid the disappointment of it being cancelled☹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So it sounds like you’re into self torture! Ha ha! 😉 I haven’t been to Greece 🇬🇷 so I can’t say about that (though I’m sure it’s fabulous – it’s on my list, too), but you can’t go wrong with Italy! 🇮🇹

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  12. I just pulled the trigger on a 5 week non-refundable stay near Mt Shasta. It’s a gamble! But I think with vaccines and summer time with people outside, it should be okay four months from now. And hopefully mid June is too early for wildfires. We’ll see. But I’m not banking on an international trip until Feb/March 2022. If the opportunity arises and I can do one last minute this year, I will. But I’m not plunking down any large sums of money in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. “Travel” seems synonymous with “gamble” these days. I just read (again) yesterday that riding on a plane does not seem to be a big COVID spreader situation, so that makes me happy, because if we had to drive to Palm Springs for spring break, we’d pretty much have to turn around the day after arriving.

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  13. I hear you. Traveling is my passion.I have been to close to 90 countries and am not done yet. Hopefully in the second part of 2021 we can get started again. Till then… Rick Steves on youtube will have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tornado alley? That sounds really exciting! Can you not just go there for your holiday and see which way the wind blows you? It’s been a proper pain up the arse couple of years hasn’t it! Here’s hoping that we are slowly turning a corner and can have a bit of fun again. I haven’t seen my girlfriend in Spain since bloody October! Life has become so peaceful and relaxing! hahaha

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