As the pandemic has ebbed and flowed and ebbed and flowed some more, we’ve all had to gauge our comfort level with regard to travel.  For some, staying put has felt like the safest course, fears of infection or passing the virus on to others overriding an otherwise irrepressible wanderlust.  For others, it’s been, “Pandemic? What pandemic?”, the lure of cheap flights and empty city centers—where once there had been wallet-busting, shoulder-to-shoulder tourism—just too tempting to pass up.  Initially of the former persuasion, over time I’ve shifted to a position somewhere in the middle.

At school before vaccines were available . . . Darth Teacher.

Like practically everyone I know, I cancelled trips, both domestic and international, when the viral menace was new and terrifyingly unknown.  Like some, after attending to the news, combing through articles, and studying the reported facts, I eventually concluded that certain forms of travel—first road-tripping and then, once vaccinated, domestic air travel—could be undertaken relatively safely as long as we were vigilant with masking and distancing.

International travel, however, has remained well outside my comfort zone. As Europe opened up to vaccinated Americans, I beat my breast and gritted my teeth, simultaneously green with jealousy and a little bit judgmental of anyone willing to take the risk of traveling abroad, grudgingly unwilling to do so myself. It wasn’t so much the long flights or the in-country travel that concerned me. Not really. My biggest worry has always been the CDC’s requirement of a negative COVID test to board a return flight home.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

With bills and a mortgage to pay, students to teach, a bunny that needs weekly haircuts, and various other commitments that are at odds with overlong absences, I felt uncomfortable with even the remotest chance of getting stuck in another country.  News articles of people going through this very predicament only served to intensify my fears. Then came the stories of people continuing to test positive long after their symptoms cleared.

My daughter is a nurse who was hospitalized with COVID-19 but has fully recovered. She’s been tested several times since getting out of the hospital, but she is still testing positive after being symptom free for more than two weeks.

https://medical.mit.edu/

Not wanting to be the next cautionary human interest story on our local news, I set my travel sights on the vast American landscape and informed the husband that foreign travel would have to wait.

That was fine for a while, until tragedy struck.

A year into the pandemic, a beloved family member in England passed away tragically, unexpectedly, and way too young.  This brought about our first (and hopefully last) Zoom funeral and left us with a deep yearning to get back to grieve with loved ones.  Completely prohibited from going to the UK at the time this was all happening, we reluctantly concluded that summer might be our best chance.  So we waited . . . 

We crossed our fingers, monitored the news, and typed “US UK travel corridor” into our computer’s search engine a half dozen times a day. June’s G7 summit was widely reported to be the catalyst for some sort of travel relief, but the good news never came. Eventually, England put in place a traffic light system, which enabled us to go there, but the US never relaxed its rules about the negative COVID test needed for reentry.

Contrary to the popular adage, time has not healed the wound of our loss.  Rather, it’s magnified our urgency to reunite with family. So when summer came and went without any joy, we looked at our school calendars and simultaneously concluded, “Screw it.  We’re going at Christmas.”

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

But what of that sticking point—the worrisome return requirement, you may be wondering.  So glad you asked.  What’s made me agree to international travel just as COVID is peaking (yet again) here and in the UK is a little something known as evacuation insurance.

For the cost of an additional plane ticket (gulp), Covac Global®—the poster child for the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention”— will air lift you back home from pretty much any country in the world if you get COVID abroad.  (For my money, I’ll expect a dramatic rescue à la the Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now, though I could do without Colonel Kilgore and the bombing raid.)

As reassuring as that is, the exorbitant cost makes it a hard pill to swallow. And that’s not the only cost.  Consider these other protective measures we are having to take:

  • Beefed up, COVID-friendly, rated-highly-by-Forbes®, cancel-for-any-rea$on travel insurance: $700 (ouch)
  • PCR tests before boarding the flight to England: $400 (for freakin’ real?)
  • PCR tests on our second day in England: $200 (eek)
  • PCR tests to return to America: $400 (sigh)

Together with the $1300 evacuation insurance (groan), that’s $3000 extra dollars just because of the damn virus.

And if that doesn’t churn your stomach, here are all the things that could quite easily upend this trip:

  • England putting the US on their red list or enacting new measures that prevent our arrival
  • Testing positive before leaving the US
  • Testing positive on day 2 in England
  • Mu or some other variant exploding into a Category 5 surge that is so contagious, deadly, or vaccine-evading that we don’t feel comfortable traveling
  • Other deterrents or circumstances that I haven’t even thought of yet

The travel requirements are ever-evolving, so our bywords are going to have to be “vigilance” and “flexibility,” while hoping any changes are in our favor.

So yeah, not the most fun I’ve had travel planning.  And if prepping for our prepandemic Christmastime trip to Southeast Asia was stressful, this is travel anxiety on a whole ‘nother level.

So how do I cope with the costs and the rules and the uncertainty? I try not to think about it, actually.  What I do think about is reuniting with family and how when we go back, there will be a lot of tears, but also hugs, and hopefully a lot of laughter, too.


“There is only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” Leo Christopher

“Family is the life jacket in the stormy sea of life.” J.K. Rowling

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa

And a few more because they’re funny and oh so true:

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” Mary Karr

“Families are like fudge—mostly sweet with a few nuts.” Lee Dawson

42 thoughts

  1. Good for you! You have something nice to look forward to and to plan for. I think all of these new costs are just the way we will have to travel now and I guess it all depends on how badly you want it all. Your family will love you for it and those hugs will be priceless. Take care and enjoy it all. Mel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As much as it pains me not to travel internationally, I know that it’s important not to go out and potentially spread the virus, especially in countries that are still vulnerable and haven’t gotten the majority of people vaxxed yet. I’m especially appalled by my fellow Americans, who are still traveling internationally and really not caring about the crowds and the potential spread of COVID-19 or, even worse, the Delta variant. It’s no wonder that many countries are rethinking letting us in for future trips. I just started getting comfortable traveling out of county just a few months ago, and I’ll be making the *very cautious* leap next month to go out of state, so I guess we’ll all have to be careful with travel still!

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  3. I have to say that those cheap flights are pretty darn tempting right now, and I think it’s OK if you want or need to travel, but only if you are being smart and develop a game plan beforehand to keep yourself and those you love safe. Travelling during a pandemic requires a more detailed and cautious approach than before, but it can be done while minimizing risks to you. While the newspapers are trying to convince us about the dangers of travelling, many airlines are thoroughly cleaning and even fogging planes with an electrostatic disinfectant that clings to seatbelts and other high-touch surfaces. Some airlines have even adjusted seating arrangements to allow for more room between passengers. If you do choose to fly, it can be done safely by sticking to the basics. Best of luck with everything. 🙂 Aiva xx

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  4. Traveling during a pandemic is definitely more stress inducing, but there are also some benefits to it too. I went to Israel a couple of months ago and we didn’t know until 5 days before leaving if we would be allowed to go or not. We had to get a Covid test the day before we left, then again when we arrived in Tel Aviv, and then they took us to get a blood covid test at another facility and required us to stay in our room for a few hours until the tests came back negative. But for the rest of the trip we had all the places completely empty and to ourselves, spoiling us to any future travel where we will have to be surrounded by other visitors.

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  5. Oh my goodness. That is a lot to absorb. I definitely think you are taking the safe and the prudent precautions, but I definitely had a little sticker shock when I read the total cost of all the insurance measures. Then again, can you really put a cost on peace of mind?

    I am so glad you got the cancel for any reason insurance. I have read sooooo many stories of people not reading the fine print of their travel insurance and not realizing covid travel restrictions don’t qualify for reimbursement with many standard plans.

    I really hope you are able to go on this trip. As much as I miss international travel, I am not missing out on seeing family abroad (as I have none abroad). I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to not see them the last few years.

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    1. I hadn’t previously purchased “cancel for any reason.” I looked at several of the policies that Forbes recommended and it was the same for all of them: you have to cancel 2 days before departure or you’re up a creek. Also, you only get back 75% of trip costs. So not perfect, but probably the best anyone’s going to get. If you find anything better, do let us know.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Until we decided to go to England over Christmas, we’d been eyeing up Hawaii. At that time things were ok, but yeah, I remember the governor recently asking people to stay home, so I’m glad we made the switch. Sorry to hear about your cancelled plans. Good thing the US has so many stellar destinations.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Hubs and I have traveled to four European countries this year, and getting a PCR test in order to return was surprisingly easy! We asked a local, who directed us to a lab that got us results in a timely fashion for under 50 Euros (this was in Montenegro, but UK may have something similar). Also, getting tested in the US before boarding your flight is VERY simple, and much cheaper than $400! Before we left for the Balkans in April, we got two tests to be safe, and only spent a whopping $24 for all four tests (2 for each of us). Walgreens did drive through testing for $12 with an online appt. (Googling it now, Walgreens offers free COVID testing), and we ordered self-collection test kits from Pixel by LabCorp. Granted, the home test is $119 IF you don’t qualify for an exemption, which we did because of our jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi there. Totally understand the predicament. Will be taking the jump ourselves to go back to the UK at Christmas from a red list (at the moment) quarantine country as it’s just been too long since we’ve seen our family.
    I just wanted to say that I believe getting private PCR tests (if needed, sounds like maybe they aren’t for you from the other comments) are around $80 (sometimes more/less) for next day results so whilst the costs add up it may not be as bad as predicted. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Go for it! I wouldn’t do the Covac, and I’m sure you can get testing cheaper. A friend just went to France and found reasonable testing opportunities plentiful, the nerve-racking part was waiting for timely results.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve heard of that happening – tests not coming back in time. My understanding is that to get into England I have to show proof of having booked and paid for a Day 2 test and a Just Before Retuning Home test. Since the UK is no longer part of the EU, they’ve got a different set of rules than the EU. Things are changing though, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on things.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I so hope your plan works out – the additional cost is crazy. In England you can get get PCR tests for free at drive in centres which you can use rather than paying and then you can just get your results texted to you within 24 hours. A lot are selling the really expensive options, but you can get them for free as this is what we did ahead of travelling.
    If not, the most you should pay is around £60. I hope you find a cheap option!
    And yey that you’re coming to England, it’s nice to have visitors again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It looks like I’m going to have to do more research. My understanding was that since I’m coming from an amber country, I had to show proof of having scheduled and paid for Day 2 and Returning to the US tests before England will even let us in. However, now that they’ve scrapped the traffic light system, maybe that’s all changed. Fingers crossed!

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  10. Travelling in the new norm seems like a teething period, but I think you’ll be able to get right back on the train (ha) once you get used to it. I myself prefer not to subject myself to all the administrative fuss, which is why I admire your plans. Go you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m traveling right now in the EU – I have found it not too particularly awful. Other than the vaccine, neg PCR test was all I needed. My heart has been with my EU friends though bc they are unable to visit the US – I wish Americans would take this more seriously- the travel and tourism, hospitality industry is really affected bc of this constant roller coaster. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, I did not realise the USA had overly exorbitant tests for travel as well. The day 2 test for England should be around £40-50 but I’m not sure if that only applies to UK residents, or perhaps you could order them to be delivered to the people you’re visiting? Also – there’s talk of them reducing the testing requirement to much cheaper lateral flows this month, so fingers crossed you’ll get to save some money on that front.

    I’ve been really surprised that Americans have been able to come here for a few months now, yet we can’t go over until next month. Hope you have a lovely trip when it comes, it’ll be much needed I’m sure.

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