Step 1: In the months leading up to your trip, scrimp and save every last dollar. This is going to cost you.
Step 2: Buy evacuation insurance from Covac Global at $675 for one person. Do this at least two weeks before departure or be prepared to jump through more hoops—just what you need before international travel, am I right?—to obtain the insurance.
Step 3: Buy regular travel insurance, as evacuation insurance only covers evacuation. Cost varies, but you get what you pay for.
Step 4: If your destination country requires a negative pre-trip COVID test, take that now. If it’s positive, you can stop reading here, because your trip just ended. For those of you who test negative (pay attention now, this is important), save test results on your phone until your feet are back standing on American soil at the end of your trip.
Steps 5 and 6: Go to foreign country; contract COVID.* **
*If you are asymptomatic, you likely won’t even know you have COVID. If that’s the case, go about your business.
**If you’re feeling unwell, take an at-home test . . . if you can find one. Maybe you’re a savvy traveler (I am not) and you’ve brought some from the US. Good thinking. If it’s negative, don’t worry, it can take several days for your positive result to show up. Keep testing. Also, if you’re unwell, I hope you’re staying somewhere comfortable, isolated, and willing to let you stay on even though you’re sick. You may be there a while.
Step 7: Sometime the day before you fly back to the States, take an official COVID test. You should have booked this days, if not weeks, ago. If you waited until the last minute, the appointments may be gone and you may be sunk. If you’ve booked an antigen test (acceptable for US reentry) and it comes up positive, you will definitely be sunk because Covac Global will only evacuate based on a positive PCR test. Best book one of those instead. They’re more expensive, but you’ve scrimped and saved, so you’re ok.
Step 8: Get positive test result. Try to quell your rising panic.
Step 9: I hope you didn’t lose your phone like the husband did in California. You’re going to need it. Contact Covac Global. They will send you their anti-fraud document to sign, and the evacuation can’t proceed without it. It’s a Word document, so you’re going to need to download it, alter it with signature, date, and ticked boxes, and send it back to them. No Word on your phone? Don’t ask me—we had a laptop and it was still a pain. Now’s the time to question why you couldn’t have done this when you first bought the insurance.
Step 10: Remember that pre-trip negative test result I told you not to delete from your phone? Send that to Covac Global, along with the recent positive PCR result and a picture of your main passport page. You may find yourself wondering how all this would have worked before cellphones were invented.
Step 11: Wait patiently—maybe up to 24 hours—to find out what’s going to happen and how long it may take them to get you out. If you’re with a travel partner who didn’t test positive, consider the possibility that they may be able to go on the evacuation flight with you . . . but only if they are on the evacuation insurance with you, in which case step 2 set you back $1282*, not $675. Also, your travel partner can only go with you if there’s room on the plane. If you won’t know that info until your regular return flight has left, or if the lack of clarity over exactly when you’ll be evacuated is putting you into an agonizing time crunch, your travel partner may just have to wish you Godspeed and leave without you, as cruel and cold-hearted as that sounds.
Step 12: Figure out a plan for how you’re going to stay sane during your days of confinement before you can be evacuated. Shell out more money to extend your stay wherever you are. Save your receipts—you’re going to need them to submit to your regular travel insurance when this is all over.
Step 13: There is no step 13. It’s an unlucky number and since you’ve contracted COVID and have to be evacuated from a foreign country, you have more than enough bad luck to contend with at the moment.
Step 14: Field several calls from Covac Global so they can gather information such as height and weight (no fudging) and COVID symptoms. You must be fit to travel on an airplane for several hours, and it’s their call, not yours.
Step 15: Receive your official evacuation plan. Remember, this is door-to-door service, so your plan will state what time you will be picked up from your accommodation (by ambulance or other medical vehicle, like a drug-addicted rock star going to another stint in rehab), what time your plane will depart, when and where you will stop for refueling, and when and where you will land.
Step 16: Enact your Stay Sane plan. If you’re quite unwell , just lying in bed is fine.
Step 17: When it’s go-time, board the ambulance and ride right up to the plane on the tarmac.
Step 18: Meet your German doctor and nurse who will inform you that due to strict COVID protocols, you will have to lie on the gurney, fully clothed and shoed, for the entire flight, though your head and torso will be elevated slightly. You will then be informed of one more small detail: your gurney will be encased in a protective plastic bubble so that you will not be able to turn over or fully sit up or really move much at all. The ambulance workers may scratch their heads and imply that this is overkill, but they have no say once they release you to the flight doctor. Prepare also to have an oxygen tube in your nose, an IV drip in your vein, a blood pressure cuff on your arm, and a pulse-ox monitor on your finger, whether your think your condition warrants these things or not.
Step 19: Come up with a new, in-flight Stay Sane Plan that will keep your attention occupied and your psyche calm for the entirety of the 9+ hour ordeal. Hope you don’t get bedsores from lack of movement. If the temperature in your bubble rises uncomfortably when you land in remotest Canada for refueling, you may have a small panic attack. Don’t worry. You and your medical team can communicate—you by writing on the small etch-a-sketch-type board they gave you before sealing you in the bubble, and they by writing things down on a piece of paper and holding it up for you to read. In this efficient way, you can let them know that you’re overheating and uncomfortable and starting to panic because you’re in a freakin’ bubble and can’t move and they will then press a button. This will release a magical elixir into your veins so that you drift quickly off to sleep.
Step 20: When you come to, you may deeply regret that you’re awake and thus request more of the sleeping medicine. Your doctor will agree to this and push the button, but nothing will happen. You may opt to take the single sleeping pill they gave you before sealing you in the bubble, but that will have no effect either and you’ll remain uncomfortably awake for the rest of the flight. This may be the time to start practicing that Chakra meditation you’ve been hearing so much about lately.
Step 21: If you are male and need to use the facilities, that’s not going to work because you’re in a bubble. There will be a container into which you may urinate. If you have always been skilled at holding it, now may be the time to show off your talents. If you need to do any other types of toileting or if you’re female, those issues are beyond the scope of this handy guide and I refer you to Covac Global for answers to those delicate but important questions.
Step 22: When you land at your destination, then and only then will you be released from your plastic coffin. Be prepared to get quizzical looks and possibly field questions from the waiting ambulance workers who may scratch their heads and imply that the plastic bubble was overkill. You will need to recline on a gurney once again, but this time you and the EMTs will share airspace and communicate using traditional oral language as you motor to your home (or the hospital of your choice, if necessary).
Step 23: Step down from the ambulance and into the open arms of your loved ones.
Congratulations. You are now home.
*2021 rates. As of this writing, the cost has risen to $745/$1415 for one/two people.
The whole damn English COVID Christmas Saga:
- Nervous But Committed: Why I’m Traveling Abroad During the Pandemic
- Omigod, Omicron! COVID Travel Abroad Is Not for the Faint of Heart!
- Uncertainty & Stress, Joy & Cheer, Illness & Disappointment: It’s Christmas in England!
- Getting Back to America If You Contract COVID Abroad: A Handy Guide
- A COVID Christmas Carol (A Blog Takeover by The Husband)