8 September 2021
I have to admit travel planning is NOT what it used to be. And being a solo traveler, I might be getting too old for this worry. I am used to 50 years of getting on a plane and going wherever and whenever I wanted. I always knew my independent trips were numbered at some point, but Covid was not what I expected would be the fly in the ointment. Even less did I think the situation would be worsened because a gaggle of nationalistic fascist would threaten the freedoms of the United States of America.
My trip is planned, later than usual and always with the thought of “what is the last minute to cancel?” That’s a new twist. I am willing and able to deal with masks, vaccinations, restricted museum bookings, outside dining, but it is the closing of international borders for which this American has not made an adjustment. I am not used to other countries saying “don’t come, we don’t want your disease-ridden populace mucking up our country.” At least, that’s how it seems. Coming from a part of the “advanced Western world” that should have had firm control of Covid by now, I can hardly blame them.
By August 2021, I as much want to get out of the U.S. as to get into someplace else. I chose Germany for many reasons: my exchange-student daughters are there, Germany has a low case count compared to other countries including the U.S., and Germans have dealt with fascist before and tend not to put up with that shit.
I am flying in September, my first international outing in almost 2 years. Being fully vaccinated and more than willing to wear KN-95 masks to protect me and others, I will be boarding United and Lufthansa flights with my ultimate destination being Munich. Normally I would write about my destination on the ground, but this time I will begin with my experience just getting there.
So much has changed. I don’t like change. Much appears greedy and sensless to me. My airport ended the annual parking pass in leau of charging LAX prices for daily parking. Now it is cheaper to just drive to LAX and fly from there, or SFO. Flight routes and frequency are more limited locally. AT&T decided if I wanted their expensive 2GB international package of data for my iPad, I would have to up my monthly account costs by 150%. Decided to go with a global eSim company for 2GB at $8.99. I got $5 off for signing up. AT&T won’t miss my few hundred dollars a year?
No longer a simple online check in and walk thru TSA. A digital, online document is to be filed 72 to 48 hours before departure. Lufthansa included a link with my reservation (I was never asked for it). United’s TravelReady site was extremely helpful with requirements and ability to upload vaccine card info, advising me to go to LH to complete other requirements. All must be completed ahead of time to both save time and hassle. Received no QR code but I do have a digital QR for my vaccinations. Even then, no boarding pass was issued and I had to check-in at my airport for document clarification and boarding pass – for the first time in decades.
I was fortunate that my gate agent was willing to read the rules. She asked for a negative Covid test so I explained none was needed as long as I was full vaccinated. After that things smoothly progressed and I was through security in less than 15 minutes. Now when traveling, passport and CDC vaccination card have become my most valuable items.
Be still my nerves as all goes well so far.
I transferred planes at Denver to board Lufthansa bound for Frankfurt. I had over an hour and no terminal change. I checked in at the gate to make sure all was okay; once more vaccination card checked. I lucked out and the seat next to me was vacant. Meal was good and champagne and wine appreciated yet still slept little. Flying with a mask for hours is not comfortable.
Planes are full, airports are crowded. I fully appreciate every additional advantage I posses resulting from airline status and CLEAR accessibility.
Germans, normally, are very organized and efficient. Frankfurt Airport always seems the exception. Staff were helpful but one shouldn’t need four people to direct you to your gate. I had a very long layover before catching my next flight. I knew I needed to clear immigration, change terminals, and find a lounge. With little clear signage, it took a while and a bit of patience. At immigration I was questioned about purpose of travel and length. Lucky he didn’t want complete itinerary as I had been awake for quite a time. He just said “have fun” and didn’t ask me to fill in all the stops between arrival and departure.
After about an hour, I was through the maze and relaxing. Lounge was uncrowded; had some fresh wheat beer and finished my book. Boarding here is always somewhat a free-form sort of process. Final short flight to Munich uneventful. Short walk to S-Bahn and fast ride into Munich Hauptbahnhof then just a couple blocks to hotel.
It’s been a loooong 24 hours.