26 September 2021
Travel is muscle memory. At least it was. Much has changed because of Covid. I can’t utilize all the little perks of travel that once made the experience faster, easier and more pleasant. However, as I wrote earlier, travel may not be as easy but all the protections and requirements put in place are definitely worth the effort.
One no longer travels without:
- a selection of masks, cloth not accepted, so go out and buy a selection of flash KN95 or FFP2 masks. Choose some color to spice up the experience. I bought FFP2 masks in Germany for a fraction of the cost of our KN95s in the US.
- your vaccination card as you will need it everywhere. Laminate copies of your card and have them handy. The smile and invitation did not occur until I showed my card. I will digitize the record and carry copies on my phone but I will always have that laminated copy available.
- being prepared to be tracked. Writing out this information is time-consuming so look if the country has a tracking app. With Germany, the Luca app is found in the Apple store and is simple to use on iPhone or iPad. It saved a lot of time. QR codes are posted everywhere and all you do is scan it upon arrival. I heard no complaints about this until I overheard an American grumbling and just thought how we in America have become so accommodating for stupid.
- being prepared to take the required antigen test to return to the US. Do your due diligence and research your options – either take an acceptable test with you or know where you will be able to take the test during your last days of traveling. I have to admit this was the hardest part of my planning: “What if?” I just decided I would have to deal with it if I received a positive result. Probably not the best way to plan but there it is.
- being responsible for your masks. Don’t litter. Countless sadly abandoned masks lay on the sidewalks and in the streets telling the tale: this is the era of millions of people sick and dying and of a bunch of litter bugs.
- following the rules, whatever they are asking you to do. Inside museums, restaurants and buildings, aboard all public transport and inside every airport, arrows, signs and ropes guide me. Every floor has social distancing markers reminding how far 1.5 meters is, helpful for us spatially-challenged people.
One must allow for more time to clear the airport to the departure gate. Normally, I could clear in a matter of minutes due to digital boarding pass, carry-on, and TSA pre-check. With international flights that is no longer the case. I allowed three hours for covid check-in. Because of the requirement to confirm a recent negative covid test, one cannot check in online. Instead, it requires standing in line and numerous confirmations of documents before talking to an agent about a boarding pass. It seems I figured about right on the timing.
Frankfurt Airport has never been one of my favorites for organization or simplicity. My first challenge was finding United check-in. (Remember, I’ve never had to find it before as I always had a boarding pass or was in transit.) FRA is huge and there must be at least 900 gates. I’m getting my steps in as it was a half-mile walk finding Gate 501 in B terminal. Then it was a confirmation of covid test, a male who cut into line, another show of my covid test results before the printing of my boarding pass. (Once this happens, the electronic pass shows up in United’s app. However, as I learned later, there is a special little stamped code added to the paper boarding pass that others will want to see.)
From check in it is a long walk to the departure gates in Z hall. I’m over a mile so far and 30 minutes.
Then there is Passport Control; one guy for all exiting passengers to the US. Another 20 minutes.
Finally, it is security where all liquids and electronics are in a bin. I’m used to the opposite but one does what the Germans request. I entered their ‘gamma ray infuser’ or whatever it is. It is incredibly sensitive and picked up that I had my boarding pass in my pocket. Remove pass and try again. So now they are a little agitated and want to swab my iPad and take a few more minutes to scrutinize.
I finally am allowed to pass beyond the heavily armed guards and proceed to my gate. But, of course, that includes walking the gauntlet of a block or so of duty-free retail stores. It has been over an hour and almost two miles from hotel to lounge. Some lounges continue to be closed because of covid but there is one just a few gates from my departure. And, I have built in important time for the LH Business Lounge and my farewell Hefeweizen. I think I deserve it.
However, just to be certain, before I arrive at the departure gate, there are two more checks for my covid clearance. Here is where the paper boarding pass was required. Once seen by security, all were smiles and I was allowed to approach the gate, scan my boarding pass, and enter the realm of flying in today’s world of deadly pandemic.
Upon exiting the plane in San Francisco and walking toward immigration, I overheard an announcement of “Welcome to California” and free Home Kits for covid testing would be available upon exiting customs. Simple registration of personal info and I went home with a BinaxNOW testing kit which was easy to use and report.
Now my thoughts are once again gravitating to “Where next?” Travel may be more of a challenge, take a bit more planning, have added another little layer of stress, but it remains a priceless experience.
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