Traveling in the Time of Covid

Planning a trip requires a great deal of research and knowledge of the logistics required to make things go smoothly. I love planning trips so being my own travel agent has been a joy. After 18 months of not flying anywhere, I was looking forward to getting back on a plane in September. It was a quick hop to Portland to take a cruise on a small boat. But before boarding the boat, I had to prove that I didn’t have Covid and that I’d been fully vaccinated.


I had heard stories of people not getting timely test results so I scheduled a test two days in advance of my flight. Carbon Health guarantees results within 24 hours, but only when getting tested at their airport location. The test at San Jose Airport went smoothly, but I felt sorry for the healthcare professionals. Their testing tent is located past the airport terminal, just outside the fence around the airport. The jet engines were noisy and the jet fuel smell oppressive. I suspect that the noise and pollution levels exceed that set by Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I received my test results the same day. Negative, of course. Cost: $130 for the test.

My next trip was to Canada on a Bluewater Adventures sailboat. For that I had to comply with the requirements set by Bluewater, the entry requirements set by Canada, and the reentry requirements set by the USA. This was where it got tricky. I had to download the ArriveCAN app to fill out a health questionnaire and upload vaccination and Covid test results. I needed a specific kind of test—not a rapid one. This was just to be allowed entry on the plane. When I arrived in Canada, I was required to take a rapid Covid test. The entry and arrival tests satisfied Bluewater, which was good. Cost: $150 for the non-rapid test for the plane. Canadian entry test is free.

I stayed in Terrace, B.C. two days prior to the cruise and two days after. All restaurants in British Columbia require proof of vaccination status and government ID. Simple enough, but that meant I had to remember to bring my passport and physical Covid card with me. B.C. has its own vaccination credentials, so a few times I had to explain that I was from California and the CDC card is what we use. It all worked out.


To get on a plane to come back to the USA, I had to have a test in hand. I was led to believe that I needed a test whose results would take up to, but no more than, 48 hours. This is one of the reasons that I booked two nights in Terrace post cruise.


The testing facility was just down the road from the Terrace, BC airport, in a sad looking Quonset hut. Samples collected there are flown to Vancouver where the actual test takes place. Unfortunately, the Vancouver facility failed to process the samples sent to them that afternoon. On the day of my flight home, I had to scramble to go back to the Quonset hut, provide another sample, whereupon they decided a rapid test would suffice. Within a half hour I had a letter in hand stating that my result was negative. Cost: $200 for reentry test and 2 hours of stress. HOWEVER Whitecap Medical in Canada refunded the cost of the test due to the screw up.


My most recent trip was to Hawaii, which has its own state rules. Each person in my party had to set up a separate account on the Safe Travels website (https://travel.hawaii.gov/). Then I had to apply for an exemption to quarantine by uploading my vaccination documents and later answering an online health questionnaire. Prior to getting a boarding pass, the airline personnel verified my vaccination credentials and then tagged me with a wristband giving clearance to board. That was straightforward enough. Getting around Hawaii was another matter.


Safe Travels sent me an email with a QRS code indicating that I was cleared. I took a screenshot in case anyone asked. They did. Car rental companies and hotels must see Safe Travel credentials, but not the code that Safe Travels sends in email. You must carry with you a mobile phone or computer, log on to the Safe Travels website, and show two green check marks. I hadn’t memorized my secure password for Safe Travels and I had not stored that password on my phone. The first time I was asked to show the checkmarks, I had to unpack my computer, find a network to latch onto, and log in to Safe Travels. Had I known this before, I would have been prepared by either setting up my phone or taking a screenshot of the green checkmarks. I applaud Hawaii for being so diligent, but I do wish their process was more streamlined.


After showing my credentials at hotel checkin, I was tagged with a bracelet to wear during the duration of my stay. Fortunately the bracelet was loose enough to take off at night, otherwise I would have felt as if I was a hospital patient!


These extra requirements are a mild annoyance, but necessary, and made me realize that I am not ready to travel to a non-English speaking country. I don’t know enough of any other language to negotiate the healthcare system to schedule a Covid reentry test or to discuss anything related to Covid entry requirements. Eventually I think Covid documentation, entry, and reentry requirements will become more standardized. For example, the World Health Organization has a document fo yellow fever that allows entry to those counties where yellow fever thrives (see below). In the meantime, there are plenty of English-speaking places to which I can travel. USA, Canada, Ireland, and England are on my radar for 2022.




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