Flying Back to “Normal”

“Saint Lucia dropped their entry test and quarantine requirement for vaccinated travellers!”

“Let’s book it!”

So this weekend we are heading to a different Caribbean island.

We had originally planned to travel there in December of 2020. After three months based in Barbados, we were looking forward to exploring nearby islands. Covid numbers were low: in Barbados, sometimes no cases for a week at a time; in Saint Lucia, averaging less than 10 a day. There was a Caribbean “Bubble” where we could travel freely without testing or quarantine. Our friend Elana booked a Christmas trip to Grenada.

And yet, I hesitated. I’d canceled my planned December flight to Canada because of the two week quarantine on arrival. In Barbados I saw the same complacency that we’d had at home on Vancouver Island— and the numbers there were rising. Here, Christmas was coming, with the celebrations and tourists returning. I was concerned enough that I wrote about it.

So we did not go to another island. Curfew was reinstated on New Year’s Eve as case numbers soared and when Elana came back to Barbados she spent 10 days in quarantine. The bubble had burst and by February we were in full, hard lockdown.

I didn’t travel again until August, going back to Canada after almost a year, when I was double vaxxed and they dropped the two week quarantine requirement. When I returned to Barbados I came with a negative test and spent a day in hotel quarantine after my second, arrival PCR test.

In October 2021 we went on our first holiday in a year and a half. We had an expiring credit from a covid-cancelled trip, but as we were living in Barbados the original plan of Costa Rica did not seem quite as interesting! We looked at Covid numbers, at tour setup and protocols, and decided on a boat trip in the Galapagos.

By rescheduling our time in Lima we were able to use one PCR test to get into the States (just an overnight on the way), to Ecuador, and to the Galapagos itself. That they had asked for an additional negative test result to fly into the Galapagos was a positive, in my eyes. I knew everyone getting on the boat with us was vaccinated and recently tested. It was a fantastic trip, by the way!

Finding a nice locale to fill out the forms!

On our way home, we spent a morning in a fabulous coffee and chocolate shop in Lima, filling out the forms. VeriFLY for the States, BIMSafe for Barbados. Upload test results and vaccination certificates, scan QR codes, fill out, repeatedly, our personal information and passport details. We’d been tested in our hotel room the night before, and it required several emails and whatsApp messages before we had the test results in the correct language and with the required detail. But that’s just what you do when you want to travel during a pandemic.

My son travelled from Canada to Barbados at Christmas this year. Inclement weather and plane problems resulted in missed flights, an unexpected overnight in Miami, and frantic searches for two additional Covid tests. But Mom’s credit card and good insurance smoothed it over, and two weeks in the tropics made everything OK.

Sometimes it doesn’t go smoothly. But you just roll with it.

Scott and I went to France to ski at the end of February, starting and ending in London, with a side trip to Greece. We were in the middle of changing requirements as Omnicron rose and fell. At one point France banned non-essential travel, and we worried about how we could get our Passe Sanitaire, the Covid passport that would allow us to ride ski lifts and get into restaurants and bars. Yet by the time we were in the Alps no one was asking for the pass. The UK locator form went from essential and checked, to not checked, to no longer required over the course of our month long travels. When we flew back to Barbados, masks were no longer required on the plane, we only needed a rapid antigen test, not a PCR, and there was no quarantine on arrival.

Documentation— only the printed out forms here, there were also many that were only on our phones.

So if you are thinking of travel, be brave! Requirements are lessening for vaccinated travellers, both for testing and paperwork. Of course, don’t be foolish. Check for the most recent requirements where you are heading, and consider your “Plan B” if you should test positive either on the way out or the way home. Travel insurance has always been essential, but is even more so now. And even though masks are not always required, I still wear one, a KN95, in airports, on planes, and on other public transport. I also arrive very early to check in. If it goes well, we have a leisurely breakfast or drink by the gate. If it doesn’t, we still make our flight!

Now excuse me. I need to go and pack for my trip to Saint Lucia!

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