Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Charlottesville, VA

August 30, 2020

My Experience Flying During COVID-19.

      Last week, I flew to and from Maine. Obviously a global pandemic isn't the ideal time to be racking up frequent flyer points, but when it comes to things like seeing family or important 2020 life events (like small weddings or funerals), flying might still be your best transportation option. I know that before I flew, I was really nervous and didn't quite know what to expect as far as the airport went. I wanted to share my recent experience with you today! Hopefully if you're flying soon this might help you feel a little more prepared, and even if you're not you might still be curious what things are like right now (like I was!). 




Thoughts On Travel In 2020: 
     I have already shared a whole post dedicated to my thoughts on traveling during the pandemic, but I'll recap it quickly! Long story made short, I don't think 2020 (and maybe even parts of 2021) are the times in our lives to be going on far-away leisure trips. It just doesn't seem worth the risk, both to yourself and those in your circle. I think any sort of crowd situation should be avoided at all costs this year as well (whether that's a crowd gathering in your local city, or some large event that you're traveling to out-of-state). The research coming out about crowd spread with COVID makes it seem insane to me that anyone would try to be in a large gathering right now, whether indoors or outdoors! Yikes.
    With all that said, my family lives several states away, and it made me really sad to think about not knowing the next time I'd see them. Summer did seem like the smarter time to make that trip since outdoor activities and outdoor dining were available- soon it'll be too cold in Maine for either of those things. So I began to chat with my parents about a trip home. I was originally supposed to go in July, but postponed things by a month so I'd have more time to prepare, which I'm glad I did!

Why I Decided To Fly During COVID-19:
      My hometown in Maine is about a 12 hour drive from Charlottesville, which is a bit too long for me to do in one day as one person driving solo. In order to make it home to Maine via car, I'd have to spend a night on the road, and the hotel cost plus gas, tolls and meals always adds up to be more than a flight (not to mention driving is much more time consuming!). The only times that I've ever driven North/South are for out-of-state moves. So I've always flown when I've made trips just to visit home, and never questioned it until COVID this year.
     My parents and I talked in depth about the pros and cons of me flying vs. driving during the pandemic. Overall, we decided that flying was still the better option. While it was still cheaper to do, it was the safety factor that my parents ended up going with it for. They felt less comfortable with me staying in a hotel and going in and out of gas stations/truck stops during the pandemic rather than a few hours taking precautions in an airport. Plus there's the whole factor of doing a drive that long solo!
    I can't stress enough in this blog post that for shorter trips, I think driving is absolutely the better and safer choice in 2020. However, when it comes to something that would be a drive with a length that would force you to spend a night on the road, that's when I think the decision becomes tougher. (I of course ended up picking flying!)

Precautions I Took Before Flying:
     First things first- you need to be staying up to date with the state and city health guidelines for your destination. Things are changing constantly, and this is not the year to make assumptions! Just like you wouldn't make assumptions with entry guidelines for Americans in a foreign country... apply that to traveling out of state these days. There might be legislation where you're going that you don't personally agree with. You might not agree with mask mandates, testing requirements, quarantines... and if you don't agree don't go to a place that has them. No one is forcing you to go anywhere right now! Anyways, Maine is a state that currently has a negative test or quarantine requirement, so I constantly checked details of this as the weeks got closer to my trip. I ended up getting a COVID-19 test here in Virginia less than 72 hours before I flew to Maine, per their current rules.
     My parents ordered me a face shield for the plane to wear over my mask. I've gotten a lot of DMs asking where it's from! (I'm actually not sure since they got it- I think Amazon?) I also made sure I had wipes and sanitizer packed for easy access in my carry-on, as well as back-up masks and gloves.
      After several discussions with my parents, they decided they wanted me to drive up to DC and fly out of there since I could get a direct flight to Maine, rather than leaving from Charlottesville or Richmond like I normally do and having a layover. They wanted me to spend the least amount of time in an airport and airplane as possible. While DC airports can be a bit far to drive to, I think this was the smarter decision. If you do have to fly this year, I'd also recommend driving further to an airport that can get you a direct flight if you are able.
     I don't have any recommendations about specific airlines to use- it does seem to me like they're all taking precautions now. I went with United since they had a direct flight out of Dulles (the closest DC airport to me).

Travel Days: 
     Less than 24 hours before my flight to Maine, I did the standard check-in on the United app. They also sent me a text letting me know my flight was 90% full. I was a bit nervous to hear that,  but also very anxious to get home and I didn't want to change flights (the next one would've made me lose the whole first day of my vacation). There were a couple seats left to upgrade to near the front of the plane. I paid $27 to upgrade to one of those, so I wouldn't be in the back of the plane. (Spoiler: I ended up doing the exact same thing on the flight home, as I had another mostly full flight!)
     I was very strategic about picking my airport outfit for both days. I wanted as little of my body touching things in the airport and plane as possible. I wore sneakers with long leggings, and a comfortable long sleeved shirt. I wore a tank top under my shirt on both flights, and had sandals and athletic shorts in my carry-on for both flights as well. As soon as my plane landed both times, I went to the nearest restroom and bagged up my sneakers, legging and long sleeved shirt, and changed into my tank top and shorts. I didn't want to be wearing my clothing that had touched the airport and plane for any longer than I had to!
     I was planning to wear one of my favorite reusable fabric masks under my face shield, but I had seen my doctor recently who recommended a medical disposable mask instead. So that's the type that I went for under my shield! I do find the disposable ones to be a little more breathable, so for a long travel day you might prefer that too. I also brought disposable plastic gloves and wore them everywhere. For the TSA, you do need to briefly remove your mask when they check your ID. However- they didn't make me remove my face shield! So that's another reason why I think it's smart to wear one over your mask.
     You are allowed to take off your mask on the plane or airport to eat or drink, but I wanted to avoid both of those things. Before both flights, I ate a large meal outdoors at a restaurant before flying. Since the DC / Maine route is only a couple hours, it was able to hold me over without needing to snack. If you do need to be on a longer flight/travel day, I'd be very cognizant of where you are eating drinking, and still try to avoid it unless absolutely needed.
      I have TSA Precheck which I'm very thankful for, and it got me a mostly empty security experience in both DC and Maine. Dulles was interesting the day I was there- some terminals and gates were dead empty, but the one I ended up flying out of was actually quite crowded. Thankfully most people I saw were abiding by keeping their masks on, however the gate eventually got so busy that it was tough to social distance. It definitely wasn't an ideal situation, but I just tried to focus on the podcast I was listening to and pray my way through the anxiety, reminding myself I'd soon be on the plane and out of the busy airport gate!

Will I Do It Again Soon? 
     As of now, I have no plans to fly again in 2020. It's a bit early to be thinking too much about holiday plans, but I'm fully preparing to be spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas in Charlottesville this year if needed. As I stated earlier, I don't think this is the year to be flying for general leisure reasons, so if I take any fall or holiday fun trips, they will definitely be drivable destinations.
     I do really hope things will be better by 2021 for regular travel again. I had lots of trips cancelled this year for destinations that I really want to visit, plus many more friends around the country who I'm overdue to make visits to. I've taken refunds for some cancelled flights but I did credits for two of them, so ideally I'd like to use those in 2021. Who knows- maybe things really will be different in early 2021?! Fingers crossed to say the least.


     Have you flown at all since COVID began? If so- feel free to share your safety tips below!


     God Bless,


     xoxo Annaliese
   




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5 comments

  1. I'm so glad you got to take this trip, and it seems like you were super responsible about it! Our lives have to go on, so I am all for doing as many normal things as possible-just in a thoughtful and safe way!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did fly way back in May and the experience couldn't have been better. Southwest kept flights pretty open which is nice. Glad you were able to make it to Maine and back safely!

    xo,
    Britt
    www.basicbritt.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I haven't flown since March and I was honestly wondering what it would be like. Thank you so much for taking this seriously and being such a good example.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I haven’t flown since last year and now it looks like it maybe 2022 before I can go visit Trinidad and Tobago for carnival.

    ReplyDelete

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