Back on the Road: Part 1 – Preparing to Travel

by Jack Hojnar

In late January of this year, I flew to Seattle to meet up with my middle son and oldest daughter for a planned trip to Canada. Prior to the trip, we last saw each other in person during the Christmas Holiday.

These two decided to pursue careers in Portland and Seattle, where long-ago their love of the Pacific northwest took root from the family vacations we took when they were in middle school. Much as it pained me to see them make the cross-country trek from Chicago, I was confident that my genuine love of travel would have me visiting them often; my airline points status could afford me frequent trips.

And when I landed January 4th at Sea-Tac, the talk of Covid-19 was something happening “over there” and not much was made of the story, at least not in mastheads of major publications or cable broadcasts. I’m certain I knew nothing of the emerging illness because if I had, I might not have made the trip.

Who would’ve known that would be the last time I would see them in person.

During the past six months, as the entire world understands, we devoted long hours to FaceTime and family Zoom events. And when the restrictions across the country began to ease, we decided it was time to see each other again… in person.

For some perspective, I love to travel and am very good at doing so. With TSA pre-check, planned itineraries, a travel credit card with loaded benefits at the ready, familiarity with air travel and an abundance of patience for the entire process, jumping on a plane for a weekend trip somewhere is as easy for me as it might be for someone to open their refrigerator. I need to travel.

But Covid-19 is not in my control. Regardless of my preparations I can’t control the preparations or behaviors of others. And I can’t escape its reality while soaring at 30k feet.

We picked the weekend of June 20 and 21, Father’s Day Weekend, for me to make the trip West (I preferred that I do the travelling TO them because I needed to get out of my house).

And then the nerves kicked in.

This is the checklist I followed (copied from hand-written notes):

  • Book airline tickets with a credit card that supports trip delay, trip cancellation, etc.
  • Call credit card company to ensure you can use benefits should trip be cancelled
  • Call airline and ensure understanding of Covid-19 practices
  • Call airline to discuss possible cancellation policies currently in force
  • Contact TSA to determine if pre-check is still available given massive reduction in airline travel
  • Contact TSA to determine the following:
  • Bleach wipes
  • How to wear masks, and eye protection
  • Use of gloves passing through security screening, necessary?
  • Bring change of clothes to immediately change out of at airport bathroom nearest exit
  • Bring small plastic bag to hold contaminated clothes worn on plane (I still laugh at this one)
  • Bring pre-made food on plane; do not accept food handed out by flight attendants
  • Bring own water bottle
  • Assign window seat to avoid contact on both sides
  • Wipe down seat, armrests, tray table and back of seat in front of you
  • Research about safe travel practices

Crack. Me. Up.

I booked this flight in the middle of May when Chicago was beginning to transition from lockdown to gradual opening. My own paranoia was likely at its peak.

And yet …

Many of the safety processes listed in my travel preparation are the same or similar items listed at several websites (see cbsi JUNE eNews Links here). Perhaps knowing that I’m in good company helped to ease my concerns.

I am all prepared to hit the road. The easiest thing I now have left to do is pack.

In Part 2, I’ll share with you my first-hand experience getting back in the air.

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