Getting Back Out there

Knock on wood, our family has managed (so far!) to avoid getting Covid over the last two years — but that doesn’t mean we’ve locked ourselves away. In fact, quite the opposite — we’ve taken advantage of low prices on hotels and flights and traveled both in the US and abroad, and it’s been great! We didn’t travel internationally until the Fall of 2021, as it did seem more daunting than a weekend in New York City. However, once we did it, we realized that with a few adjustments and some prior planning, travel is just as rewarding as ever. Here are some answers to the questions I get asked the most about leaving the country right now:

Caveat: Things change all the time, both with the virus itself, and different countries’ regulations, so definitely check the State Department website, and also the US embassy website for the country you are visiting for the most up-to-date-info.

Italy was our first International trip since 2019, since Grace was studying in Rome for the Semester.

Is everything open?

YES! Everything — same as here (at least as I write this — I suppose another variant could change everything). You will have as much fun traveling now as pre-Covid. Just with a few extra precautions.

Do I have to take a Covid test to Travel?

When we traveled, both Italy and France required us to provide proof of a negative test prior to departure (both have dropped that requirement since), but the US still requires a negative test to return home. To make it as simple as possible, we used the Binax Now proctored tests. These are taken just like your regular home test, but you sign in with an app and a guide walks you through the testing process over video, confirms your results, and then you are immediately sent a PDF that you can upload to your airline.

Is an overseas flight safe?

First off, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that everyone has their own risk tolerance. I’m a person who will continue to wear my mask in a grocery store, but honestly the plane doesn’t worry me that much. First of all, I felt comfortable knowing that everyone on the by plane was required to be vaxxed and boosted by the destination country, and that masks were required for the duration of the flight. On top of that, planes have great air filtration, and there is not a lot of talking because most people are sleeping on an overnight flight. We also moved our seats to the back of the plane when we saw that it was nearly empty and were careful during the meal service to not take our masks off for too long. So I felt ok about it, and decided it was one of those risks I was willing to take.

What if I get Covid and need to cancel or postpone my trip?

Really, there are a million things that could happen to force you to cancel your trip. The good news is that, since the beginning of the pandemic, most airlines are now offering economy fares that can be changed or exchanged for credit if necessary. Delta also allows you to convert even Economy fares to be completely refundable for an additional $200 per person, but that didn’t really makes sense to us for the price (travel insurance is a better choice).

Ellie and I traveled to Paris with Grace at the end of January as she began her Spring Semester there. Omicron was raging, but we felt we could safely make the trip.

What if I test positive before my return to the US?

This is a big one, and something that can cause a major headache. Read any travel forum and you will see that it does happen. My best advice is to 1) Buy travel insurance. 2) Have a plan in place to quarantine if necessary, and 3) Don’t catch covid while abroad 😬. Keep reading for more on these three things:

  • Insurance. We never travel without it, Covid or not. You just don’t know when something will happen that could disrupt your trip, and the relative minimal cost is worth the peace of mind. These days, it’s really important to buy a policy that covers quarantining in a foreign country (ours covered $2,000 per person to stay in a hotel until we could return to the US). We compared different policies using Insure My Trip, and ultimately chose a policy with Trawick International.
  • Have a plan. The hardest thing for me to get my head around was getting “stuck” in Italy or France because of a positive test prior to our scheduled return home (symptomatic or not). If this happens you have to stay in your destination until you test negative — missing work and school. But the reality is that if we got covid at home, we’d be missing work/school anyway. At least in France and Italy, you aren’t required to stay in a specific “quarantine hotel” (in fact you don’t even have to report your positive test — you just can’t get on the plane until you test negative), so I identified a hotel ahead of time that was within the budget of our insurance. Knowing exactly where we would stay if it came to it, and having a plan in place, set my mind at ease.
The Outdoor Terrace at Bistrot Vivienne
  • Try not to get Covid! Kind of goes without saying, but we did our best to stay as safe as possible without impacting our fun in any significant way. We didn’t worry so much in Italy, as Covid was in a bit of a “lull”, but Omicron was raging while we were in Paris. Some of the precautions we took while there:
    • Outdoor dining. We only ate inside once, and at the very end of our trip, rationalizing that if we were going to catch the virus, we’d be home before we knew were infectious. Fortunately, Paris perfected outdoor seating long before Covid, and while those massive heaters are not great for the environment, the are definitely warm, even in January.
    • Masks. Masks are mandated indoors throughout France, and everyone complies with this. We wore our KN95’s religiously, including outside if we were on a crowded street or at a market. Probably overkill, but in January they have the added bonus of keeping your face warm, so there’s that!
    • Avoid crowds. We did take the Metro, but if a train arrived and it was busting out with people, we just waited for the next one. We also had tickets to go up the Eiffel tower, and once we saw how many people they were putting in an elevator, we hopped out of line. It’s better from afar anyway.
The four of us celebrating Thanksgiving in Rome. (Omicron was not surging yet, so we ate indoors a lot!)

Can I use my CDC card to prove vaccination?

At the time we traveled, both Italy and France required proof of vaccination/booster to enter a restaurant, museum, gym, church, or other public place. In Italy in November we were able to use our CDC card as proof, but France requires that visitors use the French Vaccine pass with a QR code that they use for contact tracing (it’s a great system!). To convert our CDC card, we went straight o the pharmacy on the departures level of Charles de Gaulle after we landed to obtain the French pass (Cost is 40€). You can then use the app “Tous Anti Covid” (download before you leave home) to scan the QR code so that you have it on your phone. And for people who are wondering, they really do check the pass before you are allowed to enter just about anywhere. I’ve heard some speculation that with numbers falling, and the French election coming up, the vaccine pass will be dropped, but it’s best to check with the French Embassy before you leave so that you have the most up-to-date info.

Is traveling worth the hassle right now?

Yes, there are a few extra steps and things to think about, and if you are super nervous about getting sick or having to quarantine abroad, then maybe it’s not worth the anxiety. But truthfully traveling during Covid has, for me, driven home even more how we really are all connected as humans across the Globe. We are all tired of this pandemic, but as humans we are adapting (or at least a lot of us are) — so that we can get back to enjoying the beauty that life and the World has to offer while still looking out for one another in the face of a formidable virus. We really are all in this together, and traveling reminds me of that.

If you have any questions about traveling right now, I’m happy to answer them. I’ll be heading back to visit Grace in a few weeks, and then my family is off to Ireland this summer (the 2020 trip that never happened!).

Cristen Farrell is a Boston family photographer, specializing in families, newborns, children, and life events. Her goal is to capture you and your family in a natural and authentic style, and for you to have fun along the way. She is based out of Andover, just North of the city, but travels anywhere in the Boston area. Cristen can be reached by clicking on this contact form.  Don’t forget to follow Cristen Farrell Photography on Instagram, too, for lots more Boston family photos.

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