I recently flew out to Colorado to visit family. Now that the holidays are approaching I know more and more people are asking the question - should I stay or should I go? I do think there are many things to consider when it comes to visiting family over the holidays and the choice to fly or not is a big one. I felt safe flying last week but some things are changing which might make you reconsider which airline you choose. Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you are planning to fly -
Smaller might be better
This flight to Colorado was my first time flying since we moved so it was the first time I wasn't going to fly out of Orlando airport. We now live close to a few smaller airports with Fort Myers (RSW) being the best option for this flight since Southwest offered non-stop to Denver (and I also had expiring credit with Southwest). Fort Myers is a much smaller airport than Orlando which I actually found to be a bonus right now. We walked right up to check bags and made it through security with barely seeing another traveler. Walking through the terminal we saw people waiting at their gates but everyone had plenty of space to social distance. Another bonus of a smaller airport is that we didn't have to get on any kind of train to get from security to the terminal like you do at bigger airports. When we arrived in Denver having to get on the train that takes you to bag claim was when I noticed the most people bunched up. If you have the option to fly out of or into a smaller airport it might be a better way to go for awhile.
You might have to sit next to someone
Airlines are starting to change the policy for giving you more space on the plane. We flew Southwest which at this time is only selling enough seats to allow for the middle to be empty in each row. I love this and am sad to hear they are planning to stop doing that as of December 1. Many other airlines were also keeping capacity limited to allow travelers more room but are also pretty much ending that by the end of this year - many of them even before the holidays. Delta recently announced that they will keep the middle seats open through March which I think is great! I am hoping maybe the other lines will change their minds and do the same however since American and United have been selling every seat since summer so I am not sure the other lines will want to match Delta. If you want to check on what all the airlines are doing here is a Forbes article that looks to be updated often. I understand that the airlines really cannot afford to leave seats empty but right now I do think having that extra space between people helps and might play a big factor in people flying at all.
Don't be that Hangry person
Most of the airlines have either completely shut down in flight food and beverage service or they have a very limited service. When I last flew in May Southwest wasn't offering any food or drinks onboard. This time around they did offer a cup of water and a snack which was nice but might not be enough for you. Packing something to eat is a good idea to avoid paying those higher airport prices but just make sure you pack something that can go through security. There is no way to bring a drink with you through security but you could bring an empty bottle to refill. If you are planning to grab food at the airport keep in mind not all of the places will be open. Not only does that limit your choices but it also means longer lines at the places that are open. If you don't have time to eat what you bought before boarding don't worry you can bring it onboard and you are able to remove your mask on the plane while actively eating or drinking.
If you do decide to fly this holiday season it will be different than any other year and I hope that I have helped you be better prepared.
I am so excited to finally have a trip report to do! Even though I do live in FL and can drive to the theme parks this is still a trip since we did stay in one of the resorts and spent 2 days playing in the parks.
I will admit I have put off visiting the parks mainly because for me it was just too hot to be wearing a mask. My birthday is in November and usually it actually gets a little cool here in FL around that time of year. This year being what it has been of course we are still in the upper 80s in November. I had already booked the hotel and it was my birthday so we were going anyway. At least it wasn't feeling like 100 like it had been all summer.
First I will start out saying I chose Universal Orlando for my birthday for a few reasons but mostly because it was easier than Disney. Universal is not requiring you to make an advance reservation for the parks and they still allow park hopping. I also chose Universal because I hadn't ridden Hagrids yet and knew that staying at a Universal resort would really help make riding that easier. Staying at a Universal resort meant I could get into Islands of Adventure an hour early which was key to avoiding a long line for Hagrids. We got up and were at the park entrance before opening. They did a good job of keeping everyone spaced out and in the right lines based on if they were resort guests with tickets or not. As soon as the park opened we walked directly to Hagrids along with pretty much everyone else but still never felt crowded or too close to anyone. The line sort of formed naturally at first with everyone going in the same direction anyway and then as we got closer they did start a queue but it was long enough snaking through other parts of the parks that you pretty much just kept walking and it helped avoid any long time standing. When we got to the lockers we did have to go in and do that before we could continue in the line since we did have a bag with us. It only took a minute to do and they were keeping everyone well spaced out in there as well. One thing I realized too late was that these lockers used your park ticket not your finger to open and I had already put my bag with my ticket in it and shut the locker before I realized that. No worries you can get a cast member to open for you when you get back. You just need to describe what is in the locker to prove it is yours.
You might be wondering what it is like to visit a theme park now. There are of course some changes due to Covid and I will admit I wouldn't mind if some of them stuck around. All in all I felt very safe during my stay and wouldn't hesitate to go back. I do highly recommend staying at an on-site resort for the added conveniences.
By now we have all gotten pretty used to the idea of social distance. There are markers placed all around the parks and hotels reminding people to keep a 6 ft distance.
It was nice to be in line and not feel squished in with 100 other people breathing down your neck so I wouldn't mind if that stuck around. Everyone was good about respecting social distance in lines and pretty much all around. Even better are those attractions where you would normally be packed into a pre-show room with what feels like a 1000 other guests, thanks to social distance that doesn't happen now. Those pre-show rooms now have boxes marked out on the floor where each party will stand to watch and then go on to enter the attraction. That also means if there are attractions where you would normally be seated with other parties that doesn't happen either. For example if you ride the Simposon's attraction you will have the car all to yourself. The drawback to this is that it can make wait times a lot longer with less people experiencing each attraction at a time. Again this was when being a resort guest with Express Pass included was a nice bonus. You can also purchase Express Pass if you are not a resort guest.
Yes masks are required to be worn and they are being strict enforcing the masks are worn correctly. I will just say it isn't the most comfortable thing but you do sort of get used to it after a few hours. I recommend bringing multiple masks and also testing out your masks before traveling to be sure you find it comfortable for long periods. There are places around the park designated as rest zones where you can take your mask off even if you are not eating or drinking. Speaking of eating and drinking you really are not encouraged to wander around eating and drinking wherever you want. They really do try to keep you in the eating areas to finish if you buy food. Depending on where you choose to get food some counter service locations might require you to sit at a table they assign to you for eating - so that might mean you cannot take it outside to find an outdoor table or walk with your food. I get that they don't want people using food as an excuse to walk around without a mask but making people stay inside isn't great either.
As a resort guest our temperature was taken as we arrived at the resort and we were given a colored band to wear that showed we were clear for the day and no more temperature checks needed. The color changed each day so you do need to have your temperature checked each day but being able to get that done at the resort was quick and easy.
There were plenty of places pointed out for hand washing and sanitizer. Plus before boarding any attraction you are required to get a squirt of santaizer. While I understand the idea that this way they are not having to wipe down each attraction between riders I wasn't a fan of always being slathered in sanitizer.
You will notice that there are places that didn't used to have plexiglass that now do. Again I get it for safety but on some attractions it takes away from the experience.
Crowds were not bad but probably more than I had expected. You notice more people mostly in the Harry Potter sections. We also popped over to Disney Springs for dinner one night and quickly realized that with all parks pretty much closed by 7 pm means a lot of people flood into Disney Springs. I would highly recommend avoiding Disney Springs after 7 pm.
I was so happy to get in some park time and see how things are being handled first hand. If you have any questions about my visit please let me know.
While I am excited to see the No Sail Order lifted I also quickly realized after skimming the 40 page CDC Framework for Conditional Sail Order that lists all of requirements to resume sailing that mostly likely cruising would not begin again until January 2021. That is because there is a condition that mentions 60 days so I figured that meant if they cruise lines started all this November 1 they should be good to go January 1. Shortly after the CDC posted the information the cruise lines started announcing December cancellations and as of now looks like all of them have confirmed no sailing until after 12/31. While I am bummed about no December cruises I am happy to think that we finally have some sort of really good timeline for restarting.
A few key things I noticed:
It looks like sailings will have to be kept to 7 days or less
Testing and masks are going to be part of the requirements
Shore excursions will have strict rules
Social Distancing rules will change things like dining and entertainment onboard
The rules and procedures required by the CDC encompass everything from extensive testing of crew already onboard ships; arrangements with ports and local health authorities; testing of new crew and passengers boarding; securing (by cruise lines) of local housing for isolating any people who test positive and don’t need hospital treatment, as well as their close contacts; simulated voyages with no passengers and more.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing," said Robert Redfield, M.D., the CDC's director. "It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live." He added that the CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers and communities, and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.
I will be staying on top of all the news and hope that ships will be sailing come January 1!
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