Flying in 2020: Travel in the COVID-19 Era

There are always risks involved with travel. In fact, sometimes travelling feels like a constant string of playing the odds. Whether we’re hiking in remote mountains, boarding a chicken bus in Guatemala or eating street tacos in Mexico, we need to weigh the risks (altitude sickness, tragic crash, 12 hours on the toilet) against the benefits (amazing mountain views, travel for cheapskates, tasty and greasy) when making our decision. COVID-19 simply presented us with another risk/reward assessment. When things got crazy in March at the end of our incredible Rota Vicentina trek, we decided to stay in Portugal after considering both the benefits (weather, scenery, avoiding the mad rush of the airports and airplanes) and the risks (diminishing flight options, getting sick abroad, attempting to speak Portuguese). We know that even though it is possible for us to get seriously ill from the coronavirus, statistically, it’s not very likely. However, it would be very easy for us to carry the virus with us and spread it to people who do fall into higher-risk categories. With that in mind, we decided to isolate ourselves in the Algarve and take extreme precautions to reduce the chances of bringing it home with us. At this point, we can’t know for sure if it worked but we can say for certain that our leisurely, uncrowded journey home was far less risky than had we joined the milling hordes trying to escape back in March.

When COVID-19 dangers and restrictions began seriously affecting travel in Europe back in mid-March, we completely revamped our ambitious plans and instead boarded a bus for Armação de Pera, a coastal tourist town in Portugal’s central Algarve region. That bus was driven by a clearly frightened driver who had taped off the first three rows and was letting everyone ride for free to keep them from coming anywhere near him. We spent the next 6 weeks isolating in a comfortable apartment, venturing out only for exercise walks and occasional grocery store visits. With the Algarve and Saskatchewan following bizarrely parallel and highly successful COVID-19 curves, late April brought talk of imminent re-opening and easing of restrictions in both locations. Time to go home, we finally decided. During our time in Portugal we had plenty of time to relate the timeline of developments, discuss coronavirus isolation and speculate on the future of travel. Now, we have finally hit the road again and gotten our first real glimpse of what travel now looks like in the COVID-19 era.

Masks are the most obvious change. Whether people like it or not, they are definitely going to become a regular part of our everyday lives – in hospitals, on transport, in stores, at work, etc. Yes, I understand that masks are not foolproof, but they absolutely reduce the chances of spreading the virus, which makes them a pretty minor inconvenience considering the stakes. Not only do they reduce your chances of becoming infected (especially if you wear them correctly and don’t fiddle with them constantly) but they are even more effective at protecting other people from you. As time passes and we are increasingly able to compile useful data regarding the virus it is becoming clear that a high percentage of carriers are asymptomatic (possibly as many as 90% of children). It is hard enough to contain the spread of the virus among people who get sick, but it becomes nearly impossible when half of those infected never even show symptoms. Even those who eventually do show recognizable symptoms can spread the virus before those symptoms appear. Which is exactly why masks are so important, even if you feel fine. And it seems like wearing a mask should be the bare minimum precaution a person should take before spending hours trapped inside a plane full of strangers. I’m not saying they need to be worn all the time or anything, but they seem like the considerate way to go whenever you expect to be in enclosed spaces with other people.

Here is a graphic that’s been going around which explains it perfectly (I couldn’t find a single version without the typo):

Now, for our long trip home:

Uber – Armação de Pera to Albufeira

Fully masked up and mentally braced for the scary outside world, we started off with an easy 15-minute Uber ride to the bus station in Albufeira. Their system works perfectly for the situation as payment is all done online with no interaction needed. Our driver offered us hand sanitizer, which he rather confusingly put away right after I said “sure, thanks” and put my hand out. Apparently, the Portuguese can’t understand my version of English any more than my awful Portuguese.

Rede Expressos – Albufeira to Lisbon

Although schedules had been significantly reduced, luckily there were still 3 buses per day going from Albufeira to Lisbon. The trip was comfortable and on-time. The first 2 rows were still taped off, we had to stow our own luggage and all passengers had to get on and off through the back door, just like 6 weeks previous, but they were certainly not allowing free rides anymore. We paid €18 each for the 3-hour journey to Lisbon. Actually, we paid that twice because Rede Expressos refused to offer us a refund or free date change when our flights changed and we had to bump up our bus trip – conveniently changing the notice requirement from 48 hours to 72 because of “circumstances”,  a deadline which just happened to pass hours before the email we sent them. About half the dozen people in the bus station were wearing masks, including one very angry woman who spent 10 minutes yelling at a bus station employee while, despite her outrage, meticulously maintaining the perfect 2-metre separation from the object of her considerable scorn. A couple people eschewed masks, opting for ridiculous thick winter gloves instead, and the woman sitting across from us on the bus wore rubber gloves the entire time – touching seats, seatbelts, food tray, then moving on to purse, phone, credit card (online shopping?), shopping bags, etc., before discarding the tainted gloves. And then touching all those same belongings again without the gloves.

In a strange mental dilemma, I actually found myself thinking twice about wearing my seatbelt since I had just washed my hands and knew I would have to do it again if I touched something. Ultimately, I opted for added road safety but it wasn’t an easy decision. There was a guy a couple rows behind us who coughed occasionally, and each time he did Laynni, myself and the girl across the aisle all started like we’d just heard a child hit with a paddle.

Lisbon Portela Airport

When we arrived for our Lisbon to Frankfurt flight, as expected, the airport was quiet, empty and vaguely dystopian. Shops were closed, check-in counters dark and silent and most restaurants abandoned. Strangely, though, we still had to walk through the usual brightly lit duty-free gauntlet to reach our gate area. Apparently, expensive alcohol and great value cigarettes are still considered “essential services”. Once through there, however, it was a ghost town. It was very strange to look at the digital flight board and, instead of waiting for it to scroll to page 3 to see our late afternoon flight, the screen was only half-full showing just 11 flights – the entire list of departures that day.

Thankfully, after 6 weeks of eating in, McDonald’s was still open, one of only two restaurants. Because there were so few people around there were hundreds of empty seats in the food court. Yet we saw 2 men sitting at adjacent tables. If they were travelling together, why not share a table? And if they weren’t, which one was the asshole that passed on the hundred other tables to sit that close?

Later, while waiting in a sparsely populated seating area with every second seat off-limits for distancing purposes, I watched a group of 5 airport employees hold a summit about how to clean the very top of the tall flight board. After plenty of discussion they eventually decided on a large cloth draped over the end of a broom, wielded by the shortest among them while a colleague watched, two supervisors discussed the success of the operation and one guy in a suit seemingly described the whole thing to someone over the phone.

Additional hand sanitizer stations and half the bathrooms closed for cleaning at any given time were the main hygiene differences we noticed. Well, that, and the one woman cleaning each seat with the kind of intensity you’d normally see from someone attempting to defuse a bomb.

If you happened to be watching the Portuguese evening news that night, you probably saw all of this – including us, presumably – since a camera crew spent a good part of the afternoon documenting the unusual scene. A guy with a massive camera on a tripod seemed to zoom in past my pores right into my frontal lobe, while another guy spent his time cruising around on a Segway getting Go-Pro action shots of us from every angle – reading, typing, playing on our phones, struggling not to adjust our masks on film.

A woman who looked suspiciously like Angela Merkel was also waiting for our flight to Germany, wearing a fun coral necklace and intently playing games on her iPad. It did seem a bit odd, though, that the German chancellor would be travelling without an official entourage, just an old guy wearing his mask around his neck repeatedly sneezing into his hand and wiping it on his pants.

It could be her, right?

Key question: Any health checks before boarding a flight within the EU? Negative. They did need confirmation that we had a connecting flight since Germany is not allowing entry to non-EU citizens.

Lufthansa – Lisbon to Frankfurt

Even though new rules insisted that all middle seats were to be left empty except when families were travelling together, the flight attendants were not wearing masks, which I thought was really strange. It looked like they had sold every allowable seat, meaning the plane was roughly 60% full, with better spacing than normal and the luxury of plenty of room in the overhead bins. Apparently not enough for the one (mask-less) fellow, though, who seemingly felt compelled to open and close each and every compartment – each of which was only half-full – before finally deciding on the perfect one. Then he finger-browsed a while longer before choosing a different spot for his jacket, which he graciously draped over several bags belonging to other people.

Unfortunately, we had a couple and their toddler seated behind us who, although we have no way of knowing if they had coronavirus or not, definitely had something, based on their matching sniffles and the kid’s occasional wet, ragged coughs, each of which drew spastic twitches of alarm from us, as though we could feel the germs drifting past our heads, and that leaning forward and looking annoyed would somehow protect us.

And, obviously, nothing – not pleas of flight attendants, not coronavirus, certainly not common sense – is going to stop people from leaping to their feet the moment the plane lands, only to spend the next 10 minutes jockeying for room in the crowded aisle, those unable to push their way to the aisle bent over awkwardly halfway out of the middle seat. That’s it, just keep breathing into each other’s mouths, said Darwin, smirking.

Frankfurt Airport

With Germany’s well-known penchant for structure and rules, we were somewhat concerned about what our reception there would be. We’d done as much research as possible prior to our flight and had even been assured by the German embassy in Portugal that we would be fine as long as we remained inside the airport in the international terminal. Only EU members were allowed into the country, and even then, only under strict regulations. So, needless to say, we were pretty surprised when the entire process we faced after disembarking was a neatly dressed young man politely asking us (and every other passenger) if we had a connecting flight. When we said yes, he smiled happily and waved us on. Maybe to get our baggage, maybe to sleep in a chair, maybe to buy some duty-free Scotch, maybe to just wander out of the airport and walk around Frankfurt rubbing things at random. Nobody seemed concerned one way or the other. As luck would have it, though, we were travelling carry-on only and weren’t really in the mood for sneezing on innocent Germans, so we just scouted out a good place to spend the next 17 hours until we could board our flight to Toronto.

Laynni did a great job spotting the promisingly named “Leisure Zone” on the airport map, which turned out to be just the airport Shangri-La we were hoping to find. Located at the far end of a long corridor with no operating gates, the Leisure Zone was dark, quiet and completely empty, featuring comfortable reclining chairs (we chose ones with a view of the planes coming and going sporadically), tables and outlets for every seat, his and her bathrooms directly across the hall (a full step up from anywhere we’ve actually lived) and even a touchless bottle filling station. It was even relatively warm, not the standard barely-above-rink-temperature most airports swear by. And right next door was a children’s play area where we could pass the time playing in a replica Lufthansa jet, and its padded safety floor proved the perfect spot to curl up for the night. It was the best setup we’d seen this side of the “Nap Zone” in Seoul, at least until the evening entertainment kicked in. Mysteriously silent until 10 pm, suddenly the PA system began blaring COVID-19 warnings every 5 minutes like clockwork. Why not before, when there were actually flights arriving and departing? Can’t say. Why now, when there weren’t enough people left to overcrowd a janitor’s closet? Hard to know. Was this their passive-aggressive way of making sure we didn’t enjoy our stay too much and, you know, decide to just live there for the summer? Potentially. Because until that well-spoken German woman – with a voice tone remarkably able to cut straight through ear plugs – began bellowing “Attention please, please keep a distance of at least 1 and a half metres” every time we closed our eyes, it seemed like there could be worse places to settle down and put down roots than the Frankfurt Leisure Zone. I had already begun casually imagining myself as a less-likeable version of Tom Hanks in The Terminal, whiling away our days as the eccentric Leisure Zone folks, eating nothing but curated fast foods, chatting up the ladies promoting excellent credit card offers, showering in the sink and learning the best technique for safely drying my private parts in a Dyson Airblade.

Alas, 1 and a half metre lady ruined all that. Eventually we found a sleeping pill dosage to match her insistent mantra and got a few hours of sleep, but it didn’t come easy and it didn’t make us want to stick around. Eventually it was morning, signified both by the rising sun and the confusing arrival of an airport worker riding a pedal bike with a basket full of bathroom cleaning supplies.

Another question: why 1.5 metres when everyone else in the world suggest 2? Do Germans even control their sneezes better than the rest of us?

When we finally reached the magic 3 hours until flight time, we exited our little semi-paradise into the public area to find the Air Canada check-in desk and get the boarding passes they were so stingy about handing out online (maybe they really wanted to see a familiar Canadian face, if only for a brief time?). At that point, it became quite obvious that, had we chosen, all of Germany was at our disposal. Despite a burning desire to expose the glaring flaws in their system, Laynni convinced me that flying home as planned probably made more sense than getting quarantined in a Frankfurt Ibis hotel eating takeout pumpernickel for the next 2 weeks just to prove a point.

Instead I just ate at McDonald’s again while Laynni dove into some pad thai – in a common area since all the restaurant tables were taped off – before heading to security, where we were literally the only people there. I mean, other than a dozen or so workers, all standing around aimlessly and almost certainly very excited to closely examine everything about us and our bags just for something to do. The meticulous conveyor belt attendant walked us through every step of the process as though bagging liquids and removing laptops were innovative new measures, even going so far as to list every conceivable item we may have forgotten to remove from our pockets or body cavities. Do you have any keys? No. Phone? No. Coins? No. Wallet? No. Passport? Watch? It’s plastic. Still, put it here. Credit card? In the wallet. Ah, good thinking. Pen. No. Fruits or vegetables? Ok, I think we’re done here.

Back in the international departures area we were surprised at how few restrictions were in place compared with the EU area of the previous night – no seats were off-limits, there was a closed bathroom door with a handle you had to touch and even one of those rolling cloth hand dryers that can be hygienic if everyone uses them right, except that no one ever does. Inside the EU area they ran a pretty tight ship but once you cross over into the international zone, well, Germany apparently dusts their hands of the issue. Copulate on the floor and take whatever you catch back to your country if you want, our job is done.

Air Canada – Frankfurt to Toronto

The usual shitshow when boarding – “please sit down until your zone is called”, “now boarding zone 3”, “sorry, sir, it says right here on your boarding pass that you are Zone 5, please sit down until we call you”, “no, I’m afraid you can’t stand there, please sit down”, “keep going, keep going, yes, over there”.

Unlike Lufthansa, Air Canada has been smart enough to make masks mandatory on flights for attendants and passengers alike, which meant that a solid 2/3 of passengers were wearing them. Everyone at least had one, since they checked as we boarded, but after that many just had them pulled down or draped loosely around their neck, not actively in use but still readily at hand so they could quickly cover up if a rabid, snarling Covidiot came raging toward them, spittle cocked and loaded. I guess.

The Many Styles of Mask-Wearing

Correct

Whether a paper surgical model or home-made fabric mask, it is worn over the nose and mouth and hooked under the chin. Not 100% effective but still decreases your chances of being infected and, more importantly, does an excellent job of protecting others from you.

The N95 Surgical Mask

The Cadillac of masks (assuming Cadillacs are still considered good, I’m really not sure). If you have managed to get your hands on one of these sought-after models, consider yourself lucky. Although most doctors agree they are more effective when worn regularly rather than simply held up against your face whenever the flight attendant passes by.

The Hang Loose

Everything is positioned correctly, in theory, except the mask is so loose that it sags away from the face all the way around. Pros: more comfortable. Cons: vulnerable to any viruses clever enough to approach from an angle.

The Under-Nose

For gamblers who happily accept 50% odds, covering the mouth but leaving the nose to breathe free and clear, inhaling oxygen and viral particles and whatever else, as needed. But the mouth, well, it’s safe. And when they sneeze they graciously spare us their saliva, although there is usually still plenty of nose mucous to go around.

The Under-Chin

The entire mask pulled down under the chin, protecting from absolutely nothing, sure, but poised and ready, available to be called into action in a moment’s notice if any microscopic COVID-19 particles are spotted coming your way.

The Double

You have been blessed with ownership of two masks. Why not use both together? Then you’ll also have one to share with friends if they forget theirs.

The Casual Plaything

Step one, you have a mask. And, for now, it seems enough to just carry it around in your hand, occasionally twirling it playfully. This works well to stave off boredom. Just not viruses.

The Mangled Scarf

You take a regular, everyday scarf and simply use scissors to cut it into the rough shape of a mask. I honestly have no idea if this is effective or not. I do know it looks dumb as shit.

Thankfully, the plane was only about a 1/3 full so we had as much space as we could hope for, considering the questionable attitudes of the other clientele, and Laynni even managed to get her hands on an entire middle row so she could lay down and sleep. I could have done that as well, I suppose, but instead decided to stick with my tried and true method of sleeping sitting straight up, arms rigidly by my sides like a homicidal maniac dreaming of chasing rabbits through flowery meadows and stuffing the mouths of my enemies full of their own genitals.

Throughout the 8 ½ hour flight we slept hard, read hard, ate tentatively (cold turkey wrap) and watched avidly – Queen and Slim, followed by a Flight of the Conchords live special and a couple early Chappelle Shows until we taxied into good old Lester B. Pearson.

The main differences from a normal flight – besides the number of passengers – were the pre-packaged cold meals (really not so different from pre-packaged hot meals) and the only drinks available being tiny plastic bottles of water (rather than tiny plastic cups of water – one has to admire their commitment to wasting plastic no matter what is happening in the outside world). Also, we were invited to celebrate the final flight for an attendant who had worked there 29 years. No one told us if his departure was virus-related or just normal airline euthanization policy.

Lester B. Pearson International Airport – Toronto

After leaving the plane in Toronto we ran into some officials handing out COVID-19 forms we needed to fill out. While I did that Laynni talked to another official about the Canada COVID-19 app that she had pre-filled the night before, just needing a code from the airport to complete the questionnaire. He showed her where the code was posted and told us we would not need the paper forms after all. So even though I had already filled them out, I threw them away and we headed down one flight of stairs to Customs where we were greeted by a woman who was sad to inform us that the app didn’t work here, that was only for Terminal 3, so we would need to fill out some forms. Which we did again – providing our names, where we were travelling from, and the address where our pending quarantine would take place. We then made our way to the front of the “line” (one guy), where we listened to the following exchange between an arriving man and the customs official.

“Where are you going to quarantine?”

“I’m going home”

“Does anyone else live there?”

“Yes, my family.”

“How many people?”

“Well, my wife and kids.”

“Do you see how that doesn’t really make sense? You are supposed to isolate yourself for 14 days so you don’t infect others. How are you going to do that?”

“Well, it’s a big house.”

“So you’re going to stay in one room by yourself for 2 weeks? Because that is what you need to do.”

“I’ll live in the southeast part of the house and they’ll stay in the other part.”

“And you think this will be effective?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. Next.”

He asked us if we “had any COVID symptoms”, if anyone else lived at our Saskatoon address and if we had someone to help us with our isolation plan. He seemed satisfied with our answers (no, no and yes). He did not ask what we had planned for the 20 hours we would be in Toronto before our next flight left.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re happy that we were allowed through without invasive testing that might have kept us from making it home. However, considering how few passengers are in the airports and how much extra staff is just standing around looking bored, I found it fairly disturbing that we haven’t implemented additional procedures to catch potentially contagious travellers. Temperature scanning, more detailed questionnaires, random checks, random testing even. We are very close to having reliable rapid testing capabilities and using those in airports would go a long way toward controlling future outbreaks (although it seems some are still working out the kinks). Yes, it will probably add more time to each trip, and people will inevitably complain, but those seem like small sacrifices to make things safer for everyone.

With more tests being constantly manufactured and cases – in Saskatchewan, in particular – holding steadily low, you would think we are nearing a point when we can start testing every arriving traveller, anyone who wants one and even randomly in a wide range of regions and neighbourhoods to potentially catch non-symptomatic outbreaks before they manifest – this needs to be the goal. Not a bored airport official asking, “How do you feel?”

Anyway, apparently satisfied, he wrote something on our forms, returned them to us and sent us on our way. About 50 metres farther on another official looked at the forms briefly and told us to drop them in a cardboard box with the others. Now, just because our forms spent time in a haphazard pile of papers in a beaten-up cardboard box does not mean they won’t be diligently reviewed, logged and entered into a national database for easy access by officials throughout the country. But it also doesn’t guarantee they will.

Update: We did receive an email from the federal government on May 4 and another from the provincial government May 5 reminding us that we are required to self-isolate. So, that’s good. Although neither one actually gave any details about what is and isn’t allowed (it’s all online but it wouldn’t hurt to make it harder for people to plead ignorance).

So, with these brief formalities handled, we wandered out of the airport into the streets of Toronto, free to roam as we pleased. For us, well aware of everything we had potentially been exposed to over the past 36 hours, that just meant going straight to the closest airport hotel, a touchless check-in from across a makeshift barrier of tables, then staying put in our room until it was time to head back for our flight to Saskatoon the next day. Laynni happily sustained herself on random food products scavenged from various flight snacks, while I excitedly ordered pizza delivery which ended up taking nearly 2 hours to arrive because the first driver “had a problem, but he’s okay now”.

In the morning we had cold pizza and more airplane snacks, then returned to the still-empty airport. At the Air Canada check-in desk we were the only passengers and were outnumbered 8-2 by jovial, joking employees. We were also the only people in the security area, raising a problem we had never encountered before – how to know where to go when there is no line to follow? Eventually, an agent noticed us and excitedly waved us over to his checkpoint. Soon we had attracted a group of 10 employees watching us, watching our stuff, just generally keeping tabs. I thought we may be subject to a more thorough inspection simply to give them something to do but, no, everything passed through without comment except for my backpack, which received a brief squint of deep thought and a cursory fondle – like you might give a pineapple you were considering purchasing – before we were on our way again.

Once again, not much was open, but I’ll tell you what was – A&W! Pizza for breakfast, deep-fried onion rings for lunch – welcome home recently healthy stomach!

Air Canada – Toronto to Saskatoon

The closer we got to home the smaller the crowds got. Spacing was certainly no problem at our gate where less than two dozen people sat around in an area made for hundreds. Every once in a while someone would get up and take a picture of the flight screen to show people at home how few flights were leaving Toronto – few enough that the entire day’s departures didn’t even fill up one screen. Rather than the usual nervous mob pushing to be the first to board, there was a palpable lack of concern among our fellow Saskatoon passengers, to the point that finally one of the Air Canada ladies had to physically walk around and roust people up.

“Going to Saskatoon? Okay, come on now, this is the final boarding call. No, really, we need you guys to get on the plane.”

We were happy that masks were once again mandatory and that, obviously, there was plenty of room on the plane and no need to sit close to any strangers. We enjoyed a brief moment of normalcy watching a guy in front of us spend way too long trying to shove his way-too-wide suitcase into the narrow overhead bin. A toddler still lacking depth perception could have told this guy it wouldn’t work – not on the first try, not on the tenth, and almost certainly not on the twentieth. Finally the flight attendant couldn’t take it anymore and callously crushed this poor man’s hopes:

“It isn’t going to fit. Either take all the stuff out of the front pockets or put it under the seat.”

He stared blankly for a minute, then began trying to shove it under the seat, eventually giving up, leaving it partially wedged in.

About half an hour into the flight this same man’s friend came back for a visit, carelessly moving the troublesome suitcase onto the seats across the aisle before sitting down next to his friend and across the aisle from me. He had a sketchy homemade mask pulled down under his nose. After a bit of small talk he apparently decided he just couldn’t be as expressive and entertaining as he wanted with that mask on so he removed it altogether and continued rambling. Now fully annoyed, I got his attention and asked him to put it back on. He looked surprised, but complied. However, after having a minute or so to think it through, decided he wasn’t having it, after all, and pulled it all the way down under his chin. The flight attendant was sitting two rows back so this time I got her attention and said, for both to hear, that this guy is refusing to wear his mask. To her credit, she leapt into action, quickly lecturing him regarding current flight regulations and suggesting he return to his seat. Which he did grumpily, clearly feeling that covering his mouth and nose for a few hours was the greatest indignity that had ever been inflicted upon him. I couldn’t tell if he kept it on while up front but I suspect not, based on additional animated conversations with the flight attendant that involved some rather emphatic hand motions on her part. The mask was definitely nowhere to be seen the moment we got off the plane, which I noticed while we glared at each other next to the baggage carousel.

I know this guy won’t be alone, there are going to be a lot of people complaining as masks become mandatory in more places, but, seriously, if this completely minor inconvenience can help reduce the spread of a deadly virus to any extent whatsoever, does it not seem absurd and unbelievably selfish to fight against it? Especially when the main purpose of a mask is to protect others from us?

Another first: a PA announcement about making sure we flush the toilet when we’re done, explaining that “it’s not automatic, you need to press the blue button near the toilet paper”, as though people had been searching and searching to no avail. I felt a bit bad for the guy who had just emerged from a long spell in there right before she offered this rather unsubtle advice.

After deplaning in Saskatoon, were it not for a short bathroom stop, we could have made it outside in less than one minute. We did not see a single official or employee, were asked no questions, were certainly not assessed for health or grilled regarding our upcoming quarantine. Truly incomprehensible.

My parents had brought us our vehicle and were waiting in the parking lot for a brief, appropriately spaced reunion. They had already stocked up our place with groceries, made us some extra masks and, maybe most importantly, got our internet hooked up – we’re all set for the next 2 dull but comfortable weeks.

In the end, on a personal level, we enjoyed the ease of travel and lack of crowds and queues. Of course, it did take us close to 60 hours and two overnight stops to get home from Europe, something that used to be pretty straightforward. It’s mainly down to a lack of options, and that probably won’t change anytime soon.

While those complications were expected, we were very disappointed in the lack of screening procedures. In most of Canada – and Saskatchewan, for sure – we are no longer playing catchup with this virus. We know that a large percentage of our cases are being brought in by travellers (both to the country and to the province). Why not do more to screen, test and monitor them (i.e. us)? There were maybe 20 people on our plane from Toronto, the only one of the day as far as I know. Would it be too much to expect to have a couple people asking questions, checking temperatures, hell, even testing us? At least re-confirm our isolation plan. Yes, I know our address can be found on a hastily written form in a cardboard box on the floor near customs in the Toronto airport, but still, somehow that doesn’t seem like enough. Let’s hope people continue to behave safely on their own, respecting physical distancing guidelines and continuing good hygiene regimens, because clearly the system we have in place to limit the spread through travel isn’t going to accomplish much.

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Other useful articles you may want to check out:

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Roam: The 9 Greatest Trips on Earth

Burning Travel Questions

World’s Best Road Trips

Slow Travel – Settling in for the Long Haul

2 thoughts on “Flying in 2020: Travel in the COVID-19 Era”

  1. Well done as usual. The pee test was the best! I am sure to use it the first chance that I get. Glad that you guys are home safely. When is your next trip? 🙂

    1. Isn’t that the million dollar question? Hoping we can go somewhere in the fall even if it is just to settle in somewhere new for a couple months – I think that will still be too soon to do a lot of moving around. But your guess is as good as mine, I expect you’ll be having the same mental dilemmas by then. Stay safe, and stay dry!

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