Joe and I are getting ready for our annual (except for last year) trip to Texas, to visit Schlitterbahn Water Park. Travel this summer is unlike any other summer. Sure, we have to worry about the weather, same as always. But more than one airline has had a meltdown in recent weeks, there’s the worry that the rental car we reserved will actually be there when we arrive, the delta variant is out of control, and the list goes on and on.
On top of all that, we’re meeting our “COVID safe travel buddies” (but this time not so much because they’re “COVID safe”…they’re simply some of our closest friends and we just really like them) there. And that adds a few more things into the pot of “what ifs.”
We’ll be flying on American from MCO; they’ll be coming in from ATL on Delta. We’re supposed to land within minutes of each other (at least so far, LOL). The hotel and car rental reservations are in our name, and although we’re all flying into AUS, we’re staying in New Braunfels, which is about 50 miles away.
These are some of the “Plan Bs” we have in our pocket, along with some others we recommend for traveling right now.
This is probably our first worry. If our friends’ plane is delayed or canceled, it’s less of an issue – Joe and I can still rent the car (if it’s there. More on that later) since it’s in our name. If worse comes to worst, we can check in to the hotel and then go back to AUS to pick them up when they arrive.
If something happens with our plane, it’s a different story. They can’t rent the car because the reservation is under Joe’s name, and I can only imagine how much an Uber or even a taxi would cost to get to the hotel (I just checked – what I was writing this, it was a little less than $70 one way). So knowing the hotels at or near the airport is a must (sure, they can do it on the fly, once they’re there. But better to do it at home, when they’re not stressed, and have a list of locations and prices ready, just in case).
Besides the recent meltdowns on some airlines, summer storms can also mess up travel plans. So we know what to do when your flight is delayed by weather. Speaking of weather…if you’re traveling to a state that’s at risk for hurricanes, this is some really good reference material for you.
Something else to keep in mind – lots of restaurants, snack bars, etc. still aren’t reopened at airports. Put supplies in your carry-on. Lots of them. The last thing you want is to be hangry through your delay.
Fortunately, both they and we are taking direct flights. If we weren’t, we’d be considering what to do when you might miss your connecting flight.
We also know (ahem…experienced!) that planes can become undelayed. So even if we’re told our plane won’t take off on time, we’re still going to get to the airport as if it was going to.
Rental Car Company Doesn’t Have The Car We Reserved
This is our second biggest worry. Even if all 4 of us arrive on time, there’s no guarantee that our rental car company will have the car for us. We’re keeping our fingers crossed on this one (we don’t want to have to rent one of these, LOL) and are hoping that our later-in-the-day reservation will work to our advantage. If not, we have these tricks up our sleeve to increase our chances of getting a car.
We’ve also made sure to time our flights so we won’t get charged for an extra day by the car rental company.
If there’s one thing we’ve gotten really good at, it’s figuring our “Plan Bs” for COVID safety.
All 4 of us are fully vaccinated so we’re no longer super concerned about having to be hospitalized or dying if we catch COVID. However, even if we were to catch it while we were there, it would make for a whole lot of inconveniences:
- If we catch it while we’re there and show symptoms, however minor, before our flights home, we wouldn’t be able to fly until we got a negative test.
- If we caught it just before we flew home and didn’t have symptoms until we got home, it’d still mean isolating for days to weeks until we got over it and showed a negative test
We’re going to Texas, which is in something of a COVID crisis as of this writing. And although we live in Florida (which has it even worse than Texas) and our friends live in Georgia (they’re not far behind), being on vacation in a place with high COVID rates isn’t the same as living somewhere that does. When you’re at home, you can just stay at home. When. you’re on vacation, you want to be able to do stuff.
Our “Plan B’ for traveling with our “COVID safe buddies” in the past included cooking in our Airbnbs or doing take-out. Since we’re all vaccinated, we’re now going to mitigate our risk one step down from before getting our shots. We’ll still wear masks when we’re indoors, socially distance ourselves whenever we can (and wear masks, even outdoors, if we can’t). Although we’re willing to go to restaurants, we’ll be eating outside (fortunately, all of the restaurants we’re planning on visiting have outdoor seating).
Worst Case Scenario: COVID Diagnosis or Exposure While On Vacation
If our best efforts don’t work, and one of us gets COVID (and then all the rest of us will have been exposed), we’d most likely wind up having to stay in Texas until we tested negative. We’d see about staying at our hotel, or having a list of possible replacement hotels ready. We’d also know what to do about getting more of our prescription medications, if needed.
I suppose we’d have another option of driving home, but that’s assuming the rental car company would let us extend our reservation, or let us drive the car with COVID or a COVID exposure (the rental car companies’ rules on all of this are very vague. They should be more like Hertz’ in Australia).
We’d also have to cancel our plane reservations if we chose this route and although Delta has reinstated no change or cancellation fees for their flights, even for basic economy tickets, the other airlines are not nearly as gracious (read: if you have a basic economy or equivalent ticket, or are on an ultra-low-cost carrier, you’re screwed).
And, of course, travel insurance is a MUST, even for domestic travel.
Hopefully we and our friends will get through this trip unscathed. Hopefully, you and yours will get through yours the same. Good luck!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary