I am writing this to share what I just experienced on my first trip TO/FROM the mainland as WHOA, it is WILD and confusing out there! (As background, I moved to Maui in January 2020, and didn't leave the island until the airport selfie snapped recently on June 3, 2021) That's right. Not even an inter-island flight was taken during that 16-month hiatus from stepping foot off my home island of Maui. I didn't want to deal with airports/planes/tests until I was vaccinated, and truth be told: I would not have taken this mainland trip to Denver and Vegas for a concert if I wasn't vaccinated.
But, I've been vaccinated since March 23, and I felt healthy and safe booking flights to see my favorite musician Michael Franti a year later than planned. In fact, it felt necessary for me to leave Maui and experience exactly what is really going on out there so I can share it with my #elitetravel clients who are finding it REALLY confusing (for good reason).
After all, as a professional travel advisor who's been traveling nonstop for three decades, I should have this shit down, right? That's what I kept telling myself as I realized that I was going to need to bump up my flight from Denver to Vegas by about 6 hours so that I could pre-book a pre-flight covid test at the available Hawaiian Airlines "trusted partner" venue and be guaranteed to get my negative test results back within 24 hours.
That alone just sounds confusing, doesn't it? Essentially, instead of flying from Denver to Vegas as planned at 4pm on a Monday (giving me time to chill and enjoy Denver), I got up at 6am to make the 8am flight which would land me in VEGAS in time for a 10am drive-through appointment at the Main Street Casino downtown Vegas (as seen below: Worksite Labs Drive-through Testing (hawaiianairlines.com).
There is LITTLE signage directing anyone anywhere at the local HNL and Maui airports. Just a word of warning. Don't be afraid to ask the airport personnel where to go. I honestly had no clue where to go upon landing on Maui, and was redirected when I tried to exit back into a line that ended up taking longer to get through than my flight between HNL and MAUI. I had to remind myself several times that I'd packed my patience (!!!!!) and even though I was at the tail end of the trip, getting annoyed would not get me out of the airport quicker. What got me out of there was being extra-friendly and kind to the local woman screening me, and making sure I thanked her for helping us all through this process. It was a test of my patience for sure.
I've NEVER been a carry-on packer. Never been a skill I could master. But, knowing what I know about traveling through airports in these weird days, I didn't give myself a choice. ONE carry on small suitcase was going to have to hold enough dresses/things for my weeklong trip. I ended up still bringing more than I needed and given how much time and stress it saved me, I will ONLY go carry-on unless it's an extended trip to multiple climates. Not having to wait in line to check a bag, retrieve my bag OR stress about a missed connection was amazing. I loved not worrying about if/when my bag would show up on the carousel at OGG (it can take an hour!).
What else did I learn on this all-important FIRST trip to the mainland?
1) If I wasn't a professional travel advisor, I would have wanted one to walk me through some of this. It is confusing! **Shameless but helpful and needed plug: I am offering consultations to potential new clients wanting to chat about post-pandemic travels so feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like to discuss possibly working with me. If I don't feel we are the right fit, I will happily refer you to someone who can assist with your travel needs.**
2) People ARE showing signs of restlessness after year-plus of being cooped up. Thankfully I didn't see any crazy displays of crazy, but the anxious energy was palpable. Bring noise-cancelling headphones to drown out all the noise (it works really well for me!). Try hard to stay above the stress that is temporary as we all get back to the "normalcy" of traveling through airports and on planes and at hotels with thousands of strangers.
3) Mask rules vary from state to state and until this changes, don't bitch about it. Just go with it. As in, if you're vaccinated and healthy, you can drop the masks indoors in places I was like Denver and at Red Rocks (concert venue with 8000 others) and at Vegas restaurants and casinos and hotels. It was almost like "what pandemic?" in these spots. But, be respectful when you get to Hawaii and the indoor mask mandate still exists state-wide. It may change soon, but it hasn't yet. It is what it is.
4) Be kind to people. We've all had a hell of a year, and a little kindness goes so far. It was truly amazing to be able to smile at people on the streets again. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed saying hi to people I didn't know without fear of being thought crazy after all these months of being pushed into isolation.
5) Like my fave singer Michael Franti says, STAY HUMAN. Literally, that's it. None of this was planned and none of us have a playbook for it. But, we can all enjoy the process a lot more if we roll with it....as is...and stay human, even when frustrating errors like the Covid tester telling me she didn't have a record of the appointment I booked/paid for 2 months ago (SHE FOUND IT but not before nearly giving me a heart attack). Ha. It's all NBD in the big scheme of things, but while traveling, it is easy to lose site of being a patient human and getting annoyed at all the extra protocols required to travel to the State of Aloha.
Contact me if you need my help. I no have a much better handle on what's really going on out there after this quick but really fun and joy-inducing trip to see people I didn't spend the pandemic with!
I am #NOTYOURAVERAGETRAVELAGENT and I will share my honest thoughts about pandemic-times travel with you. I will also tell you to pack in a carry-on if at ALL possible and please, please, please get TSA-PreCheck and/or CLEAR to cut so much time off the security process. These two things (pre-check + carry on) literally added hours to my life that I was able to relax in the airport vs. stressing if I'd make my flight!
Next post: coming soon What it was REALLY like staying in 3 hotels in 2 cities for the first time in a year-and-a-half and why it's essential to book your luxury hotels via a PREFERRED agent with solid relationships with said hotels. It's WILD out there.