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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Wayland

My Travel Experience During COVID

I recently traveled internationally during the pandemic and am here to tell you what the airport was like, what the plane was like, the resort, the VIP lounge, and more.

Before you travel shame me, please remember that like my friend that works at the UofI and like my neighbor that waits tables, I am going back to work out of the love for my job and the urgency to return from being laid off for months.

I begin my journey by driving 2 hours from Champaign to Indianapolis International Airport, departing my home at 1 am, arriving Indy at 3 am CT (4 am ET for a 6 am ET departure time.) There were sometimes no cars in sight at this time of night, so it was a peaceful drive.

Parking at FastPark in Indy was about ⅓ full. They had ½ of the lot completely blocked off.

On the shuttle to the airport, they had every other seat blocked.

Indy airport was desolate, but it was a 6 am takeoff, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. All of the thrift shops with snacks, magazines, gifts, and drinks were open.

I was the only one in the TSA security line. I was asked to pull my mask down to show my face for identification.

The Atlanta airport was hoppin’. There were many couples traveling on my flight to Punta Cana. I was kind of surprised. All shops were open and I did my usual stop at MAC for some cosmetics. Masks ON!

Social distancing was obvious at the gate.

I was told by a fellow traveler that has traveled from state to state and listened to many Governor daily briefings, that our Governor has a much more frightening tone to his briefings; this may very well have kept us safer during this time, however, I believe is a reason that most tourists I meet are not originating from Illinois.

On the plane, the seat configuration was 3-3 and they reserved no more than the aisle and window in each row. I had a row to myself and laid down and slept the whole flight, which I often do anyway; I am lucky that way.

My flight had canceled about one week prior to departure because Delta stopped flying daily from Atlanta to Punta Cana. However, they still fly several times a week, so I had the opportunity to reschedule for no extra charge - to a day earlier or later.

Both of my planes coming and going were brand new and had the entertainment systems; I am not sure if they are putting their best planes on the line - because they are more efficient or just putting their best foot forward - since many aircraft are grounded - I’ve never had an entertainment system to the Caribbean before, only on overseas flights like Europe, Africa, Asia, and Hawaii.

Everyone was handed a Purell packet with a purell wipe upon boarding the aircraft.

On the aircraft there was no beverage or snack service at ALL except EVERYONE was passed out a snack pack which consisted of a small bottle of water, a small bag of Cheezits, a packet of Biscoff cracker cookies (yum!!), and a napkin.

Every airport and every aircraft I traveled on required and strictly enforced the wearing of face masks for EVERYONE - staff and travelers - “up over your nose” I heard them remind people to pull up their masks, more than once. While you were eating in the airport or the plane, however, they didn’t bother you about it.

I experienced the VIP airport service in Punta Cana. A VIP Rep met me at the bottom of the stairs upon arrival/deplaning (there are no jet bridges at this airport) with a sign with my name and each VIP guest or party was escorted into the terminal with their own private club golf cart. Once inside the terminal, they asked me for my documents; I gave them my passport and immigration papers that were provided on the plane. Although a valid negative COVID test was mandatory within 5 days of arrival, I wasn’t asked to produce it; I hear it’s randomly checked. Other guests experienced temperature checks and even blood finger prick COVID testing at the airport.

The VIP lounge was lovely and the service was quite friendly and professional. I zipped right through a private area of the airport. It was well worth it! Upon return the VIP service staff meet you curbside and escort you through security and into the lounge overlooking the terminal where friendly service staff weight on you with food and drinks. My escort even helped me find my son's favorite candy that purchase in bulk in the Duty Free shops when I am traveling internationally (an oversized [stocking stuffer] pack of all strawberry Mentos.)

In my private transfer from the airport to the hotel in the DR, the drivers were wearing masks and I did also. They squirted hand sanitizer on my hands before entering the vehicle. My vehicle was brand new and immaculately clean (I felt very safe.) The owner of the company accompanied me on my transfer so we could talk about all the ways we can roll out the red carpet for our guests!

Upon arrival at the resort, we had to step on mats and they counted to 3-seconds to disinfect our feet before entering the resort. Then they squirted our hands with hand sanitizer before escorting us to the Concierge lounge. Once inside the concierge lounge, we were advised that facemasks for the rest of our stay were optional. ALL STAFF, however, were mandated to wear face coverings at all times. My temperature was taken only when entering the spa, in preparation for a spa service.

I constantly saw staff cleaning all over the resort - walls, handrails, chairs, more than the norm. There were hand sanitizer stations all over the resort, especially at the bell stand at the restaurants.

There were no buffets or swim-up bars open at the resorts. The a la carte restaurants were open - they rotated which ones each night - but there were always at least 3 to choose from and no reservations necessary, so it was truly a delightful dining experience.

Of course, they treated us like royalty, and I focused on my specialty - options for corporate incentive groups and wedding/multi-generational groups.

I was apprehensive and am so glad I traveled and this is why. I am not trying to convince anyone to travel - but I needed to know what the safety protocols are because there are others out there that ARE ready to travel and just want to know what to expect. That, and I had a great time!

In the airports on the way home, I overheard many people, couples, families talking about how glad they are that they didn’t cancel and traveled, and how wonderful it was and how great it felt. It was truly a great feeling to hear. And truthfully I felt the same way. Fortunately, we came back unscathed and for that, I feel truly blessed.

I hope you will continue to follow our travel experiences and trust us in helping you plan, organize, and book your upcoming vacations. We’re here for you and appreciate your business.

I invite you to follow my adventures on YouTube at #Jetset Jen.

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