After six months of waiting, I finally got the chance to spread my wings and take off on a new adventure. I have French/American dual citizenship which allows me to travel between the two countries despite some pesky restrictions. Itching to get away or just curious as to the process? Below is a recap of my travels and what to expect both Internationally and Domestically.
The first part of my trip seemed easy enough since I was leaving from France, which is a country with less coronavirus cases than the United States. I was flying from Paris to New York which is also considered post pandemic. Currently there are only 13 airports in the United States accepting overseas travelers. New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are a few of them. You can connect to other domestic destinations as long as your point of entry is one on the list. There are no current restrictions between going from Europe to the States but there are several restrictions in doing the reverse.
Since I was not sure how it would go, I had a COVID PCR nasal swab test in France done 72 hours prior to boarding, just to be safe. I had it with my tickets in case of any question upon arrival. G day came and I arrived early and anxious to Charles De Gaul Airport which seemed like a ghost town compared to my last visit pre pandemic. At check-in my temperature was taken, and I was allowed to board the plane with no issues.
Upon boarding the plane, I was greeted by the flight attendant and given a sanitary wipe for my previously cleaned seat. I don’t think I have ever seen a cleaner plane, but I did wipe everything down to be safe. Medical grade masks where required but not provided on the plane. Fabric masks were allowed in the airport.
When it was time for meal service, we were given the choice of two boxed lunches, both of which were completely sealed in plastic. I opted for the cheese and meat box that was like a little French picnic in my seat. I didn’t mind that the meal was cold, it was nice to receive anything, when I thought meal service would be suspended. I had packed snacks to be on the safe side; but it wasn’t that long of a flight, so I knew I wouldn’t starve.
Before arrival in New York we were all given a contact form to fill out which required our local phone and email address to be contacted if someone from the flight became ill. I was in the front of the plane when exiting and therefore the screening line we encountered on exiting went relatively fast. There were few people ahead of me all of whom had filled out their forms correctly and didn’t require gentle coaching. With the capacity of the plane being low, the folks working on baggage had more time to deliver to the carousel than imagined. I was out of the airport in lightning speed.
I took a hotel shuttle to my nearby lodging where I would stay the night prior to my first domestic adventure. The desk agent informed me that though the restaurant was closed, they did offer room service with no minimum order or delivery charges. Entering the room, I was delighted to see the TV remote was in a clear disposable plastic bag allowing me to confidently use the control without removing the plastic.
Since I was tired and not feeling much like adventuring out after my anxious day, I opted for the in-room dining. I was not too hungry but was happy ordering a side of vegetables and a split of champagne delivered in a paper bag with sealed disposable utensils. I retired early since I was trying to acclimate to the time change, and had not slept on the plane. I also wanted to be prepared for the next leg of travel.
Similar to the day before, I arrived at a quiet airport. Half the shops and restaurants were closed; and lines went faster than usual other than Dunkin Donuts coffee, which seemed like a good idea with the extra time I had. My temperature was again checked, and I boarded the half empty plane. This was a small plane accommodating less commuters and allowing for the social distancing.
Though this typically is a standard one-hour direct flight, I was routed to Cleveland Ohio where I boarded another small plane to Pittsburgh. I asked why I needed to go out of the way and in essence double my travel time. It was explained that there are far less flights available due to the travel decrease and a hub stop was necessary. I didn’t mind, I had never been to Cleveland before, though all I saw was the terminal of the airport. They did socially distance on both the planes leaving my row exclusively for me.
No contact forms were asked for on these flights. I went from New York which has rebounded in C-19 cases to Pennsylvania where the numbers are still low, therefore there were no restrictions in regards to entering. If I was traveling to Pennsylvania from California, I would not be allowed to enter since the numbers are reversed.
Being a small plane, most people carried their bags aboard, but it was free to check one and since I had a connection flight, it seemed like a good idea. It was the only bag on the carousel and waiting for me when I arrived to claim it. I was the only person at the rental car agency counter as well, and quickly given a clean car that even had a note in it to ensure me that they had taken extra measures. This time I used one of my own sanitary wipes to be sure that all the buttons, screens, seat belts and handles were up to snuff.
I headed Northwest to the small town my mom lives in on the boarder of Ohio. On arrival at my hotel, I was greeted like royalty. I counted a very few cars in the parking lot, but who’s to say which were guests and which where employees. The desk agent seemed thrilled that they had something to do and went the extra mile to make me feel valued. I was given an upgrade to the King Suite and boy was that a treat.
I found cleaning wipes on my remote control and a reminder that housekeeping would only come on the third day unless specifically requested. I don’t usually have housekeeping come into my room, so this was not a problem. I mean how dirty can it get in a few days? I did stop at the desk a couple times for the fabulous makeup remover wipes they had in the bathroom.
After a fantastic time with my family, I head off to the next port of call. My journey continues from Pennsylvania where numbers were low to California that is listed as a red zone state with higher numbers. Like I mentioned it was not an issue to go from low to high.
I will let you in on a little secret tip I have that works wonders on those longer flights. Before I get to the airport, I stop at a candy store and get a box of chocolates. A good size box, not something small to enjoy personally. When I board the plane, I give the box to the flight attendant that is greeting guests. I thank them for the hard work they do and proceed to my seat.
On this flight, an attendant came to my row as the doors closed and asked me to get my things together. I followed her as she escorted me directly to Business Class telling me that this would be my new seat. I thanked her and she added they were thankful to me for having brought them the treats. A little kindness goes a long way. It worked on the flight from Paris to New York as well, making for a much more comfortable experience and less than paying for an upgrade.
Again, the flight was socially distanced, and my seat was sparkling clean. I was again given a sanitary wipe to further clean the space as I felt was necessary and I was relieved to find the wipe come up clean after a quick swipes over the screen, seat belt latch, window shade, headrest, armrests, seat back pocket and tray table. Off we were to the West Coast.
When debarking the plane in San Francisco, my temperature was tested in the jetway, and another form asking my local contact information was filled out before being allowed to proceed to baggage claim. Having been in Business Class, I was ahead of the the other flyers on the plane, and not subject to the line that followed. Feeling lucky, I was delighted to see my bag show up quickly and headed to the empty rental car area. The car seemed as clean as the last, with another reassuring note hanging from the rearview mirror.
The trip was wonderful, and I couldn’t have had a better time. But as my return date was sneaking up on me I had more to prepare for since I would be going from a Red Zone Country to an Orange Zone Country. To enter France at this time, you must have a negative COVID PCR test preformed within 72 hours of your flight, or you are not allowed to board the plane.
Since most test centers cannot guarantee results in that time frame, I was forced to drive a bit out of the way to a test center that could accommodate me. Just google rapid result COVID test center and options will come up for you. They even offer them at the CVS drive thru, you just need to do a little research ahead of time. If you need help do not hesitate to contact me!
They often have a checklist next to each location listed online telling you ahead of time if you need a doctor’s recommendation among other things. It will also tell you if you need an appointment and If you can get results the same day or the next day. Some test centers can do the test within 15 minutes but can cost you extra. Being alone is affordable but paying per person for a family can be challenging.
Some request a 24 hour turn around which you need to verify since some locations consider Saturday a non-workday. A flight on a Sunday can be a challenge but I found a number of places with a Friday/Saturday opportunity. The results come online so you do not need to return to the testing location. You will have to get it printed which is easy enough at a copy store or hotel business center.
It can be a bit of a stress to get the test done in such a short time. I know that it is different per country. For example; in the UK, Germany and Russia, they test you at the airport prior to check-in for a reasonable cost starting at 30 euros. France is in the process of doing the same, but the estimated start time of August 1st has passed and there hasn’t been any updated information about the program. I was happy to have the results in hand and was sad to see vacation time end. I had had good luck so far and was apprehensive that all would still be well in leaving the states for France.
I again arrived early to the San Francisco International Airport to ensure all was well. The Air France check-in counter was my first temperature checkpoint and my test results were verified. For $25 dollars I was able to access the Air France Lounge where they again checked my temperature.
Having arrived at the airport very early, I took advantage of the lounge benefits including lunch, cocktails and a bunch of free snacks and periodicals for the plane. It also gave me a quiet place to finish a couple of the American series I was binging in comfortable lounge chairs, complete with several charging sockets to be best prepared for the flight ahead. I definitely drank my fair share of champagne to ensure an early bedtime once aboard.
Before I settled into the lounge, I made a quick stop in a gift shop for a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares individually wrapped for even further sanitary measures. On entering the plane again, I went through the same procedure as done at check-in, I was to present the test results and have my temperature taken again, which seemed odd since not much could have happened in the couple hours I had been in the airport. Never the less I was happy to comply.
As I divulged earlier, I presented my flight crew with the bag of chocolates and was stopped halfway to my seat and escorted to the Business Class. Score. I was greeted whole heartedly with a glass of champagne and several thanks from crew members as they made their way to their stations. Even if they didn’t upgrade me, it feels nice to make someone’s day not to mention a 11-hour flight.
As protocol called for, I wiped down the frequently touched spots in my seating area. Though I wasn’t able to confirm the social distancing in the economy class, I had plenty of room in my category as there were just two of us in the entire section. Delighted, with a full glass of bubbly and a happy crew, we set off for France.
Before leaving the plane were asked to fill out the now expected contact form that was collected before we landed. Again, being in the Business Class paid off. The line to leave the plane was very short ahead of me, and I was able to bypass the long wait time my fellow passengers had to endure with the socially distanced exiting and post flight screening procedures.
At the exit of the plane my temperature was taken, and they reviewed my COVID PCR results placing a small sticker on my passport to indicate that I had been screened. There was an additional checkpoint for re verification as I entered the customs line. I was able to bypass many questions and forms since I was traveling on a French Passport, but I did hear some Americans being grilled as to why they were coming abroad. I was one of the first people at baggage claim and again retrieved my bag rapidly and sailed through the terminal with ease.
I made it to the RER Train ticket booth in the Charles de Gaul Airport to purchase my fare to the city with no line to wait in. After having bypassed so many trip obstacles, I would have been fine with at least one line, but as fate would have it, I didn’t need to wait. The travel gods were smiling on me and I was on the next train to Paris before the crowds. Or maybe there were no crowds?
Happy to have purchased my ticket, a man on the train in front of me was ticketed for not having paid. They call this “control points” and I shrugged knowing the line for the tickets was short and instead of paying 10 euros, he now had a fine of 50. I went from the RER train to the Metro which as luck would have it arrived at the same time as I did.
I was back home within an hour and half of landing since I had the energy to brave the public transit rather than the typical cab which would have cost 50 at a minimum. Not to mention the travel time by car would have been greater since traffic is bad with the closure of most streets in the center of town. Paris has become a biking town since lockdown. A large number of commuters have been scared out of the Metro and using other means of transport.
Because I had had a COVID negative test done within 72 hours, I was able to skip the 14-day quarantine required of many travelers. I was delighted when this was reconfirmed by the US Embassy when I called to verify.
I must say despite a few extra minutes to confirm my temperature and documents, nothing took additional time, if anything it took less time as there were fewer travelers. Nothing could have been easier and wearing a mask for several hours didn’t bother me. I loved not being crowded on the planes too.
Not having people up against me at every line was another joy. I loved the safety that they ensured me by the continual testing and couldn’t have been happier to be with a grateful crew. Not just for the chocolate but grateful to have travelers trust and believe in them and provide them with a sense of being.
All in all, I had an amazing experience. I traveled by Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Metros and even shuttles. I stayed in a variety of lodgings and came back with no fever or symptoms. Washed my hands, I wore my mask and I took advantage of the space that social distancing offers. I felt feverish from all the temperature taking, but that was just paranoia and a joke!
I am not saying that everything is safe, but I am saying that you should not be too worried about leaving your home. Even if it is just a short outing, I am living proof you can do it, enjoy it and stay healthy. There is a whole world waiting for you and soon you’ll be able to see it for yourself. Hopefully this little review of my experiences will build your confidence. If you plan to travel and need help please be sure to reach out to me and I will do my best to get you to Paris and back. Be sure that as soon as those borders open, I’ll be offering a COVID RELIEF special so we can enjoy our time together. Santé!