Photo by Giorgio Grani on Unsplash
As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, like practically everybody, I’m worn down. Nearly 12 years ago I left my home state of New Mexico for new adventures in New England, and without fail I had gotten together with family for the holidays, whether it was me flying to Albuquerque, my parents visiting me, or all of us visiting my brother who lived elsewhere on the East Coast.
It was hard missing two years of my brothers’ kids‘ growth, my parents’ firm hugs, or decent New Mexican food. (It’s still hard — I’ve only seen one of my two brothers and only his two kids, so I still have two to go.)
So when I had the chance as a fully vaccinated, boosted, cautious traveler to see at least part of my family, I took it. First for Thanksgiving, then for Christmas, all with the aide of my company’s generous work-from-home policies.
A few things to pack for travel in 202x:
- Patience. Airports aren’t quite as busy as they were in the Before Times, but airport staff certainly is. When my return flight got canceled for Omicron and I booked myself on a different airline, it was a three-hour hold to talk to somebody at the airline to just request a refund. (Didn’t help that the website was barely working.) I used online chat, and after the same three hours of waiting, being patient with the agent got me exactly what I wanted: a refund.
- An N95 mask. For the most part I’ve used KN95 masks during the pandemic. They’re convenient and safe, and loop behind the ears so they’re easy to put on and take off. But on a plane, they really stress out your ears. A proper N95 mask has loops that go around your neck and head. More annoying to put on and off, but so much more comfortable to wear.
- Breath mints. You’re gonna wear a mask for hours, and you’re going to be smelling your breath for hours. (Science time: oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are small enough to pass through N95 masks, but a lot of molecules that you can smell get blocked.)
- Hand lotion. You’re washing your hands for 20 seconds, right? Combine that with the dry air of an airplane and your hands will probably look like the desert ground. And hand lotion that doesn’t cost the same as a small car is hard to find at many airports.
- Decongestant. A well-fitting N95 mask seems to push on your nostrils a little bit. Add to that just a little bit of congestion from allergies, and it becomes rather hard to breathe. A quick spray (or pill) of decongestant clears up enough to make breathing easier.
- Warm clothes. (As I write this at Denver International Airport it’s 7 degrees outside, and there are folks in short running shorts and T-shirts. And a properly ventilated plane is a little under the usual room temperature.)