In 2020, my husband and I were hell bent to cross an item off of our bucket list. While he had traveled extensively world-wide for business, I remained at home battening down the hatches and managing the schedules of our children and their many activities. His passport was stamped for such far flung places as Singapore, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Tenerife, Liechtenstein, Turkey and Costa Rica while mine had a single worn and faded stamp from a trip to Bermuda over a decade ago.
Now that the kids were grown, we decided a trip to Europe was the perfect treat; no big deal for him but a very big deal for me. We picked dates for mid Fall when the temperatures would be right and booked our flights. I researched cities and towns, picked several with once-in-a-lifetime things to see and began to create a schedule. We met with a travel agent and left with weighty catalogues containing information for hotels, restaurants and iconic landmarks. It all was becoming very exciting.
And then, just as I was scouring travel websites to find out how to maximize room in my suitcase, COVID hit. I still remember that mid-March 2020 Sunday, when gathering with family members to celebrate a birthday, we discussed what the next two weeks would look like for everyone. Two weeks we were told; two weeks and everything would start getting back to normal. Two weeks for this highly infectious virus to run its course. Meanwhile, we were all going to hunker down and stay in our dwellings with what little toilet paper we had managed to secure. No worries, I thought, this would be long gone before Fall. Well, we all know how that worked out. As the months passed, with no end in sight, we decided to cancel our plans and wait for better times.
Better times took two years. And believe me, I’m not complaining. So many families were seriously affected by the virus. But, as far as traveling goes, the rules had changed and changed again and changed again once more. How was I ever going to stay ahead of the mandates for leaving the United States and entering another country? I did what every savvy person does, I took to Google. I researched extensively the things that we needed to know but, it turns out that the goal line kept moving. Test before you leave the United States? Test before you come back into the United States? Masks? Face Shields? Were the major sight-seeing venues even open to the public?
As if the ever-changing rules weren’t bad enough, then came the summer deluge of international air travel mishaps; cancelled flights, lost luggage, bad weather, stranded travelers and the cat and mouse game of trying to get a refund for changed plans. I decided to keep my expectations low and throw an air tag in every piece of luggage just in case! My suitcase might end up in Antarctica (not a part of Europe 😊), but at least I’d know!
For now, I’ll review the hundreds of articles that address every facet of international travel. How to pack for two weeks in a carry-on which I can’t even believe is possible (evidently, you’re supposed to roll everything into a sausage shape), how to load my iPad with the best books and movies; snacks to pack that won’t offend my seatmates (nothing smelly or complicated), and what to wear to stay comfortable on a long flight (no jeggings or flipflops). I’ll try not to forget my neck pillow, water mister to keep my skin hydrated, compression socks for circulation on long hauls flights and a throw for the chilly cabin air.
Most of all, I’ll remind myself to keep a sense of humor. I’m going to need it…..