Let me tell you something that feels really good after a year plus at home: the moment a plane pushes back from the gate to begin its taxi for departure. It was like the plane’s way of saying, “Welcome back to your adventurous life.”
I’d missed seeing the ground from 38,000 feet, the thrill of getting lost while walking around another city, hugging family and friends.
Here are a few lessons learned from my trip to Boston over Memorial Day weekend that I hope will help your travel go more smoothly as we re-emerge from lockdown.
Everyone and everything is a bit rusty
When I got to the airport T station in Boston, my Charlie Card had expired (who knew!) so I had to get a new one.
While checking into the hotel, the guy next to me had accidentally booked his room for the next month.
A very exasperated father of 3 stopped to ask me for directions to the North End. After pointing him on, he hung his head and said, “oh, like in the direction of that sign that says the North End.” Yep.
On the way back to the airport, three full shuttle buses went by because apparently everyone rents cars in Boston now? (Why, people?? Have you seen how the streets are laid out??)
At the Logan Airport TSA pre-check line, every 2nd or 3rd person was “randomly” selected for additional screening so the line kept backing up.
Pack a little extra patience, allow a little more time to get to the airport, and double check those reservation dates!
Those who love spontaneity may want to plan a little more
While some of my most memorable travel days have been completely unplanned (the train to Rome is booked, Pisa instead?), if there are highlights you can’t miss on your trip, do yourself a favor and pre-plan.
Many museums and attractions like zoos are once again welcoming guests, but if timed passes are required, you may not be able to get in the day of. When you book your trip, check out the websites of the places you want to see the most to find out their current operating procedures.
Also check ticket and bag policies for sporting events. You may be required to have tickets on your phone or have no bags at all (yes, none). Lots of rules have changed because of Covid so it’s helpful to do a little reading before going.
Food is harder to come by
Some of your favorites may be closed (tragically forever RIP McGreevy’s or hopefully temporary Carrie Nation), others may be doing takeout only, others may be only open certain days and hours, others may require online ordering. You get the point.
In my self-guided quest to find delicious breakfast sandwiches in Boston, I found the following modus operandi:
Cafes totally shuttered, especially in the downtown business district
Cafes open for in-person, on-demand ordering, but food still served in takeout containers (Tatte Back Bay). This is fine in theory until you order the croque madame with a runny egg. It is surprisingly hard to eat out of a box. But tasty.
Bagel shop open for pre-order only on weekends until 11am (Bagelsaurus - amazing name, didn’t get to try because I didn’t realize the weekend rule until 7am Saturday morning)
At the airport, not all the food vendors have re-opened. Hopefully that will change quickly as more people begin to fly. Most of the fast food spots in Terminal B at DCA were closed and the few places that had seating fill up. I grabbed a pre-packaged sandwich for the flight. Not ideal, but did the job.
Prior to boarding an American flight, the gate agent recommended getting your own food/drink prior to boarding as there was not even beverage service offered in coach. On my first Southwest flight, they only offered Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Dr. Pepper so if that’s not your jam, grab a beverage before boarding. Who knows how this will evolve over the next few months, but you may want to plan accordingly by either bringing snacks with you or allowing for extra time before boarding.
Mask policies vary a lot
In Boston, most places put up a sign to tell you whether you needed a mask if you were vaccinated. In Dallas, I don’t think masks were ever required to begin with. In DC, businesses have been less good about signs to tell you what to do.
You will definitely be required to wear a mask the entire time on a plane, public transportation, and ride shares.
Make sure your ID is not expired
For those who hope to do international travel this year (ME ME ME ME ME), check those passport expiration dates!