Friday, November 19, 2021

First International Travel Since Covid-19 Arrived

Sangster International Airport
For the first time since Covid began and the country went into lockdown more than 19 months ago, we boarded a plane and traveled outside the United States. In January of this year we booked a pickleball adventure to Sandals Southcoast in Whitehouse, Jamaica with the Lake Norman Pickleball Club. Of course at the time we had no idea if the trip would be cancelled or not due to the pandemic. I'm not going to lie, part of me wished it would be rescheduled to next year as we agonized over whether it was smart to travel yet.

In the end, there were many things that aided our decision to go. We both are fully vaccinated and have the booster shot. A negative Covid test is required before entering Jamaica as well as upon departure. The three hour flight was direct, so there was no additional exposure at another airport. We would be staying in an all-inclusive resort the whole week, and the staff there is all vaccinated and required to be masked at all times. There is lots of outdoor dining and our pickleball play would be outside as well. We decided to take the calculated risk and go on the trip.

Within seven days of travel we were required to complete online paperwork and submit it to the Jamaican government so they could authorize our travel to their country. We also had to give them proof of insurance that would cover us in the event we tested positive for Covid while in Jamaica. That policy was included by Sandals as part of our reservation, and they had sent us a copy of the policy.

Three days before departure we went to the local CVS to take the antigen test. This was the first time either of us has needed to be tested during Covid, so we were a little apprehensive. We made our appointments online, then parked in the designated testing spots in their lot. We texted that we had arrived, and were directed to the back door of the pharmacy. There we were met by a nurse, who led us to a back office. The three of us were the only ones in the room. She opened up kits and handed us each a nasal swab, and directed us to swirl the swab several times in each nostril. We then placed our swabs in their respective vials, and that was that. About an hour later we received our negative test results.

Sunday morning we arrived at Charlotte International Airport 2 1/2 hours before our flight. We both have TSA pre-check with our Global Entry Card, so we felt that was a sufficient amount of time. The check in process with American Airlines was completed quickly, and the TSA line was short. I, however, was selected for additional screening. A female agent swabbed my hands with a wipe and then looked for traces of explosives. At the gate both of us, along with a dozen or so other passengers on our flight, were called to the counter to have our passports screened again. It seemed really strange since the passports had already been reviewed by the check in personnel and security agents.

The plane was boarded in an efficient manner, and I'm happy to say that all the passengers were well-behaved. No one had to be reminded to leave their masks on during the flight, and there was no screaming - by adults or kids! I spied a rainbow out the window, and chose to believe it was an omen that we would have a wonderful vacation. I wasn't wrong...more in the next post.

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