Practical pandemic tips: get ready and fly internationally – short flights or crossing half of the world. Who doesn’t get excited just imagining to be on the plane again? Who doesn’t miss regular travels? Reaching checking-in, passing unlimited immigration and security checks, and finally grabbing a coffee just before boarding. Yes, making sure flight isn’t missed! Long waited one. Long distance one.
If you are ready to board this plane with me, join me! When traveling together, I will tell you a bit about flying during pandemic, about getting ready for the next trip. All tested: few tips and suggestions, many emotions and heartbeats to wait for! Yes, we will travel again.
By the end of March 2020, 64 global airlines have stopped flying scheduled flights due to airspace closure, travel bans and very low demand for travel. Totally unexpected. It impacted most of the world: from tourists, business travelers, travel passionates. It has influenced people’s personal plans, left many people separated and limited options to commute for health, family reasons, job, relocations, studies…
Selected flights were still taking place in more “offline” mode, mostly to repatriate own citizens or support urgent needs. Some flights re-started in Q2 of 2020: first at domestic level, later selected international routes. Some countries initiated special agreements, allowing their citizens to commute more freely.
One thing is for sure: all can’t wait to travel, to travel freely. And I am sure that all of us believe that #wewilltravelagain. Hopefully sooner than later! And even if later: that’s the best feeling in the world. To be up in the air again, between clouds!
Before sharing with you practical pandemic tips to fly internationally, my short story first!
MY TRAVEL DURING PANDEMIC
Let’s talk flights. These are practical pandemic tips to fly internationally! So let’s keep aside local or regional travels, commuting by car which during pandemic seems to be even more safe.
My last flight prior to pandemic was on 21st Jan 2020, flight from Poland to India, flying between my homes. Then, on 14th Feb, we were supposed to fly to Thailand. However, we decided to cancel the trip as the situation was already worsening in Asia. Then it was just getting worse and my inner need to travel again was just growing inside me. My Better Half knew it, that I long to travel to Poland. Question wasn’t just about travel, it was also about allowance to return back to India.
In the past months Polish Embassy in India continued supporting Polish citizens to return from India to Poland. That was good news, however – one way trip. At the end of June, Indian government extended rules for arrivals to India, not only Indian citizens but also OCI card holders (Overseas Citizens of India). Hmm… good news again however, I can apply for OCI only in mid October 2020 as OCI can be issued after completion of 2 successful years of marriage! (My Better Half, we can do it!)
MORE OPTIONS, MORE HOPE
More news came in July 2020. India started creating “air bubbles” with a few countries to ensure eligible people could travel direct to and from there on airlines of both sides, till reactivation of regular flights in a post-pandemic world. The first special agreements for “air bubbles” includes 3 countries: US, France and Germany. Yes, my regular flights connection is via Germany and then from there – it is like a ‘domestic EU’ flight to Poland. One issue was left: how can I return to India? That was my “go” or “no go” factor.
This time I reached out to Indian Embassy in Poland. It took a while but then they mentioned that I should be granted a special permit to return back to India. Yes, it was “should”. I wasn’t “will”. Can someone promise you something during pandemic? Do you trust all promises now? It was good enough, I guess.
WAITING FOR YOU
That’s when My Better Half supported me again: “buy ticket, go next weekend, don’t wait!”.
23rd August we departed to the airport. I was so excited again that I couldn’t sleep the night before, or rather two nights before. I don’t remember when I felt so last time, I think I slept well before traveling to India for my own marriage! So many emotions, and all done in spontaneous way… again. Get ready for my first alone flights with Our Little One (and that during pandemic!). Few days to pack up to 54 kg suitcases for both of us. I was so excited to travel! Still, I would prefer all 4 of us to travel together. So I keep on hoping that Our Bigger Angel and My Better Half will make it to join us for a bit. They love spontaneous travels, so who knows! Maybe they will call tomorrow asking for an airport pick up? With them all is possible! And we are waiting!
PRACTICAL PANDEMIC TIPS: FLYING INTERNATIONALLY
If you are still considering, give it a try. Maybe it won’t work, but at least you can consider all available options. You never know, maybe you will board a plane very soon! And see the clouds again! So to help you with that, few suggestions below: practical pandemic tips to fly internationally. Consider in your exploration stage or when already onboard!
Advice number one: be spontaneous, don’t over-plan. We are in pandemic. I am sure that all of us got many life lessons in the last months (you can read about my lessons here), the key one is: expect the unexpected. So over planning and buying tickets with few months of advance won’t help. Why to waste time later on re-doing or or, worse, staying a bit disappointed? The closer to the travel date, the better awareness you will have about the existing situation. You will be also more sure that your flight won’t get cancelled or postponed. We are fully used to it but for many it might be a new style: go for it, spontaneously!
We got our tickets one week before, yes – maybe not a lot of time for a travel between India and Poland (two flights, one of 10 h and one of 1.5 h), possibly short notice for an international travel with a baby. For me the only challenge is my ‘creative’ packing! Again, I over-packed!
Important question is: are you planning a turn trip or this is just one way journey? One way trip might be a bit easier: to check flights availability and schedule, to validate required documents or any limitations in place. My recommendation: check immigration office website for the latest direction. Additionally, if you are returning to your home country, you can cross check with the respective embassy if anything needed. In case of existing limitations, embassy can issue a letter allowing you to enter airport and start your journey.
For us it is a return ticket. We didn’t have any challenge to enter to Poland but to be able to return to India we will need special permit as officially as visas became not valid. As of now tourists are not allowed in India yet.
QUARANTINe or test?
Quarantine? Test on arrival? Or maybe nothing? Validate prior to your travel if there are any requirements. Remember to do it for all required locations, especially in case of return ticket. I suggest to check it few times as the rules might be changing. Immigration offices of respective countries keep this information fully up to date. Also, you can check what is the frequency of changes and compare it to your travel dates. For example, some countries issue updates on biweekly basis. If you are travelling on 4th but you know country ABC is going to issue next update on 2nd, just two day before, cross check it. Better less surprises. Also, most of the countries do not apply any rules on the transit passengers so that’s helpful too!
In Poland we had no quarantine but we practice self-isolation. In India we know that we will have 2 weeks of quarantine or a test ahead of us. Or maybe I will simply have 2 weeks to unpack nicely and recover from jet lag!
This item is purely my recommendation, it isn’t a mandatory step. With all ad hoc changes and new requirements it might be good to contact airlines before your journey. There might be a new requirement to arrive earlier to the airport or to fill in in advance new documents confirming your fit to fly. And sometimes you need to bring duplicate documents too, so read all the details! If you are flexible with the dates and want to travel in more comfort – contact airline and check on the dates when the plane occupancy is lower! That’s what I followed as well.
Lufthansa website was indicating that we need to be min. 4 hours in advance at the airport. After contact Lufthansa they confirmed that the actual min. is 2 hours. So yes, we did the mid point – arrived 3 h earlier. For us documents requirement to leave India vs to enter is different, I will cross check again before return flight.
LESS HAND LUGGAGE
OK, so we are flying! Good luck! 🙂 One quick tip: avoid unnecessary hand luggage. That’s also recommendation by many airlines. It helps to proceed faster with all the checks and it limits unnecessary exposure of your items to others. One bag is good enough! And now, more than ever: keep in your hand luggage few things that could help you in case of any delays. Nowadays there are many flights cancelled or delayed so keeping with you things that could be useful might help a lot.
Yes, I kept only one hand luggage, 6 kg backpack. And in front carrier I had Our Little One! So I was carrying nearly 16 kg together! Strong traveler mama!
That’s a key item during travels in pandemic: to stay safe and to arrive healthy, both ways! Check airlines safety measurements in advance. Face mask is a must during entire journey (minus the time for eating / drinking). There are passengers who wear also face shields but also the ones who forget about wearing a mask or to cover nose. Carry hand sanitizer, avoid holding hand railing at the airport and if you need to sign any papers, use your own pen. Taking care of self is important! Also, timely online check in can help in booking the best seats in the plane (cross checking on Seat Guru works wonders!) . Additionally, at the airport you can ask if there are many people sitting next and ask for a change, if needed. What I often do: I change my seat once “boarding completed” is announced. Just remember to notify plane staff if you booked special meal.
Flying Bangalore to Frankfurt we had one extra seat. Still, I decided to change seats once boarding was completed. We sit in super empty space of the plane. I felt safe and comfortable for Our Little One. On the way to Gdansk, I asked one passenger for a seat change, who kindly agreed, so we could sit safely on 3 seats alone.
Just be ready for potential less options at the airports and in the planes. It all depends on the location and the airlines decisions, some of them use pandemic to cut costs. So if you know that your layover will be long, just grab one or two extra snacks with you. Selected shops or even business lounges might be closed. Limited service and options might also apply during the flight, sad thing.
Business lounge at the airport in Bangalore was completely closed. Initially I was hoping to stay there with Our Little One so had to change my plan. Also during Lufthansa flight Frankfurt to Gdansk all we received was one small bottle of water.
HAVE A PLAN B
If ‘Plan A’ didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.
Have plan B! Or at least be very flexible and continue to smile, no matter what. Flight might get cancelled, travel conditions might change, maybe there will be new directions for quarantine. Just remember: whatever happens, happens for a reason! Take it easily, go with the flow – that’s what we all learnt in 2020!
Currently we are in our home in Poland, enjoying our stay here. We are yet to decide when to return, we will need to be spontaneous again as flights availability is less. We still have a bit of time to plan for it.
PRACTICAL PANDEMIC TIPS: FLYING INTERNATIONALLY – share your story!
How about you? Did you fly already during pandemic? If yes, share your experience. Practical pandemic tips to fly internationally are so useful to all of us. If you are yet to, then I hope this post helped a bit. Give it a try. Often by trying we manage to make things happen. Hug!
Moments that matter, no matter pandemic.