A Slice of the Pie: Navigating the maze – COVID testing and the ins and outs of travel

December 2021 Posted in Travel, Your Health

Melissa Wagoner – A Slice of the Pie

I just spent an entire morning negotiating the administration and shipping of three specially ordered COVID tests so that my children and I can travel to visit their grandparents in a little over three weeks – and I’m still not sure I have it all straight.

The challenge lies in the timing, in order to travel to this particular state, one must have, prior to boarding the flight, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result – administered by one of only a handful of specific testing partners no more than 72 hours prior to the last leg of the flight. 

Sounds easy, right?  The answer, I’ve found, is – decidedly not.

Last year our test was canceled, at the very last minute, as we sat in line, two hours from our home. No warning, the pharmacy just never received the supplies. 

With no other choice, we bumped our flight an entire week, feeling simultaneously grateful we were able to do so and frustrated that we had to. 

Instead we ordered saliva tests at $150 each, had them shipped directly to our home and spent a surreal morning logged on to Zoom where a very nice lab tech – how does one get that job? – sat for almost an hour watching each of the members of my family salivate into a tube. 

Then it was off to the nearest UPS drop-site so the vials could begin their trip, through a snowstorm, to a lab somewhere in the Midwest, where they would be processed – hopefully with negative results – in time for our flight. 

They did. But it was a harrowing time. 

Which is why this year I’d hoped to do things differently. I already have the tests. Now all we have to do is log on and spit.

But wait! Our flight is on a Monday evening at five. The lab closes the Friday before, also at five – precisely when we need to take the tests. And the UPS drop-site? It closes around that time as well. There’s nothing to be done but move the test date to Saturday, decreasing our window to receive the results by over 12 hours.

Needless to say, I’ve come to the conclusion that the days of easy travel are over – at least for a while. But I also find myself wondering, did they ever exist in the first place?

Maybe before I had children, when flying involved shoving things in a backpack and heading, largely unencumbered to the gate. But those days were such a long time ago, I barely remember them. 

Now, I spend weeks making lists, packing bags, making sure everyone has his or her essential items. It’s tricky and it’s almost never perfect. 

Like the time I mistakenly packed my husband’s entire Goodwill pile instead of his to-go stack. Surprised, doesn’t quite describe his expression when he pulled shirt after interesting shirt from the suitcase with nothing else to go with them. He packs for himself these days.

But it’s still a stressful time, arranging for a house sitter, a ride to the airport, a way to get home. Not to mention planning ahead with work and school. By the time we get to the airport I’m drained and jittery with nerves anticipating the TSA gauntlet ahead. 

Does everyone have his or her bag? Who needs to take off their shoes? What must come out of the suitcases and what can stay in? By the time we reach our gate I’m a wreck. 

But it used to be that at this point in the trip the worst was over. Once we made it through security I could relax. Not anymore. Now, after a long day of travel, of keeping everyone comfortable on a flight that no longer offers entertainment, food or any of the fun I remember from my childhood, when all I want to do is get out of the airport and to the hotel… there’s COVID screening. 

When it’s all over – finally – we’re sent on our way, edgy and exhausted but excited to begin the vacation. Right? 

All of this is playing through my mind as I sit next to the stack of requisite tests, worrying about how it will all turn out. Will the results come through in time? Will they all be negative? What happens if they’re not?

It really takes the fun out of planning a vacation, one that we’ve saved and prepared for all year. Gone is the anticipatory buzz of just thinking about the good times ahead. 

But wait, did I ever really feel that? As the honorary travel agent to my family of five, were those weeks ever full of warm and fuzzy thoughts. If I’m honest, maybe not. 

At least the added stress of  COVID and vaccine card uploads will give me something much of the other vacation prep will not – the peace of mind that my family, as well as every other family on the plane, is free of COVID.

When we land, my children will be able to hug their grandparents and aunt and uncle without hesitation knowing we’ve all been tested or are vaxed. And then, hopefully, I will finally be able to relax.

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