David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 4th Week Of April 2021
David Danto’s ongoing list of disjointed and occasionally random observations and thoughts as we wait-out the pandemic – mostly NOT traveling like we used to.
I have a trip coming-up – my first Air-Car-Hotel trip in over a year. As the travel date gets closer I’ve been discovering how much has changed in the last year, both due to the pandemic and for other reasons. I’m frankly a bit anxious about the whole trip, so the changes I’m running into are not helping with that.
Hotel: Today I changed my reservation to another hotel. The first one we reserved a month ago – in Hilton’s “Curio Collection” had a note on its website that basically indicated it has stopped providing all services. (That’s more curious then curio.) No breakfast, no restaurant, no room service – squat. The place looked cute and it was in the exact area we wanted to stay, but between the ‘we’re offering nothing’ statement and the reviews (linked to on its own website) that said they weren’t doing a good job cleaning rooms, it was enough to set-off some red flags for us.
We switched from a “Curio” to an on-brand Hilton resort. I mean, we have fears there too – with overcrowding, capacity limitations, etc. – but at least with the Hilton brand they are (at least in theory) following some guidelines more strictly – especially for cleaning things. (And the few complaining reviews I read about that property were at least answered by someone in their general manager’s office.) Do I feel comfortable about the change and choice? Honestly, no. But I think it was a wise decision to at least slightly minimize the risk of a poor stay.
Car: We booked our rental car as soon as we knew about the trip, and we got a decent (if not fabulous) price for a week. What was the change here you ask? Well, the decent rate was for the luxury level vehicle, not for the compact or economy. Those were more expensive to choose. Clearly this is a supply and demand situation gone haywire. I’m a top tier at National, so my expectation is that I’m going to be able to choose any car on their lot, but there have been times I’ve flown to California before and found –zero– cars on rental firm lots, so I am a little bit concerned. It’s just another situation where I’ll have to wait and see.
Flight: And then of course there is the airline – my old nemesis United. When we booked an itinerary that went EWR-LAX-SAN-EWR for an unheard-of $200 a ticket we were shocked. I’ve NEVER flown that multi-city itinerary without a significant penalty for flying back from SAN instead of the round trip. We reserved good aircraft at great times for us to leave and arrive. Then, of course, United cancelled the outbound flight to LAX. Our choices now were an icky Dreamliner that would force us to get to the airport before dawn, or a 757 that would land too late in the day to be comfortable for what we wanted to do. We switched to the crack-of-dawn Dreamliner, and paid for an upgrade to the Premium Economy seats so as not to be squeezed-into the coach seats that I hate on this aircraft. It doubled the cost of each ticket, but as that was still less expensive than the usual price on the route we figured it was the right thing to do.
Another change from my past typical flights will be that we’re likely going to check a bag. I can’t see how I can travel with all the new things I need to be comfortable when leaving my home during COVID times (my hotel room / restaurant UV air purifier, my personal mini coffee maker, etc.) and still be the carry-on-only traveler I usually swear by.
I’ll of course be completing a full trip report for JoeSentMe readers when I get back, so we’ll all know if any of these adjustments to the changes helped, and what curveballs we find that we didn’t anticipate. (I always told my project managers to set aside an extra week in their plan for the expected-unexpected issues, and then an additional two weeks for the unexpected-unexpected issues.)
Kudos to the New York Times for publishing an awesome, detailed, explained animation on how COVID may travel on an aircraft. Click this link or the picture to see it and scroll-down on that page to watch the animations and explanations at your own speed. This one is MUCH, MUCH more accurate than the BS study published late last year and touted by all the airlines as proof that an inherently dangerous situation is according to them, not dangerous. (If you haven’t done so yet, feel free to read my blog from last October debunking the stupidity of that study.) In my opinion, the bottom line about flying during the pandemic is simple and clear. If you’re not vaccinated, just don’t. If you are vaccinated, and you wear a KN95 or N95 mask for the entire flight, it’s probably an OK risk to take. (There are good KN95 and N95 disposable masks easily available on Amazon and other places – click the classification to see them. If you want to be smart about things, travel with a bunch of them.) However, keep in mind that as soon as someone takes their mask off on the plane to eat or drink – even for a minute – the airplane becomes a closed-in, indoor restaurant with very low ceilings and no social distancing. If you wouldn’t take your mask off to eat in one of those, DON’T take it off on the airplane.
Passport Update / Good News: My new passport arrived by priority mail last week. Just about seven weeks after sending in the renewal application and paying for expediting, and just about three weeks after sending in new photos because they rejected the first set (for an inexplicable reason.) Now I’ll be able to use my passport at my (nearly impossible to get) appointment to renew my NJ Driver’s license (which is now Real ID compatible.) Bad News: The Trusted Traveler program website would not let me update the passport information on-line. Each time I tried I received an error message. I’ve submitted an escalation message, but I suspect this will be as difficult to fix as the passport and the NJ Driver’s License were. As we’ve learned over and over again this last year, systems and processes that were difficult to navigate pre-pandemic are just impossible to manage now.
As always, please feel free to write to me with comments or items I should add to a future Not Traveling blog (or if you just need someone to write to.) Stay safe, be well, hug those you’re sheltering with (but no one else) and do your best to stay positive. We’re going to be in this for a while longer.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
The Explanation for my Not Traveling blogs: In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.