It’s time to travel again! Are you excited to get that first trip on the books since the pandemic took us all down? I am not alone in being hard to hold down and I’ve traveled quite a lot during the pandemic (whenever it was deemed safe & protocols were in place). What I’ve learned from post pandemic travel, is that it’s challenging, it’s filled with precautions, and you are really on your own.
If 9-11 brought in a new age of security, this global pandemic has essentially turned the travel industry on its head. First it was masks everywhere, social distancing at every turn and finally, lines that rival Disneyland. How could exploring the world and learning about new and foreign cultures be any more obtuse? Safety, yes. Cultural, no.
Here are some helpful tips that I have learned in traveling during and after the pandemic.
Plan For Missteps
If you haven’t been through an airport or a train station since the early days of 2020, you may be surprised at the lack of personnel to assist you with any of your travel needs. That said, as I navigate my journeys, I find that knowing I will have to make do with what I bring is the easiest and least stressful way of managing.
The biggest takeaway from travelling during and after the pandemic has been that you can expect to be very much on your own while you are traveling. The airlines, hoteliers, and train travel industries have done an excellent job keeping staff as minimal as possible but still managing to function. That said, there simply isn’t enough staff to easily make your travel smooth.
Far too often you will find that kiosks, restaurants, and stores in travel locations will have minimal availability or they are completely closed. Don’t plan to get through security quickly and simply grabbing a sandwich on the way to your gate. If you do find a venue that is open with product available, that’s great – but don’t count on it.
Image by Grandbrothers via iStock
Navigating Security of Post Pandemic Travel
While traveling during the original lockdowns, the security queues where actually quite small due to the reduced number of travelers. Now that borders are opening again, the number of travelers is increasing, yet the staff is still on a skeleton crew.
It is not unusual to see complete security check points closed only to have to walk, (or run), to the next closest location to clear your carry-on items.
The last time I traveled through Heathrow, this exact scenario happened. All of the travelers trying to get through one checkpoint were redirected up an escalator, down a hall, and into a monumental line with about a half-dozen switchbacks adding a good hour and a half to my timeline.
By the time we actually cleared security, our flight was boarding and we had no choice but to run down another maze of halls to get to the gate. No time to grab food or drinks, magazines, or even take a quick bathroom break. We absolutely needed the full three hours that we allotted to get from the curb to the plane.
Had we not arrived at the airport in plenty of time, we absolutely would have missed the plane. No question.
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
Getting Through Security Check Points in 2022
Once you make it to the security checkpoint, getting though it is another issue. Clearing security has always been one of the worst parts about air travel and since the time of 9-11 it’s become even more cumbersome.
Here are some tips that I have used to make the process of clearing security go as smoothly as possible:
- Wear slide on / slip on shoes instead of shoes that need to be laced up.
- Never wear a metal belt or any attire that has metal brackets, buttons, or clips.
- Pack your outerwear items in your carry-on.
- Place all of your jewelry, watches and any other metal items in a clear plastic bag that can be easily scanned.
- Don’t wear a hat for travel. Just don’t.
- If you are carrying electronics, (phone, tablet, or a computer), have them in one large zip-up bag. Until you clear the security checkpoint, have them all in one place to save time digging through your bag. You will be held up if you miss taking something out of your carry-on.
- Use a sandwich size Ziploc bag for all of your carry-on make up items and have it ready to scan.
- Use another Ziploc bag for all of your medicines that will need to be scanned.
- Finally, take note of how many scanning trays you are using for your items so you can be confident you have collected everything you needed to scan as you leave security.
It’s no secret that when travelers lose items in the airport, it is either at the security gate or at the terminal gate (more on that later).
Image by Stuart Bailey from Pixabay
Dining Before Boarding
Whether you are traveling via boat, train, or air, it is always nice to grab some snacks prior to boarding. However with post pandemic travel, there are times that scheduling won’t allow for this, so be sure to have something to eat before getting to your port of exit.
Many airlines have removed their complimentary food service from their flights. A long day’s travel can feel even longer if you haven’t eaten anything. Having snacks in your bag that will safely, (and quickly), clear security is a good idea.
- Don’t pack food or drinks in your bag at this time unless it’s medically necessary.
- If you must have snacks in your bag, be sure they are in the original packaging and be sure to place them in the scanning tray.
- Limit snacks to small items such as granola bars, energy bars, or individually packaged string cheese.
Finally, Essential Carry On Items For Post Pandemic Travel
As the last point of this post, it is good to remember that travel doesn’t look or feel the same as it did just five years ago. Staffing is low, assistance is nearly non-existent, and you simply need to get by with what you have in your possession.
If you are fortunate enough to be placed on a plane or train with full service staff, count your blessings. Most of the travel I have encountered has been very a la carte with few and far between sightings of any travel assistance.
That said, here are things that I keep readily available in my carry-on bag to get from point to point when traveling post pandemic.
- Sleep mask
- Chap stick
- Wipes and sanitizer
- Travel size toothpaste, make-up wipes, mascara, and a small bottle of micellar water with two cotton balls
- Noise cancelling headphones / ear buds
- Portable charger & USB cable
- Zipper tote to protect from potential pick pockets
- Passport case that doubles as a wallet (don’t carry a wallet plus a passport case)
Know your carry-on limitations
Most airlines are really cracking down on carry-on bags. A typical size for a carry-on is limited to 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. If you pack a larger bag intending it to be a carry-on, you are setting yourself up for a big hiccup at the check-in desk. Also remember that it is inconsiderate to the other passengers to take more that your allotted space in the carriage space and overhead bins.
When packing your bags, start by considering everything you will need to access in a short space of time at security. If you are checking your bag, this is not quite as important, but for your carry-on, you want to be sure that everything you will need is ready to grab. You also should be aware that you will need to put everything back quickly and in an organized manner.
Taking things out of your bags at the gate and then missing them when you walk away to board is one of the most common ways to lose things while traveling. Be sure you have an organized way to carry your items so you can easily spot if something is missing. And, ALWAYS look behind you when you get up. You will find that there may be a hat, a jacket, or a phone charger that you are about to leave behind.
I always have a very small plastic bag with all of the liquids that need to be examined at security. When I return from a flight, I keep these bags in my suitcase so they’re readily accessible for my next trip.
A Final Word On Post Pandemic Travel Advice
Without the relaxed comfort of travel as we all once knew, tensions run high while traveling in this post pandemic world.
Definitely try to be one step ahead of the triggers by having snacks handy, be prepared for long lines, and proactively work to streamline the security process. Organize, plan, and leave yourself plenty of time!