Let’s be honest, travel has been much more stressful than normal in the last couple of years.
Different types of testing, added health protocols, and the need for extra documents have all made planning and then going on a trip much more work than it ever was before. And, if you’re like me and enjoy going on a cruise, you have to live with the question of if you will even be allowed to board once you get to the ship, fearing that surely you’ve forgotten something.
And the protocols are changing rapidly now, by the day in some instances. Not only that, but they are also changing based on the country, which makes it difficult to keep up to date on the latest. I am traveling to Europe soon to sail on the brand new Celebrity Beyond, so here are 5 essential items I am taking with me to ensure I am prepared for anything.
1) Document book
I ordered a simple document book on Amazon last year when cruising resumed. I had health visas, my passport, boarding documents, insurance cards, vaccine records, and even more to carry with me, and I wanted a way to quickly access everything I needed at the airport and the cruise terminal. This holds everything I need with me and it is easy to pull out at customs, for check-in at the airport, and boarding cruise ships. The one I bought even has a special holder for your vaccine card, so you are ready to show it as needed when you travel.
Additionally, having a document book is good for storing important identification documents in general. I keep my passport and other important documents inside this, keep it all in a safe place at my house, and I know it’s all ready to go anytime I need it.
2) Masks & Extra Masks
I know what you’re thinking – the mask mandates have been lifted for most air travel, airports, theme parks, etc. Well, that’s certainly true, but again, protocols are rapidly changing. Traveling without a mask, whether you’re actively wearing it in travel or not, is not advised. What would happen if you were suddenly told you had to wear a mask to participate in your planned port excursion activity or to visit a theme park you have a ticket for? Have a mask, take extras, and enjoy the peace of mind that you are ready for any sudden protocol change.
If you’re traveling internationally, some countries require a specific type of mask. For my flight over to Italy, I have to wear a KN95/FFP2 mask, which I didn’t even know existed. I had to order some online to ensure I am ready to travel, as Italy is requiring them not only in their airports but also on planes in their airspace! Take a moment to review the current requirements in any country you might be visiting soon.
3) COVID Tests
No matter what protocols have recently changed, we still can’t seem to get away from COVID testing for many types of travel. Most cruise lines are still requiring a negative test at boarding, as are many countries, and you will still need to provide proof of a negative COVID test at check-in for your international flight BACK into the United States.
While the requirement continues, the availability of testing has decreased in recent months. I have been on 7 cruises since cruising resumed in Summer 2021, and for each one of those, I went to my local CVS pharmacy to get my antigen test. However, not one CVS in my area still offers antigen testing for travel. I have purchased the pricey eMed tests by Abbott, which are proctored online anytime you need them so that I can be sure to test within the appropriate window before my travel.
I highly recommend you take some COVID tests with you when you travel so that you can feel confident knowing that you will be able to meet the testing requirements. Do not depend on local testing being available in the locations you visit – this availability can change at any moment, putting you at risk of being stranded without a test. Also, keep in mind that any COVID test you purchase to test yourself MUST BE PROCTORED. Any test that is not will not be accepted for travel purposes.
4) Mobile hotspot
I love my cell phone service provider, but they do not offer any international plans. So, to ensure I have cell service in foreign countries, I must use a mobile hotspot. This will be particularly handy when it comes time for me to take my end-of-trip COVID test so that I can return to the United States.
I purchased the GlocalMe U3 before my trip to Greece last fall and used it daily throughout my trip. I was very pleased with the fast connection I found all across the Greek isles and even on the border of Croatia and Montenegro! Before your trip, you use the GlocalMe site or app to purchase a data pass – choose the amount of data and the number of days the data is good for. For example, I purchased an 8 GB package to be used across 15 days, for a total cost of under $50.
Once you have a plan, you simply charge up the device and, once you are traveling and need service, turn it on and connect it to your WiFi-enabled device via the WiFi settings on your phone. The mobile hotspot will act as a wireless router, and provide your phone with “WiFi”, which is provided by the local cellular service.
5) Extra clothes, medication, necessities
What happens if, at the end of your trip, your COVID test comes up positive and you have to remain in the country you are visiting for longer than anticipated? Do you have extra clothes, medication, and other necessities to last you several days of quarantine? We have already established that things are changing rapidly these days, so it’s best to prepare like you might be on every trip just a little longer than originally planned. I always take extra medication with me, whether I am going a state away, or a world away. You just never know if or when you might not meet one of the requirements for travel. These are the real possibilities we face now, all risks we take on for the sweet reward of travel.