Right, if you are busy today and want a summarised version of the next few hundred words in a handy gif, to save you the trouble of wading through them, here you go.
Usually when it comes to writing these posts, I rock up the laptop at some point on a Sunday morning and spew out whatever word salad comes to mind. You can’t tell can you?
This week, with so much happening in the world of travel I thought I would get ahead of the game and jot some thoughts down during the week. Now, as I sit here on Sunday, most of those thoughts have been overtaken by events, so what follows is a mish mash of old and new news and it all leads to a mass jumble of confusion. Enjoy!
Things are changing quickly and this last week has seen significant news. The general mood still feels a bit, two steps forward and one step back, but, and this may shock you, as things stand right now, I am probably in a confident state of mind that we will be able to go on June 14th.
The key word is able. Whether we will or not is still slightly debateable, but I think if we can go it will be a case of…..
Anyway, having suggested travel may be possible, allow me now to argue the case, proving that I really do know nothing.
Why do I now think we will be allowed to fly by mid-June? Well, as expected Johnson’s “update” on international travel last Monday was another masterclass in a lack of detail and information. However, and bear with me as this is a bit of a stretch, my first step in the “convince myself we will get a holiday trail” was this.
Three times in his ramble he made a very obvious point of saying something like, “I see nothing in the data to make us deviate from the roadmap”. With this mind, and with the 17th of May being outlined as the date from which international travel may be possible, politically he needs to have some travel start on that date. If we know one thing it is that his actions are always driven by his own needs and desires so this encourages me a little.
The traffic light system has since been announced but with little detail (the story of the pandemic so far for this shower in power) but what is clear is that the destination country needs to be green and travellers need to tested negative before they can travel.
So assuming some travel is to be allowed on that date, which countries could be green if not the US? Only Israel and the UK have vaccination rates and improving stats similar to the US and there have been rumours about a mid-May opening of borders by Biden for a while. I suspect this has already been discussed and negotiated and assuming the data does not change significantly in the meantime I would guess that the US will be technically and legally do-able on May 17th.
Airlines do seem to be planning for travel to resume, as my reading between the lines (or reading into things what I want to) of their activity and tweets from travel industry folks indicates. One such pundit confirmed a while ago that one key US airline plans to have all its fleet operational by the end of May including its long haul jumbos.
He also seems very confident that some travel to a growing number of “green” countries will be confirmed for May 17th.
More recently he is more bullish.
If you want to follow him he is https://twitter.com/PPaulCharles
So all those factors and thoughts led us this week to begin facing the decision of what we should do. We know from my chat with Virgin that if travel is permitted, our options are very limited. Indeed all we can do is change the dates, paying all the fees and price differences (and My God the prices are high for late summer/early 2022) if we do not want to go in June.
One other small factor is our Vero booking, made with DVC points via a broker. If we can travel and don’t, it is very likely we will just lose that cash. It’s not the end of the world, but I’d rather not if we can help it.
As we all chatted about this, watching the snow tumbling in April, freezing our arses off, I suspect the lack of any sun or holiday since September 2019 really started to hit home and despite us all dreading the prospect of masks everywhere, and knowing that going on holiday would mean the most serious dieting effort ever known to man, we started to come up with ways to convince ourselves that it might be OK.
Option 1 would be to go and not do any parks. Now, that looked favourite at the start of the week, and it would be OK. Sun, food and not being at work or in lockdown all sound pretty good but it would be tough to know the parks are “right there” and we can’t go to them.
Then, out of the blue, two significant pieces of news came out. Firstly (and I caveat all this with it being almost certainly just wishful thinking) the Mayor of Orange County suggested in an interview that he thought it would be possible to look to reduce or remove the mask mandate as they got to 50% vaccination rates. This, he said, should be possible by June or July. Just too late for us possibly, but a move in the right direction nonetheless. I did think that whatever he might do, Disney would ignore it and stick to their policy of masks being enforced until 2022, but then, a bombshell. An out of the blue change to WDW mask policy, that guests can remove masks for photos. A small change of course, but the first sign that things are getting better.
A cynic may just think that they want to flog more Memory Makers of course, but I read that they are also in the process of rehiring a large number of cast members which also suggests they are planning to open more stuff and increase capacity for the summer, and maybe that is because they are hoping for the return of international visitors. Added to that Disney also announced a large programme of extended park hours through to mid June. So I do think they are expecting international guests to return and are gearing up for that.
This gives a glimmer of hope that within the next two months they could move again on masks. Perhaps only mandating them indoors or for adults only. Who knows? Certainly not me. Baby steps and each one is welcome.
So assuming my guess is correct and travel is allowed. What hoops will we need to jump through? Some travel experts had been predicting that everyone, vaccine or not, will need to do a full blown test both ways (not just the lateral flow things that the government are happy to trust a 12 year old to do themselves to prove schools are safe) and this could add a big chunk to the costs. This seemed to be confirmed by the government later in the week, but there is still, just for a novelty factor, a lack of clarity, as far as I can make out anyway, about which tests may be needed and that will massively impact the costs.
So with all this going on, I think, right now we are at the collective head space of thinking that if we are allowed to go, we will (despite the testing hoops potentially being onerous and costly). On balance, the cost of any tests is less than the costs and losses of moving the trip to new dates.
We would even try the parks. Freddie is being introduced to masks, gently and in small doses, just to get him familiar, but we would make of it what we could and if anyone is uncomfortable we would retreat from the parks and do something else. With nine weeks still to go till we travel we suspect other things will change, and hopefully improve in that time.
On that note, another area of slight concern is the flight. Current Virgin policy is masks for everyone over two. This seems to me that it may change too in the coming weeks. Why? (Inserts usual caveat of wishful thinking and not having a clue what will happen).
Well, if leisure travel is allowed on May 17th, to even get on the plane you need to be in possession of a negative test and of course large numbers of customers will be vaccinated. You have to de-mask to eat and drink anyway (that is maybe 25% of the flight?) and Virgin reassure their passengers that…
“You can breathe easy with our onboard HEPA filters, which use a vertical airflow and extract more than 99.999% of particles from the air, including bacteria and viruses.”
Now, if everyone has tested negative and/or is vaccinated and with the above filters in mind, why insist on masks for just 75% of the flight? I know that I know nothing. I am no expert, but perhaps with May 17th and new travel rules they may change that?” Who knows? I’m old enough to remember there being smoking sections on a plane with a curtain being the only thing stopping the clouds of smoke forcing their way into the non-smoking section!
In the end, I suspect our desperation for some sun, fun and food may see us overcome the large number of worries and obstacles we still see. We will make the call when we have all the information I guess. The complexities and mess around getting on a plane may just be too onerous but we can only wait to see what is announced.
We recognise that this trip, if it happens, will come with challenges –
- It will be hot – Having been in August for decades, we know and like hot. Masks may make it harder, but it’s not like we are first timers. We can do less parks if we need to.
- It will be busy – I refer you to point 1.
- It won’t be the full experience with no fireworks and shows – Agreed. Although let’s see what happens between now and then, but we’ve seen them before and we’ll see them again.
The thing playing on my mind most right now is that I am at this stage lacking all the details I crave about the testing requirements and the logistics of it all. It seems unavoidable that we will need to do a test 48 hours before leaving the UK and if I understand it correctly, do the same 48 hours before leaving the US. If that is the case I really hope that the likes of Virgin will partner with some US tester and offer appointments somewhere (maybe Disney Springs like their luggage drop) where their passengers can get their tests. Otherwise there will be lots of Brits googling testing providers in Florida and trying to source their own.
In truth, I hope the moans of the travel industry and the clamour to allow lateral flow tests instead of the full blown and costly PCR test come to fruition before the 14th of June as that would just make things a lot easier. A country being “green” by definition means it has low COVID rates and no real variant concerns and the reasoning for a PCR test is to track new variants. By next year of course it will be full on vaccine passports I think and these tests may not be required. Yes, of course I am simultaneously already planning next year’s trip. I don’t know why anyone might be shocked by that!
Having been all bullish up to now, of course the glass half full part of my brain has something to say about that and it needs to add some balance. As we open up more from next week and again in May, our case numbers will inevitably rise. It will be critical to not see deaths and hospitalisations also rise for all and any travel plans to be potentially scuppered. Having the US accept UK visitors, regardless of our own government’s policy of course is key and whilst they are delivering incredible numbers in terms of jabs into arms, the vast, diverse and in some cases stupid nature of the population means anything could yet happen there and their numbers could of course still worsen.
Looking at Florida’s numbers, taking into account the lunacy seen over Spring Break and knowing that the state has been fully open for some time now, their case rates are steady, if not rising a little. At this point their death rate is actually falling, but it could just be that the lag between new cases turning into deaths means that will come or, of course it means the vaccine is doing its job.
Since when did statistical analysis become part of holiday planning? I probably need to get out more, but can’t yet.
If, in the end, all my stabs in the dark do not come to pass and it turns out we cannot fly on June 14th then I think plan B is to move the whole thing to either later in the year, if we can find flights that do not double the amount we have already paid, or into 2022.
It all remains a mess, but as we edge closer to our booking’s date, it is forcing our hand to at least decide what we might do in each scenario. The people most pleased about all this coming to end one way or another will be you dear readers.
Much like Johnson and his infamous writing of two articles on either side of the Remain or Leave debate, I could easily have published a post today outlining why travel to the US for a holiday in June is less likely than flying to the moon, but I chose to be positive and I will almost certainly be proved very wrong.
By next week everything may have changed again, and that will only mean more of this guff for you to read. Sorry.
Till the next time…….