Travel in the Time of Covid, Again

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Back in November, I published a travel piece on covid traveling. I was about to write a new one for this summer as protocols have changed, but in reading it, except for the references to Thanksgiving travel and with the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in parts of the country, it is sadly still up to date.

You can read it here: Travel in the Time of Covid.

A few things that I’d like to emphasize if you’re planning on a family vacation or even a stay-at-home vacation with local experiences:

1. Masks, social distancing, and Hand sanitizer. For all practical purposes, nothing’s changed. Wear your mask, wear a double mask in places with higher covid numbers, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available. Keep six feet (or 2 meters) away from non-family/group members.

2. Contact Tracing. Expect to give out your name and phone number when asked for it. Each locality will have different rules and requirements.

3. Attractions. Check on capacity and if you need a reservation. Many places will limit how many people can visit at a time. Places may have timed tickets. Places may require social distancing. They may also require proof of vaccination.

4. Restaurants. They may require reservations. They may have longer wait times due to social distancing and capacity limits. They may have limited menus, and may also be short-staffed. Their hours may be different than normal.

5. Hotels. Hotels that offer free breakfast may not; they may have substitutes. They may have limited housekeeping due to staffing or wanting to limit how many people go in and out of each room. Pools and fitness centers may be closed or have limited access.

6. Shopping. Use your debit/credit card as much as possible and avoid cash if you can. Some places we went to last year refused to take cash at all.

I’d love to hear what tips you have used for your most recent vacations or trips. Comment below.

Travel in the Time of COVID

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Traveling during the covid epidemic offers several differing perspectives and our family seems to have lived through all of them. Should we go? Should we stay home? Stay local? Visit another state? For the better part of last year, we planned our August vacation to Canada. It became apparent that would not be an option. The Canadian border closed in the spring and remains closed.

We couldn’t help but notice that the rest of the country was not exactly cooperating in “flattening the curve”. It didn’t take long to make the decision to remain in New York State. We live here and we felt safe with the covid policies that the state has put into place.

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas not far off, if you are traveling, I hope you will benefit from our experience.

If you’ve decided to stay home, these will hopefully help you the next time you venture out.

Vacationing on COVID-time is *different*.

First, have a plan, have a second plan, and be flexible in all things. We decided on a location we’d only visited for a couple hours last year – Niagara Falls, located in western New York. We would spend one week; it would be an adventure. Customarily, we would change hotels mid-week. We did not. This was a direct result of covid.

We did many things outside: Niagara Falls State Park and the Falls, Broderick Park at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. Though I prefer indoor dining, we ate outside at restaurants, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. We also visited three monuments that we may not have seen if I wasn’t looking for outdoor things to do.

Masks. You need more than one mask. Ideally, you should have one cloth mask for each day or at least two: one to wear, one to wash (and hang to dry).

Hand Sanitizer. Though you’ll find more hand sanitizer than you can ever imagine everywhere, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer is a must.

Hotels. I was very happy with our hotel. The prices did not seem to be any higher than a regular end of summer week. However, several amenities were not available or drastically changed. The pool and fitness center were closed, but vending machines and ice machines were available. I think they suspended the airport shuttle. We were required to wear masks in the public areas, hallways, elevators, and walking through the lobby. There were hand sanitizer stands next to every elevator on all the floors to use prior to pressing the elevator buttons.

The included free breakfast was a menu to choose items from, and then bring to your room, microwave, and eat there. It usually included a muffin, a fruit, water, milk, or juice, breakfast sandwich, yogurt, and other related items. There was no housekeeping unless you requested it. We did not. We chose to ask for necessary items at the front desk. These included new towels, shampoo, cups, toilet paper. They were extraordinarily nice and very accommodating. Considering the circumstances, I thought they did an excellent job.

Attractions. Many places were closed. Those that were open had restrictions. Masks required, hand sanitizer stations, 25%-50% capacity, 6ft. distancing between groups. Some displays – where placing your face close was necessary in order to see the item – were temporarily out of order. At interactive displays, we were provided with a sanitized mini stylus to use instead of our fingers. We returned them for cleaning when we were finished with the tour.

Due to reduced capacity requirements, several locations issued timed tickets. This combined with lower capacities meant that every day about mid-afternoon tours were sold out for the day, so this required going early, getting your ticket for later in the day and then coming back. Some places preferred that you buy tickets online and show the attendant the ticket on your phone.
Many places used directional arrows on the floor directing so people weren’t intersecting with each other. Many places would not accept cash. The Niagara Falls (NF) State Park as well as the NF Visitor Center only accepted credit/debit cards.

Contact Tracing. Many hotels, attractions, and restaurants asked for our name and phone number for contact tracing.

Restaurants. We felt comfortable at each location we ate at. One place, the Hard Rock Cafe, took our temperature. Due to lower capacity, we were required to wait…outside. If we got up to use the restroom, masks needed to be worn. Some restaurants had no menus and a QR code on the table allowed for viewing the online menu on our phones.

Shopping. Only some places offered samples, like chocolate or ice cream. Fitting rooms were closed as were some public bathrooms. A few places did not take cash.

One of the good things that I noticed was that as crowded as it was, it wasn’t that crowded. There was room to stand and move around on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is typically wall-to-wall people.

Because the Underground Railroad Heritage Center limited two at a time in the small gift shop, I was able to have a somewhat lengthy and very educational conversation with the attendant while I waited my turn.

People were both wary and friendly at once. There may have been a glare when you got too close to someone but it turned into a smile and a laugh as we both said “oops, sorry.” It was a delicate dance.

I didn’t know how much we needed to be out of our house. Overall, even with the changes and the restrictions, we still had a great vacation, and it was nice being out and about and almost-kind-of “normal”. Niagara Falls is one of those places that never gets old; we’re thinking about returning next year, although a trip across the border would also be welcomed.

Mental Health Monday – Do One Thing

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It doesn’t need to be big.

It doesn’t need to be important.

It doesn’t even need to be political.

Or public.

Do one thing for you.

This morning my intention was to attend church. I woke up too late, but…I could still take a shower and attend church on FB Live, which I did, and then I went to Starbucks.

Three small things that loom large, but that’s okay. Any one of them would have been a success.

Your one thing matters to only one person: YOU.

Remember that everyone’s goals and wins are different from everyone else’s.

Own it.

Enjoy it.

Celebrate it.

Do one thing.

Stroke Awareness Month – Diet and Healthy Lifestyle

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Link: As a stroke survivor, here are some diet and healthy life suggestions from Stroke.org

In addition to this last post for this month’s awareness series, I have three other links for you to visit:

Strokes in Young Adults (recent – Luke Perry and John Singleton)
John Singleton
Luke Perry

Writing Advice – Wil Wheaton

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Wil Wheaton is one of my favorite writers, nay people. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, I don’t think anyone can agree with everything anyone espouses, but we’re on the same wavelength more often than not.

He is a writer’s writer. When he finds something that works, he doesn’t hoard or hide it; he shares it with the masses and he believes you can be a good writer too.

In this blog post, he shares the three books that have made him a better writer. I have read Stephen King’s On Writing, and have highly recommended it. I now have the two other books on my to-read list because Wil’s advice is usually spot on.

And while you’re taking his writing advice, read his work as well!

Writing Memoir: All About the How (Link)

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It’s that time of year for me again – the twice yearly, six week memoir writing workshop returns to my local library. If you’re interested in past prompts, just go to the left sidebar of this page and search the word, prompts, and write away.

Instead of sharing twelve weeks of our prompts with you, I thought this spring I would do something slightly different and share some advice that I’ve found helpful as well as resources and links. I will also be updating my Writer’s Resource Page in the upcoming days.

I discovered this blog from South Africa and writer, Amanda Patterson: Why Writing a Memoir is All About the How. Apart from this article, I do not know anything about any of their services and products that they have for sale.

Two of the things I took away from this was setting and timeline. These are two things that I don’t often think consciously about when writing memoir despite my wonderful teacher mentioning it fairly regularly.

30 Days of Nano – Day 10

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Incentives

I’m going to presume that you’ve kept some of your Halloween candy from last week. We have a lot of the mini ones, so they’re pretty tiny.

Why don’t you reward every 2500 words with a mini candy bar? Or add a quarter to a jar, and see where you are at the end of November. Choose a word count and take a walk about the neighborhood or get an extra coffee.

My incentive is getting to read another chapter in my Neil Gaiman book, The View from the Cheap Seats.

What are some of the incentive you use when you want to write but need that extra push?

Mental Health Monday – What’s in My (Coping) Tool Kit?

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I’ve posted about this subject before – twice that I could find links to, so in additon to those links below, I will also add a few things that popped into my mind (and my purse) as of this writing.

On Saturday, I reposted the making your own tool kit resource. Many of the suggestions are valid, but of course, one size does not fit all. That’s why I’ve written about and kept my own tool kits; to demonstrate what works for me in real time.

What works for you? Share it below. It might work for others. Working together and sharing resources and tools are what keeps us all moving forward.

What’s in My Personal Coping Tool Box (at the moment)?

Worry stone

Supernatural reruns on Netflix or TNT (the apps are on both my kndle and my smartphone.)

Small notebook for listmaking

A little bit of money – about $20 or a dedicated gift card

Granola bar for a burst of evergy. Avoid sugar, like candy bars or chocolate. If you avoid the sugar high, you’ll avoid the sugar crash.

Journal/Sketchbook with pen/pencil for scribbles and doodles.

Water bottle

Fold up soccer chair (in the car) so I always have a place to sit.

My Coping Tools

My Tool Kit/Grab Bag for Coping