Tips to fly safe during the pandemic of 2020-2021

While it’s fantastic news that a vaccine may be available by end of April 2021, it will not be available to everyone until the end of 2021.

Following 10 months since I last flew in an airplane, I was chomping at the bit to travel. Outside of the occasional road trip, the pandemic prevented me and most of my peers from our pursuits as travel writers. But, once I began reading updates on air purifying and precautions for certain airline carriers (sorry, American Airlines – commentary as a whole has placed you as the WORST airline to fly safely), I grabbed my standard powder blue paper mask and placed it over my washable, double-layered material face mask (with a pocket for an insert) and placed a fresh, new HEPA filter inside. I wore a face shield I ordered from Amazon.com, as well as an air purifier pendant – a gift from my sister. I made sure to assign myself a window seat right away, knowing United wasn’t booking middle seats, or so they announced.

I flew United Airlines for 3 out of my 5 relatively short flights. As I boarded each plane, I was handed a square packet of sanitizer to use on anything I touched: armrests, seat buckle, and tray table latch before I flew from San Francisco to Denver. I was grateful for my TSA pre-approved status, mainly because I didn’t need to wait in long lines to get through security.

Out of my comfort zone, I took no chances. I refrained from eating or drinking while in the airport or on the plane. The biggest issue I encountered was renting a car, as the line was long – and I mean jam-packed and around the corner. The wait was almost 2 hours and there was absolutely no social distancing. In fact, there were a few people mask-less, which was unnerving. Shame on you Fox Rent a Car in Denver.

At every leg of my journey I played the part of a camel. I never used a restroom in the airport, on the airplane, or in the car rental bathroom. In fact, I didn’t use a restroom until I checked into my hotel room at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. It was challenging, but easier since I hadn’t eaten or taken a sip of water since my arrival to the San Francisco airport.

Before my second flight and departure from Denver, United sent me a notice that the middle seat of my row was taken on my flight to Phoenix (what was up with that?!). I appreciated the heads up and immediately looked at the seating and paid $27 to upgrade to more legroom in a window seat, luckily with the rest of the row empty. It was well worth the $27 for the peace of mind I received. Fortunately, I arrived in Phoenix and was greeted by a private driver, courtesy of Mii amo Resort in Sedona; I didn’t have to deal with car rentals again. Phew.

My third flight back to San Francisco was an easy hour, but then I had to shuttle to Novato where a friend picked me up to take me to my parked car in front of her house. I wore my face shield, mask, and air purifier pendant the entire time.

A few days later, I drove to the Oakland airport, where I boarded a flight to Las Vegas. Same methods – except this time ‘round I didn’t wear 2 masks – just the one mask with the HEPA filter because wearing 2 masks made me feel ill! I wore a fresh, new face shield for this trip and Bellagio’s limo driver met me and my travel companion in the luggage area to take us to and from the resort. Once my Vegas trip was over, I boarded my Southwest flight — no middle seat taken on either of my flights — and on my final flight back to Oakland, I had the entire row to myself.

As a side note, during my travels, I mostly dined outdoors, but there were a few meals enjoyed indoors, but with tables spaced socially distanced – I wore a mask up until my wine glass was filled and again once the last sip was taken. At Mii amo I ordered half my meals with a request to send to my room, but when I ate inside the restaurants, which included the restaurant at sister property, The Enchantment’s Che Ah Chi restaurant, it was barely at 25 percent capacity.

In Las Vegas, the casinos were not packed with crowds, but I didn’t spend much time here – just to pass through. The resort had plenty of “mask policing” so everyone had a mask on for the most part, and there were kiosks with masks readily available at no charge. During my stay in Las Vegas, I was even able to get a massage at the Bellagio Spa.

During my most recent spa visits to Arizona and Nevada, steam rooms were closed, and in The Bellagio Spa, everything is closed, including locker rooms. But you can book a massage and most services at the hair and nail salon.

I was there for a massage, and although it was modified for safety reasons, I was able to adapt and enjoy the results. First, there were a limited amount of people inside the massage treatment area. I only saw a few people, in fact. There was no changing into a robe and slippers, and once I grabbed a fresh mask, I was escorted to my treatment room and instructed to remove my clothing and place it on the towel-covered table – not on hooks. And I had to keep my mask on. That was the most challenging, especially when I was belly down and placed my head in the doughnut – I felt suffocated and had to keep lifting my face. My massage therapist calmed my anxiety by informing me that this is the typical first reaction but that it would get better once I got used to it. Luckily, she was right.

Once I calmed down, aided with a swipe of essential oils under the doughnut via the therapist’s hand, I was able to breathe comfortably as she worked to untie my stress knots behind my neck and throughout my shoulders and hip flexor. I relaxed enough that it seemed only a minute had passed before my treatment was over, yet it had been nearly an hour.

By the time I dressed and walked out the door, my massage therapist met me and handed me a small plastic bag. Inside, a small, bottled water and granola bar indicated I should consume both once I exited the 50,000 square foot facility.

It had been so long since I received a massage, I was grateful beyond for the modified version, and thankful The Bellagio Spa is following every precaution to keep guests safe.
Better safe than sorry, four days following my return home, I booked a Covid-19 test via Project Baseline, which, gratefully, was negative. It took a lot of pre-planning and effort, but if you’re cautious at all times, travel can be done safely. And you can enjoy outdoor deck dining overlooking The Bellagio water fountain shows to enjoy a dessert like this lemon curd cake at Spago by Wolfgang Puck (featured photo).

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