To travel or not to travel during the pandemic? That is the question we’ve been asking ourselves a lot the past few weeks. And let’s face it – deciding whether or not to travel during this pandemic can be difficult.
Recently, we confronted the conundrum of whether to take a planned cruise and vacation in January (of 2022) or not. In this blog post, we’ll share five factors we considered when making our decision. We’ll also share what we decided to do. Note: We also prayed about our decision a lot!
Keep in mind that we’re not medical experts and the things you need to consider before traveling may be different than ours. For medical advice, consult a trusted healthcare professional.
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Things we consider before we travel during a pandemic
First, here’s a little background about our January 2022 travel plans. More than two years ago, we planned a trip to Florida for back-to-back cruises and a visit with friends. We planned to fly from the Midwest to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There, we’d hoped to spend a few days with friends in Florida before boarding the new Celebrity Cruises Apex ship where we’d meet up with another couple.
Here are five things we considered when deciding whether or not to travel:
1. Vaccination status
It’s pretty clear by now. Vaccinated people are far less likely to become severely ill if infected by Covid-19, especially if they have had a booster shot. In addition to every doctor we know saying this, hospitalization numbers as reported by our local hospital officials (people we know and trust), as well as hospitals across the nation, bear this out.
The vast majority of patients seriously ill with the coronavirus are unvaccinated. We are both fully vaccinated and boosted, so we do not worry much about serious illness should we contract the virus. That said, Ann may need a heart surgery soon and we both have some other underlying health issues we need to consider. Plus, we would never want to unknowingly spread the virus to a more vulnerable person.
2. Flexibility to travel during a pandemic
Is this the best and/or only time to travel? We contemplate this question all the time. Thankfully, we do have quite a bit of flexibility in our schedules so we can often move or postpone a trip if needed.
Others may need to consider their work schedule, family life, vacation time, sick leave, health, etc.
The friends we’d planned to see in Florida, as well as the couple with whom we’d meet up with on the cruise, all have reasonably flexible schedules. Therefore, it was possible to reschedule our trip, if needed.
3. Welfare of our community
Would traveling during the pandemic right now place undue stress on our hospitals and our community?
The hospitals in Nebraska (where we live) and around the United States are near or exceeding capacity. Perhaps more importantly, healthcare workers (including our daughter who is an ICU nurse) are absolutely exhausted.
This week, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Bryan Health Systems (major hospitals in our area) both activated their crisis standards of care plans. We can’t remember a time in our lives when local hospitals have been stretched this thin.
Protecting the medically fragile
We also considered the welfare of the people around us. The more exposure we have to other people (such as we might have by traveling during a pandemic), the greater our risk of contracting a virus and/or unknowingly spreading it to guests or crew on the ship.
Concern and love for our neighbors has been foremost on our minds since the beginning of the pandemic and is the principal reason we’ve been so careful. We’ve tried to do everything we can to prevent the spread of illness and protect the people we love. We especially want to do our part to protect those with fragile health.
Indeed, the welfare of our community has been the driving force in why we were vaccinated (and boosted), wear masks, distance ourselves from others, and avoid crowded spaces as much as possible.
4. Benefit vs. risk of travel during a pandemic
Do the benefits outweigh the risks of traveling in January 2022?
The benefits of travel are many
Cruising is, by far, our favorite way to travel. Cruise ships are our happy place.
Opening the curtains each morning to views we’ve never seen before is an experience we treasure. The sounds and movements of the ocean, as well as the unobstructed sunrises and sunsets bring peace and tranquility to our lives. They rejuvenate us like nothing else.
We also love the food, entertainment, craft cocktails and activities offered on a cruise. We meet new people, try new things, and experience new destinations. And, we’ve found few places on land that provide the level of cleanliness and customer service we have found on every Celebrity cruise we’ve taken.
In addition, one of the greatest benefits of cruising right now is that cruising is the only industry in the U.S. travel and tourism sector requiring both vaccination and testing for crew and guests.
It’s also the only travel and entertainment sector that monitors, collects, and reports information about Covid-19. Also, most ships are not booking to capacity, so the number of guests on board is lower than usual.
We’ve taken three Celebrity cruises since the reopening of cruising in 2021. Honestly, we’ve felt less at risk on a ship than we have anywhere on land (outside of our home) since the start of the pandemic. So yes, the benefits of taking the trip are many and great.
The risks of travel during a pandemic
But now, the risks. With airlines canceling hundreds (if not thousands) of flights per day this month, flight delays have become a real concern. We also risk getting stuck in an airport, or being unable to return home in a timely manner. Anyone who flies right now needs to pack their patience.
Then there’s the question as to whether we’d be able to dodge this highly contagious virus in airports, hotels, and restaurants on our way to the cruise port. With transmission levels at all-time highs this January, we’d have a more than good chance for exposure.
In addition, we considered the possibilities of ports being closed to cruisers, activities being altered, and being sick or in quarantine while on board the ship or while away from home. All of these factors make travel during a pandemic less attractive.
5. Cost of traveling
Cost is another factor we always consider when we travel. We plan and pay for most of our trips well in advance to avoid debt. Here are some things to consider related to cost:
- Can I get my money back if I cancel or postpone my trip?
- Do I have travel insurance?
- Can I pay for extra meals and nights in a hotel if I am delayed, sick, or quarantined?
- Does my health insurance provider cover out-of-state expenses?
- Do I have enough vacation/sick time should I get sick or be quarantined?
Thankfully, Celebrity Cruises offers a program called “Cruise with Confidence.” Celebrity covers any cruises booked for travel in the next few months with this program. Under it, you can cancel up to 48 hours before the cruise and receive 100% of the money paid as credit to be used on a future cruise.
We booked our airline tickets directly through Delta Airlines and they offered similar protection. We also had penalty-free cancellation options with our Hilton hotel, Avis car rental, and Blacklane car service.
Finally, a word about cruising during a pandemic
We’ve been on three Celebrity Cruises since August 2021 and have absolutely zero regrets.
Considering all the cruise line has done to mitigate risk from Covid-19–including requiring vaccinations from all eligible passengers and testing everyone within 48 hours of boarding–we still believe cruising is one of the safest vacations anyone can take right now.
We’re glad cruise ships have strict protocols to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew. Truthfully, they always have. Under the new protocols, Covid-19 infected passengers must be quarantined, and those who are close contacts to infected people must isolate for 24 hours and be tested. As of Jan. 15, 2022, guests and crew were also required to wear masks while indoors (except when eating or drinking).
Our final decision on whether or not to take our trip this January
Originally booked for January of 2021, when the pandemic shut down the cruise industry, we moved this cruise vacation on the Celebrity Apex back a year to January 2022. We prayed the world would be a safer, lower-risk place by then.
Sadly, that’s not necessarily the case as we write this post Jan. 15, 2022.
After considering vaccinations, flexibility, the welfare of our community, cost, and all of the risks and benefits, we decided to postpone our travel and cruise plans.
The welfare of our community was the greatest factor in our decision. Even though we’d feel like there were minimal risks once on the cruise ship, getting there was a different story. If we lived near Fort Lauderdale, we’d likely be on board the Apex right now.
While it was difficult to postpone a trip we’d looked forward to for so long, we plan to reschedule everything in a month or two. Thankfully, because of the flexibility that cruise lines offer right now, that’s easy to do.
Lord willing, in a few months, we will have all worked together to decrease the spread of Covid-19. Hospitals will be less full. More airline flights will run as scheduled. And hopefully, we’ll be able to spend quality time with our friends and truly relax as we watch the waves of the ocean pass by.
A personal note
On a personal note, as Christians, we have also relied heavily on prayer and the word of God when making all our travel decisions during these uncertain times. Here are a few Bible verses that we’ve meditated on throughout the pandemic.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me. – Matthew 25:45