QUICK READ: Flying With American Airlines During COVID-19

The Cancun Hotel Zone

It’s been a long time coming.

My last flight was in March of 2020, coming back to Maryland from a trip to New Orleans right before the world started to close down and I’ve been itching to get back in the skies ever since.

That opportunity came when we booked our trip to one of the only countries in the world that wasn’t requiring some sort of quarantine, Costa Rica. A few days before our flight, we had to make a quick change of destination to Mexico.

When the date arrived to walk down that glorious, skinny aisle, I was met with quite a few surprises:

It was much busier than I expected it to be. The long term parking lot was packed full and the bus from there to the terminal had no empty seats left and a young family packed themselves in at the last stop. Everyone was very good about wearing masks, however.

Getting through TSA and airport security on the other end was the easiest experience I’ve ever been through. The process was quick and the security officers were all very pleasant.

Our first flight was pretty empty. Flying on a Boeing-737, the first class and main cabin extra seats were full, then it was empty until you got to our seats in the back dozen or so rows. If anyone has a good read about the weight distribution of “not full flights”, please link it in the comments below.

The next three flights (first leg was BWI to CLT, then CLT to CUN on an A321, and the reverse) were full flights. My seating arraignment was middle, middle, aisle, middle, which I didn’t mind one bit. Now, while most of my 6′ frame is built of lanky torso, I still felt like there was plenty of leg room available. Our flight from Cancun to Charlotte was the only one with a little bit of discomfort when I sat next to a woman who I think was named Ms. Elbows.

The flights were all super quick, with the longest being 2 hours 30 minutes and I was able to nod off for a good chunk of the airtime.

Overall, I felt safe and American Airlines definitely had a commitment to ensuring all mask protocols were being met. I can’t wait to fly again.

QUICK READ: Getting Through TSA During Covid

We woke up to the second delay of our flight, bumping it back now to two hours after our initial takeoff time. That’s no big deal, as we had a long enough layover between flight legs to accommodate, but it would have been nice to get those two extra hours of sleep.

Flying out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall airport (BWI), we arrived to a much busier airport than we expected. Our shuttle from long-term parking was full and when we arrived, the line for security was seemingly endless.

The line was long, but it moved pretty quickly and the TSA agents were pretty friendly this morning. The only holdup was the three people in front of me set off the metal detector which bottlenecked the process. The first guy was an older gentlemen who left several accessories on before being instructed to remove them one at a time until he passed through successfully. The second lady left her watch on which set it off. The last guy left his phone and keys in his pocket that set it off. No need to remove your shoes, either, as you’re required to walk in tandem with a partner past a K-9 unit that sniffs behind you.

All in all, it only took 20 minutes to get through, but I’m very surprised at how busy this airport is.

QUICK READ: Costa Rica Locks Down Central Valley

Less than a week before we fly out to Costa Rica, the country has implemented a lockdown of non-essential businesses in the central valley (the area around the capital city of San Jose) due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Luckily for us, none of our destinations have been affected and are not labeled as areas with rising cases, though the concern is obviously present.

This is definitely coming with great disappointment to the country’s Ministry of Tourism, which has been counting on a rebound in foreign visitors during 2021. Quite the opposite has occurred, with numbers a fraction of what they were last year which was a fraction of the year before.

To combat that, the government has exempted tourist-friendly entities like hotels from its lockdowns in an effort to encourage visitors, citing a warming statistic – in the first four months of the year, less than 1% of foreign visitors tested positive when they were leaving the country. Additionally, they are promoting the country’s eco-tourism sector which encourages social distancing.

We’ll be doubling down on our efforts to remain safe, but look forward to a little R&R nonetheless.

QUICK READ: Driving from Maryland to Charlotte, NC.

For a quick weekend trip, we went down to visit some friends in Charlotte – it’s about a 6.5 hour drive from west-central Maryland where we live. The drive is mostly along one of my least favorite highways, I-81, but it wasn’t too bad for the way down.

Starting from Frederick, MD, I can either drive all the way back up towards the MD/PA border to get onto 81 or I can take some backroads through the boonies to merge onto it in West Virginia. I chose the latter.

Slight majority of the drive is open like this.

The first half of the trip offers plenty of stops and sights. Some of my favorite being:

  1. Harper’s Ferry – a historical beauty of a town where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet at the crossroads of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. I really enjoy stopping here for the Maryland Heights hiking trail then grabbing some well-deserved ice cream or a beer on the way out.
  2. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town – I went a few times over the stretch of two years in my younger 20’s. I made the mistake of winning a little bit on my first couple trips which boosted my confidence enough to lose all of those winnings in subsequent trips. Nevertheless, it’s a fun place to give away your money until 3am.
  3. The next couple hours are home to some pretty vies of farms and tons of farm animals. Seriously, I have never seen that many cows in one span of time.
  4. Natural Bridge and Virginia Safari Park – I have been to the second one and it’s a great time that I highly recommend. I’ll write about it here in the near future. The first stop, however, I have not been to, but would love to see the 215-ft tall limestone gorge.
  5. Luray and the surrounding caverns – I can’t say I have a big interest in cave systems or the underground (read my post about the Parisian Catacombs for my thoughts on naked mole rats), but it would be neat to see the largest and most popular cave systems on the U.S. east coast.
  6. Asheville, NC. – Okay, so this isn’t exactly on the way. It’s at least 1.5 to 2 hours out of the way, but it’s a badass town that I only got to explore once and have plenty more to see.

There’s a beautiful vista along the highway just before you get to the VA/NC border that makes you say “wow” when you pass, and if you’re lucky enough to get on the road without a bunch of tractor trailers, the drive isn’t too bad.

Pop on a playlist or podcast of your choosing and enjoy the drive.

Have you been down 81 in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, or North Carolina? What stops do you like to make or do you just drive straight through/

QUICK READ: Delta Is Unblocking the Middle Seat, Lower Prices Ahead

I don’t keep many notifications turned on for my phone. Between a group chat for work already blowing me up and my desire to limit phone usage, I try not to create reasons to check my phone with dopamine-inducing *dings.* One app I do have notifications on for is Hopper – an easy-to-use, flight and hotel search engine.

I don’t know if I actually turned them on, or if I just never turned them off.

I get a notification that Delta has flights under $300 to San Jose, Costa Rica, which I haven’t seen all year. It has been primarily a battle between American Airlines and Spirit. NerdWallet recently released an article ranking the Best Airlines to Fly During COVID-19, and Delta consistently won out in different categories, saying “it wasn’t even close.” I’ve always enjoyed flying with them, which happened often for annual trips down to Florida from the D.C. area. Atlanta, their headquarters location, was the transfer section for two-leg flights.

I look forward to returning to Terminals.

This morning, Rachel texts me an article from CNN saying that Delta would resume booking middle seats (the last airline to start doing this again) on flights starting May 1 due to rising demand for flights and confidence in vaccinations.

I haven’t been on a plane since pre-pandemic travel, so I have no way to know how this will affect the look and process of air travel going forward. We will see.

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