I flew out to Colorado for two weeks this summer. Everyone wants to know what it was like to go to an airport and fly. So, I’m sharing my experience in this post. But before I get to it, I’ll answer the big question now: it was a good experience.
My family has had a retreat in Colorado outside of Steamboat Springs for the past two decades. Perhaps you’ve seen my posts. There’s one on things to do in summer in Steamboat, one on the Steamboat ski mountain, and one on things to do in Steamboat in winter besides skiing, among others.
However, this past year, my dad put the house on the market. Amazing as it was to have, it was very remote and hard to get to, and in recent years underutilized. In my opinion, it was a smart move. But it also meant it would be our last summer at the house. Then, of course, Covid hit. Do we go for one last visit? Was the resounding question. Yes, we do.
My family and I – and brothers and cousins (not my parents) – booked our flights at the beginning of the summer for late July, when things looked like they were simmering down. We were psyched. Travel looked on the up, and, no pun intended, we were totally up for it. Then everything changed, spikes started spiking out of control, and places like the once safe haven Carolinas were now becoming the new epicenters – and “the list” ever growing.
Shoot. I hope Colorado doesn’t go on the list, was all I could think. Not only did I not want to go somewhere where there was a spike, I also didn’t want to quarantine for 14 days upon return. Should we cancel? I kept thinking…but I waited it out.
The week leading up to our flight I was really anxious. What if it’s dangerous to fly? What if we get Covid? What if we get Covid but don’t know it and give it to someone else? Is this really the smartest thing to be doing?
But then I kept thinking, as with every other aspect of life during this health crisis, my family has taken every precaution to avoid contracting Covid. We take the guidelines seriously. We wear our masks, we clean our hands non-stop, we have our bags and cars stocked with hand sanitizer and wipes, and we stick to small groups when hanging out with friends and family.
As I heard a top health official stating earlier this summer – getting on an airplane is not much different than going to the grocery store. It’s about personal responsibility.
Personal responsibility. I kept reminding myself of that the week leading up to our flight, and was ready and armed. KN-95 masks (and back-ups) for everyone, multiple bottles of sanitizer, wipes, you name it, we had it. By the time I got out of the car and into Newark airport I felt much better, and the anxiety was starting to dissipate.
When we got inside the airport and checked our bag and headed to security, it had really dissipated. There was no one there. The airport was empty. When they say life feels surreal during Covid, this was definitely one of those moments. An empty NYC airport? We couldn’t even figure out which way to go in the security maze, because there were no people to follow.
As we walked down to our gate, the hallways were empty. No one at Hudson News, and Starbucks was a ghost land. My girls wanted sugary drinks in the a.m. and I said sure, just because there was no line and they were the first ones there.
Once we came to the gates, we started seeing people, but it really was not that many people. Of course, everyone was wearing their masks. Everyone looked like us, ready for their flight, but also a little uncertain and wondering how this would all go down.
I went to go get waters and then to the bathroom. I’ve never seen a cleaner airport bathroom. Sparkling. No line to wash hands. It was bizarre.
Time for our flight to board. We were flying United. United does not let you board a flight without a mask. They also took the middle row of seats out. Upon entry the flight attendants gave us wipes to wipe down our seats. But I already had mine, and wiped down every last inch of every seat in our party.
The plane was about 1/3 full and the flight was smooth. At snack and drink time, they passed out pre-packaged bags of water bottles and snacks, and came to collect the packaging after. There was also soda service.
When we arrived to Denver, a major U.S. hub and always a madhouse, it was very tame with, again, not that many people. It usually takes us forever to get our baggage and get to the car rental (via shuttle), but this time it took a lot less.
When we got into the car rental we let out – or at least I did – a sigh of relief. It couldn’t have gone smoother.
Colorado, in case you are wondering, is very strict. The mask wearing is mandatory everywhere. We visited a few different towns – Steamboat of course, Crested Butte, Boulder and Breckenridge. Mandatory mask signs were everywhere – large billboards saying Mandatory Mask Wearing, buses saying it, everywhere saying it.
There was no difference being there than being in New York. The rules were the same. Colorado also obviously lends itself to much outside time and activity – the “great outdoors”, so to speak. So in general, not a bad place to be during a pandemic.
My family’s house is in the middle of nowhere, so there was never any question about that. But even when we went to explore the other towns, I felt completely safe since the rules were so strict. And we still enjoyed our time just as much as we would have pre-pandemic. We had great food in outdoor seating, wandered beautiful streets, and went for amazing hikes. Who cares if we had to wear a mask? It just wasn’t a big deal.
Our plane ride back was a bit more full, but nothing that made me feel uncomfortable. All in all, I’m so glad we went forward with our trip. It was no different than being where I live, and doing some of the necessary things I need to do at home that expose me to just as many people. If I could do it again, I would.
I understand that not everyone has had good travel experiences during the pandemic, and flights have been crowded. I get that. But this was my experience, and it was a good one.