Hi! Today I am excited to share this guest post by Anne of Aquitaine Travel Guide, a fellow American maman here in France, and travel expert extraordinaire. Over the summer, she and her family flew back to the US. If you're anything like me, you have lots of questions about how air travel is these days... I hope that this insight will answer any questions you may have!
I am posting this to show the realities of flying right now (Summer of 2020), and I understand that there are plenty of reasons it’s not ideal.
We had originally planned a long summer in the US with my family, who we usually see multiple times a year. In the end we decided to shorten the stay, and ultimately I am glad we went, as my parents are getting older. I don’t think I will be making the effort again for awhile.
We had booked our flights on Delta back in 2019, for travel in July 2020. Our flights were cancelled twice in May and at the time rates of infections were going down in France and NC so we decided to rebook, and were put on KLM. As I was home watching the numbers go up I was really becoming increasingly uneasy, and then the night before our flight my youngest daughter came down with a fever. Out of the blue. During these times you don’t fly with even a headache, so when I called KLM they were more than happy to delay our trip for two weeks to allow her to get better and get tested. We took her to the doctor and got her note to be tested for covid the next day. Luckily, she was negative. I decided to get tested as well just to confirm, and my results were negative as well. So we waited two more weeks and the night before the flight I was stressed again. My parents had been isolating and only going out for groceries, and had been tested two weeks prior to see their new grandson. The only part that worried me was flying, but luckily I have always been a germaphobe and OCD about sickness so I felt secure about being able to keep us safe.
The Bordeaux airport was empty - it was the end of July, and what should have been an airport packed with travelers had only around two flights scheduled. Masks were mandatory from this moment on. There was hand sanitizer everywhere, and free covid testing at the entrance which took a day or two for results (it is still there but only open to those with boarding passes). I was impressed with how well organized everything was! Security was spaced out, everything felt fine until we came to the gate for the airplane from Bordeaux to Amsterdam…it was packed. Not a spare seat in view. All three of us were seated together and that was the only moment I wanted to go back home!
Luckily, the Amsterdam airport was equally deserted and, the saving grace, our flight from Amsterdam to Dulles was empty. We each had a row to ourselves with empty rows between us and other passengers. We were served a meal and then given the best bag of snacks (way better than on the return flight!). KLM is amazing.
We landed in Dulles and there couldn’t have been more than 40-50 people on the plane, and we were the only people in customs. What has taken two hours in the past took all of 20 minutes, including the health screening. They took our temperatures and asked questions. I showed our covid test results and we were on our way. My mother picked us up and let us in the car only after having us strip in the parking lot and put on new clothes.
The day after I landed, the French government announced that Americans traveling to France needed to have a proof of a negative covid test, no more than 72 hours before boarding flights. It was so HARD to find a place to get tested (I got tested about a week after arriving to make sure I didn’t catch something on the plane). Most places couldn’t give results for up to TEN days, those that were quicker charged up to 250 USD / person! For those in the area, I would highly recommend StarMed in North Carolina. They have multiple testing locations in the state and were able to accomodate 72 hours turn around, for free. Here is the link (you have to do an online doctors visit before you can take the test).
When we went back to France, no one asked for the papers to confirm our Covid status. This was a little bit annoying as we honestly spent days locating and getting our tests done. The return flight was very much the same, empty overseas and packed flight from Amsterdam to Bordeaux. My kids were amazing - at three and five years old they wore face masks from the time we walked into the airport to the time we left, only to remove them when eating. 18 hours of masks, no complaining. I was so proud of them.
Here are some pointers for traveling during covid :
Flights are still only allowed for US residents and citizens or direct family members of American citizens. My husband brought our Livret de Famille and marriage certificate (it wasn’t translated into English, which the US agent at the gate in Paris said it should have, been but the American Embassy in Paris has said it doesn’t need to be…so I cannot say either way).
Bring plenty of hand sanitizer (and carry it with you everywhere in the USA, cashiers and stores don’t have them at counters like in France).
Bring enough surgical masks to change every four hours on plane and then some (there are some cute Dr.Talbots kids ones that actually fit my little head better).
Use a barrette or clip to attach masks to the side of children’s heads so when they need to remove them to eat or drink they don’t fall on the ground.
Bring antibacterial wipes to clean down all surfaces on airplane.
Carry a change of clothes - you’ll want to get out of everything like you worked in a hospital after the flight!
We were unable to find any health insurance to cover us in case of Covid infection in the US, which was incredibly stressful. Many will not cover Americans coming back to the US, however they would cover foreigners. Double check before purchasing!
If you are separated from your loved one during this time, there is a wonderful Facebook Group called Love is not Tourism with help and advice.
Side note, if you wanted to know the suitcase my daughters have – the ladybug is a Trunki , they are amazing because the let little ones ride when they don’t want to walk anymore. The company also makes a backpack which turns into a booster seat for older kids. Great company and products for kids and travel!
Stay safe everyone!
Thanks for the thorough review, Anne!