Spoiler alert: The world didn't end!
When my sister-in-law invited us to Ohio to celebrate our nephew's high school graduation at the end of May, we didn't question it. If we could, we'd be there. But that was back in January—before the world seemingly fell apart.
After I canceled my reservations to fly to see my parents for my mom's birthday in April, I figured we'd be staying put for a while and that a trip to Cleveland was simply out of the question.
After states began lifting stay-at-home orders in early May, however, my husband's sister broached the subject again. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether it was smart to travel right now. Nobody really knows, after all. None of us have been sick; we're all relatively healthy with strong immune systems. We've all continued to work through this whole ordeal, so we've been exposed to many different groups of people from the beginning.
So, on a whim, I looked up flights from Denver to Cleveland—and they were cheap. There weren't many flights available, but there happened to be a couple that would work perfectly for the dates we needed. We booked it—and crossed our fingers.
We'd heard rumors about airport security being more time-consuming, so on the day of the flight, we arrived early. We'd already looked ahead of time and seen that Denver International Airport's long-term parking lots Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert were not open, so we parked in the airport's garage parking. Though a bit more expensive, it was really handy.
Surprisingly, bag check and security were easy-peasy. When we printed our boarding passes, we had to acknowledge that none of us had been sick recently and promise to wash our hands prior to boarding. The only other thing different from normal was wearing a mask (the Denver airport requires it; the Cleveland airport does not). And because travelers are few, there were no long waits.
On the flight itself (through Frontier), masks were required, so I have a couple of recommendations for people looking to travel: Make sure your mask can be comfortably worn for long periods of time—something that's easy to breathe through and sleep with, if you plan to nap. I find planes to be a little hot and suffocating during the boarding and takeoff, especially, so the addition of a mask only made it worse.
The flight from Denver was only about half full, so the gate agent reissued some boarding passes, spacing us out. She also boarded the plane by row, starting with the back. I don't know about you, but that is something I have thought should be happening all along. Who knew it would take a pandemic for airlines to finally figure this out?
In their pre-takeoff announcements, the flight attendants explained that the air in the plane is circulated and replaced every couple minutes with fresh air from outside, thanks to their state-of-the-art filtration technology.
Also, Frontier (I don't know about other airlines) is not serving in-flight snacks and drinks right now, so be prepared to bring your own refreshments in advance. Just make sure they're unopened so that TSA doesn't confiscate them when you go through security. Don't plan on being able to buy something at the airport; while some of Denver's eateries on our concourse were open, Cleveland's were not, so we ended up having to skip dinner on our flight home.
Because we returned on June 1, after TSA guidelines changed, the only difference between the two flights was them taking our temperature at the gate. It took a little longer to board, but it wasn't that bad.
Unlike the first flight, however, this one was packed—likely because Denver is a hub for Frontier and United, and as flights are fewer, more travelers are being routed through DIA for connecting flights.
Whatever. We wore our masks and suffered through. It certainly beats driving!
We found it interesting how, in two spots of the country, 1,300 miles apart, some things are being handled the same and some are being handled differently. I didn't see as many people wearing masks in Ohio as I do in Colorado. It seemed like the state is much more "open" than it is here. Their gyms are open, while ours in Colorado are not. And yet their airport seemed to be operating on a more bare-bones level.
In general, there wasn't that much difference between flying now and pre-COVID. We were pleasantly surprised!
If you're considering a trip in the next few weeks, here's my advice: Don't be afraid. Take a mask and hand-sanitizer, and just use the same social distancing precautions and hand-washing practices, etc., that you would at home. Do your research in advance to see what to expect at airports or at your destination. Be prepared.
And then? Enjoy yourself! Bon voyage!