10 tips for travelling during Covid

Almost twenty years ago, the horrific events that transpired on September 11, 2001, changed travel forever. In the immediate aftermath, many of us thought that removing belts and shoes, tossing our beverages, and foregoing metal utensils on flights were part of temporary measures.

Now we don’t bat an eyelid at the stringent airport security screening, improved security on aircraft and thorough identification checks that modern-day travel involves. Who even remembers when travel was fun? When you could hang out at the gate until final boarding and say farewell to loved ones or be invited into the cockpit to greet the captain!

After travelling last summer and again this year, I’ve been wondering if Covid has also changed travel forever. Will we always wear masks on an aircraft where recirculated air carries greater risks of spreading a virus? Will we need to be tested before and after each international flight and be armed with vaccine passports? Will we always feel Tense? Exposed? Unsafe?

In June 2020 some of these questions were on my mind as we planned to leave England for Canada. We were in the height of the early Covid wave, living in strict lockdown in London. Flights leaving the country were few and far between. As non-Canadians, landing in Canada required government permission and we nervously awaited the required approvals. It’s hard to look back at that time without remembering the anxiety that permeated the air, enveloping everyone in a permanent cloud of collective panic.

A couple weeks before we were due to travel in July, our flight was cancelled because of Covid restrictions, and the airline wasn’t going to resume flights until September. I had already wrapped up my contract, we had terminated our lease, and most hotels weren’t accepting guests – the one nearby was being used to house the homeless. In other words, we had to leave England. I literally lost hair trying to get another flight booked close to our original date.

On July 20, travel day, we rolled up at Heathrow. Only travelling passengers could enter and the normally bustling airport was a ghost town. At that time airlines weren’t demanding negative Covid tests, just a barrage of questions about symptoms and whether you had travelled in the last 14 days.

All the shops were closed. A single fast-food outlet was open, and the line stretched to eternity especially with social distancing. Everyone wore masks and the few passengers in the departure lounge avoided each other studiously, sitting several seats apart. People avoided looking at each other, possibly in fear of telekinetic viral transmission. Back in 2020 it was anyone’s guess as to how the virus was being transmitted, and I was armed with my own anti-bacterial wipes to clean every surface we had to sit on or touch.

There were mandatory temperature checks before boarding. Business class was reduced to a bare-bones affair and there was minimal interaction with the flight attendants. Without the distraction of a drink and nibbles before take-off, I got busy sanitizing our seat and surroundings.

Masks were mandatory for the duration of the 8-hour flight and a plastic bag with PPE: mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes replaced the typical goodie bag. Hand lotion would have been a welcome addition. Meanwhile, meal service was a single vegetarian option served on a tray with only bottled water as beverage. We were encouraged to eat efficiently and replace our masks as soon as possible.

Upon landing we went through all the screening questions at Pearson. We left the airport and went straight into quarantine for two weeks. Not one of us even put a big toe outside the door. And then, we settled into a year of ‘on and off’ strict lockdown in Ontario. Unfortunately, it was more ‘on’ than ‘off’ which thwarted any plans for holiday travel throughout the year.

It’s no wonder therefore, that I had all but forgotten last year’s experience of travelling during Covid. But as I made plans this June to jet off with the kids and spend a few weeks in the USA, I started realizing just how much travel has changed from the ‘before times’.

There are so many new regulations now that you can’t plan an international trip in two days and jump on a flight. So, if you’re thinking of a getaway sometime during the remaining months of 2021 here are a few tips from my experience of travelling in Covid this summer.

  • Assess your personal comfort level

It’s time to reckon with how you really feel about the safety of travel as new variants emerge. Also, find out how your hosts feel. Will they be ok entertaining indoors when you pop by for a visit? Or is it strictly patios and backyard shindigs? If you aren’t comfortable, reconsider. A tense holiday where you feel anxious isn’t worth the expenditure.

  • Check those travel documents

If your passport is expiring any time soon maybe it’s time to plan a staycation. I waited six months for an appointment to renew my daughter’s US passport in Canada. So, we travelled to the States to apply there but had to wait several weeks for the new one to arrive. Long wait times may be similar in other countries too so check passport expiry dates and renew early.  

  • Research regulations in your destination and for your return!

What are the airline regulations? What’s required for you to land? Do you need proof of vaccines and negative test results? Do you have to download an app and complete registration before checking in for your flight? Will you have to quarantine upon arrival? And for how long? Do you have to pre-book a quarantine location? Pay close attention to the details on this one. If you are in the US – The EU has just announced new regulations for US travellers.

On the flip side – what are the requirements for you to return home? To return to Canada and avoid quarantine we had to show proof that we were fully vaccinated and had negative Covid PCR tests. Plus, we were tested again upon arrival at the airport.

  • Buy airline tickets early

Believe it or not, flights aren’t cheaper right now even though airlines are desperate to recover business. Plan your trip and secure tickets months ahead, if possible. Many airlines are still waiving change fees, so you won’t be out of pocket if plans shift. Otherwise, invest in travel insurance.

  • Book your car rental way in advance

I found out the hard way that there is currently a shortage of rental cars in the US along with exorbitant rates for even the most basic models. Shop around for deals and book early.

  • Plan your activities and make reservations

With reduced capacity because of Covid, reserving tickets with specific entry times is essential for most attractions. To visit Disney, we had to buy our tickets and then reserve the date based on which park was available.  

  • Arrange your Covid Testing

Know what test is required by your destination country. Antigen tests are cheaper but some countries, like Canada, only accept the pricier PCR test. It’s more expensive too if you need test results in under 24 hours.

Booking your test in advance saves you time in lines at busy airports. I did the regular PCR test at Fort Lauderdale airport for $100 per person and got the results within two days. But you also need to time your test carefully – our return flight was delayed due to mechanical failure and the airline scrambled to find a replacement aircraft to get us out of Charlotte and into Toronto before everyone’s Covid tests expired!

  • Carry extra masks

You will go through those things like water and lose a few too. Plus, a fresh mask after a few hours in the airport or on an aircraft is always welcome. With the new variant on the loose you may wish to upgrade to medical grade masks – just a suggestion; I used the non-medical type.

  • Eat

Eat before you leave home for your flight and carry your own snacks. Fewer airport food outlets may be open, and lines are longer with social distancing and new sanitizing measures.

  • Maintain your sense of humour, relax and be grateful!

Overall, travelling during Covid-times is more expensive, less comfortable, and more inconvenient. Despite it all, nothing beats seeing somewhere new and visiting with friends and family. For many of us, being able to travel again is another step towards restoring a sense of normalcy. Planning carefully, taking precautions, and treating fellow passengers with kindness will help you make the most of every moment and enjoy your return to the skies.

And as for when these changes will end? It’s hard to predict.

Until then, safe travels!  

Are you getting what you deserve?

Get more by asking for it  

I still remember the day I got the call from the internal recruiter delivering the news. The job was mine! I was pleased as punch. It was a role I wanted at a company I was eager to work for as they had a strong reputation and I had already met the team. But when the recruiter told me the offer over the phone, I was bitterly disappointed. Why was it so low?  The story gets worse – I accepted it.

It was one of my worst salary negotiations. I literally felt cheated. And not by the company but by myself. I later learned they were surprised that I had come on board at that pay. Ugh.

All I can say is that you live, and you learn. I’m glad I made that mistake early enough in my career to recover.

Recently, on The Change Diaries podcast, I chatted with Jenny Ward, a career and transition coach who specializes in supporting women. She wasted no time in highlighting some of the struggles that women face – from not knowing their worth, to not negotiating for better compensation or failing to talk about their accomplishments.

Honestly, I believe this is the result of socialization, and long-standing systems of oppression. Both of which have done a number on us, and I am including myself here. I’ve already shared the mess I made of my early salary negotiations. Later, I also realized I simply didn’t know how to brag about my accomplishments. In fact, I would downplay them.

I recall handling a big change communications project several years ago. Now, if you’ve done this, you know there are several moving parts and a lot to get right with your company’s most senior leaders. Weeks of adrenalin culminated in carefully crafted messaging, along with team calls, and then an all-hands session. My GM was happy and when everyone had left, he gathered up his papers to leave, but not before turning to tell me:

“Arlene, you did a great job. Everything went really well. Thank you.”

Before the last words left his lips, I cut him off.

“No, no it was nothing.”

He literally blew a mini gasket and flung his hands up in frustration.

“Why can’t you just accept a compliment?”

Was that my reputation? Someone who wouldn’t accept a compliment.

It was an aha-moment for me. I felt a little bit sick because he was right. I was always judging myself so harshly that if someone complimented me, I was sure they were wrong. I couldn’t accept the praise because sooner or later they would find me out for the imposter that I was.

I discovered it was a skill I had to develop – learning to accept praise. From then on, I found myself practicing some variation of these words: “I worked hard on that. Thank you for noticing. I appreciate the recognition.”

In Jenny’s experience, I am not unique in this struggle. To support women who tend to shy away from bragging, she recommends having a ‘things I got done list’ every day to remind yourself of your accomplishments. It is critical to know your worth and practice talking about awesome you are.

Coincidentally, I recently came across an article entitled “Savvy Self-promotion”. If this is your challenge, after you listen to Jenny’s episode on The Change Diaries, you might also wish to give it a read. Take it seriously because this is a change worth making in your professional life.

On the matter of getting paid more, Jenny noted that women find it difficult to negotiate a pay increase while men go in with the attitude of ‘give it to me’. Women, she finds, are schooled to be humble while men are comfortable outright asking for it.

An interesting thing happened the week that I taped that show with Jenny. We were having dinner one evening and I made the kids an offer. If they helped me with some work, I’d pay them $50 bucks each. My son, who is twelve, did not miss a beat. He immediately said, “Pay me $70.” I noticed that his sister who is three years older didn’t ask for more.

Credit: Aris Amitirigala, created using Pixar

I waited a day or two before bringing it up with her. Are there any reasons why you think you should earn more than your brother? She pointed out her age, experience, speed, and ability to focus. All great answers yet it hadn’t occurred to her to demand greater compensation.

It was a live example of someone being better qualified yet hesitant to request more. At the end of our conversation, I asked her to repeat this to herself daily for the following week:

I deserve more.

I am convinced that those three words are part of the reason why some people land amazing compensation packages every single time. Yes, they are well-qualified, and certainly they have a great track record but, above all else, they know their worth and they believe they deserve more. This is what makes them ask for it and get it too.

To make this happen for you, I suggest honing your negotiation skills. If you aren’t accustomed to doing this, it takes practice. Perhaps even some rehearsal. Gather your accomplishments, do your research, and then role play with a friend.

Lastly, I highly recommend that you listen to Jenny and all the wonderful coaches featured during my first season of The Change Diaries. They offer great advice for both men and women.

Thank you for stopping by! Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Listen to my new podcast now available on Apple: The Change Diaries Podcast or you can also listen on Spotify.

And don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.   

Lisa Soares Lewis – Be aware of your energy and manage it

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Lisa Soares Lewis, Certified Professional Coach, Master Practitioner in the Energy Leadership Index Assessment, and designated Senior HR Professional. Lisa believes that all roads lead to leadership and that leaders are the first who need to change.

Lisa’s deep experience in coaching leaders comes to the fore as she discusses the triad of skills that underpin success in an unprecedented era of change. Listen to find out what they are and then get out of your own way and move forward.

Listen to the Change Diaries with Lisa Soares Lewis

Guest Bio

Lisa Soares Lewis is the Founder & CEO of Great People Solutions (G.P.S.) Ltd.

Based in Kingston, Jamaica, Lisa is a Certified Professional Coach, a Master Practitioner in the Energy Leadership Index Assessment, and a designated Senior HR Professional by the HR Certification Institute Society. Lisa has held several Executive and HR leadership positions at large companies including Diageo Red Stripe and Scotiabank and has led Executive workshops in C-suite roles.

She works seamlessly in the public, private and NGO sectors and is highly respected in the business community in Jamaica where she currently sits on several boards including JAMPRO (Jamaica’s investment & promotions agency), WISYNCO (Fast moving consumer goods), Sagicor Investments, UWI Mona School of Business & Management, the Pension Industry Association of Jamaica and the Jamaica Stock Exchange e-Campus. Lisa is also a member of the International Women’s Forum and previous Director of SERHA (Public Regional Health Authority) and Sagicor Bank.

In February 2020, Lisa was awarded in the “101 Most Fabulous GLOBAL Coaching Leaders” Category – World at the HRD Congress in Mumbai, India.

Lisa has an MBA with Distinction in Finance and Marketing from UWI and a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering.

Her company, Great People Solutions (GPS), offers the full suite of HR Consulting, Advisory and Leadership Coaching Services.

Find Lisa at:

Website: greatpeoplesolutions.com

LinkedIn: Lisa Soares Lewis

Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.   

April Miranda – With Energy and Intention You Can Heal

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with April Miranda, Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Reiki Master and Yoga Teacher. April uses the ancient wisdom of the Chakra system to help people discover the life they are worthy of living, and sparks a self-awakening process through asking, ‘How is your foundation?’.

April’s calming, holistic coaching style anchors this conversation, giving us greater hope in the possibility of changing our lives for the better. At the end, there is the gift of a complimentary guided meditation. Tune in and enjoy this conversation.

Guest Bio

April Miranda is a Toronto-based executive life coach, NLP practitioner, Reiki Master, and yoga teacher. She has been teaching movement for more than 17 years. April uses different healing modalities to support her clients’ healing from the inside out. Her kinesiology degree, performing arts background, along with other healing modalities, allow her to help her clients feel lighter physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically.

April was voted in the Top 50 Fitness Expert Entrepreneurs in the Greater Toronto Area with Sweat Equity Magazine. She is currently writing her first book: “MOVE with LOVE – Your Simple Guide to Revolutionize Your Life With Energy and Intention.”

April has also been featured in HOLR magazine and been interviewed on different podcasts such as The High Vibe Show and Sweat & Tonic. She lives downtown Toronto with her husband Chris, their daughter Bella Luna, and their puppy, House.

If you would like to find out more about April Miranda – get tips, Reiki training, and inspiration:

Find April at:

Instagram: @AprilMiranda

Website: AprilMiranda.com – get your free meditation here!

Move with Love – Join Move With Love Mastermind

Never miss an episode! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.   

Abbi Buszard – Making space for people to think for themselves

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change, or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Abbi Buszard, Life Coach and former Commercial Director. She believes that the solutions to your biggest challenges are never quite as good unless they are yours and that change means growth.

Abbi brings her insightful style to this conversation, sharing advice on how to find the right coach for you, affordable options, and examples of successful transformation. It’s a practical conversation with great advice.

Guest Bio

Abbi Buszard is the founder of Grow Your Own Organic Learning. She is a qualified coach and former Commercial Director with a love of creative problem solving. She is also known as ‘mum, stepmum and wife/reluctant cycling buddy’. 

With extensive experience in all aspects of helping people to grow and develop, by challenging, supporting, managing, leading and mentoring, Abbi works with large organisations and ambitious individuals alike. With a postgraduate certificate in coaching from Henley Business School, Abbi believes making space for growth is both the hardest and most important thing for everyone to do to succeed. 

Before starting Grow Your Own, she spent fifteen years at Cadbury, Kraft and Diageo, working across sales, customer marketing and transformation and change. These days, Abbi works with a network of partners across a variety of specialisms, who enable Grow Your Own to deliver programmes to any scale, from large corporates to boutique brands. Grow Your Own has a social enterprise heart- every commercial programme is matched with pro-bono work for a charity partner.

Abbi considers her nosiness a superpower that can be used on self or others. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram and you can join in the reflection by following her daily questions and learning to change your world by building a growth habit in just 2 minutes a day!

Find her at:

LinkedIn: Abbi Buszard

Instagram: @AbbiBuszard

Website: www.growyourownlearning.com

Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.    

The Change Diaries Podcast is Here!

I’m excited to launch The Change Diaries Podcast: Conversations to change your mind. Each season, different guests will explore themes related to embracing change, sparking change or simply being the change we want to see. My hope is that you will fill your backpack with knowledge and gain inspiration to try something new. 

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for many years but there was always a reason to put it off. Like for instance today. I didn’t think it was perfect and I started second guessing myself.

And then I read a quote that Greg Monaco of letsgomonaco.com shared this morning. It was from film director, George Lucas: Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It’s abandoned or it’s ripped out of your hands, and it’s thrown into the marketplace, never finished. It’s a very rare experience where you find a filmmaker who says, “That’s exactly what I wanted. I got everything I needed. I made it just perfect. I’m going to put it out there.”

So here it is!

Check out this launch episode where I introduce you to The Change Diaries and share a short story of how I am navigating change and absorbing the lessons.

The first season is about How to spark a change in your life – do you need a life coach? I’m thrilled to have lined up some great guests from various corners of the globe for each episode. These life coaches will share stories about their own lives, and how they guide people in defining their goals and getting past what’s blocking them. You don’t want miss these thought-provoking conversations.

The first episode drops next week. Stay tuned!

Thank you for stopping by and listening in. Please share your comments below, like, and hit ‘subscribe’. I update content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.