THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2020 --
Let's start at the top--and by top I mean top of the country and the border with our Canadian friends.
Justin Trudeau is not happy. "We have committed to keeping Canadians safe and we keep extending the border closures because the United States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders," the prime minister said yesterday.
Um, okay, if they feel that way, we should go somewhere else. Europe, perhaps. Uh, no, they don't want us, either, and, frankly, their second-wave Coronavirus stats this week are really disconcerting. Asia? Nope, they don't want us. Australia and New Zealand? They don't even let each other cross the Tasman let alone welcome Americans. Latin America? Nix on that. Have you seen their
Coronavirus numbers? The Caribbean? Sure, if you can navigate all the individual restrictions, book a decent flight and aren't worried about some islands' sparse medical infrastructure. Africa? Well, sure, if you can catch a flight there. Have you read what poor Will Allen is going through
trying to book more than six months out?
So here we are, months into this, and we still can't really go anywhere. If the current TSA numbers can be believed
, flying is down by more than two-thirds compared to last year and airlines are saying their forward bookings look like Trump's poll numbers.
Bleak, baby, especially since Dr. Fauci now suggests that having friends and family over to the house for a big ol' Thanksgiving Dinner is a miserable idea.
But we should not give up. Honest, we should not. I've been scratching around and have come up with three suggestions: a ski holiday; some time in the California desert; and, finally, Hawaii, which reopened to visitors today in its own fractious way.
Let me run down the reasons why I've hit on those three options.
COLD COMFORT IN COLORADO
Hey, I dislike the cold--and I really despise snow--so this one is for you. The ski resorts in Colorado are largely open again and airlines seem to be moving capacity there in hopes of picking up your business. JetBlue Airways, for example, yesterday announced flights to Montrose from Los Angeles, Boston and New York/JFK. The service, using Airbus A320s, launches December 19 and runs through February or March. Also on December 19, Southwest Airlines begins flights to Montrose from both Dallas/Love and Denver. The Dallas route is a weekend-only deal until April 5, but the Denver service will run as frequently as three times daily. Montrose is no Aspen, of course, but, hey, it's just a 90-minute drive to Telluride.
PALM SPRINGS' MOMENT
If I'd asked you this time last year what would be the "hot" travel destination in 2020, you probably wouldn't have guessed Palm Springs. I mean, it is
hottish, but hot as in a trendy place to fly? Nah.
But in these confusing and difficult times--Isn't that what they call it in the TV commercials with the plinky piano music?--Palm Springs has emerged as one of the few places in the nation where airline service is growing again. It may be desperation on the part of carriers and a kind of blinking ignorance of the facts--the positivity rate in Riverside County is nearing 6 percent--but it is easier than ever to fly to Palm Springs.
American Airlines is launching weekly flights from Philadelphia beginning December 19. Two days earlier, Alaska Airlines adds flights from Boise, Reno and San Jose. Those flights will continue until mid-April. Delta is adding a daily flight from LAX on November 20. JetBlue will start weekend flights from Fort Lauderdale between December 18 and March 25. And Southwest Airlines is making a big foray into the swanky region with year-round flights from Oakland, Phoenix and Denver. The routes, served multiple times daily, begin November 15.
So, you know, golf your brains out if you like. Or just bask in the warmish, wintry sun.
PARADISE REOPENS, KINDA, SORTA
Truth to tell, I am biased. I love Hawaii. I'm also endlessly frustrated by its ability to shoot itself in the metaphoric foot. So even though the state reopened to visitors today and will allow them to skirt a 14-day quarantine with appropriate testing, the system is way more complicated than it should be.
Still, Hawaii is worth it. The people are wonderful. The beaches are great. The food is fabulous. So's the music. There is endless golf and tennis. Attractions like the Bishop Museum
are mesmerizing. Simply put, Hawaii be the best place to travel this winter even with the testing complications.
In short, here's how it works: If you're going to Oahu (Honolulu) or Maui, you can take an accepted test and get into the state. If you're headed to the Big Island of Hawaii or Kauai, you'll need a second test. If you're moving between islands, there is a different testing standard.
Yes, it's complicated, but some of the complexity is understandable because several islands have very limited medical services. A small outbreak in a place like Lihue, Kauai, is a much larger strain on the medical infrastructure than a similar-sized outbreak in Honolulu. Those are the facts and you'll have to deal with it.
Got questions? Start here
to understand the paperwork and the testing requirements. Also, check with your airline. As I noted a few weeks ago
, carriers are rushing to offer testing in conjunction with Hawaii flights. As I say, not as simple as you'd want, but not as complicated or dangerous as it could be.
Beyond the testing, of course, Hawaii is a different place
now than when the pandemic started. The state lives and dies on tourism and, no surprise, it has been dying without visitors. Many attractions, shops and restaurants are still closed. Not all the flights, especially from destinations in the East, have returned. Many hotels have not reopened and those that have rolled out the welcome mat are doing poorly. Honolulu, in fact, currently has the lowest occupancy rate (19.3 percent last week) among top markets in the country. Some of the best places--such as Halekulani in Waikiki--are closed indefinitely. Others--like the Kaimana Beach Hotel at the other end of the strand of sand--have changed hands.
Me? I can't wait to wade through the paper and the testing and the craziness to get back. Your mileage may vary.