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Pandemic Travel, With Another Family or Maybe Three



Seven months into the pandemic, the recommended rules for families are clear: Safety first means safety in low numbers. Learning pods are small. Social bubbles are guarded. The “quaranteam” lines have been drawn — at home and on the road.

“By this point, we’re all gotten to know the tribe in our pandemic ‘lane’,” said Stacie Krajchir-Tom, 52, a Los Angeles brand consultant who is heading to Ojai, Calif., next month with several families from her son’s third-grade class. “That’s who you’re most likely going to want to travel with.”

But if vacationing with other families was complicated in Before Times — splitting costs, calling dibs on bedrooms — the coronavirus has only doused the fire with more fuel. Groups must contend with frank discussions, personal frustration and, in some cases, canceled trips. Hotels, advisers and other travel companies are adjusting to a new set of guest concerns and interpersonal dynamics. But for travelers like Ms. Krajchir-Tom, the extra effort is worth it.

“Being on vacation with your friends is always a fun thing,” she said. “But especially during Covid, the greatest gift we can give our kids right now is a shift in environment.”

When it came time for her annual trip with friends this summer, Linda Baird didn’t fret about closed borders or canceled flights; the Airbnb the group had rented in January was on a private waterfront in Maryland, and she and her family would be road-tripping from Columbus, Ohio. She did, however, worry about the drive, especially at a time when Ohio infection rates were peaking.

“I asked myself a few times about whether the stress of getting there would outweigh the experience of being there,” said Ms. Baird, 39, a freelance writer and stay-at-home parent of two children, 4 and 7. “We didn’t tell the kids until about a week before leaving because we knew that things could change at any time.”

For her, communication with her friends — a tight-knit crew of four families with eight children in total — was key. Not only did they discuss how the costs would be divided and who would bring the breakfast bagels, they also checked in with each other throughout the spring and summer, monitoring local infection rates and agreeing to get tested before the trip. And they talked through what would happen if someone fell ill in Maryland, designating the rental’s detached guesthouse as an obvious place to self-isolate.

“We were constantly asking, ‘What is your exposure like? What is your comfort level?’” Ms. Baird said. “There were lots of conversations about how we were living our day-to-day lives and what we could do to make this a fun — and safe — vacation.”

Conversations like that are vital, said Marisa G. Franco, a psychologist and friendship expert.

“Friends should certainly have discussions from the get-go about boundaries, priorities and the issues that could arise,” she said. “It may feel awkward, but it will feel way more awkward if your friend shows up and she’s not wearing a mask.”

But as Judy Nelson, 38, learned while deciding whether to travel with three other families to Seaside Heights, N.J., this summer, even teed-up quarantine values can turn into a case of “the best-laid plans.”

“There was a bit of ‘I really want to go but I’m sort of on the fence’ conversations, but truthfully, it all fluctuated with how the news was looking,” said Ms. Nelson, the communications director at a design firm.

A few weeks before the July trip, Ms. Nelson and her husband, who live in Brooklyn, took their toddler daughter to Jacob Riis Park, a beach in Queens. She relayed what she saw — droves of mask-less sun-seekers — to the group. A few texts and emails later, they canceled their Jersey Shore vacation.

“Canceling felt heavier this year than in other years, because in other years we would have all had more changes of scenery by now,” she said.

Others found that their trips were no match for travel restrictions and clamped-down borders.

Patrick McDermott, who lives in Abu Dhabi, was excited about heading to Connemara, in Western Ireland, with the group of friends he has traveled with every summer for more than 15 years, despite their being spread across multiple continents and countries.

“It has become a cherished tradition and something that all of us, especially our kids, look forward to all year,” said Mr. McDermott, 42, the founder of the points-and-miles website The Expat Flyer.

When the Irish government announced new travel restrictions, four of six families in Mr. McDermott’s group pivoted to a camping trip in Switzerland. But Mr. McDermott and his family had to tag along on WhatsApp: There were reports that United Arab Emirates residents were getting stuck overseas because of the pandemic, and they didn’t want to risk it.

“Missing everyone getting together in Switzerland was heartbreaking,” Mr. McDermott said. “The strength of these relationships was particularly evident over the last six months — these friends were our first port of call for advice and support.”

As for Ms. Krajchir-Tom, her school “hive” shares beliefs about masks and distancing. Yet there was one issue that failed to draw a consensus.

“There are families that were definitely not getting on a plane, and there’s the camp that’s completely down to fly,” she said.

The more risk-tolerant subset may eventually head to Baja California. But for now, Ojai, about 90 miles from Los Angeles, was the compromise. The group will stay at The Capri Hotel, whose pandemic protocols Ms. Krajchir-Tom and another mother can vouch for firsthand, having visited with their sons during a quick getaway in August.

In a flash poll on Instagram this summer, Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies, found that 79 percent of users would travel with families whose pandemic values align with their own.

Luxury resorts like Eden Roc Cap Cana, in the Dominican Republic, and The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, in the Bahamas, are fielding a steady stream of inquiries from such groups.

“We’ve seen an increase in family pods taking over an entire three- or four-bedroom villa residence or booking suites close to each other,” said John Conway, the Ocean Club’s general manager.

Exactly who’s sleeping where is “decision point No. 1,” said Amie O’Shaughnessy, the founder and chief executive of Ciao Bambino!, a Virtuoso agency that specializes in family travel.

“One of the big questions to ask is: Are you going to be in the same house? Are you actually vacationing side-by-side and safely adjacent to one another?” said Ms. O’Shaughnessy. “Or are you saying: We’re going to decide that we’re totally on the same page and share a home?”

Intrepid Travel, which runs affordable small-group tours, has four new Family Retreats, designed for three to five families apiece. The new pod packages at The St. Regis Bahia Beach, in Puerto Rico, include customizable picnics and guided rainforest excursions.

Rental companies are also experiencing strong interest by multifamily groups, seen chiefly in booking rates for large homes. But some report that reservations aren’t necessarily translating into arrivals.

“We have encountered several instances where one or two guests in the reservation will initially back out, making the trip less affordable for everyone else,” said Andreas King Geovanis, the founder of Sextant Stays, a Miami-based hospitality company. “This has a ripple effect, and the group continues to dwindle until they ultimately decide to cancel altogether.”

That’s exactly what happened to Torben Lonne, who lives in Copenhagen and runs, a scuba-diving website. Mr. Lonne was set to travel to Egypt with his uncle’s family but in late September — after the group had been virus-tested and loaded up with travel insurance — his uncle reneged, citing infection rates in Egypt. The trip was canceled.

“Everything was set for us to go,” Mr. Lonne, 34, said. “I felt very disappointed and annoyed that my uncle would back out at the last moment, and once everything was canceled we didn’t speak for a while.”

No one in Ms. Baird’s group ended up in the guesthouse, and even the trip’s misadventures — one power outage, one jellyfish sting — did little to dampen her perspective.

“As soon as I got there, I felt a moment of normalcy,” she said. “We had done everything possible to prepare, and the trip was a break from the anxiety of the pandemic.”

For Montoya Hudson, 35, of Katy, Texas, it was crucial to get the pandemic-related brass tacks out of the way so that the fun — a friends’ trip to Tennessee next month — could begin.

“We said, ‘Hey, this is what we’ve been doing, this is what we would like to do with you, have you guys been doing the same?’” said Ms. Hudson, who works in health care information technology and runs The Spring Break Family, a travel blog. “We’ve been restricting outside activity, going on the side of caution and keeping to ourselves.”

Ms. Hudson and her friend Monet Hambrick, who runs The Traveling Child, another travel blog, are eager for a break from their cabin fever. They’re also looking forward to visiting key sites from the civil rights movement and Black history with their husbands and school-age daughters (they each have two).

“I know it sounds very simple, but I miss people,” Ms. Hudson said. “My daughters haven’t had the chance to socialize with their friends; I don’t get to chat with my co-workers in the hallway. This seems like a nice way to merge the desire to travel with the need to see friends.”

Sarah Firshein is a Brooklyn-based writer. She is also our Tripped Up columnist. If you need advice about a best-laid travel plan that went awry, send an email to

By: Sarah Firshein
Title: Pandemic Travel, With Another Family or Maybe Three
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Published Date: Thu, 08 Oct 2020 09:00:21 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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