Are you Traveling to France? I just did.

Grace was given during the pandemic; airlines dropped their reward miles requirements to dust. I could fly to Paris for $300-400 or 20,000 miles! I *did* have to weigh the risks – and didn’t actually fly ’til countries had proof of vaccines in their policy.

But that time is over.

I’ve done four long-haul flights in the last six months (exhausting), and flew on near empty planes. It was great that France wouldn’t allow you entry unless you had proof of vaccine — which meant the plane had only fully vaccinated flyers on board!

The runway to boarding, in the throes of Covid, was a swiftly changing landscape weekly. It was then and is now still  critical to stay completely present with regulations for your destination.

It’s all the peripherals that add stress to your journey. The flights are just fine. Airlines all stripped back on food service but that shifted back into standard service a while ago now — hot meals and beverages, a snack island for the wee hours of in-between — the habits of a long-haul flight were back.

Watching the travel industry recover itself has been its own ordeal. 

There is not a drop of oxygen given that cannot be gotten first.

For world travelers who are savvy and can navigate the flows, that’s one thing. 

If you have Clear or a Global Entry Pass? Huge advantage. You’ll skip the long lines through security both nationally and internationally.

For first timers or early adopters? It’s gotten astoundingly complex — and stressful.

Blame it on Covid, blame it on too much of a good thing airlines’ took advantage of all the years before it fell, blame it on Brexit or the war on the continent – every piece of the puzzle has weight and merit in what has become a first class shipwreck.

I recently flew home to France – two weeks ago, en fait. I knew ahead of time to 1) book a direct flight across the pond, 2) to expect delays, 3) to book with an entrusted carrier who I’ve depended on time and time again.

What suited me best, however, was NOT direct. It stopped over in Amsterdam.

No big deal; I’ve done it a dozen times. Normally, a two hour layover in Schiphol was easy to manage pre-Covid, pre-the onset of summer travel and pre-Brexit. 

But watching this time? It was becoming apparent from afar (west coast USA) I would probably miss my connect in Amsterdam, destination Paris. Lines were long at customs. Short-staffed with a huge pre-pandemic surge of folks traveling all at the same time became a perfect storm — not just at Schiphol — I’m sure you saw it wherever you were — or are — contemplating your own trip abroad.

As an aside, last winter I applied  for the Global Entry Pass – the waitlist for an interview to gain that pass is  currently a year-long. Caveat: if  you are returning from abroad to the USA and have your provisional approval,  you can get off the last international leg of your flight stateside at certain main hubs, and walk in without an appointment to secure your entry pass.

Voila — fini. 

Note: You have to find the office before you go through customs. If you pass through customs, it’s too late.

I attempted that last return trip stateside. In normal circumstances, that  two hour layover @ Sea-Tac would have allowed for it (15 minute interview plus whatever the wait time is), except we landed 45 minutes late. There was no time for  the interview so it remains in the pending basket.

Back to it, as I began to worry about making my connect from Schiphol to Paris, I received an alert from Air France the day before my flight. It had been changed. It was essentially better. I was re-routed onto a direct flight out of Sea-Tac. The entire problem vanished. Thank you, Air France.

By the way? The flight was packed. Not one seat was empty.

In general, there are kinks at many turns. As you set up your travel plans, there are a few things that can ease the arbitraries that may surface unexpectedly. 

Be prepared.

When flying to Europe out of the USA, for example, fly non-stop, direct from your major hub and do the connecting links on the other continent.  For instance, fly to Amsterdam or Brussels, Berlin or Paris, then connect through to your final destination. Two or three connecting flights in the USA before you even get on the plane to Europe? That’s a nightmare. 

Thoroughly inquire through your credit card company, what kind of benefits you have. Does it provide car rental insurance, are you accumulating reward miles, is there automatic travel insurance included with ticket purchases, and if so what does it include. Some cards have this; some do not. If not, be sure to seek it out elsewhere for your trip. It is essential these days with delays, cancellations and disruptions.

It’s the peripherals you have to pay attention to right now; not the flight itself.

Dial it in incrementally, stay in constant navigation and have a backup plan ready.

For France, have a dossier and ALWAYS carry a paper trail of reservations. If there is any question that arises, and this frequently happens, this is your ticket through the door.