How does one survive an indefinite vacation extension after a positive Covid test?

For the past 25 months, we’ve worried about the process for going places, seeing new countries, and pivoting when new restrictions prohibit our visiting said countries, but what if we were to make it somewhere overseas, have a great spring break of exploration and relaxation, only to be prohibited from going home?

The above hypothetical has been our family’s reality for the past 5 days. Here are a few ways we’ve coped adjusted:

  1. During our trips to Oslo, Tromsø, and Bergen, we used 2 or 3-bedroom Airbnbs in picturesque locations. These were great but can be expensive. For our indefinite subsequent stay, I thought, “Do I have any hotel reward points I could use?” I checked my email “travel” folder where I keep track of such and found I have a bunch of Marriott points from several years of work-related conferences. I found a Moxy in Bergen–the only Marriott property there–and got 2 rooms on points the day we were supposed to fly home. If you’ve never stayed at a Moxy, they’re hip and sparse but in a good way–no outdated “amenities” like closets, bath tubs, or phones. But, they have good (free!) breakfasts and a well-stocked bar, and the staff are awesome.
  2. Try to extend your held mail and your debit/credit cards’ travel notifications. I was too late on the mail, so I had to create a new one (and am about to create yet another), but using the USAA app to let the bank know we’re still in Norway was easy.
  3. Pack a laptop. 90% of the time when we travel for leisure, I never open my MacBook Air and am frustrated I’ve carried it. But for that 10% of the time when there’s a work emergency or a–whatever I’m experiencing right now–emergency, I’m eternally grateful I can keep up with work from 6 time zones away.
  4. Have an emergency fund. This may sound like preachy Dave Ramsey content, but it’s true. If we were overextending ourselves by traveling, having to extend a trip by a week or more would be devastating instead of just frustrating.
  5. Take care of yourself physically. We’ve made the children (and ourselves) sleep more than usual, drink more water, ingest less sugar, and spend time being active, outside the hotel (even in rain) every day. Even though none of us has any symptoms of Covid-19 (no fevers, etc.), a couple of us had positive tests. Also, it’s not like flu viruses and bacteria have gone away just because worldwide attention has been on a particular virus for 2 years. Living the unexpected is stressful, so care for your body and mind.
  6. Pack merino wool. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is a hotel laundry service. We all have socks, t-shirts (and base layers), and underwear of merino wool. This makes having to wear the same clothes over and over much less disgusting.
  7. Pick an airline you like and be loyal to it, so you have status. My wife and I are platinum with Delta; even the kids have their own skymiles accounts and are silver. It makes moving flights every day when we get another positive Covid test easier. Delta has a “platinum line” that has lesser wait times and better agents on staff. We’ve spent about 10 hours talking to them this week.
  8. Make your home as “smart” as possible. It’s been nice to check the porch for boxes, adjust the temperature, turn the alarm off for visitors to enter, and open the garage door while away for 2 weeks so any scheduled maintenance or cleaning visits can still happen while we’re trapped in a hotel 4,000 miles away. Ditto for my office.
  9. Have as many utilities on “auto pay” or online billpay as possible. I set all of this up in 2003 the first time I deployed to Iraq and have made it a habit ever since. No sense in having water shut off or trashing my credit just because my country won’t allow my reentry.
  10. Find a local grocery store for home Covid tests. The ones we found at drugstores were 3x the cost of the ones we’ve found at local grocery stores, but the ones at the airport? They’re 10x the cost of the drugstore ones! We have a pile of the grocery store ones we use every day to rehearse for the more expensive “official” one the airline will need for us to go home…one day.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Got other suggestions? I’d love to know what they are (via the comments–remember those?), since this is our current reality for the foreseeable future. We started with 2 positive kids, then dropped to 1, and now the third child is positive. None of us feels sick at all (except mentally).

We’re trying to plan how to do Easter in a foreign country and debating whether to split the children into “positives” and “negatives” so some of them can fly home before a third week overseas. Stay tuned to Instagram for daily updates!


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