For the 50+ Traveler
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Although I didn’t grow up in Kansas, after living here for the past two decades, I’ve learned that Kansas City is serious about Spring Break.

We don’t have mountains, so winter sports lovers want to head west and hit the slopes. We don’t have a beach (and the winters can be brutal), so others spend a week in March soaking up the sunshine.

And for everyone else, there’s March Madness. From the consistently highly ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks to the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship, it’s no wonder this town is called the College Basketball Capital of the World.

I’m in the hate-the-cold-need-sunshine bucket, and so we boarded a plane for California. While global coronavirus cases were on the rise, the threat still seemed distant, with headlines focused predominantly on Italy. Planes were flying, the sights we wanted to see were open, and we saw no reason to change our plans. Plus, our hotel rooms were nonrefundable.

As soon as we landed, we received word that the tennis tournament that was to consume the first few days of our itinerary had been canceled. As other sporting events around the nation started throwing in the towel, from spring training to March Madness, we realized that things were about to change -- and fast.

With half a century of travel experience under my belt, I know that not every trip goes smoothly and that curveballs can veer your way. So we tried to focus on the positive and rework our itinerary, but at each step another roadblock appeared. And, as with every challenge in life, I learned several important things during this trip.

Individually wrapped apples and bananas.

Many People Don’t Understand The Restrictions

While we didn’t witness blatant disregard for the imposed restrictions (like that on display in the now-infamous photos of unfettered partiers on Florida beaches), we did encounter a surprising number of folks who expressed a similar mindset: “I’m young and healthy. Why should I change my routine?” Even back at home, where the number of COVID-19 cases is much lower, I hear folks asking the same question.

A lot has happened very quickly in the past few days. But if you’re still asking yourself that question, know that the restrictions are in place not to keep you from getting the coronavirus as much as to help ensure you’re not inadvertently spreading it to others, especially those who are over 65 or have other medical conditions.

Those Trying To Do The Right Thing Don’t Always Have A Clear Plan

On our last night in Pasadena, we ate at an amazing restaurant in Chinatown. We were the only folks there, and as we complimented the owner on the amazing bowls of homemade ramen, he chatted with us for a bit. He said that the governor had asked restaurants to stay open but cut capacity by 50 percent. He wasn’t sure if that meant to remove half the tables, be open half the hours, or something else. It wasn’t clear what specific steps needed to be taken.

Hand sanitizer station in the lobby of a hotel.

Travel Providers Are Going Above And Beyond

We are avid fans of Southwest Airlines and Hotels.com, and both companies went above and beyond to get us on an earlier flight home and to cancel our unused hotel stays without any penalties. Yes, the folks at those companies are overwhelmed, and it took three of us calling and live chatting from multiple devices quite some time to get the changes made, but they happened.

Folks In The Travel Industry Are Putting Their Best Face Forward

From hotel cleaning staff to front desk attendants to flight attendants, those working on the front lines of the travel industry are extremely worried about their jobs. Yet every encounter we had with them was upbeat and positive. We witnessed so many people going above and beyond standard protocol to help curb the spread of the virus, each reassuring us that they were there to help ensure we had a positive experience despite the circumstances.

Our experience at the Hyatt Place Pasadena was so wonderful that when we get to the other side of this pandemic and try this trip again next year, it’s the only place I want to stay in Southern California.

Clorox wipes in a cafe in California.

Small Businesses Need Our Help

Before the pandemic, small businesses already faced plenty of challenges. With the current closures and restrictions, they need our help more than ever.

The impact of canceled events, limited travel, closed stores, and scared consumers is going to be hard on the world’s economy. But global giants and national brands can withstand a 30-day closure, and they’ll be able to recover relatively quickly when this is over. Meanwhile, small business owners could lose their life savings and their homes and be forced to file for bankruptcy.

TravelAwaits readers live all across the United States and around the world. Please consider searching for a resource like this example from Hamilton County, Indiana. The Hamilton County Tourism Board has not just assembled a list of local restaurants offering carry-out. It has also listed ways residents can help small businesses and has established a donation page for local food pantries and community assistance programs.

For more ways to help your favorite small businesses, see this piece.

We Are Living In Unprecedented Times

Like me, you have probably experienced a combination of exhilarating experiences and terribly trying times in your life. But aside from the dwindling members of the Greatest Generation, who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, most of us have never experienced anything like what we’re currently facing around the world. And unfortunately, there could be even tougher times around the corner.

My advice to each of you:

  • Heed the advice of infectious disease experts and other experienced professionals to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and to stop the spread of the coronavirus to others.
  • Fact-check everything you hear from a friend or read on social media to be sure you’re receiving reliable information.
  • Stay updated on the situation, but give yourself a break from the nonstop news cycle. Use this time to make memories with your loved ones, learn a new skill, or binge on a favorite hobby without feeling guilty.

I hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and that we get through this pandemic stronger, kinder, and more united than ever before.

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