Commentary: Escape to Hawaii from Clark County cold sounded like a good idea, but was too good to be true

From the beginning, I thought it was too good to be true. I kept pinching myself. Did we really just purchase $99 one way tickets to Hawaii? The world had gone crazy that first week of January. Could this be real?

But as the weeks went by my guarded optimism started to give way to excitement. I purchased tickets to Chicago which cost more than the trip from Chicago to Hawaii. Our inbox was full of confirmations for our flight, our trip insurance, and reservation for a beach hotel, and lots of information about COVID-19 restrictions in Hawaii.

We would have to present a proof of a negative Covid-19 test to get off the airplane, to check into the hotel, and dine at most restaurants. That seemed easy enough to obtain since we are both Covid-19 survivors and in possession of antibodies. We felt fairly safe traveling, but that wasn’t enough for the State of Hawaii.

A tourist landing in Honolulu without a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before takeoff must immediately return to the mainland on the same airplane or be confined to the hotel room for two weeks.

Hawaii would not accept proof of antibodies or proof of two COVID-19 shots. No. Hawaii would only accept visitors with negative tests from a list of what they call a “Trusted Testing or Travel Partner.” It is a very exclusive club.

Most of the accepted testing clinics were on the west coast. I did find two national drug store chains that were deemed acceptable but these businesses could not promise the most important part of the test. The tests had to be taken within a 72 hour window before departure. They could not promise results within that time period.

Then I learned that the airline had its own testing recommendation.

I had to order the test a week before departure. It would be delivered by UPS. Then at exactly 72 hours before departure, we had to go online with a technician who watched us stick a swab up our nose and put it in a sterile tube full of preserving fluid. Then we would seal the package as they watched.

Ok, I thought. I’ll jump through those hoops if there is a beach chair with an umbrella waiting for me.

While ordering the Covid-19 test I started to purchase online other needed items; neck pillows for the flight, a new swimsuit, ear buds for the flight, beach slippers for those walks down Waikiki on the somewhat rocky sand.

The first problem was that UPS couldn’t deliver the things I ordered because we were snowed in down a long lane. Luckily a friend took delivery for us.

The hotel we had booked had a spectacular pool next to the beach with service for drinks and lunch. I wanted to spend one entire day there being pampered. That was when we received an email telling us how to make pool reservations.

Pool Reservations? Covid-19 pool visits, we learned, can be only 90 minutes long and only once a day. A mask must be worn unless actively swimming. I guess those were our rules here last summer except for the time restrictions. I just didn’t expect it there.

Four days before departure we finally believed that the trip was real and started packing. We picked up snacks for the 10 hour flight. There was no meal service for us cheapskates on the $99 section of the flight. Our seats were way in the back next to the restrooms. How convenient.

We downloaded the cell phone apps for Covid-19 testing verification, our airlines, driving service, etc.

At 72 hours before our flights we went through the crazy complicated testing procedure while “Face timing” with two strangers. It was an easy swab and the package was ready to send off.

We knew UPS could not pick it up so we used four wheel drive to get out of our lane and drop the two overnight packages off at UPS.

Then we went home, checked our test apps repeatedly, but no responses. In fact they said they were still “waiting for delivery.”

That made no sense so we checked with UPS tracking. It appeared that our package got to a hub somewhere and was sitting there until the weather emergency was over. (Cue sad violin music.)

We called UPS repeated and asked to speak to a supervisor. We ended up with a nice, but clueless lady in the Philippines who had no idea where Columbus or Ohio was and had probably never seen snow.

I spent 8 hours on the phone and internet trying to get that package to move and trying to find another “Hawaii accepted” way to be tested. We got excited when we found fast testing at one of the approved testing sites. Then we learned that the State of Hawaii would not accept that fast testing.

We tried to change our flight and get different testing, but no one could get testing for us within the time period needed.

So there we were. All dressed up in our Hawaiian shirts, suitcases packed and no place to go.

To describe us as bummed out would be saying it too simply. I went to bed for two days.

The hotel, airline and testing lab all had pity and gave us refunds.

Two days later I learned that our flight from Columbus to Chicago had arrived on time , but our flight to Honolulu had been delayed repeatedly and finally canceled. Even if we’d had our negative tests in hand, we’d have been stranded in Chicago. If another flight had been found later, we would have had to return home anyway because we were outside the testing window.

There was just no way.

I guess my first impression was correct. It was too good to be true, and we just were not supposed to escape winter.

However we did after four days receive the good news. The tests made it to the lab and we are both still Covid-19 negative.

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