Travel, especially international travel has been in the dumps for going on two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some things are slowly beginning to return to a modicum of normalcy… some.
For years a trip to Israel with stops at the top of Masada and the memorial at Yad Vashem have been high on the bucket list. We’ve taken every step to make the travel jumble more tolerable. We have TSA-PreCheck that is supposed to ease the movement through security, a Global Entry Card issued by the Federal government.
The latter uses biometrics of your handprint when you return from overseas to move you around immigration lines and speed you through. Both cost $100 for fie years. Burt check with your credit card company as some will reimburse that fee is charged on their card.
The newest method, and arguably the fastest through the long lines, is the Clear. For the mere sum of $179 you can join. That’s an annual fee reimbursed by only a handful of credit cards.
But joining Clear can be more of a pain in the “seating capacity” than anything else. We paid our fee and received a receipt welcoming us. And that was it. Is there a need for an ID card? Do you have to appear before an agent as is necessary with Global Entry? Do you just go to the airport and pray?
It took more than two days of navigating the Clear web site before reaching a real live person. It took her less than a minute to explain a very simple procedure. Go to a designated airport (you can check which ones accept enrollments), enroll in just a few minutes and then you can proceed.
That was only one of the hassles. The trip to Israel almost became a bureaucratic nightmare. The trip was made through a travel agency or something of the sort. For the mere sum of more than $5,000, which they gladly accepted, it was impossible to get an answer from them. The packager kept responding that it was not a travel agent. Yet their web page listed them along with the tour operator.
There were serious questions about entry to Israel in the age of Covid. You must provide, among other things, a medical policy that covers you in the event you contract the virus while in Israel. That despite that our arms suffered the discomfort of two basic shot and a booster. (How about that Dr. Fauci?) The form is obtained on-line and filed the same way.
Unfortunately, we accidentally uploaded the wrong medical coverage and were refused entry. What to do? We attempted to re-access the form, but it would not allow that for 14 days. The Israeli consulate failed to return a number of calls and we finally sent a certified, return receipt letter to the consulate with the information. Still waiting for a response. We had assignments to conduct several interviews while in the country. No response to those requests either.
We’ve been assured that it will all work out in the end. Not so sure, but it does prove the worth of the travel insurance policy we bought. Stay tuned and the end of the story will appear if and when the trip is either accomplished or a trip to Lake George is undertaken instead.
The bottom line here is before any trip, especially on out of the country, check out all of the requirements and follow them to the “T.” China is notorious for being a stickler for detail. That being said, a trip to China a while back was accomplished with no problem because we read and reread ever detail of every requirement and took every necessary step.
But in fairness to the traveler those entities who want your business could be a bit more forthcoming and helpful. Instead of throwing roadblocks in your path, that could return a phone call or have all the necessary information online or with an easy phone call. Money for reservations are immediately accepted. That should be the first step to an unforgettable trip.