Our Christmas vacation has officially commenced! We decided not to go home this year but knew we wanted to get out of Lyon. Initially, our plan was a white Christmas ski vacation, but France and a few other countries kept resorts closed until after the new year. Our next option was to go back to Switzerland, but they now have a nightly curfew (and, we just went there in October). With limited options available for skiing, we decided to search for an alternative destination.
Naturally, I pulled up Google and searched, “where can I travel to right now from France.” The results showed plenty of countries that required quarantine, which was not our ideal way to spend Christmas. Then, I went to KAYAK and looked at their travel trends for where others in my area were searching. Surely, someone had to have an idea of where to go! Viola.
And that’s how our idea to go to the Maldives began. It could be a white Christmas after all, just white sand vacation instead of snow!
Remote islands? Over 1200 of them
Scuba diving? Some of the best there is
Sun and warm weather? A nice change from gloomy Lyon
No quarantine required? Sign us up
We started to research to see what was open. We did not know anything about the Maldives. How would we get there? How expensive is it? Which resort no we choose? And what if we went to Barbados instead?
We turned a wild idea into reality in just over one week.
Jordan found flights he liked from December 23 through January 4. The layovers would be for a few hours in the middle of the night in Qatar or Dubai before continuing. Those dates worked for Jordan’s time off, but not for mine. Since I am so new to my new job, I only have three days off for 2020.
So, I asked Jordan for a compromise. I sold it with the idea of direct flights from Paris to the Maldives. The 10-hour overnight flight would leave after work on Friday and allow us to get to a resort Saturday morning. Jordan had to compromise a little more than he would have liked, but it helped us make this trip a reality! Instead of a manageable Clemson championship kickoff at 10:00 pm in France, we would watch the game at 2:00 am in the Maldives. He also has the entire week of December 28th off, which he will spend in Lyon instead of at the beach. I’ll make it up to him somehow!
We explored every possible option and finally made a decision. On December 10, we booked flights for a December 18th departure date. We were going to get a white Christmas vacation after all.
The Maldives requires a negative PCR test within 96 hours of arrival. We booked our tests at a location down the street from our apartment. The appointments were scheduled on our anniversary—no special dinners or celebrations for us, folks. Let’s celebrate together by getting a pair of COVID tests!
The PCR test appointment was fast and efficient. We walked out of there within five minutes and said, “are you sure we are still in France? This test was too efficient.” The nose swab was not as harrowing as we had heard. It felt like the same as a flu test swab. We received our results back in 24-hours, and we were negative!
Maldives, here we come!
Fast forward to this weekend, and we are finally living up to our blog name by taking both trains and planes. But add a seaplane and boat to the list too!
After work on Friday, we took the train from Lyon to the Paris airport. The train was full with other travelers heading to their holiday destinations. We made it to the airport with plenty of time before our flight but spent most of it in lines getting through security and passport control. We only had about 15 minutes to spare before the flight boarded.
The boarding process was more complex than normal. After a quick temperature check, it was time to show various paperwork. We had to provide our negative PCR test and a health declaration for the Maldives. They asked us for proof of travel insurance, which we said was on our US credit card. So the gate attendant asked to see our credit card! The health declaration needed to be completed online within 24 hours of arriving in the Maldives. We had to upload a passport-like photo of ourselves, list where we were staying, upload our negative PCR test, and fill out a slew of other information.
Once on the plane, we were lucky to find the whole row to ourselves on an otherwise full flight. We took a gamble and booked an aisle and window seat in the same row. This time, it paid off!
Jordan struggles to sleep on a plane and spent the entire overnight flight watching several movies. I don’t have this same superpower that he does to power through situations with no sleep, and I gladly took his extra blanket to make myself comfortable. Jordan says I slept a lot, but it didn’t feel like it! I was continually repositioning my mask. Each time I yawned, my nose would come out of it. I also felt like I was a human origami trying to find the best way to sleep in a small space. The most comfortable way I found was to curl up in a ball across the middle and window seat. I even put my blanket on underneath my seat belt to be visible to the flight attendants!
We arrived at the Male airport, and after choosing the wrong immigration line to go through, it was time to get to the resort. By the way, that’s my superpower: choosing the slowest line!
The resort we booked required a seaplane transfer. Not all resorts do; some are only a boat ride from the main airport. Others require another domestic flight and then a boat transfer. But there was one problem: we did not know if the resort knew we were arriving.
When booking the resort, we included our incoming flight information. The resort also required us to contact them at least five days out to coordinate the transfer. I emailed the resort on the Sunday before arriving, right within the five days. But we didn’t hear anything back. So I emailed again on Monday. And Tuesday. Jordan emailed on Wednesday and included the parent company’s email. I sent them a message on Instagram. I even did a live chat with them online! And we never got any confirmation for our seaplane transfer. The only helpful information we received was from the live chat that told us a counter number to go to. At a risk of being labeled a “Karen,” I told Jordan that we just need to arrive and figure it out.
After making it through immigration at the Maldives airport, many people held up signs for different resorts. We found ours and phew! What a relief. He knew our names and had bag tags already waiting for us. He walked us through the seaplane check-in process. First, our bags were weighed on scales. The maximum weight allowed for our checked bag was 20kg and 6kg for our carry on. Next, a bus would take us to Terminal C for our transfer. The next seaplane flight to our resort would be in 2 hours, but they said they would try to get us on an earlier one.
We took a quick bus ride to the seaplane terminal and were welcomed with stunning views of teal water. The open-air terminal was lined with chairs along the edge. We found a nice spot to enjoy the ocean breeze while watching the planes take off. Jordan was in jeans, so the breeze was appreciated. I had worn a maxi dress with tennis shoes, and could not wait to change into sandals!
We would be flying on Trans Maldivian airlines, home to the world’s largest seaplane operation. The link is full of the Maldives airport history – worth a quick read!
There was an earlier flight to our resort on the departure screen. Unfortunately, we weren’t scheduled on this flight (probably because we chose the slow immigration line). A staff member came by and handed us vouchers good for a drink and meal. He explained we would be delayed a little more. We were going on little to no sleep and were ready to get to the resort. I told Jordan I wished we could get on the earlier plane as he walked to the small restaurant in the terminal to grab us food with the vouchers.
As soon as he got back with chicken teriyaki sandwiches, our names were called over the loudspeaker. We were told to board the plane! My wish had been granted; there was room on the earlier flight! We never did eat more than one bite of the sandwich.
After a quick seaplane safety demonstration, we were boarding for a short 30-minute flight to the resort. The plane was a tight squeeze! We barely fit in the narrow seats. We sat in the first row, and I had a full view of the cockpit to watch them fly the plane. What did I learn? They fly barefoot!
The flight wasn’t bad, but I was ready to be done traveling. I could see the clock and estimated arrival time on the cockpit controls in front of me. Every minute I told Jordan, “only X minutes to go!” I expected us to land directly at the resort. Instead, the plane landed in the water, and tied up on a small wooden dock in the middle of the ocean. Luckily, a boat was waiting to whisk us away to the resort!
Everything has been smooth sailing since we arrived, so I’ll let the fact that the resort didn’t respond to us at all before our trip slide. We are 10 hours ahead of EST, and I wrote this as Clemson played for the ACC championship at 5:00 am Sunday. We look forward to a lazy day on the beach after staying up late to watch the game!
If we can’t be at home with family, this is the next best thing. We hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! If you can’t spend it with your family, spend it doing something you love.