Traveling In a Pandemic

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After an amazing 16 days, our trip to Norway has come to an end. We enjoyed trading our tank tops and shorts for cooler weather that required down jackets and gloves. In the past two weeks on our trip, we have experienced the following while traveling during a pandemic: fifteen different hotels, seven flights, six airports, four airlines, two rental cars, one train, and a partridge in a pear tree. I’ll share our travel experiences throughout this post.

We made it back to France safely with our temporary carte de sejour cards. It’s a weird feeling “going home” to France because it’s France! It almost feels like we are on one long vacation over here at times. No lawn needed to be maintained while we were gone (but also, no weeds to pull!), no air conditioning to turn down to conserve energy, and unfortunately no dogs to come back to after a long trip.

There was, however, our herb garden which Jordan takes care of daily. I have managed to kill a bamboo stalk before, so I can’t be trusted with plants. My mom is taking care of a plant my sister bought me for Christmas and I think it’s better off with her anyways. We have mint (for the best mojitos), rosemary, green onions, peppers, basil, and thyme that we love to use in the kitchen.

Before we left, Jordan researched how in the world we are going to keep these herbs alive on the top floor of an apartment building for two weeks. He found a method online called “wicking”. Wicking is a method where we fill a bucket full of water and then put a string in the water as well as in the soil. The string acts as a conduit for the water to move it from the water to the soil. After a trial run, we were all set and hoped that our herbs would still be alive when we came back from traveling in a pandemic.

plants at an apartment.
Bucket, string, and utensils
plants at an apartment.
Our wicking system
plants at an apartment.
The setup

We were all set at at our apartment to go to Norway! We monitored the virus and found that Norway has had limited virus cases. Norway’s residents are living in a different world than how we are living in France. No one wore a mask, no one had a mask, but there were signs everywhere warning about the coronavirus and encouraged social distancing. We saw weddings, toga parties (seriously, the whole town of Trondheim seemed like it was part of one giant toga party), and people hanging out in groups with their friends. It was a strange feeling at times. There were plenty of moments where we felt masks were needed but not being used. It’s funny how our perspective can change in five short months! However, temporarily not thinking about wearing a mask was honestly a nice mental “break” from living in a world consumed by the pandemic.

We are lucky to have been able to travel to Norway at all. Our window from France to enter the country turned out to only be three weeks. On July 15, Norway announced that visitors from countries inside the EU who had low virus transmission numbers would be able to enter the country. At this time, France was given the green light to enter and this is when we started planning our trip!

We had two weeks to book flights, hotels, excursions, and plan our itinerary. We also had to read up on rules and regulations to be prepared while traveling during the pandemic. And even after our rushed planning for those two weeks, we still called plenty of audibles and switched our schedules due to situations out of our control: canceled flights, canceled excursions, and bad weather.

We entered Norway on July 31, the same day Norway announced they were starting to ban certain EU countries like Belgium due to high virus transmission. One week later, on August 7, Norway announced that visitors from France would not be allowed in without having to quarantine for ten days.

True story: a flight from Nice, France that landed in Oslo, Norway at 12:01 am, but the mandatory ten-day quarantine for arrivals from France started one minute before at 12:00 am. Norway forced all of those passengers to quarantine, all because of one minute! As a self-proclaimed rule follower, I get it, but when the rules seem as trivial as one minute, I would have been so mad if I were a passenger on the flight.

The rest of the trip, we said we were from France (it was easier than explaining how we were Americans traveling). We made sure people knew that we had been here since July 31 so there wouldn’t be any questions or concerns over us having to quarantine while traveling during the pandemic.

  • July 15 Norway allowed visitors from countries inside the EU. Our trip planning began!

  • July 31 We flew from Paris to Oslo! France remained a “green” country, meaning we were exempt from quarantine.

  • August 7 Norway declared France a “red” country. All incoming visitors would be subject to a ten-day quarantine.

  • August 16 We flew back from Oslo to Lyon with no issues.

Throughout our trip, each airline and hotel had different rules and procedures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, all places had copious amounts of hand sanitizer everywhere that we gladly used. We had also brought two bottles of hand sanitizer with us and never found ourselves without it!

If you haven’t traveled during the pandemic, are thinking of traveling, or are just curious as to what our experience was, I’ll share how different airlines and hotels approached the coronavirus below along with fun stories.

Air france

  • Temperature check before boarding
  • Surgical masks required and provided
  • Disinfectant wipe provided
  • Food and beverage service provided
  • Self bag check in


  • Mask required
  • Disinfectant wipe provided
  • No food or beverage service
  • Bottle of water provided
  • Self bag check in


  • Mask required
  • No food or beverage service
  • Self bag check in


  • Surgical masks required
  • Food and beverage service provided
  • No self bag check in

Between these four airlines, Air France felt like the most comprehensive with what they provided to make the customers feel “safe” while traveling during the pandemic.

For Air France’s self bag check-in, we had to use a self-service kiosk to print our baggage tags, scan our bags ourselves and put them on the conveyor belt to check-in without any help from attendants. It made the process very efficient and is something I hope continues even after the pandemic.

Air France flight attendants were holding a box of surgical masks as we boarded the plane. The masks were free for us in case our cloth masks did not meet their standards. On the other hand, KLM also required surgical masks but pointed passengers to a kiosk to purchase them instead of providing them.

airport showing passport and flight when traveling in a pandemic
Lucky to be able to use this passport
flight at sunset while traveling in a pandemic
Flying with the sunset

The middle seats were rarely empty on the flights we took while traveling during a pandemic, and I should know since I was the one sitting in them! Jordan is very tall and prefers the aisle seat, and I take the middle seat since I like sitting next to him on flights. We’ve thought about choosing the window seat and the aisle seat with hopes that no one chooses the middle seat. However, I’d rather have the peace of mind that I’ll be able to sit by him no matter what than deal with it onboard.

I always make sure to claim my space though. If I’m sitting in the middle seat, you best believe that I’m going to use the armrests and I won’t back down. I sat between Jordan and another man as tall as Jordan on our first flight. The other man put his entire foot and leg in my middle seat foot space and didn’t move the entire flight. But he didn’t get my armrest!

showing legroom on an airline
The culprit stealing middle seat foot space

One of our Norwegian Air flights was far from full. However, the airline had not spaced out the passengers on the plane. I originally sat in between Jordan and an older woman on this flight. The older woman spoke to me in Norwegian about her bladder. She even lifted up her shirt and pulled down her pants to show me her stomach! In general, I had no idea what she was actually saying. I think she was communicating that she would have to get up to go to the bathroom often. It started to get weird after she showed me her stomach. Thankfully, the entire aisle next to us was empty after boarding was complete. We quickly moved to the next aisle so she could have the entire row to herself. If you’re wondering, the woman only needed to get up once the entire flight!

disinfectant wipe on an airplane provided while traveling in a pandemic
Single-use disinfectant wipes provided
mask holder on an airplane while traveling in a pandemic
Convenient mask holder while eating
person wearing a mask on an airplane while traveling in a pandemic
Tired: wearing my hoodie backwards but mask is on

When it came to hotels, we only stayed in one hotel for more than one night on our entire trip. That was when we first arrived in Svalbard! For us, a hotel is just a place to lay our heads down at night before we begin our next day. We don’t typically look for cute bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels unless we know we will be able to spend enough time there to enjoy it. We typically stay at middle-of-the-road type places — the ones we know will be clean and comfortable. For our Norway trip, we stayed primarily at chain hotels like Radisson (for the points!), or local hotels if there wasn’t a Radisson available in the town.

sunset at a hotel in norway while traveling in a pandemic
View from dinner at a local hotel, Hustadvika Gjestegård

The majority of the hotels had signs posted everywhere that warned guests of the coronavirus. The most common sights were: plastic barriers at the reception desk, signs on the floor allowing only two people in an elevator at a time, lines on the floor for where to stand at check-in, and signs indicating that we must stay one meter apart from others. When we did use the available carts to help with luggage, Jordan always doused them in hand sanitizer first. We had never done this before traveling during a pandemic. But, it may be something we continue! The hotels also did not provide room cleaning for a multiple-night stay. This wasn’t a problem for us since we stayed in a different hotel almost every night of our trip.

Most of the hotels that we stayed in offered breakfast in the morning. The breakfast tables were full of the local Norwegian fare: cheeses, fish, yogurt, loaves of bread, and meats.

I was so excited to try Norwegian waffles, four little heart-shaped waffles typically served with jam and sour cream. Opting against using sour cream and jam, I found a syrup dispenser next to all the other oils and condiments. I poured the syrup on top of my perfect heart-shaped waffle. Before we sat down with our plates, Jordan had asked where I had found the syrup because he hadn’t seen any. I showed him exactly where I got it from, but he seemed skeptical. Jordan did not believe the condiment was actually syrup.

I excitedly took a bite of my perfect Norwegian waffle. Only to find out that I had doused it in olive oil, not actually syrup at all! Do yourself a favor and never try a waffle with olive oil as a topping; it’s not great. That was my one and only experience with trying a Norwegian waffle. I’m sure they are wonderful, but I’ll never truly know.

traditional breakfast at a hotel in norway while traveling during a pandemic
Norwegian waffles with sour cream and jam topping, not syrup!

The hotels that offered breakfast varied in their approaches on how to serve it to guests. The Radisson was the most relaxed out of the hotels we stayed at while traveling in a pandemic. They offered a breakfast buffet and required us to use hand sanitizer before we started getting food, but that was the extent of it. Normally, we might think twice about who has touched what at any buffet. But in a pandemic, it is really front of mind! The Freitham Hotel in Flam also offered a full breakfast buffet with the same approach as the Radisson. If you can believe it, we were the very first ones to eat breakfast at the buffet at 7:00 am. We are not morning people, and so we felt a little bit better about touching everything.

traditional breakfast at a hotel in norway while traveling during a pandemic
“Kaviar” served in a tube
traditional breakfast at a hotel in norway while traveling during a pandemic
Variety of fish available

traditional breakfast at a hotel in norway while traveling during a pandemic
Norwegian brown cheese

At smaller hotels where breakfast was provided, they forced guests to be a little bit more hands-off. Hotell Marina in Andenes had breakfast delivered in a paper bag that was left outside of our hotel room door. At our unexpected hotel stay in Svalbard at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg, we could serve ourself coffee but the staff had to serve us the food.

This is how it was at two other local hotels that we stayed at as well. At one hotel, the Hustadvika Gjestegård, there was only bread and croissants available when we walked in to eat breakfast. We loaded our plate up with a couple of pieces of bread and a croissant thinking that’s all there was for breakfast. That was, until we sat down and the staff brought out a pitcher of orange juice and a plate of meats, cheeses, and hard-boiled eggs. Whoops. We didn’t need all that bread after all!

Our rental car experience through Sixt and Enterprise was easy and we received upgrades for both cars. We felt this would be the safest way to travel throughout mainland Norway to limit our exposure with other people, especially after all the time spent at the airport.

We did not have to quarantine when we arrived back in France. Our U.S. passports along with our temporary French resident card worked perfect for traveling during the pandemic. No one questioned our U.S. passport along the way, which was a relief! Jordan was able to go back into his office on Wednesday of this week. He was not required to work a certain amount of time at home before returning to the office after vacation.

If you’ve read this far and you’re still wondering “this is great, but how did your herb garden do,” I’m pleased to announce that while all of our plants suffered, they have started to bounce back nicely this week. The bucket of water was bone dry when we came back home. Part of this could be due to evaporation due to the 100+ degree temperature we had in Lyon while we were away, but we think the wicking method worked.

A lot of care had to go into the herbs to help them bounce back. Jordan picked off all the dead parts for each of the herbs, cut the green onions all the way down to their base, and picked off all the peppers as they had wilted. After some more moderate temperatures this week and lots of water, they are starting to perk back up! It’s good news for us, as there won’t be a mojito shortage for the rest of the summer!

plants at an apartment. post travel during a pandemic
Our herb garden post vacation

Jordan and I collectively captured over 6000 photos and videos during our two week trip in Norway. Over the next few weeks I’ll share our itinerary, the history and folklore within Norway (those trolls can be mean!), our excursions and hikes, as well as a ton of photos. Stay tuned and thank you so much for reaching today’s post!

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4 thoughts on “Traveling In a Pandemic

    1. We used stuff sacks and had a large checked backpack and a small carry on backpack (to use for day hikes). We split our days up into two categories- activity days and leisure days which helped us determine what to pack. We brought travel laundry detergent and both did laundry in our hotel room shower at one point on the trip. Not glamorous but it helped us pack less! The stuff sacks made it easy to throw everything back in our backpack each day since we were going from hotel to hotel. Maybe I’ll do a post about packing :). Thank you for reading!

  1. Mary Lou and Jack travelled so much that they would take a small suitcase and his golf clubs. They used “travel” clothes that took little space, no change of shoes, and even took a jar of peanut butter and two sleeves of crackers! They wore wind breakers. They would be gone two weeks at a time! They just learned how to travel light.

    It is interesting to me how all of the people over there are going through same things we are having to go through here. (Except in Norway!) We did have lunch with your Mom and Dad INSIDE a restaurant today. Wore masks in and out and sat separated from everyone else by a table. Felt very safe.

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