Back in April we took a gamble. We were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on our way out of perhaps the darkest 18 months of our lives. Vaccines were rolling out, restrictions were slowly being lifted, and it appeared that things would be getting back to normal. Airfare rates and vacation packages were still low, so we decided to go ahead and book a vacation to Florida for the family.

Then, the Delta variant hit Florida in late summer and we started to get uneasy. Cases skyrocketed and we were worried that our trip wasn't going to happen. Cases in Florida slowly started to fall and things started looking better until the wave hit us here 2 months later in the Northland. Now, we were worried about getting sick and having to cancel our trip before we went.

Add to that was all the canceled flights on airlines because of staff shortages and other issues.

Miraculously, we made it. We had no real issues with flights, illnesses (knock on wood), and reservations. It was mostly a smooth trip to Florida and we had a good time. But it was a little different.

Masks, masks, and more masks.

It's a federal law to wear a mask on the plane. Wearing a mask hasn't bothered me that much. I wore one without complaining for all of 2020 it seems. I've also never had to wear a mask non-stop for an entire day of traveling. It did get a little uncomfortable.

Each place has its own rules.

We went to both Disney Parks and Universal Parks. Disney was very strict with mask-wearing anytime you were indoors. If you even took your mask off during a ride and the photo capture found someone not wearing a mask, no one was allowed to purchase a photo. I got off a roller coaster and took my mask off for a second inside Rocking Rollercoaster and was immediately told to put it back on.

Universal merely just recommended that you wear a mask. There was really no enforcement.

Conflicting social distancing messages.

When we were in line at some of the rides they have announcements that constantly go over the loudspeaker. They say please move forward into the line and fill in all gaps, followed by "please stay 6 feet apart from another and practice social distancing." Let's be honest, there is no way to social distance at a theme park.

Hand sanitizer locations are everywhere, but often empty.

I appreciate the effort that places put in for hand sanitizer stations, but it was about a 50/50 chance that sanitizer was empty. Which is disgusting because it has the reverse effect. You touch the handle that everyone else touches and then end up not being able to clean your hands.

Florida's hospitality industry is still offering great service.

One of the most annoying things locally has been limited hours at places or bad service because the business owners can't find anyone to work. A ton of people left the industry during COVID-19, and who can really blame them? Fortunately, our experience in Florida was 99% awesome. We had very friendly servers and helpful staff. It was so nice to have good customer service again for the first time in years.

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By the end of the trip, you kinda give up on masks when you aren't required to wear them.

I've been fully vaccinated so as soon as the CDC said we didn't need to wear masks, I tossed them. Then as cases began to surge guidelines changed and I found myself being required to wear a mask in certain places. At the beginning of the trip, both my parents who we brought with and our family all wore masks when indoors. By the last couple of days, it was pretty laughable to think that it was going to have made a difference. We had been around so many people from all over the world crammed into shuttle busses, queue lines, and rides that it was pretty pointless. You could tell families that had just arrived because they were diligently wearing their masks. At the hotel a few days later you could see them not wearing masks anymore. It was a common theme.

Despite it being different, it was still worth going.

This was one of the better trips we've had. With the deals we got, we were able to spend an extra couple of days on vacation. We were able to fly in and out of Duluth, which made things easier as well.

Maybe we should stop listening to 24/7 news channels.

With all the media coverage on negative things, I expected the following would happen:

  • There would be no rental car
  • someone would act out on the plane
  • our flight would be cancelled because of staff shortages
  • we'd be stranded at some point

Actually, it was the smoothest travel we've had. We got a great deal on a rental car, and every single person I ran into at the airport was super polite. I'm not saying that other stuff isn't true for some people, but in our case, it was just fine.

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