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  • Shakira Monet Johnson

7 Things I Learned: Shakira Johnson Spills On Skipping Town In A Panasonic

The C Letter is happy to present the perspective of Jersey girl Shakira Johnson on skipping town in a Panera Bread. Johnson is a well traveled communication, social impact & event strategist who founded Johnson PR & Events. The story is not meant to advocate for or recommend traveling beyond our beloved Jersey shore (we respect your right to lock it down or safely skedaddle whatever you like Sis!). Your personal experience may differ from hers and we recommend you do your own research before busting a move. Learn more about her personal experiences below.

The Scenario: Johnson Family Vacation

After a rabbit whole of a year and the knowledge that our annual 50 person, family dinner would not take place due to gathering restrictions, we made a dash for the border to celebrate the holidays with sunny skies and turquoise weather. Our trip to Tulum, Mexico came after much research involving the Center for Disease Control, New Jersey's official website and various embassies. We were so desperate for a change of pace, that we resolved that even if the only thing we could do was chill on the beach for 7 days - we were all right with that. Our experience ended up one for the ages, so much so I almost shed a tear when it was time to leave and even feel a sense of wanderlust as I type these words. That being said, traveling during a pandemic, is a whole other animal, even for the seasoned, and there are things you should know before you book that trip.

1. If you require social distancing, stay home!

During our trip the airport was packed and the plane was over 95% of capacity. While everyone did have on a mask, there was absolutely no social distancing. Also once we arrived at our destination, it was like we were back in 2019, most locals and tourists living their best life with no masks.

2. Body Scans Are The New Black

Anticipate thermal body cameras and increased artificial intelligence in the airport and other public spaces. This is the way government entities are conducting temperature and security checks in mass. Welcome to the new normal :)

3. Plan to arrive at the airport early, early

Before our flight we received a text message that we should arrive at the airport four hours early. I thought that was excessive, so we decided to cut the difference and get there three hours early.

When we arrived at EWR at 5:00am, to massive lines and confusion, we understood the reason for the text. About two hours later we finally made it to the gate; and that was with no additional security checks and some line courtesies from TSA agents due to the fact we had three children in tow. Also anticipate additional paper work and/or online questionnaires about your health, travels and if you want to be contract traced. Long story short, plan for delays getting to the gate.

4. Be Ready To Prove Your Status

You may or may not need to present a negative Covid test/vaccine proof upon entry into the country of your choice. It was not required in Mexico at the time I traveled, however my cousin recently traveled to St. Thomas which required a test and she saw people being stopped from entering the country that did not have the proper paper work.

5. You will need to monitor the situation before and during the trip.

As government guidelines change due to statistical updates, changes may be made that effect your trip. For example while we were away we received several update text messages from our airline with updates from the U.S. Government and The State of New Jersey about entry and quarantine requirements. To meditate risks, purchase travel insurance and have extra cash or credit available during the trip for emergencies.

6. You may have to present a negative Covid test to return to the US or quarantine when you get home.

Double check with the requirements in advance so you don’t get caught off guard when you return home.

7. Anticipate closures or shortened hours at your destination.

While we still had plenty places to eat and things to do, but check ahead if there is a specific thing you know you want to do, just in case.

Bonus Tip!

Expect people to have strong opinions about you traveling “during these times” either because of the optics of you celebrating while people are suffering or scared you are super spreading and spiking numbers country to country. - Pro tip - Handle them with grace (people are scared for their lives ) and self quarantine when you get home to be on the safe side.

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