How I Roll: TPG Points & Miles Editor Ariana Arghandewal

Nov 8, 2020

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Welcome to a special COVID edition of How I Roll, an airport routine series with a focus on health and safety while traveling. Today, we’re asking TPG travel expert and Points & Miles Editor Ariana Arghandewal a shortlist of questions about how she travels during the pandemic, covering everything from how she preps for a trip to what she wears on the plane. Here’s what she had to say. Safe travels!

The itinerary:

TPG: What is the last flight you caught?

AA: Frankfurt to San Francisco on United.

TPG: Was the trip for business or pleasure?

AA: Pleasure. I was coming home after a three-week trip to Istanbul.

 

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The stunningly beautiful Hagia Sophia. Every time I see it, I’m left humbled and in awe.

A post shared by Ariana Arghandewal (@pointchaser) on

TPG: With whom were you traveling? If you had a travel companion, what conversions did you have to align on safety precautions? Did you need to reassure them?

AA: I was traveling with my sister. We just made sure to clean our immediate area and wash/sanitize our hands frequently throughout the journey.

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TPG: Did you plan this trip pre-pandemic, or were these new travel plans?

AA: These were new travel plans. After my visit in January, I planned to return to Istanbul in the summer. After seven months in quarantine, I needed a break and felt confident enough that I could travel to Istanbul safely. I quarantined and tested negative before and after the trip.

TPG: What’s a trip you’re hoping to take in the future, that’s been put on hold?

AA: I would love to see more of Turkey. I’ve been to Konya, Cappadocia and Antalya — all beautiful places. At the beginning of the pandemic, I shared my plans for a train trip to Scotland. That seems so far away now, but I’d like to make it happen at some point.

Pre-departure prep:

TPG: What does your pre-travel to-do list entail?

AA: Packing up a week’s worth of clothes (mostly just leggings and t-shirts), choosing the right credit cards, quarantining, getting a COVID test, paying all my bills through the month and eating all the perishables in the fridge.

TPG: Are you purchasing any additional supplies, masks or protective gear for the trip?

AA: Just extra masks, hand sanitizer and wipes.

TPG: Are you getting a COVID test? If so, what kind?

AA: I took a self-administered PCR test at CVS’s Minute Clinic when I returned. Getting an appointment was surprisingly easy, it was much less painful and my (negative) results came in 41 hours later.

Packing strategy:

TPG: What items are you packing to protect yourself from coronavirus?

AA: At the start of the trip, I packed us some covid amenity kits containing extra masks, hand sanitizer and wipes. This ended up being pretty important since the KLM plane on the outbound flight to Amsterdam was barely vacuumed, let alone sanitized.

Related: Face shields and sanitizer: 5 things we’re packing for flights during the pandemic

TPG: Is there anything you are leaving at home that you would normally take?

AA: I’m a light packer to begin with, so no.

TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?

AA: I always pack an amenity kit when I’m traveling in economy class. It includes a toothbrush, moisturizer, deodorant and an extra pair of socks. Having these items on hand helps me feel refreshed during a long flight. Now that kit includes extra masks, wipes and sanitizer.

TPG: What’s your go-to travel outfit, and has it changed at all during the pandemic?

AA: My go-to travel outfit is a pair of leggings, a t-shirt, TOMS and a warm cardigan. During the pandemic, having a good mask that is both breathable and protective is key. I really like the ones I bought from GAP.

Before boarding:

TPG: Are you getting to the airport early or with just enough time to spare?

AA: I’m getting to the airport at least four hours before departure. Airports aren’t packed these days, but I’ve had a few experiences where I showed up and was told my flight wasn’t ticketed despite the fact that I had a confirmation code. Another time my nephew’s lap child ticket wasn’t issued and it took two hours on the phone with an Aeroplan agent to sort it out. Showing up early makes these situations less stressful and provides ample time to resolve them.

TPG: Has that changed at all?

AA: Not really.

TPG: How do you normally prefer to kill any extra time at the airport?

AA: I like to go to the lounge, even if it isn’t a particularly fancy one. At the very least, it provides a quiet place for me to get work done before a flight. Lounges have limited their meal offerings significantly, but they still provide a quiet place to work and social distance.

Related: The best credit cards for airport lounge access

TPG: What is your airport food strategy?

AA: That depends on the airport. If there’s a decent lounge I can access with my Priority Pass membership, I’ll eat there. But if the selection isn’t great and the airport has a decent food court, I’ll opt for that.

TPG: What differences have you noticed at the airport since the pandemic began?

AA: I’ve noticed that while U.S. airports are pretty much deserted, European airports are bustling and busy as ever. At least the ones I’ve transited through. Airports are also cleaner, which is nice.

Inflight routine:

TPG: What is your strategy for choosing your seat on the plane?

AA:  I really tried to choose our seats as far away from others as possible. On the outbound, I noticed KLM was blocking the entire middle section, so I booked us aisle seats. As predicted, we ended up getting a row to ourselves. On the return, the plane was packed, so that didn’t quite work out. Still, we got some breathing space by booking aisle seats in the middle section.

Related: 7 tips for picking the perfect airplane seat every time

TPG: Were you able to work or relax during the flight?

AA: Not on my return flight from Frankfurt. The internet didn’t work and I couldn’t get much done. On the outbound, Wi-Fi was lightning fast, so I worked for about five hours and then slept the rest of the way.

TPG: Do you eat or drink on the plane? Has that changed in any way?

AA: I’m a sucker for airplane food. I don’t care that it’s soggy pasta in economy class on the worst airline – eating is half the fun of flying and I’ll at least try it. I was relieved to learn that despite the pandemic, KLM and United were still serving hot meals on board, which were excellent.

TPG: Have you noticed any changes in in-flight service?

AA: After the initial hot meal service, both carriers distributed pre-packaged meals. I was pretty surprised when the KLM flight attendant handed me two plastic bags, each containing two cheese sandwiches and five water cups. I guess they wanted to minimize contact with passengers, so they distributed these packs to last the entire flight.

Everything else:

TPG: Overall, did you still enjoy traveling during the pandemic?

AA: I definitely enjoyed it. It got me over some of my paranoia. It was nice to see how people in other parts of the world were able to go about their day and do normal things while still wearing masks and social distancing.

TPG: How much traveling have you done since the pandemic began?

AA: Aside from this trip to Istanbul, I’ve taken a few day trips to Monterey.

TPG: Any travel pearls of wisdom or hacks for flying right now?

AA: Don’t assume airlines and hotels are doing what they’re supposed to in order to keep you safe. Planes and even hotel rooms may not be getting sanitized as you’d expect. Bring your own cleaning supplies and wipe down your surroundings frequently.

Rapid-fire questions:

Are you Team Ask or Not Ask when it comes to fellow travelers who aren’t wearing a mask?  I was shocked at how many travelers were leaving their noses uncovered at the airport, on planes and even hotel staff. You can’t reprimand everybody. People who don’t wear masks are ultimately hurting themselves. To each his own.

Latex gloves — yay or nay? Not for me. I think frequent hand washing/sanitizing is sufficient.

Favorite hand sanitizer brand? I love the Greenerways sanitizer I got from CVS. Its moisturizing formula with aloe vera keeps my hand from drying up, despite frequent use.

Favorite mask brand? GAP’s masks are really great. They fit well, they’re thick but still breathable.

Favorite pandemic travel gear innovation?  I don’t know of any travel gear innovations, but I like the concept of masks while traveling. I used to get a cold after virtually every flight. That didn’t happen on this trip and I’m attributing it to the protection offered by face masks.

Feature image by Shaoyang Zhou/EyeEm/Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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