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How I Roll: TPG Senior Travel Features Reporter Katherine Fan

March 07, 2021
10 min read
How I Roll: TPG Senior Travel Features Reporter Katherine Fan
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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 Senior Travel Features Reporter Katherine Fan 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?

KF: My last flights were round trip from Austin to Madison, WI, for a family member’s elopement, in February 2021.

TPG: Was the trip for business or pleasure?

KF: I used to be a wedding photographer, so I flew up to document the ceremony. So I guess the trip was a little bit of both?

 

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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?

KF: I traveled solo, but I did take one trip with a friend in September 2020. She and I had similar precautionary perspectives and felt very comfortable around each other with the precautions we mutually took.

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

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KF: This trip was planned almost last-minute; elopements are hard to plan around!

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

KF: I really wanted to travel to Antarctica this past winter.

Related: Dreaming of Antarctica: How to book the trip of a lifetime

Pre-departure prep:

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

KF: I have COVID antibodies, so I now have a “second-class vaccine passport”: I have a doctor’s note clearing me to travel, and test results showing I am positive for antibodies as of early February 2021.

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

KF: I recently got an antibody test. After a quick telehealth appointment through my insurance provider, I was able to book a same-day test for $130 and have it fully refunded by insurance.

Packing strategy:

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

KF: I’ve been sticking with my standard N95 mask.

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

TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?

KF: I have a few extra masks stashed into various pockets of my travel backpack, just in case. One is a fabric mask, the rest are new-in-package surgical masks. Other than that, I’ve got the same usual items.

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

KF: I usually wear a black T, black hoodie, black leggings with pockets, and comfy sneaks. Not much has changed at all on my end. I am boringly basic, but I like to think of myself as a ninja.

 

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Before boarding:

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

KF: I’m getting to the airport these days with a tiny bit of buffer to spare, but the airports have been super empty and I have TSA PreCheck so it’s usually faster than ever for me to get through security. Same for bag checks.

Related: 7 reasons to get TSA PreCheck now — even during a pandemic

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

KF: I crash at an airport lounge, or just bum some free Wi-Fi to get some work done.

TPG: Has that changed at all?

KF: I haven’t really changed my airport habits much! I have avoided travel for the most part so when I do travel, I just relax a little bit and let things happen.

TPG: What is your airport food strategy?

KF: If there’s lounge food, I’ll eat that. If not, I buy a taco from my home airport and chow down. I really hate overpriced sandwiches and the super-hard cardboard “bread”, so I’ll actually skip meals if nothing looks palatable. I do love a good McDonald’s, though.

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

KF: It’s so much more empty in airports and on planes right now. And you look way more at people’s eyes to read their emotions, which is probably a nice thing! People leave so much more personal space; it’s awesome. And honestly, everyone seems a lot kinder. Also, this 36-year-old woman got ID’ed at a lounge bar so that’s flattering.

Inflight routine:

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

KF: I used to be an aisle person, but now I’m a window seater. It helps that a lot of my flights have been pretty empty, so I still get the row (and aisle access) anyway.

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

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

KF: I will eat/drink on the plane and put my mask back on immediately after.

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

KF: Service is a lot calmer and very clean.

Everything else:

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

KF: I have definitely enjoyed the few trips I’ve taken. Being back on a plane is so great.

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

KF: I’ve only taken two trips for family reasons (one funeral, one elopement) and one “time off” vacation in the last 12 months.

Related: Vaccines could be available to all adults by May: Is it time to start booking trips?

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

KF: My best advice right now is to be respectful of others, be kind to everyone who’s working, and enjoy how much space and distance there is everywhere!

Rapid-fire questions:

Are you Team Ask or Not Ask when it comes to fellow travelers who aren't wearing a mask? I wouldn’t ask unless they were in the aisle or something, and then I’d ask a flight attendant to handle it.

Latex gloves — yay or nay? Nay.

Favorite hand sanitizer brand? The one that smells like watermelon. I’ve only smelled it in places of business so I am not sure what’s going on there.

Favorite mask brand? Just like with water bottles, I’m a fan of the generic surgical masks that don’t make me sad if I lose or destroy them.

Favorite pandemic travel gear innovation? I can’t think of a favorite pandemic innovation. Masks as fashion statements and conversation starters, perhaps?

Photo by Katherine Fan/The Points Guy

Featured image by (Photo by Katherine Fan/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees