Flying During Covid-19

There is still a pandemic going on, but for some people flying is inescapable, especially when it involves flying home. When lockdown was first announced in March, I had the hard decision to make of staying in London or flying home to California to be with my family. I chose to stay in London – the flights were packed and I feared bringing the virus home with me. At the end of May though I was able to get a flight out to San Francisco to spend the next three months with my family on lockdown. With my lease ending in London in the fall and still working full-time for a London based company, I decided to fly back mid-August and move into a new flat and continue the life I’ve built in the UK. Having now flown twice during the pandemic, I have a few tips and possibly some reassuring experiences.

Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

Both times I flew with British Airways – they have become my favourite airline to fly since moving to the UK – and flew out of London Heathrow. Heathrow has implemented a few new health and safety rules, including making masks mandatory, having social distancing measures, and having multiple hand sanitiser stations around the airport. San Francisco had similar rules to Heathrow. SFO was considerably less crowded than Heathrow both times I flew.

The airlines have implemented quite a few measures as well. On my flight from London to SFO, the middle seat was open, and most airlines are trying to keep the middle seat open. However, I’m sure we’ve all seen the horror stories on Twitter so I would keep an eye on the seat map or even call the airline to check. On my flight from SFO to London, I had the whole row to myself – almost everyone did as there were only about 100 of us on the flight. Many people aren’t flying long-haul flights these days so those may be emptier. However, short-haul flights to Europe might be more crowded as quarantine measures are beginning to lift across the continent. Additionally, the flight attendants handed out prepackaged snack bags and prepackaged meals, both of which included additional sanitising wipes. The planes were boarded and deboarded based on rows – loaded back to front – rather than by seating group number.

Whole row to myself
Pretty empty airport hallways
Heathrow Airport

Things to bring with you:

A small bottle of hand sanitiser (3 oz or less so you can bring it through security!) – While the airport has many sanitising stations, I would suggest bringing your own so you can sanitise as much as you want without being tethered to one of the stations. That way you can also sanitise when you’re on the plane as well.

Sanitising Wipes – For similar reasons as hand sanitiser, I brought the wipes so I could wipe down my plane seat and my luggage. The planes are obviously sanitised between flights but for my peace of mind I wiped my seats down anyway.

Extra Masks – The airline requires masks on the flight when you’re not eating or drinking. After wearing one mask for a few hours, I HAD to change it. It just feels really gross, especially after I slept for a few hours. I also put on a new one after arriving to leave the airport feeling refreshed.

For the most part, people adhered to social distancing measures and everyone wore masks without complaint. The flights attendants and airport staff were all kind and accommodating. Since many people aren’t flying, the security lines were short and quick. Honestly, it was the easiest and most comfortable travel I have ever experienced (except for the face masks – I won’t be keeping that habit in the future).

Hour 10 of my flight from SFO to London ft. my second face mask of the flight

If you are traveling while the world is still in a pandemic, please make sure you are aware of the new safety policies and adhere to them. They are there to protect you and to protect everyone else!

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Keep your distance!
  2. Wear your mask!
  3. Research the safety measures of the airport and the airline.

Just a few pictures from my summer at home:

Top 7 2020 Travel Destinations

There are many places in the world worth traveling to so this is by no means an exhaustive list. As well, it’s my list, so it is definitely biased. However, these are the places I want to visit is 2020 and it could help you find inspiration for your 2020 travels. I already know I won’t make it to all these places this year, but I’ve picked them based on a few factors – new continents, new cities, new countries, new skills I want to learn, budget, and time. I would be traveling from London which also skews the destinations I’ve chosen, but we’re all on the same planet so it doesn’t matter where you’re flying from you can still reach every place on this list. As always, I’ll sprinkle in my top tips for booking travel and must do’s.

Costa Rica

My main reason for wanting to go to Costa Rica is for the surfing. I have always wanted to learn and there are some seriously great areas on the west coast of Costa Rica for surfing. Conor and I are planning a spring trip to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp – a highly reviewed and recommended surf camp that includes accommodation, airport transfer, breakfast, daily lessons, surfing seminars and workshops, end of week road trip, and as much use of their surfboards as I want. If we have time to extend our trip, we want to spend a few days in the interior of the country exploring the Arenal Volcano area – possibly ziplining or hiking to waterfalls. Unfortunately, I have a limited number of vacation days and need to be strategic so for that reason we’re limiting the trip to two weeks. If you’re a girl and you want recommendations for travel destinations check out Girls LOVE Travel on Facebook (it’s a private group and boys aren’t allowed – sorry folks, but I’m sure there are more inclusive travel groups on Facebook to join!). I’ve seen non-stop flights from London on British Airways for under £500 roundtrip – not bad for flying halfway around the world.

Brussels, Belgium

This one is a little closer to home, so would be a fun weekend trip. The Eurostar from London is £59 roundtrip to Brussels – if you’re flexible with your travel dates, this is a budget friendly option. I like this option because the travel is more environmentally friendly than flying. Also, I get to see the different landscapes of England, France, and Belgium. I’ve never been to Belgium so this would be another new country and culture. Brussels has some incredible architecture (Grand Palace, Palais Royal, Parc Du Cinquantenaire) as well as cool museums and some lesser known history. For a weekend away, this would be a great trip.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague (and Budapest below) have been on my European bucketlist for awhile. From London, they are relatively cheap to get to thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. Additionally, once in country, it can be a relatively inexpensive holiday. This makes it an appealing choice for a young, working professional on an entry-level salary. Prague is fascinating to me for its history, architecture, and culture – top sights and things to do would be the Lennon Wall, KGB Museum, Astronomical Clock Tower, Prague Castle and Golden Lane.

Budapest, Hungary

Another top bucket list place, Budapest is a budget friendly holiday, or it can be depending on how you want to do it. I’ve heard wonderful things from friends and family who have traveled there and am intrigued by the culture, history, and public baths. Budapest has a heartbreaking history under communism and many sites to reflect on that history – the House of Terror museum, the shoes on the Danube bank, and Memento Park to name a few. It also has beautiful relics from other periods in history, including Buda Castle and the Parliament House. Like many Eastern European cities, it’s a mix of old, Soviet, and new architecture representing the heartbreaking and the heartwarming complex history of the region. Budapest, as a tourist friendly city, also has an incredibly fun vibe to it, with a hectic nightlife and Spa Baths that turn into Party Baths at night. All in all, there are a variety of experiences to have in Budapest, making it top of my 2020 list.


Coming from London, Spain is another accessible holiday for me, and I’ve never been. I’ve had friends live in different cities of Spain so I’m a bit torn on which cities I would want to visit and how much time to spend in each city. Whether Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville, or so many others, I definitely want to make it to Spain sometime this year. Finally put the fourteen years of taking Spanish to use! Spain has some amazing coastal cities, so this could be a warm holiday away from the usual dreary English weather. Flights can be cheap, but Conor and I could also drive his Prius from London (a fun roadtrip through France), making it another environmentally friendly destination.


Thailand makes the list as a top bucket list place for any year. Depending on how the first half of my year goes, Thailand may or may not be in the cards for this year. However, flights from London can be under £500 roundtrip and when in country it can be quite inexpensive, so this could be a relatively budget friendly vacation for those of you looking for a warm and different getaway. I would love to visit some of the islands of Thailand, get out of Bangkok as quickly as possible. It would be good for some real R&R, maybe even taking a digital detox while there. Additionally, I have always wanted to visit an elephant sanctuary (one where people don’t ride them and they aren’t exploitative) as elephants have always been my favourite animal and I just want to get up close and personal with one. I also want to experience new cuisine and a different culture. Thailand would put me on a whole new continent and I would like to spend a couple weeks there. As I work from home, I could potentially work from Thailand, thus not needing to take holiday time off for at least some of the trip.

Alaska, United States

I have been to 46 states, missing Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Alaska. I would love to get up to Alaska when I’m home in California in December. During the winter there wouldn’t be much sunlight, but it would be the perfect time to see the Northern Lights, which I’ve always wanted to do. I could go to northern Europe to see the Northern Lights, but if I’m already in California then the trip to Alaska makes more sense. Alaska also has some good skiing and nature. It would be a good, relaxing end to 2020. However, it would probably be the last holiday I book as it’s a bit rogue and at the end of the year when I’m lowest on vacation days and funds. So we shall see.

This list only scratches the surface of places I want to go and things I want to do, but it’s a start. Hopefully, it has inspired you to start thinking about your 2020 vacation plans and even to check out some of these destinations. I would suggest joining a Facebook group for traveling if you want more inspiration or recommendations. As always, I’ll be updating my blog with my travels, tips, tricks, and recs throughout the year as I start crossing some of these destinations off my list.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Start thinking about your vacation plans early to get the best deals.
  2. Try something new – a new country, city, continent, experience.
  3. Make the most of your vacation days by using weekends and bank holidays strategically.

How to Book Flights Around the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again – many people are booking trips around the world to fly home for Christmas. For me, that’s a trip from London to San Francisco – 11 hours in the air if it’s direct. This year, it also includes Conor booking flights from London to San Francisco to spend the holidays with me and my family. Booking flights can be daunting because of the price, but there are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.

Incognito Window is your best friend, because airlines are scammers and shady-ass corporations. The prices you see are different from prices I would see because they have your cookies – tracking what sites you’ve been on, how many times you’ve looked at flights before, etc. This means they can manipulate prices to get you to pay the highest price possible. Incognito doesn’t track your cookies or sites you’ve been to, for the most part, so I always book flights on Incognito. This is the Google Chrome word for it, but it’s basically a private browsing window. Super easy to access through the “File” tab when you have your internet browser open.

I usually book about 8 weeks out, unless I find a really good deal in the mean time. For some reason, six to eight weeks out from your desired departure date is the sweet spot for deals. The prices should be lowest around then, and will start increasing soon afterwards. I’ve booked flights anywhere from months out to one week out, and consistently six to eight weeks has the best deals. I haven’t booked my flights home yet, but right now the prices are really good and better than they have been for the past few weeks, even though I’m on the end of that six to eight weeks sweet spot. Usually, once I know I want to book flights, I will start keeping an eye on prices through Incognito Google Flights – though there are apps for this like Skyscanner.

Google Flights is a great way to plan your trip through their Date Grid. If you’re flexible on when you fly out and fly back this is a great tool to find the best roundtrip price around your dates. For me, flying back on the 29th of December is way cheaper than the early days of January. Just as flying out on Tues-Thu is usually cheaper than Fri-Sun. I use Google Flights in Incognito to find the best deals usually. There are some caveats.

Some things to consider when booking would be loyalty programs. My parents have flown with United for decades and now reap the benefits of being Gold members, so they always fly United. I, on the other hand, have no loyalties to any airline at this moment so I can be more flexible in looking at different deals, days, airlines, airports, etc. However, loyalty programs can be very beneficial, but they require, you guessed it, loyalty which doesn’t always translate to the best price for the trip. So for me, as a working professional on a minimal salary, the prices now outweigh any potential benefits I’ll have from loyalty programs in five years. With that said, I still have a member number (they’re free from any airline website) for every airline I fly with, which means I am still tracking any miles I fly with the airlines. Potentially this could lead to benefits, but without flying one airline consistently, the points are that helpful right now. If you are a loyal flyer, I would say keep flying that airline and look for their best deals around the dates you want to fly – they might even have holiday specials for frequent flyers. Additionally, if you consistently book holidays through sites like Expedia or Kayak and have been gaining points from doing that, I would say keep doing it! These sites help find the best deals and allow you to accrue points for benefits.

I recently signed up for Jack’s Flight Club, a weekly newsletter about the best flight deals. I booked my weekend trip to Rome through these deals. The newsletter is free to sign up for (though there is a Premium service if you want to pay to find out about more deals sooner – I don’t). It gives me a heads-up which is always nice to have. Some of the deals don’t apply to me at all, but some do, so I keep it in my inbox.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Use a private browser!
  2. If you can, be flexible on your fly dates to get the best deals.
  3. Best to book about eight weeks out, but keep an eye on prices leading up to that.

Two Days in Kiev, Ukraine

The Ukraine was never high on my list of top places I wanted to visit when I moved to England. I had always fantasized about the Colosseum in Rome, the Northern Lights in Iceland, and the Lourve in Paris. These are just a few examples of places that have been on my “bucket list” for a long time. Mostly due to pop culture, Eastern Europe hadn’t really crossed my mind. Then, I moved to England. From England, flights to Eastern Europe can be incredibly inexpensive. A whole new part of the world opened up to me for short weekend trips – Budapest, Prague, Vienna, etc.

Kiev didn’t cross my mind until Conor and I watched the first episode of Chernobyl, the HBO hit show. After the first episode, I was so intrigued by Chernobyl, the disaster, the story, the mass human movement that came after, as well as the surrounding areas that were affected. Immediately, Conor and I looked it up – you can, in fact, visit the Exclusion Zone (in which the Chernobyl powerplant is located) and it’s safe to do so. Over 60,000 tourists visit each year. We basically looked at each other and said “F*ck it, let’s go.” Neither of us had been to the Ukraine before and it was such a unique opportunity to witness first hand the power of humans to create, destroy, lie, and rebuild. Additionally, the more we researched Kiev, the more we wanted to visit. It seemed like a beautiful city, a mixture of incredible, splendid architecture from the Gothic period to the overbearing, intense soviet architecture.

We booked a two day Chernobyl tour bookended by two days in Kiev. I will leave the tour of Chernobyl for another post, but I will tell you about Kiev and the amazing experience we had.

We found roundtrips flights to Kiev in the middle of June for £60 each on EasyJet. We were only going for five days so we packed backpacks to travel lightly. Five days might seem long to travel with just a backpack, especially as a girl, but it can be done! I packed one pair of jeans and two long sleeves (for the tour we needed clothes that covered the whole body), one midi dress and one sundress – the weather was HOT while we were there. I packed my running shoes and sandals. Easy peasy if you plan ahead and don’t overpack (one of my biggest travel flaws).

For accommodation, we stayed in two different hostels. The first night we stayed in a hostel that would be close to the pick-up location for our tour the next day. This was located on the other side of the train tracks from the main part of Kiev. It was definitely more local and residential, which is why I am glad we switched to a different hostel for the days after our tour. The second hostel we stayed at was Dream Hostel in the center of downtown Kiev. It is marketed incredibly well online and has great reviews. I can attest to those positive reviews. Conor and I stayed in a private room, which was very clean and had everything we could need. The reception area was welcoming and helpful. There was also a cafe, bar, and outdoor seating area. The only downside in my opinion was that even though there seemed to be a lot of people staying there, it wasn’t too social. Conor and I only talked to one other person. Most seemed to be in groups traveling together, not really interested in making friends. We were only there for a short time though and not over the weekend, so it could be that during the week is a little slow. Overall, I would definitely recommend this hostel.

Since the pound goes very far in Kiev, Conor and I were able to go to a couple really nice meals for relatively cheap. There are definitely cheaper places to go to than we went to as well – we hit up a couple cafes during the day. But since it was a vacation, we splashed out a bit – and by that I mean we spent £50 total on a meal at the nicest hotel in town…rooftop sushi. It was so delicious and an incredible experience for super cheap compared to the equivalent in London. Moral of the story, you can travel to Kiev and spend almost no money and still have a great time, or you can spend a bit more money and also have a great time! Depends on your budget and what you’re looking for.

b-hush at the Intercontinental Hotel
After seeing the Chernobyl Museum, we stopped across the street at Dom No. 10.

Walking through Kiev was time consuming – the city is HUGE. And hilly. But I got more than enough steps in and I loved every second of it. There is always something new around the corner, and usually something very different from what you just saw. Kiev is a beautiful mix of old and new, having the feel of a Western European city yet proudly Eastern European. It was different from anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also felt slightly familiar. Yes, the language was a bit of a barrier, but most people spoke English from passable with hand gestures to as fluent as I am. Armed with Google Maps and a Ukraine SIM card, Conor and I were unstoppable tourists. We virtually ran into no problems, there’s even Uber in case you’re far from your hostel late at night! Overall, I would 100% recommend putting Kiev on your bucket list.

Below are some of the highlights from our sightseeing. I felt like we saw a lot, but there was still so much we didn’t see, so it’s not an exhaustive list but you should definitely add at least a couple of these to your itinerary.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Very Soviet train station
St. Sophia’s Cathedral
Independence Square
National Opera of Ukraine
A.V. Fomin Botanical Garden
St. Andrew’s Church
National Museum of the History of Ukraine
View from Volodymyrksa Hill

Dana’s Do’s:

  • Look for cheap flights and carry light to make the most of your budget.
  • Stay in a hostel for the social experience.
  • Take time to just wander the city – there’s something new around every corner.

A Gallery of More Pictures Because I Love Them All