One reason I’m able to travel despite a super busy career where I don’t make a lot of money is advance planning. Grab the deals when they come, and arrange work so it won’t be a big deal to leave. This doesn’t always work out as planned. Sometimes, that means work disrupts travel— I spent a day in December in Ireland writing a brief, and once spent a day at a Starbucks in Ipanema as it was the only place with good wifi and air conditioning. And sometimes, that means local or world events make my travel particularly …interesting. The first time I went to Greece (pre-blog) in 2011 was in the midst of democracy protests, the second time I went to Greece was during its debt crisis where Euros were in short supply. And who can forget when I went to Victoria Falls and the President turned off the internet due to protests in Harare. There have been strikes, protests, weather, you name it – but I’ve never canceled a trip and just made it part of the adventure.
Back in April 2019, I started planning a trip to Japan for February/March. So, when reports of the coronavirus outbreak started emerging in China in January, I took notice. And I’ve been watching news about the Diamond Princess off Yokohama. But, given the financial implications, and how much I really have been looking forward to this trip, I decided that I would still make the trip unless (1) the State Department or the CDC told me not to go, and/or (2) airlines were offering waivers and/or canceling flights to Japan. Neither has happened so far. The CDC has put a level 1 “watch” out for Coronavirus in Japan, which some have misrepresented in the media and elsewhere – as it explicitly says “take usual precautions” and says “CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to Japan.” (emphasis in original). I’m not an epidemiologist, but I have a decent competency with the subject (I even took epidemiology in college), and I haven’t seen anything other than speculation and fear-mongering that suggests a significant risk to my health. Given the status of travelers from China being admitted to the U.S. still, I don’t think it’s a likely outcome that things will change in the next two weeks that Americans who have traveled to Japan won’t be let back in. One thing I’ve found interesting is how the Flyertalk forum on the subject seems to reflect the well-known Japanese anti-foreigner sentiment.
One thing I did decide to do was splurge and spend 20,000 AA miles to upgrade my Japan Airlines flight from New York to Tokyo from business class to first class. There’s less risk of transmission, after all. (Also, AA said it was 20,000 miles but it ended up being 26,000 miles and I have been unable to speak with someone who can address this, sigh.) So that should be a fun way to start the trip!! On the road (in the air) I hope to finish posts about Paris and Luxembourg, and get started on reports from my Dublin and Belfast adventure.
So, here’s the overview:
- AA First DCA to JFK, JAL First JFK to HND
- Four nights in Tokyo
- Hotel nights at the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station, Intercontinental ANA Tokyo, and Conrad Tokyo
- ANA Economy Tokyo-Haneda to Hiroshima
- Two nights in Hiroshima, with a stay at the ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima
- Shinkansen train to Kyoto
- Two nights in Kyoto, with a stay at the Kyoto Tokyo Hotel
- Two nights in Osaka, with a stay at the Hilton Osaka
- ITM-NRT in ANA Economy, NRT-IAD in ANA Business
I’ve got a box of surgical masks and lots of hand sanitizer. Hopefully it’ll go smoothly, and I’m looking forward to exploring this country I’ve heard so much about!
UPDATE: A few hours after this post, the U.S. State Department and CDC both elevated the status from a Level 1 to a Level 2. For the CDC, this goes from a “watch” to an “alert,” and “take enhanced precautions” as opposed to normal ones. Still, it only suggests that “Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.” So, I’m still going.