Traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Kate Sibery, Features Lead Editor

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. and the subsequent panic that ensued, my family had been planning to spend our spring break in Hawaii. As the scale of the virus increased and reached our neighboring towns and cities—New Rochelle, Scarsdale, the Bronx—we began to reevaluate our choice to take our trip as planned. Ultimately, we decided to go to Hawaii and approached the situation with the utmost caution and consideration for the lives of those around us. 

March 15, 2020 – Westchester, NY

The day before we were expected to leave for Hawaii, my siblings, parents, and I gathered to discuss whether or not we wanted to continue on with our trip as planned. I would like to stress that our choice to travel wasn’t rash and, as my mother is among the immunocompromised, we seriously considered the option to stay home and socially distance ourselves before proceeding. Ultimately, we came to our decision to travel with the endorsement of my mom’s doctors, having read the WHO and CDC’s travel recommendations and with the knowledge that there were more coronavirus cases in the neighboring New Rochelle than in Hawaii. 

March 16, 2020 – John F. Kennedy International Airport 

The airport that is often known to be bustling with swarms of people, rushing travelers and ample traffic was deserted. We checked in at Terminal 4 and quickly passed through security, passing by airport staff, airline agents and fellow travelers adorned with blue surgical masks and latex gloves [we wore gloves, but chose not to wear masks]. The gift shops, dining areas and Starbucks were all eerily empty except for a few fellow flyers. As we got on the plane, the flight attendant informed us that nearly every seat in our section of the plane was empty and so my brother, sister and I each got our own row of the plane that we thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant. I witnessed some other passengers attempting to sneak up to the first class section of the plane, but were quickly escorted back to their assigned seats by the flight attendants, who were also wearing bright blue latex gloves.  

[I requested an interview with several flight attendants but they declined because of the airline’s policies.]

After six hours we arrived at LAX for a two-hour layover. While the airport was slightly more crowded than JFK had been, typical passenger magnets such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts didn’t have lines more than two people long, and as we got on the connecting flight to Hawaii we were again informed that the plane wasn’t anywhere near capacity. Another six hours later and we reached our destination; the staff at the hotel greeted us as if it was just another tourist season. 

March 18, 2020 – Honolulu, Oahu

Waking up on the second morning of our nine-day vacation, my parents informed my siblings and I that the governor of Hawaii was asking all tourists to stay away from the state for 30 days in the hopes of curbing the virus’ spread. 

In a public statement, Governor David Ige said, “These actions may seem extreme to some of you. But taking aggressive actions now will allow us to have quicker recovery once the crisis is over,” (

Nearly a day and a half into our trip, we were being asked to leave. The restaurants, shopping centers, and tourist attractions, including Pearl Harbor, were all beginning to close and so we made plans to  leave on a flight the next day. 

March 19, 2020 – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport

Although I had only been in this airport once before, I couldn’t imagine that the airport had ever been quite that crowded. Lots of other tourists were trying to get home and our flight was completely full.The lines to check in, pass through security, and buy snacks for the plane seemed miles long compared to those at JFK.

March 29, 2020 – Westchester, NY

We are currently socially isolating ourselves in our home and having been doing so since the day of our arrival back home. While many may not agree with our initial decision to travel, I hope that it can be respected and that we will all continue to stay in our homes until the spread of the virus has been curbed.