Sunday, December 27, 2020

Key West: Final

Day five we checked out of our Airbnb in Cudjoe Keys and drove to Miami Beach. It took about four hours. 

We checked into our hotel, Freehand Miami, and walked to the beach. Paradis did her thing, looking for treasures, while Anna did hers, watching Netflix. 

We stopped into a couple shops on the way and returned to our hotel. It is quiet in Miami Beach. Again, some are wearing masks but not all. Little did we know our hotel hosted a popular restaurant. It is a hotel that hosts single beds, similar to a hostel, so it wasn’t expected. 

Our goal was to order Door Dash and hang near the pool. It got a bit busy since the restaurant was located by the pool so we ended in a quint garden eating great food enjoying our last night together. 

We returned to our room to hear the party was next door. Literally. It was so loud we couldn’t stop saying “This is crazy loud” while laughing in pure shock. A 10pm craving for ice cream brought us to the lobby for our Door Dash pickup and we realized why Miami has such high Covid numbers. The restaurant was packed with 20-somethings out for a night of fun. We were happy to hang inside our room listening to the music (the playlist was awesome by the way). 

The final day we checked out and stopped for gas. The girls went inside for some flight food and ended up with the best Cuban sandwich in Miami. You can plan endless activities and experiences and yet a gas station sandwich may end up being the memory your children keep from a trip. 

We took advantage of my lounge access at the Turkish Airlines’ lounge enjoying some extra sitting space, drinks and snacks. 

The flight home was full (Sun Country), but oddly felt safe with our N-95 masks and sitting in a row together. 

Trip Summary:
  • Two states
  • One country
  • Total page views: 180,565
  • Covid Safety factor: Good
Thanks for following along my friends. I know many of you are not traveling, for obvious reasons, and I get it. We have our Covid tests waiting for us at home and will find out how we did on trying to return to some normalcy during this crazy pandemic. 

Stay safe! Rae Ann

Friday, December 25, 2020

Key West Day Four: Pool

Day four was a lazy day in the sun. I woke earlier than the girls, did my sorting and tidying thing, showered and rode my bike to the pool. Beautiful day to catch up on my blog and read!

The girls joined me after sleeping in. We have bikes at our place and the girls grabbed a couple to ride to the pool. Anna’s bike had zero air in the tires. I She was exhausted when she arrived and said “I just thought I was out of shape!”  

The pool was really warm, although the air outside was a bit chilly (63°) when they got out. The sun would warm you up though as it fleeted through the clouds. Even at 63° it felt good to be outside. 

We cleaned up and returned to Big Pine Rooster for dinner. We were the only ones sitting outside. The waitress would run out shivering as she took our order. None of us had jackets and kept saying “we are from Minnesota”. 

Merry Christmas to all that celebrate! 

Key West Day Three: Snorkeling

Day three required the setting of our alarms, which is never desired on vacation, to make our way back to Key West for snorkeling at 10:30. We went through Fury, doing to Double Dip tour. Wow, so fun! The rain from the night previously (we did not hear it)  prevented us from going to the coral reefs but it gave us a much smaller group on the boat and still tons of fun. When you are from Minnesota seeing anything in the ocean is a bonus. 

I’m claustrophobic so wearing the snorkel is a bit challenging. Deep breaths...deep breaths. Anna has anxiety and the the wet suit was too much. We are all a bit of a hot mess but we do our best to make things fun and challenge our weaknesses. 

The crew was so much fun and the girls had a great time. We got off the boat, had lunch and did some shopping. I had to take a nap in the car while the girls went on their own....a little too much fun on the boat! 

We landed back at our place and realized it was Christmas Eve. Ordering dinner at 7:00pm found to be a bit challenging but we got the last meal of the night from Big Pune Rooster. Great burgers!

The weather was perfect. Warm. No rain. Another great day. 

Key West Day Two: Key West

Day One we got on the road and drove the hour to Key West. I imagine it is a four hour drive from Miami but I would strongly recommend making some stops along the way as we did. We did the required Key West tourist stops...

We spent the day walking and shopping. Again, some were masked and some were not but it was quiet enough to navigate the idiots. We ended the night in Mallory Square watching the street performers and watching the sunset - as one must do while in Key West. But it got too crowded for my liking so we left early. 

It is so nice to be outside. It (apparently) snowed near ten (10) inches back home in Minnesota. I’m so happy to be here. To simply be outside walking and eating and drinking is such a simple pleasure for me right now during Covid. Being with my girls is icing on the cake. 

We drove back to Cudjoe Key where we are renting a trailer in a gated community through Airbnb. Another beautiful, safe feeling, day. 

Key West Day One: Tarpon and Fun

An uneventful flight brought us to Miami. Flying felt very safe. We donned N95 masks for a bit of comfort and although the plane was pretty full we had a row to ourselves. 

MIA was fairly quiet. Not dead like JFK a couple months back but there was no pressure to walk near people. We picked up our car and jumped on Highway 1 which leads to Key West. We stopped in Key Largo for lunch waterside. 

We continued along the highway to Robbie’s of Islamorada where we fed tarpon. Such a simple activity for $4 but the girls loved it. Mask wearing isn’t as common here. We did everything outside, and could navigate the idiots, but I would say 85% are masked. Workers wear them, but not always properly. Much different from Minnesota. Sad this is such a political thing. It really does make travel riskier and impacts their livelihood. 

We landed at Banana Bay Resort in Marathon for the evening. Simple resort but with all the amenities. We walked to dinner at Overseas Pub and Grill. It was karaoke night and we were definitely the only ones from our of town. 

We stopped for dessert and drinks and landed back in the room. It was a perfect first day. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Key West 2020

Today the girls and I are traveling to Key West, Florida. This has been such a crazy year. Besides a work trip to Atlanta, a road trip to Denver, a staycation with my girls and my two hour excursion to New York, this is my first vacation. I hate Covid. 

We fly into Miami, will stay in Marathon our first night, the next three nights in Key West and the last night on Miami Beach. I'm looking forward to feeling the warmth in my bones, soothing my soul with the sounds of the ocean and spending time with my girls. 

We have been conservative since the election and I'm happy to say just received a negative Covid test. Sigh of relief. I understand many of you will be judging us for traveling, and I do not judge you for judging us. 

I've done a ton of research on flying since the plague, so I'm sharing below. 

  • Wear a good mask. We will be wearing N-95 masks while flying. 
  • Although the air is well filtered on a plane it is recommended to avoid removing your mask. This will require us to avoid eating or drinking. I'll miss my bloody mary. I hate Covid.
  • Avoid the bathroom. Toilets on planes use a vacuum system (which scare me Pre-Covid) so when you flush the air is pulled through the vacuum. This will be the toughest change for me. 
  • Wash your hands. And wash them again. 
  • Maintain that 6-foot distance.
  • Load the plane when asked as they are loading to decrease interactions.
  • Stay seated until it is time to depart the plane. I hope this common sense remains after Covid. 
  • And...avoid interactions within the airport. Avoid bars. Spread out in the waiting areas. I've read it is more dangerous in the airport than on the plane.
I've also been watching Covid numbers along our route. Positive cases are much lower in the Keys than Minnesota (we are sucking right now). Miami is slightly higher, so we will be extra careful there. 

I fully realize we are taking a risk by traveling during these times but we are committed to following the CDC rules. We will wear our masks and maintain our distances. We will not gather in crowds. We have selected lodging to minimize interactions. 

I realize I’m writing all this to justify our actions. Here we go! 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Staycation 2020

This weekend I spent 20 hours with my two favorite adult children. 

My company gave us $250 to "do something fun with family or friends". Annelies and I spent (way too much) time researching cheap flights, navigating schedules (Annelies works every weekend) and thinking through what made sense. We landed on a staycation. 

So Friday afternoon we drove 15 minutes to the Mall of America. Annelies has always wanted to go to Sea Life (news to me!) so we did that first. We felt very safe despite being in an underwater tunnel (I had to go to "my happy place" to get through it). It was nice.

Sea Life at the MOA

Sea Life - Covid - Style

Tide Pool Fun

I hate shopping...literally HATE it...but we stopped for Anna's annual Ugg purchase. That kid has always owned only one pair of shoes at a time. She rotates between a pair of Uggs for winter and a pair of flip flops for summer. I guess since she started working she added a third pair. 

MOA Covid Style

We picked up Fawn (Paradis' dog) and checked in to a hotel 15 minutes from our home. It felt silly at the time but turned out to be a wonderful get away. We are planners and I can guarantee we spent more time planning this 20 hour adventure than some do for a full week in Europe. Our plan was to pick up junk food, order a pizza and watch movies. We were successful in following that plan. I failed to get a photo of the junk food but Annelies spent $83.70 on me - it was a lot. 

Junk Food Bag - That ENTIRE Bag!

Fawn and Annelies

This was my first hotel stay since Covid and it was weird. Wearing a mask throughout the building felt normal since I live in an apartment, but the pool and work out room was reservation only and the breakfast was a grab-and-go bunch of crappy food (I know what you are thinking "ah...does Rae Ann really care all the food was crap since she ate all that junk the night before?"). 

I woke early, walked Fawn and we pissed the morning away watching TV. It was a great weekend with my girls and we had many hours to just visit. 

Covid Staycation...I hate Covid.

Early Morning Hotel Walk

Hotel Covid Style


  • Days: Two (2)
  • Countries: One (1)
  • States. One (1)
  • Miles: 16
  • Views in blog: 163, 425
  • Cost: $310.87. $152 for hotel (includes a $25 dog fee, my first), $53.97 for Sea Life admission, $83.70 for junk food (this is not a typo), $21.20 for pizza

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Flying High!

Today I flew to New York. And stayed for three hours. 

This was my first flight in 222 days. 222! In 2019 I flew on (after a quick count) 34 flights. We are nearly done with 2020 and I have flown twice. I hate Covid. 

It felt great. I felt safe. 

So why did I fly to JFK for three hours? One, because I love flying and would do it daily. Second, because I love airports. I love watching people from all over the world come together in one place. I love thinking that everyone I see is going somewhere. Airports are magical to me. 

And third, I flew to JFK to complete my Global Entry interview (which took 306 days to get approved!). Why not do my interview at the MSP airport? Because there are no interviews for the next 18 months and this flight was only $92 round trip. And I wanted an excuse to get on a flight and dip my toes into travel.

What is Global Entry? For $100 you get to sail through TSA pre-check at an airport and get some global entry benefits as well. I'm taking this opportunity to compare options because I'm passionate about this shit:
  • Global Entry. $100 for FIVE years. Gets you TSA pre-check and some entry benefits as well if you travel internationally. Also REAL ID compliant. 
  • TSA pre-check. $85 for FIVE years. Gets you TSA pre-check. Skip this. Spend $15 more and go straight to Global Entry. 
  • Clear. $180 per YEAR! Biggest waste of money! Don't buy it. It is the dumbest thing in the travel industry and I'm embarrassed by it every time I walk by. Don't do it. Please. Instead get Global Entry. 
  • REAL ID. This isn't really related, but since I'm on a soap box I want to speak to REAL IDs. If you own a passport or Global Entry do NOT spend money on a REAL id to travel. It is a complete waste of money. Just travel with your passport - even domestically. If you don't have a passport or Global Entry, get that instead of a REAL ID as it will serve more than one purpose and is roughly the same cost and application process. If something in your brain tells you traveling with your passport domestically is scary, get that shit out of your brain. Go to therapy if that helps - it will probably be cheaper.
Back to my day...I started the morning sitting at Republic's bar near Concourse D where I enjoyed a (overly-priced) bloody mary. Regardless of my departure gate I often wander to Republic because they have live music. Well, pre-Covid (I hate Covid). The airport was quiet. Almost everything was closed. The only breakfast served in the entire terminal is McDonalds (other than "gas station" food). Weird weird times. But I met a couple wonderful people - which is the best part of travel.

Fabulous (Overpriced) Bloody Mary

Happy Traveler

Empty MSP

I boarded the plane and it felt so good. For those that love travel you will get it when I say it felt like I was returning home. I flew Delta and it felt very safe. The plane only had 16 passengers (for a 160 capacity plane) so it was near empty. I suspect that helped. Everyone wore masks. 

And I have been waiting for it

Empty Delta Flight DL0402

Masked up in my happy place!

The flight was uneventful. I worked a bit, listened to some great music, and took in all that I enjoy about flying. 
Overlooking New York

New York

Upon arriving in New York it hit me the world has changed since my last flight. I was greeted with a "Welcome to New York State Traveler Health Form" I had to complete before entering. It will be used for contact tracing. I exited the plane excited to see JFK and all I saw was an empty terminal. I mean...eerily empty. It was actually sad. Almost all the stores were closed (and I arrived at noon). One of my favorite airport experiences are lounges and the only one open was Air India, where I was the only visitor and was served food in individually wrapped containers. I hate Covid. The arrival and departure monitors were nearly empty!

Contract Tracing Form - New York

Empty JFK

Meal at Air India Lounge

Sign at JFK

Empty Arrival Monitors

After a bite to eat I arrived at the Global Entry Enrollment Center and within ten minutes completed my interview. You don't need to say it...I already know this was crazy. It is just who I am. 

Global Entry

So I made my way back to Terminal B where I bought a Corona and was forced to drink it at the gate since the only seating in the entire airport is at a gate. Weird weird times. 

Corona at the Gate

The flight back was uneventful. I didn't go immediately home though. Instead I went to the MSP lounge, grabbed another free meal and drink, met some lovely people with as much passion for travel as I, and waited as long as I could to suck up all I enjoy about airports. And finally, after making my way through the "Welcome to Minnesota" sign I walked through a completely empty baggage claim and was greeted by my lovely daughter - less than 12 hours since being dropped off.

MSP PGA Lounge

Welcome to Minnesota!

Empty MSP Baggage Claim

I want to speak about traveling during Covid as I know some of you are "travel shaming" me. And I get it. We all have a different tolerance of risk. I decided months ago, in order to be happy, I would simply follow CDC guidelines as I transverse through life. I followed all of them during this trip and I felt safe. I will now get tested in five (5) days and go on living in a world with Covid.

I am so happy! It felt great to get back in the air. As I said, I am just beginning to "dip my toes back into travel" so we shall see you again. Not as quickly as I wish, but I will be back. 

Safe travels my friends. - Rae Ann

  • Days: One (1)
  • Countries: One (1)
  • States. Two (2)
  • Miles: 2,600
  • Flights: Two (2)
  • Views in blog: 161,974
  • Cost: $92 flight and $25 for an overly priced bloody mary
  • Happiness level from flying: 10/10