By Bob Nesoff
Travel, especially international travel, has been in the dumps for going on two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some things are slowly beginning to return to a modicum of normalcy…some.
For example, for years a trip to Israel with stops at the top of Masada and the Holocaust victims memorial at Yad Vashem has been high on my bucket list. I’ve taken every step to make the travel jumble more tolerable. I have TSA PreCheck, which is supposed to ease the movement through security, and a Global Entry card issued by the federal government.
The latter, which uses biometrics of your handprint when you return from overseas to move you around immigration lines and speed you through, costs $100; TSA PreCheck costs $85. Check with your credit card company as some will reimburse the fee charged on the card.
The newest method, and arguably the fastest for getting through the long lines, is Clear, which costs $179 to join. That’s an annual fee, reimbursed by only a handful of credit cards.
But understanding Clear can be more of a pain than other methods. I paid my fee and received a welcoming receipt. And that was it. Is there a need for an ID card? Do you have to appear before an agent as is necessary with Global Entry? Do you just go to the airport and pray?
It took more than two days of navigating the Clear website before reaching a real live person. It took her less than a minute to provide very simple answers: Go to a designated airport (you can check which ones accept enrollments), enroll in just a few minutes, and then you can proceed.
That was only one of the hassles. The trip to Israel almost became a bureaucratic nightmare. The trip was made through a travel agency (or something of the sort). Despite paying the agency more than $5,000, which it gladly accepted, it was impossible to get an answer. The packager kept responding that it was not a travel agent. Yet its web page listed it along with the tour operator.
There are serious questions about entry to Israel in the age of Covid. I had to provide, among other things, a medical policy that covered me in the event I contracted the virus while in Israel — even though my arms had suffered the discomfort of two basic shots and a booster. (How about that, Dr. Fauci?) The form is obtained online and filed the same way.
Unfortunately, I accidentally uploaded the wrong medical coverage and was refused entry. What to do? We attempted to reaccess the form, but it would not allow that for 14 days. The Israeli consulate failed to return a number of calls and I finally sent a certified return-receipt letter to the consulate with the information. I’m still waiting for a response. I had assignments to conduct several interviews while in the country. There has been no response to those requests either.
I’ve been assured that it will all work out in the end. I’m not so sure, but it does prove the worth of the travel insurance policy we bought. Stay tuned and the end of the story will appear if and when the trip is accomplished or a trip to Lake George is undertaken instead.
The bottom line here is, before any trip, especially one out of the country, check out all the requirements and follow them “to a T.” China is notorious for being a stickler for detail. That being said, a trip to China a while back was accomplished with no problem because I read and reread every detail of every requirement and took every necessary step.
In fairness to the traveler, those entities who want your business could be a bit more forthcoming and helpful. Instead of throwing roadblocks in your path, they could return a phone call or have all the necessary information online or provided in an easy phone call. Those should be the first steps to an unforgettable trip.