The Coast News Group
Santiago, Chile’s Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport was a challenge to navigate in the coronavirus-free days of 2018. Today’s travelers trying to enter the country or return to the U.S. face hours-long waits in immigration and customs lines. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Navigating the Great Shutdown

I think I broke the law this morning when my two walking buddies and I met for an early-morning, hour-long hike around the neighborhood. Hoping to avoid the Shutdown Police, we began before sunrise. 

This would not be a slight exaggeration if we were living in China, Ground Zero for the coronavirus outbreak and where comings and goings are strictly monitored. My son, who deals with Chinese businesspersons, was told recently that when residents leave their block, they must pass through a checkpoint where names and temperatures are taken. This is repeated when they enter and leave stores and when they return to the neighborhood checkpoint.

Thankfully things aren’t that drastic here, but the freedom to make plans and move about freely has been curtailed somewhat. As a result of the Great Shutdown, millions are facing difficult circumstances with work and family, wondering how long quarantines and social isolation is necessary, what to do with children while schools are closed, whether workplaces will close and how to pay the bills.

All of this is reason for our collective anxiety, made worse because of the unknown. Most of us are hoping just to make it to next week; travel is the last thing on our minds. Hence, the challenge to write travel features when the Great Shutdown has brought the travel industry to its knees and travelers are returning home early, cancelling plans and scrambling for refunds.

We can’t even entertain notions of staycations. Unless something changes by the time you read this, there’s no place to go. Restaurants, bars, brewpubs, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Disneyland, churches, events — all  closed, postponed or cancelled.

Just within my circle of family and friends, a visit to an elderly parent in Seattle, a trip to Ireland, a cruise in the Mediterranean, visits with grandkids and doctor and dental appointments – all wiped off the calendar.

My sister and her husband, on an extended bicycle trip in Chile and Argentina, will return home six weeks early because of the virus. They’ll have to survive the ramped-up gauntlet of hours-long lines and drug-seeking dogs at Miami International Airport, a bad bottleneck in the best of travel times.

The Great Shutdown has brought lots of Netflix Nights to our home. I discovered a new travel-show-of-sorts called “Restaurant on the Edge.” A makeover team rescues round-the-world restaurants with fabulous views and bad bottom lines. The first episode introduced me to Malta, a destination that was never on my list. It is now.

The island is gorgeous, quaint, laid-back and inexpensive, and when I checked, there were great flight/hotel packages available online.

Nearly all the emails I receive now have some coronavirus-tinged message. I do a lot of deleting, but one caught my eye. It was sent prior to the current mayhem and initially looked too good to be true. I checked and it is not. These deals, offered by San Diego Mission Bay Resort are available until June 30:

The Ultimate Spring Break Package ($178 per night per room) includes four tickets to the San Diego Zoo, $70 toward rentals at nearby Action Sports Rentals, a s’mores kit, free parking and waived resort fee. Must be booked two days before arrival. 

The Carefree Cabana Experience ($185 per room per night) includes a one-day cabana rental that comes with two large lounge chairs, wi-fi, flat-screen TV with DVD player, movie rentals, snacks, VIP food and drink service, two frozen treats from The Marketplace; free parking and waived resort fee. Requires a two-night minimum stay. Rent cabana for additional days upon arrival.

Just because you are hunkered down doesn’t mean you can’t share past travels. Email eo[email protected]. For more photos and commentary, visit

1 comment

Susan Gardner Lucier March 21, 2020 at 7:56 am

Love this. A girlfriend is currently on a 13 hour return flight from a 2-week, Nat’l Geographic photo trip to New Zealand – back to Bay Area where she will be asked to self isolate for 2 weeks. Flight full – last chance to depart before 90 day hold on departures. She absolutely loved NZ – and is a world traveler. Would move there!

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