In early 2020, anticipating a summer trip, I bought my ticket to Denmark. I began planning my schedule, friends and relatives to see, new places I haven’t seen, all the usual planning. Then in March - well, you know what happened. I instead practiced extreme social distancing backpacking across Colorado on the hike for Danish America.
Advance to 2021 - on March 6th I received a second jab of Pfizer vaccine. The only side effect was a new feeling of optimism in so many ways…including hope for traveling to Denmark in the summer. Knowing it was a bit of a gamble, I re-booked my already paid-for flight leaving in late June. In early June, Denmark removed most of the travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans. And now, here I am on June 24, about to leave for the airport! I’ll travel from Phoenix to London, and then to Copenhagen. I thought it would be worthwhile, especially with the unpredictability of COVID, to journal my trip. I’m sure there will be a few unexpected travel surprises. And maybe, if you are soon planning to go, you’ll know what to expect from my experiences.
My plan is to see a few sights the first few days including the Trelleborg near Korsør, and an invitation to the Herald Bluetooth Guild to which my friend, Danish artist Susanne Thea invited me to join. Then its on to visit relatives and friends near Silkeborg and Hvide Sande. Next to the Rebild festival near Aalborg, followed by a couple days with my friends Benedikte and Poul at their summer house near the Limfjord. Then to Blokhus, followed by the island of Læsø, then my cousin in Aarhus. Finally, I’ll spend the last few days in Copenhagen. All in all, about 4 weeks in Denmark!
It didn’t take long for the unexpected to start happening. Typically, I travel from Phoenix direct to London, leaving a short hop to Copenhagen. Normally a very easy trip. A couple weeks before my departure, American Airlines changed the entire route and schedule. I would now be leaving a day later, traveling from Phoenix to Charlotte, Charlotte to London, and then Copenhagen. The extra stop added several hours to the trip. Changes were also made for my return trip. After London, I will fly to Chicago, and then to Phoenix.
Reading through the travel information, I noticed the UK required a new form I hadn’t seen before - The Public Health Passenger Locator Form. Basically it requires you to enter every detail of your flight including the seat numbers. Ok, I figured there would be some hoops to jump through. I filled out the form online and printed it. No additional cost other than about an hour of my time.
Going through London complicated matters further. England still has strict COVID guidelines, so I needed to get a COVID test within 72 hours of my arrival in London. Had I flown direct to Copenhagen from LA, Chicago or New York, a test would not have been required. CVS Pharmacy offered a test with results in 1-2 days. Well, that was what they said on their website. When I arrived for my test, they then said the results wouldn’t be ready for 3-5 days. Over the next day and a half I waited, hoping for good luck and an early email notification, but it was not to be.
On the morning of June 24, Stacie and I left for the airport, arriving 3 hours before my flight. I told her I would likely be taking an Uber home after being denied boarding without a test result. As she usually does, she gave me a few words of reassurance. We said our goodbyes, and I said I would probably see her in a couple hours. I checked my email - still nothing from CVS. At ticketing, my fears were confirmed - no boarding without a negative test result! Then the ticket agent gave me hope, “If you go upstairs in this terminal, there is a pharmacy that offers rapid tests. You should have time to get one. But it costs $200.”
Well, what else could I do? I went upstairs and got in line. Still no email from CVS. The testing process was fairly quick, with a 45 minute wait for results. The price, however must have just gone up - now $250! As I said, what else was I to do?
With 45 minutes before my flight departure, I had my negative test result. I headed for security fully expecting a long line. Here, my luck changed for the better. I was through security in about 5 minutes, and arrived at the gate just as the flight began boarding! I sent a quick text to Stacie - she replied “I knew you’d be fine”. How did she know? I’ve always suspected she has some kind of serendipitous cosmic connection!
My first leg was uneventful. Masks were required. When I landed in Charlotte at about 5:00PM, I watched as my emails loaded, and right on cue, my test results from CVS! Well, I now have two negative tests so at least that’s reassuring.
It was only a 90 minute wait until boarding my flight to London. Again masks required the entire flight. It was a pleasant overnight flight to London. As we prepared to land, they announced that the arrival terminal had been changed due to COVID. But this was helpful as it was the same as my departure terminal to Copenhagen. Normally you take a bus to change terminals which takes some time.
In London it was obvious that covid restrictions were in full force. Masks, social distancing, and in many years of traveling through London Heathrow, I’ve never see so few travellers. When I checked in for my trip in Phoenix, they were not able to give me my boarding pass for London to Copenhagen. As I found out in London, many if not most travellers did not have their boarding passes, and there was an enormous line at the customer service center. It took me about an hour waiting in line. Many were frantic as they were short on time. But no problem for me as I had a two hour layover. I made my way to the gate and boarded the flight to Copenhagen. Amazingly, after all the changes, worries, and covid, it looked like I would arrive in Denmark right on schedule!
I arrived at Kastrup early in the afternoon on Friday the 25th. As travellers entered the airport, we were stopped and asked, “Have you been vaccinated? Did you receive your vaccination more than two weeks ago?” We weren’t asked to show proof. But at customs, I was asked to show my vaccination card. It was eerily quiet as I walked through the airport. I am used to a festive gathering of tourists and Danes waving Danish flags greeting their visitors. But today, the airport was practically empty. Even the Danish hotdog stand at baggage claim was closed. A new requirement is for a COVID test for unvaccinated tourists every 72 hours, or you cannot enter public places. There were several information stations with staff in the airport. I asked just to make sure. They said that all I need to do is show my U.S. vaccination card whenever I enter museums, restaurants and public places. Covid testing was available as people exited the airport, but was only necessary to unvaccinated travellers. Masks are still required in Denmark when you are on public transit, but otherwise not required.
I took the bus to the rental car center and picked up my car. Leaving the airport on the E20 there was heavy traffic on this mid Friday afternoon. Later on a perfect Danish summer evening, I was having dinner with Susanne Thea at a small outdoor restaurant in Korsør by the harbor watching the sunset behind the Storebælt bridge. Its great to be back in Denmark!
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