Holiday with elderly parent during pandemic?

It pays to plan ahead: here’s a guide to what to do!

By Rupali Dean

Covid-19 has transformed the scope of travel. Amid closed borders and cancelled flights, travel came to a near halt, but today boundaries are opening and international travel is not a vague dream anymore.

We traveled internationally as a family after nearly two years or probably more. But it was smooth and easy, all thanks to proper planning in spite of traveling with a parent who needs a wheel chair as she can’t walk long distances.

Read the flight rules for your destination

It really isn’t fun reading a drawn-out list of flight rules; but it’s even worse, reading them at the last moment. More so if you’re at the airport.

I opted for the shortest route from Delhi, India to Male with IndiGo and also because I was travelling with my mother who needs a wheelchair at the airport.

So, first things first, I read the travel rules for Male on the airline website, https://www.goindigo.in/ which said that it is obligatory to enter the country only with a Covid Negative report from any ICMR https://www.icmr.gov.in/ listed lab not longer than 72 Hours prior to travel.

After that the details are to be uploaded 24 hours before the flight on https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/. There is no isolation and it is one procedure less with visa on arrival.

Read: Kandima — affordable luxury in the Maldives (July 3, 2021)

Book meals & seats well in advance

It’s always a good idea to book in advance for the best fare and fast forward for priority in luggage as you really wouldn’t want to wait too long in a queue; and most certainly the front row with XL seats on IndiGo. They do not cost too much and one is more relaxed with a preferred seat.

We booked two window seats (to catch the landing views of the Island country) and two aisles and fortunately for us the flight wasn’t too full so no one sat on the middle seats in a row. We love the sandwiches which can only be pre booked, so I made sure to pre-book meals for the four of us.

Medicines & essentials check

Always carry regular off the counter medicines like Crocin, Disprin, Ornof etc, some band aid, sprays like Moov etc for emergency use apart from the regular prescribed medicines.

We bought a whole set of disposable and N 95 masks and pocket-sized sanitizers to carry along for both our check in and hand carry luggage.

Since we were traveling to the Maldives we packed our sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, hat, slippers and costumes. For my mom I carried light pajamas and shirts so she could get the whole feel of being in the Maldives.

Cabs for the whole process

We had booked two cabs for our pick-ups and drops both ways since we are four with luggage.

And I must say that the JW Marriott drivers follow their covid protocols to the T, right from sanitizing the car after each passenger use to keeping a mask and sanitizer for the passengers for use in the car. There’s also a transparent barricade between the driver’s seat to ensure social distancing.

Book a hotel near the airport for pre & post travel

Our IndiGo flight was at 9 AM so we decided to take stay at the JW Marriott in Aerocity, Delhi JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity the night before.

We left home after finishing all pending work at 4 PM and reached the hotel well in time for a relaxed evening. I had already emailed the hotel our IDs.

So Immediately upon entering the JW Marriott, our bags were taken care of and we were whisked away to our rooms for check in and the most delicious lotus biscoff cheesecake I have ever tasted waiting for us.

Now we begin to unwind as we leave the hustle and bustle of the capital on the other side. This is where the expedition truly begins. I booked my mother in for a Spa, so she could sleep well and be fresh for the flight the next morning.

There was an amazing live band at their restaurant K3 so after an early dinner we called it a night. Our wakeup call at 5:15 AM came with morning tea and toast and we reached the airport all excited and fresh for our Maldives trip.

While alighting from the cab, my mother looked at me proudly and said, “good we did this, now we can check in aaraam se! (with ease).”

I smiled as I knew she’d be happy that on the way back too, I had booked us two interconnecting rooms for the night as it’s always nice to come back from a journey to a cozy bed and hot dinner.

Read: With Chef Prateek Sadhu in Byron Bay (June 12, 2019)

At the airport

The hotel’s staff was waiting for us to help us with our luggage and a wheelchair and assistance until we checked in. At the IndiGo counter, a sanitized wheel- chair awaited my mother.

The protection apparatus has advanced to permit you into the airport. Previously a copy of the ticket and ID worked. Now, the safekeeping workforces sit behind a glass divider to maintain distance and also scan your boarding pass barcode for a validity check.

This somewhat breaks the procedure but it’s for our own wellbeing. There are several IndiGo personnel at the airport terminal, just that the new procedures make everything contactless.

Thanks to the fast forward pass, our bags were checked-in in a jiffy and since we all have cards with access to the airport lounge, we had breakfast there until it was time to board.

IndiGo  goes an extra mile for its wheelchair passengers and having a parent well taken care of makes you feel at ease too.

In the flight, we all get a kit that encompasses a mask, a face shield and travel-size sanitary packs to safeguard the flight experience. Wearing masks is obligatory through the whole span of the flight outside any eating or drinking.

I have pre-booked the food so there is no exchange of cash — another less contact. The crew is extremely efficient and kept checking in on my mother if she was ok. When we land, we literally scream, “Touchdown” with pure bliss athwart our expressions!

At landing and connections

Once again the staff didn’t let me down, thanks to mom’s wheel chair we got precedence with immigration. Luggage was out in a jiffy as we had booked it in priority.

They handed us over to our hotel’s airport staff before finally bidding us adieu. We had booked a family beach villa with two- bedrooms at the Hideaway Beach Resort https://www.hideawaybeachmaldives.com/maldives with the white platinum plan which entitled us to lounge use and butler service.

The journey was smooth and we booked a domestic flight transfer instead of a Seaplane as it’s more convenient when you are travelling with a parent.

Choose accommodation wisely

Selecting a resort was moderately easy. The vital measures for me were sanitation and maintenance, impeccable service and of course, a beach villa with two bedrooms!

Liberally spaced, this alluring tropical bliss, 575 square meter in size, is an indulgence villa which is cheerful with a glowing Californian vibe – whitewashed woods and coral stone stimulated interiors giving a pastoral Robinson Crusoe panache experience, seamless to feel one with nature.

Retreat is significant, we were treated to a gigantic patio with seaside access. We equally enjoyed fluttering in our private swimming pool large enough for the entire family — the perfect hideaway.

Owing to Covid, Hideaway Beach Resort offers us an amended experience, but one still wrapped in a warm welcome, even if the smiles are hidden by masks.

We felt protected, if sporadically dreamlike, but it does not take too long to get used to merge this ‘new normal’ into holiday routines.

Excursions

Traveling with a parent would mean to create memories with them and not let them feel left out, so the best way is to strike a balance with sightseeing and activities, make them a part of some and keep them busy if you are doing something else.

We had booked a sand bank picnic but the sea was choppy on that day and it would have been difficult to take mom along so the hotel swapped it for a private beach villa picnic which actually turned out to be even better as the food was piping hot and the drinks chilled.

Since my mother can’t swim or snorkel, we booked a Dip and Dine evening where the table is placed in a swimming pool and you can dip your feet and enjoy the meal and the breath-taking ocean views — best way to get a feel of being in the Maldives.

We couldn’t take mom along for the Sunset & Dolphin cruises but she was happy to be in the villa by herself as we set up a movie and high tea for her while we were gone.

Read: Chefs in India cook up childhood nostalgia dishes to woo visiting Indian Americans, NRIs (March 24, 2019)

Return leg

We get our PCR tests done for our return voyage too and fill in the Air Suvidha self-declaration forms https://www.newdelhiairport.in/  which is mandatory along with uploading a Covid negative report.

I am more self-assured than ever as IndiGo  safeguards the essential safety defenses at every touchpoint through the voyage, from the luggage drop counter all the way till it’s claimed and makes the whole travel experience contactless and hassle-free. Life can’t get any better than this, more so during a world-wide pandemic.

(Rupali Dean is a noted food and travel writer based out of India)

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