Between the end of February until the beginning of April, we were in New Zealand with our The RVers TV show co-hosts John & Peter from The RV Geeks. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Just as things rapidly changed for millions of people around the world, and we found ourselves traveling internationally during Covid-19.
Traveling to New Zealand
Shortly after the release of our final Go North series episode (Episode 20) at the end of February, we hopped on a plane with friends and co-hosts John & Peter heading for New Zealand. We had 5 weeks planned for RVing around the country and filming for The RVers TV Show, as well as our own YouTube channel.
We rented a couple of RVs from Wilderness Motorhome Rentals and set off on our trip to tour both the North Island and the South Island of this beautiful island nation. Little did we know that our 5 weeks of exploration would be interrupted by Covid-19.
Us and our Wilderness Rental Motorhomes along Lake Pukaki
When we first arrived in NZ at the end of February, coronavirus had not yet been declared a pandemic. But just a couple of weeks into our touring it was, which made the last few weeks interesting, to say the least.
The New Zealand government responded very swiftly and strictly in locking down the country, starting with foreign nationals being prohibited from entry starting March 19th. When they reached response Level 4 on March 25th, ferries were also locked down, domestic flights were canceled, and only essential travel by emergency services was allowed. Traveling during Covid-19 was getting progressively harder.
New Zealand Lockdown
When the ferries were announced to be closing, we were on the South Island. Our flight was out of Auckland on the North Island. The ferry is the only way to drive from one island to the other, so if we didn’t get back North fast we would be in trouble.
Fortunately, within a span of 48 hours from the Level 4 announcement we were able to get from the southern end of the South Island, across on one of the last ferries to the North Island. We found an RV Park just 2 hours outside of Auckland before everything was locked down, and we were there for just over a week.
Catching one of the last ferries to the North Island before the shutdown
Our sites at the Cambridge Top 10 Holiday Park during the lockdown, waiting for our flight
Isolating In Our Rental RVs
Foreign nationals on the South Island were stuck as they could not ferry or fly to the North Island to reach international flights. The rental RVs enabled us to stay self-isolated pretty easily in the time leading up to the full lockdown and during.
We were able to be outside and still hang out with John & Peter who were part of our “isolation group.” It was great to have friends with us so we could support each other and distract each other as we waited for our flight day.
Because of the essential travel order, we couldn’t leave the RV Park until the day of our flight, when we could provide proof that we had a flight out the same day should we be pulled over. We were only allowed into the airport with proof of flight.
Just a couple of days before we were to fly, they opened domestic flights to foreign nationals so travelers on the South Island could connect to International Flights out of Auckland. Because of this, our flight was predicted to be 100% full – something that wasn’t ideal for traveling during Covid.
…Should We Risk Traveling During Covid?
Fortunately, Covid-19 case numbers in New Zealand were still very low. Unfortunately, we were heading back to the United States, whose cases were skyrocketing. This was going to be like flying directly to Wuhan at the beginning of the outbreak, as US cases had at that time already exceeded every other country outbreak and were on the rise.
The days leading up to our flight and the day-of were honestly pretty scary. The choice to travel during Covid and come home or stay in New Zealand was a personal one. We debated it daily.
Between us and our travel companions, we had tons of reasons for and against either choice. If need-be we could have rented an AirBnB and stayed. The NZ government had policies in place to assist stranded travelers during Covid-19 in finding housing and extending visas, but the future was so unknown to be able to create a solid plan.
In the end, we decided to come home.
Traveling From New Zealand To LAX During Covid
We wore masks, kept our distance (as much as we could), used disinfecting wipes on our seats and tray tables. Still there was little you could do as there were people all around you.
It ended up being 100% full. We wore our masks the whole 12+ hours except to eat and drink. Upon landing in LA, the airport was dead. Going through Customs was fast – no questions on how we were feeling, no temperature checks. Short lines, social distancing, about half the workforce wore masks, fewer passengers wore them.
Flight to Chicago – American Airlines reassigned seats to physically distance people. The flight was about half full so we each had our own row of seats.
Flight to Florida – American Airlines again reassigned seats to distance people, which was easy since we were 2 of the only 6 passengers on ~150 passenger plane.
We Made It Back To Florida
Upon arrival in Florida, we went straight into a 14-day self-quarantine without any contact with anyone. We came home, immediately showered, and bagged our travel clothes. We sanitized handles and the outsides of bags, devices, anything we could think of.
At the time of this blog writing, we are halfway through our self-quarantine here at home in our fifth wheel RV. It has been stressful in its own way — besides the jet lag recovery. We don’t know if we were exposed to coronavirus during our journey home, so it has been a waiting game to see if symptoms arise. The average incubation (that we know of now) is 2-6 days. We are hopeful that since neither of us has symptoms today 🤞 that we didn’t get it.
We were so careful with washing hands, using hand sanitizer, and wearing our masks that we think we might be OK…but we just can’t know for sure. Regardless, we are doing our part to stay home, stay isolated, and avoid any role in the spreading of this disease.
We are happy to see that the rapid and strict lockdown New Zealand imposed is not only flattening their curve, but “squashing it.”
Before the lockdown, we were able to see and film some of the incredible things this country has to offer. We expect to share the videos of our New Zealand adventure in early 2021.
Watch the teaser below:
Hanging in there & Thank You
As we were driving through NZ during our lockdown, signs in NZ had helpful and grounding reminders. We’ve been using them as a mantra of sorts to get through this:
Be Kind. Stay Calm. Stay Home. Save Lives. We’re all in this together.
We are grateful to have work that we can do from home, and have lots of projects coming up that require little to no travel. This isn’t the case for many people around the country and the world, and our hearts go out to them.
Before we sign off we want to say “thank you.”
Thank you to the people on the front lines all around the world. Thank you to the people helping from the sidelines. And thank you to everyone who is staying home from parties, churches, events, and non-essential activities to stop the spread of this disease and avoid diverting emergency services resources.
Hang in there, everyone! Wishing you & your families health,
~ Cait & Tom
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