Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 5" - Hawaii weather holds, new Oahu rule


Maui has been running high 80s, but so has Rochester, kind of funny. However, our bird feeder has been just a little less busy this week, so fall is just around the corner. We're certainly ready to give Hawaiian weather a try.

Oahu now requires restaurant patrons to show a vaccination card or a negative test result. We're vaccinated, of course. I still think the elected officials talk a big talk and then hold back on the rules (a relief for me). A vaccination rule is probably annoying for the restaurants, but getting vaccinated is such a no brainer (aside from the microchip), it's no worse than showing an ID to drink alcohol.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 6" - counting the restrictions


Another day, another possible restriction for travelers and residents in Hawaii. Well, COVID won't be spread by me, so I just need to be careful not to catch it from whoever is doing all the spreading.

Today, the lieutenant governor suggested there could be a stay-at-home order for Labor Day weekend (that's this coming weekend). The governor walked that back, slightly, but the leaders are clearly concerned. We arrive Sunday afternoon. Maybe they'll keep us at the airport until Tuesday.

I don't mean to trivialize the dangers of the pandemic. People are dying. But again, there is little danger from my family group, and our activities are pretty safe (mostly outdoors, even the luau) throughout the trip.

It's just hard to take all the comments at face value. There are a lot of conflicting constituencies pressuring the elected leaders, but few actual orders over the last few weeks.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 7" - watching Marriott like a hawk


The last leg of our trip will be on Oahu, so I looked to book a room for two, for three nights. I settled on the Waikiki beach area, because there are a lot of hotels there and the prices, while not cheap, are not exorbitant. (Look for rooms in Miami Beach in the most popular areas, and you probably won't fund anything under $500 per night, so I figured, at least Waikiki is cheaper.)

After wading through hotel lists for dozens of hotels (all with individual strengths and weaknesses), and hundreds of customer reviews, and comparing prices for various sorts of rooms to get a feeling for a price point I could accept, my top choice was a Junior Suite at the Laylow Autograph Collection property (Marriott). The public areas are in a modern style following a $60M "overhaul" in 2017, and the room is big. It's not right on the beach, but close, and I already had a membership in Marriot's membership program (named "Bonvoy").

At first, the room was offered on Marriott's web site at $280 per night (senior rate, 62+). The various travel sites (TripAdvisor, TravelZoo, Expedia, Orbitz, hotels dot com) were no cheaper. After several days, I decided to log in to Bonvoy and book the room, and the price had gone up that day to $299.

So, I booked it along with a second choice (not Marriott, smaller room, better view, $271). I eventually canceled the second choice, so I won't discuss it in detail.

I kept poking at the Marriott web site each day. If the price changed once, I at least wanted the satisfaction of seeing the price go up again while my booked rate stayed at $299. But, a few weeks later, the price dropped back to $288. I logged on to Bonvoy, edited my booking, rebooked the same Junior Suite room type, and my price did indeed drop back. To Marriott's credit, I didn't have to call a live person.

Then, a few weeks later the price dropped back to $271 (my first choice was then the same price as my second choice which never changed rates). I was again able to edit my booking and get the lower rate.

I cannot explain the reason for the rate changes except to guess that some algorithm alternately encourages and discourages customers like me. The $271 price appeared before the worst of the delta variant virus surge and has held for a few weeks. The arrival date for Waikiki is still almost three weeks away, so we'll see if we can squeeze a few more dollars out of Marriott.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 8" - to test or not to test?


Up to July, the state of Hawaii required pre-arrival COVID tests for all incoming trans-Pacific travelers, i.e., those not traveling between islands. Since July, travelers vaccinated in the US are exempt from quarantining after arrival without a test, assuming they follow the state registration instructions. Now in late August, the delta variant surge is upon us, and Hawaiian Governor Ige is discouraging tourists. But, he is not banning tourists and the CDC does not consider domestic travel to be a high risk for vaccinated citizens.

I stated in my previous blog entry the virus is not a Hawaiian issue, that it is global and it doesn't really matter if I am in Hawaii or at home. However, the act of traveling, especially in an enclosed plane, does add risk to virus spread. If I insist on traveling, should I at least get tested?
  • At this time so close to our arrival in Hawaii, it is possible the governor could reinstitute testing rules or mandatory quarantines. However, the lieutenant governor stated recently that any onerous changes would be announced with at least two weeks' advance notice. We'll be well into our trip two weeks from now. Still, a COVID test is not itself onerous and we have considered testing "just in case" the rules change at the last minute.
  • Based on Hawaii's rules for non-vaccinated travelers, the testing option for us would be a rapid ID NOW test at a Walgreen's drug store. The test has to be administered within 72 hours of departure, and the PCR tests take too long to get the results. There are several stores offering the drive-through rapid tests. Well, it turns out getting an appointment is difficult. Appointments become available early in the morning about 2 days in advance (every day is different), and they are all booked at all stores by dinnertime. Appointments are available every day, but only between around 9:30 and 4:30. We would need to be tested on a Thursday or Friday and upload the results before the Sunday departure. Given all the difficulty, should we take up testing slots required for others when our tests would not be required?
  • I am not COVID positive. No, I don't have a test to prove it, but I'm not. The governor's discouragement is related to pressure on the Hawaiian healthcare system caused by community spread between residents. We'll use the Hawaiian exposure notification phone app. Here at home, my weekly activity outside the house is a trip to the grocery store and an outdoor church service. I am not the guy the governor is worried about, but he's under pressure to take action.
  • A false positive test (that is not even required for me) would end my vacation before it starts. The odds of a false positive appear to be pretty small, and testing has improved throughout the pandemic, but there's always a chance.
  • Will I feel guilty about traveling now? I feel guilty about a lot of things. I run the air conditioner, drive a gas-powered car, eat meat, benefit from a military but never served, benefit from white privilege, and a bazillion other things. Guilt over a safe Hawaii trip is not at the top of the list.
  • I don't make the rules. The rules are a complicated result of health, economic and political considerations. We are where we are and I will follow the rules.
As far as I can tell, our providers are waiting for us. The hotels and B&B, dinners and activities support Hawaiians who won't get COVID from me. There are a few non-service-industry workers who appear to despise all tourists all the time, but that's nothing new. Testing is not ideal, and we probably won't.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 9" - why go NOW?


Hawaiian Governor Ige and the various county mayors are discouraging tourists and restricting events due to the "delta variant" coronavirus surge in the summer of 2021. Restaurants are operating at 50% capacity, gatherings are limited to 10, and rental cars and fine restaurants are booked out months in advance. Most of the money we have spent up to now is still refundable, for a few more days. Apart from the personal disappointment and burden of canceling, why go to Hawaii now?

  • In fact, I am anal about traveling. I book everything far in advance. The flights, rooms, tours, dinners, golf, luau and cars were reserved long ago, in some cases before the virus rates dropped in the spring.
  • They haven't said "no". Since we made our basic plans, Hawaii changed the rules to make it easier to enter the state. Recently, new restrictions have been mandated, but our group of 5 is smaller than the maximum gathering size of 10 and the restaurants are open. Vaccinated US citizens like me are exempt from quarantine. The Lieutenant Governor has said any new testing requirements would be announced two weeks before taking effect, and we'll be in the state in 9 days. Politically speaking, the governor is loathe to shut down the tourist industry (again).
  • I suppose tourists put pressure on the community spread already occurring, but if I am in Hawaii, I am not contributing to the spread somewhere else. The virus is not a Hawaiian issue; it is a global issue. It simply doesn't matter where I am. The governor of my state could just as easily tell all the residents to go on a trip to reduce the pressure at home. In any case, the rules for flying and entering Hawaii keep the infected away.
  • Most of our planned activities take place out of doors; hiking, beaches, golf, even the luau. We just need to wrap ourselves in plastic during the flights.
  • My kids are taking me to Hawaii, how cool is that? If we try to postpone, who knows what will happen?
Stay safe.