Although I haven’t been out of the country since my Ecuador adventure a couple months ago, I have been traveling quite a bit within the USA.
In the last two months I attempted to drive to a music festival in New York (until my car broke down). I also flew to Dallas, Texas to teach a couple classes. After my Dallas classes, I drove to Austin to spend a few days finding a new place to live. I was home for two days and then drove to Nashville for a training class. I drove straight from Nashville to southern Ohio for a hiking/camping getaway.
Every one of my trips was negatively affected by massive staff shortages.
When my car broke down on the way to New York, I had it towed to a garage I regularly use. It was a Friday. The manager told me that half of their techs had either quit or were out with Covid. He couldn’t get me in until the following Wednesday.
I ended up fixing the car myself in the garage’s parking lot, but it took so long I missed the concert I was going to attend.
When I got to the airport for my flight to Dallas, the bag check line was massive. You guessed it. The airline was short staffed.
The TSA screening line was hundreds of meters long (Pre-check saved me). When I got to the metal detector I asked the screener about the line. The TSA is short staffed too.
All the airport restaurants had huge lines. There weren’t enough servers to allow full seating in the restaurants.
As I was teaching a gun class, I flew with firearms. They don’t come out on the baggage conveyor belt, but instead are delivered by a person to the baggage office. That process normally takes 10-15 minutes. I waited nearly an hour. When the guy came with my checked guns he explained that the airports was extremely short staffed and while he normally only serviced three luggage belts, he was doing all the work for the entire terminal.
I got my guns and went to wait for the bus to the rental car building. It was another 40 minute wait (normally less than 10 minutes). The airport was short bus drivers.
The rental car lines were massive. Some had more than 50 people waiting. It took an hour to get a pre-booked rental car. The car rental staff complained that they were running with approximately half of their normal employees.
I visited eight different apartment complexes in Texas looking for a new place to live. Staff missed my appointments. Some leasing offices were completely without workers and closed down. I spoke to two employees who couldn’t answer my questions because they were temporary workers who had only been hired the day before.
In Nashville, several of the restaurants I went to visit were temporarily closed due to lack of staff. The service was exceptionally slow in the restaurants that were open because they only had 20% of their normal wait staff working.
Even Uber in Nashville took far longer than usual. When a friend had to leave the class to go to the airport, it took the Uber app almost 15 minutes just to match him with an available driver.
Some of the roadside rests between Ohio and Tennessee had sections that were closed down. Entire wings in the restroom facilities were closed. The state couldn’t find the staff to keep the entire building cleaned.
Despite all of the closures and delays, there is some good news for travelers. In two of the three hotels where I stayed (including my favorite quirky Ruby Hotel in Round Rock) daily room cleaning had resumed. Hopefully, uncleaned rooms as remnant of Covid-19 will rapidly disappear.
The point of this article is to illustrate the fact that almost everything in the travel industry is pretty screwed up right now. Don’t expect any semblance of smooth sailing for your next adventure. Plan for everything to take significantly longer than you expect. Be flexible, because some of your destinations will likely be crowded, closed, or operating with limited services.
I think travelers will have a rocky road for quite some time to come.