Iris Dimpsey and her mother Tanya are about to board an airplane for San Francisco. They’re carrying mixed emotions along with their baggage.
Iris is a 17-year-old senior at Seattle Academy embarking on a tour of three colleges she’s considering attending next fall. It’s supposed to be one of life’s great experiences. But Iris isn’t fully vaccinated yet, and it’s just not as much fun as it should be.
“I am a little stressed,” she said. “But I’m going because I have to look at colleges and stuff. And I feel like that’s really necessary for me to be able to choose a college. So, I’m a little worried.”
Tanya Dimpsey is an old hand at flying amid a pandemic after helping care for an ill relative in Texas. It’s no fun, she knows, and she feels for her daughter. While the campuses are technically open, they’ll be touring them via app and aren’t even allowed to go into the buildings Iris will be spending the next four years in. But life goes on, Dimpsey said, even in the time of COVID-19.
“Given the year of disappointments, I think we’ve all adjusted our expectations,” she said. “We’re grateful that we have the opportunity and can afford to visit the schools. You make do with the opportunities that are available and recognize that, again, everyone’s safety is important.”
The Dimpseys are doing the same complicated internal math as millions of other Americans who are itching to get out of their homes and into an adventure as COVID-19 vaccinations start to impact our travel habits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new advice for air travel last week, saying that fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without going into quarantine afterward or getting tested for coronavirus, though they must still adhere to mask mandates and other safety guidelines to stop the spread of the disease. This has emboldened the brave to book trips, or multiple trips, as some people have in the heat of what’s now being called “revenge travel.”
The news was generally met with excitement, especially here in King County, where 51.8 million air travelers passed through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for tourism, business and convention purposes in 2019.
“I think it’s really fantastic news in many respects,” said Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle. “We have really started to see and feel a change in Seattle in the last month with a kind of a shift in momentum. There are more people in town.”
But like with many things during these strange times, though, Norwalk has conflicted feelings.
“And yet, I’m not sure how much more encouragement is needed because I think people are traveling, and probably maybe too aggressively at this point, in some cases,” he said. “So I think it’s a mixed bag in the sense we still have to be careful, very careful. And I know that’s such a terrible message to give as a destination marketing group. But I think