My husband and I are fulfilling a bucket list dream of moving to the Big Island of Hawaii. According to plans, we will arrive Oct. 23. Foolishly, this is during a world-wide pandemic, and Hawaii currently requires all transoceanic travelers to quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
This restriction supposedly lifts Oct. 15, if you arrive with a negative COVID test uploaded to Hawaii’s mandatory Safe Travels app. Even if something goes awry, I mistakenly thought quarantining would be easy; simply rent a short-term vacation rental (STVR), while we search for a home to buy.
However, in late August, Hawaii's governor issued an emergency proclamation stating that STVRs could not be used for quarantine stays. To self-quarantine, travelers must either go to a hotel and stay inside their room for 14 days (yikes), or else lease a long-term rental for six months PLUS one day. We didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel room for 14 days, especially not with two dogs, nor did we want to lease for that long.
Why, oh why, do we have dogs?
Even one of our long-time BI contacts said he could no longer rent to us, not only due to the quarantine rules, but also, because most STVRs no longer allow pets. This is likely after too many undisciplined pet owners trashed the units. In the past, this same contact had offered us a fabulous place to stay that took pets, but alas, no longer.
After I found this out, inquiry after inquiry on VRBO or CraigsList.com led to endless rejections, spam requests for missionary money, or no reply. However, I found out yesterday that one reason I was getting no replies from VRBO.com was that the site had blocked out all Hawaii STVRs because of the quarantine restrictions. That meant my messages were not even forwarded to owners.
Talk about tricky timing.
As I noted above, Hawaii’s quarantine policy lifts Oct. 15, but only if you arrive with a negative COVID test, taken w/in 72 hours of boarding your flight. In addition, your negative test results must be uploaded to Hawaii’s new Safe Travels App. If your results are not back when you land on the Big Island, you go into quarantine.
We are driving from Austin to El Paso, then to Phoenix, then to L.A., where we will drop off our car and dogs for shipment. Because of testing delays and the above tricky timing, we've located two clinics in Phoenix that will do COVID testing for travel purposes (that took about 10-20 phone calls and hours online). Most rapid-result sites like CVS will only will test if you have symptoms, thanks to the Trump-written policy that now has been reversed by the CDC. Perhaps we will be able to get rapid-result tests in Phoenix, but we must wait/see on that.
The results from the two clinics we contacted are supposed to be available within one to three days. After we test, we then drive to L.A. and spend two nights there before our flight, so the timing is tight to get results back in time to upload.
Rent this and be eaten by pit bulls.
For the past three weeks, I’ve spent hours online and on the phone, trying to schedule a place to stay, and it has been exhausting. I almost booked what looked like a cute rental in Kona, but our realtor Pam Deery of Hawaii Life sent an associate to look at it for us. She told us ABSOLUTELY NOT. Not only was this an “iffy” part of town, she predicted our dogs would be eaten alive by loose pit bulls, and we ourselves might become the targets of our neighbors—all said in jest, but with a stern warning.
I hadn’t realized Kona had a part of town to avoid. Luckily, our realtor knows almost everything and everyone on the island. Understanding my angst about possibly spending 14 days in a hotel room, she got in touch with two former clients about their STVRs to ask if they would book outside VRBO.
One already was booked, while another reluctantly leased to us for two months at a discounted rate. We still have to find another unit for one or two months after that, but hopefully we can do so more easily once we are on-island.
If we have to quarantine until our test results come through, I've covered our butts with a reservation at a hotel. That is refundable, but I have to remember when to cancel—well before we board our flight for Kona.
What can go wrong?
On top of this mess, I still have to pack and get movers lined up, a mailbox to ship stuff to, and Hawaii Health Certificate examinations for our dogs within 10 days of their flight. They are riding in-cabin with the pilots on a cargo flight, L.A. to Oahu, and also in-cabin on another cargo flight from Oahu to Kona.
Bill and I are spending many thousands of our AAdvantage miles to ride in first/business class seats, thanks to our dollars spent in Citibank purchases. Being cheap, however, I booked a Web Special that has a goofy route. From LAX, we have to fly all the way back to Phoenix, where we will then board our flight to Kona.
The timing for all this has to be perfect, with negative COVID test results uploaded to Hawaii’s Safe Travels app BEFORE we board and land in Hawaii.
Stay tuned. Hawaii will likely dream up more roadblocks to our bucket list dream. You see, the state of Hawaii does not want dogs or Mainlanders to move there, so if you are thinking about doing this, reconsider. Something about a dream is spurring me on, but if one more roadblock appears, I've got my eyes on a cute rental in Tucson, Arizona, where we might just hide out until the dogs cross the Rainbow Bridge, and COVID has left the building.