Pandemic Forces Texans to Re-Think How They Travel

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Americans to re-think how they travel – with fewer choosing to go faraway places by air and more people driving to their destinations, sometimes in spacious travel trailers.

On Monday, 701,709 air passengers boarded flights, according to the Transportation Security Administration. The same day one year ago, the number was more than 2 million.

But some passengers are taking advantage of cheap fares.

Cassandra Shoemaker of Dallas was flying Tuesday to Knoxville to visit college friends.

"I'm doing a girl's trip to Tennessee just to kind of get out of the house,” she said.

It was her first time in the air since the pandemic started and she's not worried about getting the virus because she got it just two months ago, she said.

Experts say many passengers like Shoemaker who aren’t worried about the risk are attracted by the cheap deals and relaxed rules on switching flights.

Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?

County health departments have launched waitlists for adults 16 years old and over.

You can register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:

Waitlist Links: Collin - Search Waitlist | Dallas | Denton | Tarrant

You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.

For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.

Rick Seaney operated a website for finding the best fares but his business dried up last March when the pandemic started.

"There's no change fees anymore,” Seaney said. “That's a huge change in the industry. Used to, you'd have to pay, depending on the airline, from $150 to $250 to change your ticket. Nowadays there's no change fee so you can't make a mistake."

He found it affected his own travel plans too.

"I know it changed for my family a lot. I took the first family trip in the minivan last summer. I don't think I'd been on a trip in a car more than a hundred miles in a couple decades!"

New requirements make flying internationally more difficult.

The U.S. now requires arriving international passengers to prove they tested negative for COVID-19 within three days of their return flight.

Chris and Zhivonni Cook and their family decided if flying wasn't a good option during the pandemic, they'd drive -- in style.

The Cooks, police officers in Arlington and Mansfield, are hauling a travel trailer all over Texas.

"Our first one we rented, we went to Big Bend,” Chris Cook said. “And boy, the skies were just gorgeous out there."

They soon bought their own travel trailer, a 31-footer, and named it the "Star Gazer."

"It's better than a hotel because you can make it your own,” Chris Cook said.

His wife agreed.

"Once the pandemic hit, it was like a whole new world for me and we had to look for a different alternative on how we were going to spend our free time as a family and this was the perfect option," Zhivonni Cook said.

Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows where COVID-19 vaccines have been sent around the state. Click on a marker to find out information about each location. Use the "plus" and "minus" signs below to zoom in and out of the map.

From the Texas DSHS: Availability of COVID-19 vaccines lilsted on this map are based on shipping information and reporting to the DSHS directly by facilities. Please contact providers in advance to confirm vaccination location and hours, that they have vaccine on hand and that you are eligible for vaccination at that site. Not all providers are vaccinating the public or people in all priority groups. Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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