I don’t travel often. And the initial COVID-19 outbreak made it scary to even consider getting on a plane with a bunch of strangers. However, a couple of months ago I was invited to attend a family reunion with descendants of my grandfather’s sister. They are pretty much strangers to me, but I wanted to get to know them as well as have them get to know me. So I put aside my fear of traveling when they said they were holding a reunion in Orlando, Florida.

I was unsuccessful in reaching out to a couple of travel agents. I hadn’t booked a flight on my own in over seven years, but once I made up my mind that it wasn’t really that difficult, it turned out to be quite easy. The internet has a bunch of travel websites where they will help you with the search for the cheapest flight, the car rental and the appropriate kind of hotel room.

Let’s start with the flight. No longer do these airlines give you free baggage check (carry on can still be free but there are those who charge for that as well). And if you make the mistake like I did and book a ticket on Spirit Airlines, you have to pay for both the seat and the luggage. When all is said and done, after they nickel-and-dimed me for every possible reason, I’m surprised that neither airline wasn’t charging me for breathing air!

I traveled out of O’Hare. Everything is now more automated than when I last traveled. Check-in was via a computer kiosk. Even getting through security was decent. And the best part was that we were able to take off on time.

Next, the website I used offered me a decent, inexpensive car rental. It wasn’t from one of the five big ones, and I had to call the car rental agency in order to get them to pick me up from the airport, but the car was clean and it was relatively new and the rental price was absolutely fantastic.

My biggest fear was the hotel I chose. It wasn’t five stars, but it was clean and it was nice. I really liked that it was off a major shopping strip in Kissimmee, Florida. I never tried walking anywhere, but I had access to a lot of places to go and shop. It was 20 minutes during good traffic to drive to the reunion location. However, Florida has some of the worst drivers in the world. They cannot make left turns and they pretty much create traffic jams for no apparent reason. I’m almost convinced that anyone who fails the rules of the road test is licensed in Florida.

It was really nice to meet my relatives whom I never met before. They are distant cousins but we have a lot in common. Even more amazing is that everyone knew my grandfather and had his photo.

Traveling has always been an adventure. It’s even more so now during these changing and challenging times. By next year in May, everybody has to have their REAL-ID. So I guess I’ll work on getting mine via an updated passport.

The opportunity to meet family and to come together with our various shared DNA made it all worthwhile.