The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation for travel with many borders closed, airlines canceling flights, and stay-at-home orders in place. While many of us are staying at home waiting to travel again, some families out there have no choice but to travel during these scary times. Bébé Voyage’s very own analytics specialist Carole Bonzon-Vachette talks to us about the difficulties of preparing for an international move during Covid19 and how their return home to Paris has been bittersweet.
Q: Could you tell us a little about you and your family?
A: We are a family of four–my husband, our two kids who are almost four and six, and I. We are French and live in Chicago but due to move back to Paris this summer.
Q: How long have you been living in Chicago?
A: We have lived in Chicago for the past three years.
Q: Why are you moving back to France during Covid19? Why not wait until travel restrictions ease down?
A: We came to Chicago because of my husband’s work and we always knew it was going to be temporary. As his contract and our visas are due to expire, we have to move back now.
I was lucky as my company in France gave me a sabbatical so that I could accompany him while retaining my job back in France. I’m due to start back at work in September and that’s when the kids will also be starting school in France. We really have no choice but to move back during the summer. We are now trying to figure out when it will be best to travel during the summer months.
Q: Did you need any special permission from your embassy to be able to make the move at such a time?
A: We don’t need to have any special permission as we are French and going back home, but we will have to fill out some specific paperwork.
Q: Do you have any tips on dealing with the embassy/consulate or other officials?
A: The best thing to do when you live in a foreign country is to register with your embassy/consulate so that in emergencies like this, they know exactly where you are and can respond with the necessary help. We always check the website of the French Consulate in Chicago and their social media platform as they are updated as soon as new information is released.
Q: What has been the hardest thing to organize for this move? Why?
A: Surprisingly, the easiest thing to organize was moving our furniture back. Moving companies are still working and after talking to them, they will be able to come and take our furniture and deliver it back to France. We just need to give them a date.
Unfortunately, everything else seems to be more complicated to organize. Our flight from Chicago to Paris has just been canceled and we are not sure when we will be able to get another one. That means we cannot book the moving company either.
We are also quite unsure of what we will find in Paris. This was supposed to be our move back to our familiar city, but a lot has changed in the past few months and we are not sure of what awaits us. We’ve established a new normal in Chicago and it’s quite scary to jump into the unknown.
Once we’re back in France, we will have quite a few administrative things to do but we don’t even know if the offices will be open for us to do so.
The saddest part though is leaving Chicago behind with very little closure. Our kids won’t be able to say goodbye to their schools or their friends as schools are closed and social distancing measures are still in place. Summer in Chicago is so beautiful. We had all sorts of things planned to enjoy our last summer here and now all our plans have been disrupted. It’s not the goodbye we had planned for and we hope that our kids will remember the good parts of Chicago and not just the lockdown.
Q: What precautions are you going to take while traveling? Have you been given any official advice about moving during Covid19?
A: We don’t really now. For now, we don’t have any official advice.
This is the part I am more scared of. We will wear masks and have hand sanitizer with us. We will most likely pack our own food for the flight. I think the most difficult task will be controlling the kids at the airport and on the plane, making sure they don’t touch everything, etc. Luckily, as most flights to Paris from Chicago are night flights, hopefully the kids will sleep most of the way.
Q: Will you need to self-isolate once back in France?
A: France has just extended the state of emergency until July 24, which means we will be asked to quarantine. We just don’t know if we will be able to do it at our house or somewhere else. We are hoping to have more information on this soon.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Moving overseas is a great adventure full of uncertainties and you must be prepared for that. What we find difficult now is that there are a lot more uncertainties out there and we are not even sure what will happen from one month to the next. We are preparing for every scenario and trying to focus on what we can control and manage everything else day by day.
We are not sure how yet, but we will make it back to France this summer.
Some of the events in the article have changed since the original interview has taken place. The family has now secured a flight back home (they will be allowed to fly if they can provide a negative test for Covid-19 and attest that their travel is due to an essential move). They have also been asked by the French government to self isolate for 14 days (in their home) upon arrival.
Bébé Voyage Disclaimer: The following article and all others related to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic are based on the experiences and views of the persons interviewed at the time of publication. As with any travel article published in Bébé Voyage, these views are published for informative purposes only. Bébé Voyage declines all responsibility related to actions taken by readers of the said articles. It is the reader’s responsibility to undertake travel plans that are in accordance with governmental, public health and safety mandates at the time of travel.
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