We Were Hit with Trump's Travel Ban in the Middle of Our Vacation

The European travel ban that Donald Trump announced on Wednesday night through thousands of travellers into chaos

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were on vacation and the president suddenly banned travel from the country you were in?

Neither had I, until it happened to me and my wife on Wednesday night. We'd been planning a trip to Iceland since last fall, and when the time finally came for us to pack our bags in early March, the coronavirus panic was slowly rising but had yet to reach a boil. The stock market was going crazy, but daily life seemed largely unaffected. We had heard some stories about people raiding supermarkets for certain essentials, but it still seemed like an isolated issue. There was a handful of people going overboard with their preparations, but no real cause for alarm yet, and our trip was only supposed to last a week—how much worse could things really get in one week? Cut to one week later, when things have gotten soooooo much worse.

Coronavirus World Map with Pandemic Icons Getty Images

In that one week the WHO officially declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, thousands more cases were confirmed in the US, Italy extended its emergency quarantine directives to the entire country, and the future of the fate of the global economy seemingly bounced around from one moment to the next. My wife and I kept track of all this news as we traveled around Iceland trying to enjoy ourselves. But while all of it was worrying, none of it was all that shocking, and none of it felt like a reason not to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the delicious food, and the glorious hot springs. That changed on Wednesday night.

We were lying in bed in the dark, pretending we could force our bodies to adjust to the time difference but still staring at our phones. A little after 9:00PM EST—past 1:00AM in Iceland—my wife turned to me and said, "Trump just announced a travel ban in Europe." Here's what the president interrupted Sarah Palin rapping on The Masked Singer to announce: His administration was "suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," but there would also be "exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings" and would not include the United Kingdom (or Ireland, though Trump didn't mention that). The ban would take effect "Friday at midnight." He initially said that it would also apply to cargo, though that aspect of the measure has since been redacted.

Sarah Palin performing "Baby Got Back" on "The Masked Singer" Was it worth it, Mr. President?

Our return trip was scheduled for Sunday, and we suddenly had no idea if we would be allowed back in the US. We were in the group of people most affected by the announcement, but very little about the situation was clear. These are the questions Trump's announcement left us with: Would Iceland even be included? (While it's generally considered a European country, it's geographically removed from the continent and not a part of the EU.) Would the "exemptions for Americans" include permanent residents or only citizens? (My wife is a Green Card holder.) What kind of screenings would be "appropriate"? And what does Friday at midnight even mean? Would the ban start just before 12:01AM on Saturday, or just after 11:59PM on Thursday? In very few words President Trump managed to create a baffling number of uncertainties, and not just for us.

We quickly decided to look at flight options for Thursday (the only day we knew for certain we would both be allowed back), and already the prices had jumped up to multiple times their usual rate. Several flights had long layovers in the UK—which seemed like a possible loophole—but flights to the US and Canada were prohibitively expensive. By the time we got through to an Icelandair representative to try to change our tickets, all of their flights to the US were fully booked, and it wasn't clear if more would be scheduled. It was looking increasingly likely that we would be stuck in Iceland with little money for the next month—if not much longer. When continued frantic searches seemed to reveal a flight to Boston that was only three times its usual cost, we jumped at the chance and had almost completed the purchase when we finally got some clarification.

The Department of Homeland Security had released the pertinent details that Trump had left out. A few hours into our panic we learned that yes, Iceland would be included in the ban—along with all other countries in the "Schengen Area" of free travel. The ban would not take effect until the end of Friday ("Friday at midnight" apparently meant 12:00AM Saturday), and, most importantly, Green Card holders would be exempted from the ban. A lot of details still had to be worked out, but that seemed like enough information for us to finally go to sleep.

Later on we would find out more about the screening process. Only 13 airports were deemed equipped to screen passengers, which meant that many people had their flights canceled with little hope of getting on a flight to one of those 13 airports anytime soon. Luckily our flight was into New York's JFK airport—one of the 13 approved for screening—so we didn't have to worry about finding a new way home. What was more of a concern on Saturday were the reports of six-hour delays in the screening process.

Chicago's O'Hare seemed particularly swamped, with pictures showing massive crowds waiting to be screened—and potentially sharing pathogens… Again, we were lucky. By Sunday evening when we landed, the Centers for Disease Control seemed to have streamlined the process so that—after a slight delay and a short questionnaire—we were allowed off our plane to be checked by a team of masked and gloved CDC employees armed with laser thermometers…and informed that we were expected to immediately go into a 14-day self-quarantine. Maybe we should have stayed in Iceland… At least the healthcare there is better.

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Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

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Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!