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Camino Aragones, Camino Portuguese, and Planning as World Events Unfold

2020 Camino Guides

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
Please take note: This post is NOT a prediction of when COVID-19 will no longer be a communicable disease threat as a pandemic. Nor is this post providing advice as to what others may decide to do in planning THEIR Caminos. I made this post with no argument or observations as to what public health agencies or governments are saying and advising, or WILL say or advise in the future.

This post is simply one person's decision on how to proceed with planning IN CASE a pilgrimage is able to be undertaken, and if the relevant agencies and governments give a green light to proceed with travel to, and within, the EU and America.

I do hope that any conversation will avoid statements and predictions and judgement about IF my plans will come to fruition or not. Some of the WHO, CDC, Pasteur, and various other Infectious Disease agencies and health organization's models may come to pass, and I do not discount that. I am also aware that scenario modeling of this disease includes all potentials for long and shorter term impacts to the population at large.

Hence, my planning for the best scenario, and preparing for the worst scenario. . as it relates to how I am approaching Camino.

I am not arguing that these plans will be able to occur. Only that they are made in case there is normalized travel by then.

So, IF things normalize, what methods can one use to plan ahead to secure things like airline reservations? Or lodging reservations? My post below is how I am going about such things.

----------------------------------------

This fall, from late September to late October, I am planning to walk two Caminos: The Aragones first, and then the Portuguese from Porto to SdC. The Aragones I will walk with my oldest son, Caleb. The Portuguese, with my wife, Jill.

Caleb and I will finish the Aragones, and then arrive in Porto in time to meet Jill when she arrives in Porto. After two days together in Porto, Caleb will fly home, and Jill and I will start the pilgrimage north.

I have worked a career in public health and as a medical provider. I am totally cognizant of how the disease tracking and rate of disease spread is unfolding. I am up to date on the current knowledge of international travel restrictions. I say this because I am not disconnected from reality, but I am not of a mind to simply wait until the dust settles on events, before planning on a return to normal travel and function. . whenever that might be.

My planning is based on the premise that whatever is done, MUST have the ability to be canceled without incurring any penalty to finances or vacation time.

I am semi-retired and have a consulting practice. I can arrange time off and then cancel it without losing vacation time.

My wife Jill, is a Charge Nurse on a Pediatric Unit at our regional hospital. Her problem is securing time off ahead of time. But, if she decides to cancel that scheduled time-off, there is no loss of vacation time, or the inability to be placed back on the work schedule. . . the hospital fills in vacation time with temporary professionals like traveling nurses, so are only more than happy to avoid paying higher wages to a temporary worker.

Caleb is with a company that allows complete flexibility with scheduling paid time off (PTO). That flexibility is based on taking time either AFTER a project is completed, or BEFORE an assigned project with specific deadlines is assigned. Caleb was able to arrange for a late fall 14 day leave from work, but like his mom, if Camino plans are cancelled, he has no loss to accumulated PTO. He simply goes back to work as normal.

So for me to plan these two Caminos, the issue of PTO being lost due to not taking it after it is scheduled, is not an issue.

The next issue was the most problematic as one of the largest Camino-related expenses. Airline travel. How does one assure full refunds, with the least risk and hassle, if last minute cancellations are made? OR, if one wishes to change a date for travel? To me, BOTH options- either a full refund, or a non-penalty ticket change, based on what I want to do - must be available as part of the airline's ticket policy.

I did not consider travel interruption or cancellation insurance. I've gone that route before and have had to use it. I do not like either the extra cost OR the red-tape hoops I needed to jump through in order to be reimbursed. Nope.

Instead, I wanted to obtain tickets that, when purchased via a credit card, would allow me to call the airline and tell them I want to cancel my ticket, and then have that purchase price refunded to my credit account.

For that level of flexibility for reimbursement, it often requires the purchase of a 'flex-fare' ticket based on a premium economy or business class fare. That extra cost can be more than the cost of a travel interruption policy. But sometimes, it is not that great a dollar or Euro difference.

Caleb and I will be flying out of Denver, where Caleb moved to after his time as an Army Officer was completed. I will be traveling down and visiting Caleb from my home town anyway, so it made sense to simply stay and travel with Caleb.

I ended up purchasing ticket reservations for all of us with Norwegian Airlines 'Business Class'. Now, this is a 'Business Class' that is less posh than on the major airlines, but it is still far more roomy in seat size and leg space than even the best premium economy seats with those larger boys.

In fact, the primary difference in the business class comfort and 'sitability' of the seats themselves, (when comparing Norwegian and the large airlines) has to do with how far back the seats recline. They do not lie flat. For me, the reclineability of Norwegian Air seats is plenty adequate.

PLUS, all of the usual amenities for beverages (soda pop and water for me, please), and meal services that are typical for 'business class' are still there on Norwegian Air, if not as elaborate as the menu offerings in the higher priced airlines.

Cost penalty. . none. Not if I was to compare the 'Premium Flex' fare rate of Norwegian, (which includes my choice of either a FULLY refundable ticket OR changeable dates) with the Economy+ fare of the larger airlines which does not include refundable tickets. I had also considered Condor and Icelandair as well; I have flown with all three before, and all three are comfortable enough for 14 hours of airplane sitting. It just happened that Norwegian Air was the best cost/benefit choice for me.

I found these airline choices through my research of what airlines fly the routes I needed. There were other 'economy' airlines to consider as well. But airline choices are going to be different based on location.

If I lived in a location where I could NOT obtain good cost tickets, that were fully refundable by the airline, I would not have been planning a late fall Camino

Lodging. Well, lodging is all done with Booking.com or Hotel.com. In a pinch, Airbnb. IF camino walking is open late fall, I have no idea what numbers of fellow pilgrims might be on the Camino. Therefore, where bottlenecks of lodging or albergue availability may be seen, I've pre-booked ahead. All reservations can be cancelled.

Ground Transportation. Getting from Paris to Pau to Somport for the Aragones was a bit more complicated. Going from Paris to Pau was easy. But the issue of getting the 90 or so kilometers from Pau to the Somport-Candanchu area on the French side was a bit more problematic.

Right now, there are no reliable public transit schedules available this far in advance. No trains, shuttles, or buses are showing definitive times and dates for late September, and that is normal even when COVID-19 was not at issue. Schedules are often limited to 90 days in advance.

So I got a quote from a local Pau taxi company and negotiated a pretty reasonable rate for a reservation pickup at the Pau airport. . compared to normal taxi fares. I did make sure that cancellation could be made up to 24 hours in advance. I allowed the 'sharing' of the taxi with up to two more passengers as part of the deal, as long as there are no signs of coughing and sneezing or runny noses :)

So, that's it. IF Camino travel becomes tenable, everything important is in place. If Camino plans need to be cancelled, I am not out any money, and Jill and Caleb do not sacrifice vacation time that is not used.

Again, this is just what I am doing. . . primarily because I can do it. For those who are going to wait and see, what I am doing is not a challenge or a criticism to your decision. If it was risking my money to do the planning I did, I would be waiting with you.

Anyway. . how are any of you on the Forum doing with similar planning?
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
@davebugg I am hoping my Valencia to Muxia solowalk2020 will simply be put out by a year. Of course that would mean turning up in Santiago in June of a Holy Year, but that will just add to the excitement! I ruled out September this year even if it were possible, primarily because I’d prefer to be on the Levante in spring. Because there is plenty of time I feel no urgency to make any definite plans - and my route possibilities are already sitting there, ready to be picked up with my backpack the moment I get the green light.
My hopes - like your plans - are subject to world events and the will of God!
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I'm rather pessimistic. I don't have so much flexibility with vacation time. I don't think I'll be planning any international travel for the next 18 months. But, since you do, here's one thought about your travel planning -

With regard to airline bookings, the risk of making flexible reservations in advance is that you may lose your money if the airline goes bankrupt. Since these are extraordinary times, I recommend that you make sure that you're covered by a good insurance policy before parting with your money:

Alternatively, if you have airline miles, this is a great time to use them, because most loyalty programs allow for changes and cancellations (subject to fairly reasonable fees), and also because those miles will be lost if the airline goes bust. Use them rather than lose them.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I had fully planned my Norte to Muxia Camino with 2 other family members for mid April thru mid May. I will be canceling our tickets on Iberia airlines in a few days and expect it to be a hassle. All of my booking.com reservations should be simple to cancel. IF we are all given the OK to be able to travel by fall, I plan to re-book my exact camino plans. That is my hope at this time...but am not holding my breathe.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I would simply wait to make reservations closer to the time. Normally I book only a month or two ahead for international travel. I prefer to fly major airlines, and accept the slightly higher fare for booking at that time.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Public transport from Pau to Somport was fairly frequent back in 2016. Train to the end of the line, met by a bus that goes to Somport via Canfranc. Stunning views from Somport.

I tend to buy my flights at the last minute anyways or use ff points. But I travel solo and don’t need more than my own ticket.

good luck
 

Theresa Brandon

Artist, photographer, dreamer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Inglés (2018), Camino Ingles (from La Coruña, 2019), Camino Portugues (2020)
I had booked October flight and housing for the Portuguese before Covid became an issue. At this point I will wait and see. The housing can all be cancelled, and I will eat the airline ticket cost if it can't be refunded or changed. Ever hopeful....😊
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
I was hoping for June this year, I was planning a linked Baztan- Frances-Invierno. I am a project manager (in desperate hope that the projects I work on wont be canned due to Covid 19) and a month ago thought I had a gap in the right place. Luckily for me I hadnt booked anything, I was going to see how our projects pan out first. My plans wont come to fruition but also like many I still come daily to this forum as I feel as though this is where 'my people' are.
With Covid 19, I feel like a person strapped to the tracks as a speeding train approaches, a feeling many people share - but I feel as though I can come to this place of sanity each day. Working isolated from home, I'm glad of the company of my dogs, and that I live in an internet age.
So now my plans will push out a year, which may be a safe thing as I may need surgery on my foot. I was specifically hoping to miss next year as I like a quieter Camino - but who knows what the future holds. I still think of the Camino everyday, and quietly make my plans. Like Caleb, I get gaps between projects and like most people have no crystal ball as to what this will do to our economy.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Regardless of the situation in Spain, it's worth considering that some airlines may go belly-up, beginning with carriers like Norweigan that are on the budget end of the spectrum.
So if you book now...it's a risk.
I honestly didn't read your whole post, Dave, so you may have considered that. I hope so.
Buen camino, when it happens....
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
Please take note: This post is NOT a prediction of when COVID-19 will no longer be a communicable disease threat as a pandemic. Nor is this post providing advice as to what others may decide to do in planning THEIR Caminos. I made this post with no argument or observations as to what public health agencies or governments are saying and advising, or WILL say or advise in the future.

This post is simply one person's decision on how to proceed with planning IN CASE a pilgrimage is able to be undertaken, and if the relevant agencies and governments give a green light to proceed with travel to, and within, the EU and America.

I do hope that any conversation will avoid statements and predictions and judgement about IF my plans will come to fruition or not. Some of the WHO, CDC, Pasteur, and various other Infectious Disease agencies and health organization's models may come to pass, and I do not discount that. I am also aware that scenario modeling of this disease includes all potentials for long and shorter term impacts to the population at large.

Hence, my planning for the best scenario, and preparing for the worst scenario. . as it relates to how I am approaching Camino.

I am not arguing that these plans will be able to occur. Only that they are made in case there is normalized travel by then.

So, IF things normalize, what methods can one use to plan ahead to secure things like airline reservations? Or lodging reservations? My post below is how I am going about such things.

----------------------------------------

This fall, from late September to late October, I am planning to walk two Caminos: The Aragones first, and then the Portuguese from Porto to SdC. The Aragones I will walk with my oldest son, Caleb. The Portuguese, with my wife, Jill.

Caleb and I will finish the Aragones, and then arrive in Porto in time to meet Jill when she arrives in Porto. After two days together in Porto, Caleb will fly home, and Jill and I will start the pilgrimage north.

I have worked a career in public health and as a medical provider. I am totally cognizant of how the disease tracking and rate of disease spread is unfolding. I am up to date on the current knowledge of international travel restrictions. I say this because I am not disconnected from reality, but I am not of a mind to simply wait until the dust settles on events, before planning on a return to normal travel and function. . whenever that might be.

My planning is based on the premise that whatever is done, MUST have the ability to be canceled without incurring any penalty to finances or vacation time.

I am semi-retired and have a consulting practice. I can arrange time off and then cancel it without losing vacation time.

My wife Jill, is a Charge Nurse on a Pediatric Unit at our regional hospital. Her problem is securing time off ahead of time. But, if she decides to cancel that scheduled time-off, there is no loss of vacation time, or the inability to be placed back on the work schedule. . . the hospital fills in vacation time with temporary professionals like traveling nurses, so are only more than happy to avoid paying higher wages to a temporary worker.

Caleb is with a company that allows complete flexibility with scheduling paid time off (PTO). That flexibility is based on taking time either AFTER a project is completed, or BEFORE an assigned project with specific deadlines is assigned. Caleb was able to arrange for a late fall 14 day leave from work, but like his mom, if Camino plans are cancelled, he has no loss to accumulated PTO. He simply goes back to work as normal.

So for me to plan these two Caminos, the issue of PTO being lost due to not taking it after it is scheduled, is not an issue.

The next issue was the most problematic as one of the largest Camino-related expenses. Airline travel. How does one assure full refunds, with the least risk and hassle, if last minute cancellations are made? OR, if one wishes to change a date for travel? To me, BOTH options- either a full refund, or a non-penalty ticket change, based on what I want to do - must be available as part of the airline's ticket policy.

I did not consider travel interruption or cancellation insurance. I've gone that route before and have had to use it. I do not like either the extra cost OR the red-tape hoops I needed to jump through in order to be reimbursed. Nope.

Instead, I wanted to obtain tickets that, when purchased via a credit card, would allow me to call the airline and tell them I want to cancel my ticket, and then have that purchase price refunded to my credit account.

For that level of flexibility for reimbursement, it often requires the purchase of a 'flex-fare' ticket based on a premium economy or business class fare. That extra cost can be more than the cost of a travel interruption policy. But sometimes, it is not that great a dollar or Euro difference.

Caleb and I will be flying out of Denver, where Caleb moved to after his time as an Army Officer was completed. I will be traveling down and visiting Caleb from my home town anyway, so it made sense to simply stay and travel with Caleb.

I ended up purchasing ticket reservations for all of us with Norwegian Airlines 'Business Class'. Now, this is a 'Business Class' that is less posh than on the major airlines, but it is still far more roomy in seat size and leg space than even the best premium economy seats with those larger boys.

In fact, the primary difference in the business class comfort and 'sitability' of the seats themselves, (when comparing Norwegian and the large airlines) has to do with how far back the seats recline. They do not lie flat. For me, the reclineability of Norwegian Air seats is plenty adequate.

PLUS, all of the usual amenities for beverages (soda pop and water for me, please), and meal services that are typical for 'business class' are still there on Norwegian Air, if not as elaborate as the menu offerings in the higher priced airlines.

Cost penalty. . none. Not if I was to compare the 'Premium Flex' fare rate of Norwegian, (which includes my choice of either a FULLY refundable ticket OR changeable dates) with the Economy+ fare of the larger airlines which does not include refundable tickets. I had also considered Condor and Icelandair as well; I have flown with all three before, and all three are comfortable enough for 14 hours of airplane sitting. It just happened that Norwegian Air was the best cost/benefit choice for me.

I found these airline choices through my research of what airlines fly the routes I needed. There were other 'economy' airlines to consider as well. But airline choices are going to be different based on location.

If I lived in a location where I could NOT obtain good cost tickets, that were fully refundable by the airline, I would not have been planning a late fall Camino

Lodging. Well, lodging is all done with Booking.com or Hotel.com. In a pinch, Airbnb. IF camino walking is open late fall, I have no idea what numbers of fellow pilgrims might be on the Camino. Therefore, where bottlenecks of lodging or albergue availability may be seen, I've pre-booked ahead. All reservations can be cancelled.

Ground Transportation. Getting from Paris to Pau to Somport for the Aragones was a bit more complicated. Going from Paris to Pau was easy. But the issue of getting the 90 or so kilometers from Pau to the Somport-Candanchu area on the French side was a bit more problematic.

Right now, there are no reliable public transit schedules available this far in advance. No trains, shuttles, or buses are showing definitive times and dates for late September, and that is normal even when COVID-19 was not at issue. Schedules are often limited to 90 days in advance.

So I got a quote from a local Pau taxi company and negotiated a pretty reasonable rate for a reservation pickup at the Pau airport. . compared to normal taxi fares. I did make sure that cancellation could be made up to 24 hours in advance. I allowed the 'sharing' of the taxi with up to two more passengers as part of the deal, as long as there are no signs of coughing and sneezing or runny noses :)

So, that's it. IF Camino travel becomes tenable, everything important is in place. If Camino plans need to be cancelled, I am not out any money, and Jill and Caleb do not sacrifice vacation time that is not used.

Again, this is just what I am doing. . . primarily because I can do it. For those who are going to wait and see, what I am doing is not a challenge or a criticism to your decision. If it was risking my money to do the planning I did, I would be waiting with you.

Anyway. . how are any of you on the Forum doing with similar planning?
@davebugg thanks for your story. I too have already started planning my next Camino. I was going to do 2 Caminos over about 5 months. The first was going to be with 3 of my college buddies. All friends for 48 wonderful years (there are 9 of us total). I was going to start a second CP in Lisbon and they were going to meet me about 17 days out and then walk the coastal up to Santiago. Then at the beginning of March I was going to do the VDLP from Sevilla.
We have already started to speak about doing the VDLP with me. I have told them about the differences between what a well traveled and less traveled camino would look like.
Of course as you said this is not any prediction of what may or may not be. I am exactly as my friends are of the same minds as you. Things are so fluid we have no idea what may happen in an hour from now let alone a year from now.
One of the boys walked with me on the CP three years ago. He started in Lisbon and went home when he got to Porto. This wonderful man was attempting to begin to cope from the unbearable loss of a child. The CP was a Godsend for him. Before we left I told him that once he got to Porto he would want to walk more because he would have finally learned how to walk, finally learned what it means to listen to his body and finally have gotten into, what is for me, one of my favorite moments in life. The moment when I am walking a camino and that feeling comes over me that I have found my body, mind and spirit rhythm.
We spent almost 3 days in Porto with our new dear Camino friend from Ireland that we had met days earlier.
It was amazing to realize that two best friends who had been best friends for 6 decades had actually grown even closer. In front of a Metro stop as we were saying goodbye. He was off to the bus station to go to Lisbon and I was off to Santiago, he said that I was right and he wished he could have gone further.
The boys are going to discuss without me where they should all start. Then it is up to me to figure out when they should be there as I am going to start in Sevilla.
With next year being a holy year in this best case scenario, and we will only go when experts have a high degree of certainty that a camino is viable, I thought that VDLP would be a much better option for what we are looking for than a CP. We are all retired with varying fixed incomes. I am going to pass your advice on to the boys to give them a little more information to help plan for a Camino that will be the ultimate Camino of love and friendship. The boys who aren't going will be walking with us every step of The Way!
Once again thanks Señor Buggs!
 

AndreaCT

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2016 Camino Frances to Leon
Fall 2017 Camino Frances to Finisterre
May 2019 Portuguese
You're always such a great planner Davebugg. Often so much of the joy of a trip is the planning and the expectations. I hope to be able to say Buen Camino!
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
For my resistance to planning I am indebted to Robert Burns:

'But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [alone]
In proving foresight may be vain!
The best-laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft a-gley, [awry]
And lea'e us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy.'

(from 'To a Mouse')
 

muddy-mama

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020
A great post @davebugg. Like you I am planning for the best and preparing for the worst. I booked my flight for August as soon as they came online. Luton to Biarritz with Easyjet on the 29th August £30.99. I have booked a bed for that night in SJPP on booking.com so I can cancel if needed and Orrison on the 30th.
Best case scenario my rucksack is nearly packed 4.3kg just a few last minute bits to put in. Travel restrictions will be lifted and the Camino will be open. I will walk.
Worst case scenario I am not really prepared for. I will walk at a later date. If the flight is cancelled I should get my money back and if Spain is still in lock down I hope orrison refuge will let us postpone.
Good health to everyone on the forum and as VNwalking said Buen camino, when it happens....
 

jalluisi

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
October 2020
We have booked our flights for walking el Camino Frances in October. We used our points to fly to Madrid. We are planning on taking a train to Leon from Madrid airport (schedule not out yet). We still need to figure out how to get from Madrid airport to train station. I just finished booking are pensiones y hoteles via booking.com We are thinking positive!
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
For my resistance to planning I am indebted to Robert Burns:

'But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [alone]
In proving foresight may be vain!
The best-laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft a-gley, [awry]
And lea'e us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy.'

(from 'To a Mouse')
People plan, God laughs, and hopefully things are fully refundable :)
 

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
@davebugg ... snap 😁 I’m planning on the same but in reverse.

I had such plans for this year but as always they unravelled (time and work... not the virus) and so the plan changed again... we fixed on a trip along the Portuguese as my husband wanted to walk this route and he only has 2 weeks... so we plan to start at the end of September. After which I’m heading back to France to meet a friend and we hope to walk the aragones together.

Oh I had such plans this year... I was going to walk a week on the Frances and jump across to the Ingles and be in Santiago for my birthday... that’s sadly not going to happen. Me and husband are still hoping our 8 days on the Vadiniense and Lebaniego might just be ok? It’s mid June... I’m doubtful but still hoping... sadly all these things are slowly becoming nothing more than a wish but I’m still planning... I’m safe and happy at home and for that i am grateful... and in the meantime I plan. 😎
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
People plan, God laughs, and hopefully things are fully refundable :)
Wishing you all well with your plans, and hoping, one way or the other, that you are refunded with joy. Good will to all mice and men, trusting that Burns’s regret was premature, that ‘man’s dominion / has [not] broken nature’s social union’.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
We have booked our flights for walking el Camino Frances in October. We used our points to fly to Madrid. We are planning on taking a train to Leon from Madrid airport (schedule not out yet). We still need to figure out how to get from Madrid airport to train station. I just finished booking are pensiones y hoteles via booking.com We are thinking positive!
The train from Madrid Airport to Atocha Station is pretty easy to use and access. If time is a crunch, taxi travel is always available.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
I'm rather pessimistic. I don't have so much flexibility with vacation time. I don't think I'll be planning any international travel for the next 18 months. But, since you do, here's one thought about your travel planning -

With regard to airline bookings, the risk of making flexible reservations in advance is that you may lose your money if the airline goes bankrupt. Since these are extraordinary times, I recommend that you make sure that you're covered by a good insurance policy before parting with your money:

Alternatively, if you have airline miles, this is a great time to use them, because most loyalty programs allow for changes and cancellations (subject to fairly reasonable fees), and also because those miles will be lost if the airline goes bust. Use them rather than lose them.
That is a good point, and I do use a credit card which covers these kinds of contingencies. What will be interesting to see, is if business support from governments to help industries cope with COVID-19 will include the travel industry, specifically cruise lines and airlines.

I suspect that most airlines will be supported, as long as their fiscal situation was not at-risk prior to COVID-19, and if they have done as much to contain any fiscal damage as possible, like reducing the numbers of flights to match market conditions.
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
@davebugg All very well thought out. That said, given the exponential nature of this disaster combined with the slow decision making of democratic societies and the early spot where we sit in the timeline, I have been forcing my mind into a 'wait and see'.
Seems draconian measures in China took about 90 days to fruition and I see the nearby Seattle infestation as day Zero on 5 March (very arbitrary but when spreading outside the LT care facility), so I am going to assess my 'fall' plans in late May/early June.
I spent many work years worrying about 'confidence interval' on project plans, all of which had more reliable data and forecasting than this damn plague.
Not enough information for planning!!! And I am loathe to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

PS: welcome back missed your insightful posts!
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
@davebugg All very well thought out. That said, given the exponential nature of this disaster combined with the slow decision making of democratic societies and the early spot where we sit in the timeline, I have been forcing my mind into a 'wait and see'.
Seems draconian measures in China took about 90 days to fruition and I see the nearby Seattle infestation as day Zero on 5 March (very arbitrary but when spreading outside the LT care facility), so I am going to assess my 'fall' plans in late May/early June.
I spent many work years worrying about 'confidence interval' on project plans, all of which had more reliable data and forecasting than this damn plague.
Not enough information for planning!!! And I am loathe to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

PS: welcome back missed your insightful posts!
Great thoughts. . . Nothing wrong with observing a more conservative approach. I would do exactly like you if I did not have the ability to cancel without much of a financial penalty. . . it IS too uncertain to make a definitive call to concretely follow a single course of action with regard to optional travels.

I have a trip-wire deadline set, whereby if COVID-19 issues have not settled, and travel is not without restrictions, that my plans will be cancelled. Like you, I am not going to expect anything, just have contingencies in place for reaction to events as they become evident.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF September (2019) SJPP to Logrono
CF May/June (2020) Logrono to ? (Delayed)
Good idea!

In my head I believe its not going to be this year that I finish my CF.

I'm already reconciled I'll not be going out in May/June as planned but as I'll be retired by then (and live in Europe) I can allow my timescale to slide.

I'm already looking at September and I have the luxury of being able to make my bookings at very short notice. If nothing else it keeps my imagination full of "what if?" (either way)
 

Damico Walking

Ready, and waiting, to walk
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese coastal route May 2020 (not to be)
Portuguese coastal route TBD post COVID-19
Please take note: This post is NOT a prediction of when COVID-19 will no longer be a communicable disease threat as a pandemic. Nor is this post providing advice as to what others may decide to do in planning THEIR Caminos. I made this post with no argument or observations as to what public health agencies or governments are saying and advising, or WILL say or advise in the future.

This post is simply one person's decision on how to proceed with planning IN CASE a pilgrimage is able to be undertaken, and if the relevant agencies and governments give a green light to proceed with travel to, and within, the EU and America.

I do hope that any conversation will avoid statements and predictions and judgement about IF my plans will come to fruition or not. Some of the WHO, CDC, Pasteur, and various other Infectious Disease agencies and health organization's models may come to pass, and I do not discount that. I am also aware that scenario modeling of this disease includes all potentials for long and shorter term impacts to the population at large.

Hence, my planning for the best scenario, and preparing for the worst scenario. . as it relates to how I am approaching Camino.

I am not arguing that these plans will be able to occur. Only that they are made in case there is normalized travel by then.

So, IF things normalize, what methods can one use to plan ahead to secure things like airline reservations? Or lodging reservations? My post below is how I am going about such things.

----------------------------------------

This fall, from late September to late October, I am planning to walk two Caminos: The Aragones first, and then the Portuguese from Porto to SdC. The Aragones I will walk with my oldest son, Caleb. The Portuguese, with my wife, Jill.

Caleb and I will finish the Aragones, and then arrive in Porto in time to meet Jill when she arrives in Porto. After two days together in Porto, Caleb will fly home, and Jill and I will start the pilgrimage north.

I have worked a career in public health and as a medical provider. I am totally cognizant of how the disease tracking and rate of disease spread is unfolding. I am up to date on the current knowledge of international travel restrictions. I say this because I am not disconnected from reality, but I am not of a mind to simply wait until the dust settles on events, before planning on a return to normal travel and function. . whenever that might be.

My planning is based on the premise that whatever is done, MUST have the ability to be canceled without incurring any penalty to finances or vacation time.

I am semi-retired and have a consulting practice. I can arrange time off and then cancel it without losing vacation time.

My wife Jill, is a Charge Nurse on a Pediatric Unit at our regional hospital. Her problem is securing time off ahead of time. But, if she decides to cancel that scheduled time-off, there is no loss of vacation time, or the inability to be placed back on the work schedule. . . the hospital fills in vacation time with temporary professionals like traveling nurses, so are only more than happy to avoid paying higher wages to a temporary worker.

Caleb is with a company that allows complete flexibility with scheduling paid time off (PTO). That flexibility is based on taking time either AFTER a project is completed, or BEFORE an assigned project with specific deadlines is assigned. Caleb was able to arrange for a late fall 14 day leave from work, but like his mom, if Camino plans are cancelled, he has no loss to accumulated PTO. He simply goes back to work as normal.

So for me to plan these two Caminos, the issue of PTO being lost due to not taking it after it is scheduled, is not an issue.

The next issue was the most problematic as one of the largest Camino-related expenses. Airline travel. How does one assure full refunds, with the least risk and hassle, if last minute cancellations are made? OR, if one wishes to change a date for travel? To me, BOTH options- either a full refund, or a non-penalty ticket change, based on what I want to do - must be available as part of the airline's ticket policy.

I did not consider travel interruption or cancellation insurance. I've gone that route before and have had to use it. I do not like either the extra cost OR the red-tape hoops I needed to jump through in order to be reimbursed. Nope.

Instead, I wanted to obtain tickets that, when purchased via a credit card, would allow me to call the airline and tell them I want to cancel my ticket, and then have that purchase price refunded to my credit account.

For that level of flexibility for reimbursement, it often requires the purchase of a 'flex-fare' ticket based on a premium economy or business class fare. That extra cost can be more than the cost of a travel interruption policy. But sometimes, it is not that great a dollar or Euro difference.

Caleb and I will be flying out of Denver, where Caleb moved to after his time as an Army Officer was completed. I will be traveling down and visiting Caleb from my home town anyway, so it made sense to simply stay and travel with Caleb.

I ended up purchasing ticket reservations for all of us with Norwegian Airlines 'Business Class'. Now, this is a 'Business Class' that is less posh than on the major airlines, but it is still far more roomy in seat size and leg space than even the best premium economy seats with those larger boys.

In fact, the primary difference in the business class comfort and 'sitability' of the seats themselves, (when comparing Norwegian and the large airlines) has to do with how far back the seats recline. They do not lie flat. For me, the reclineability of Norwegian Air seats is plenty adequate.

PLUS, all of the usual amenities for beverages (soda pop and water for me, please), and meal services that are typical for 'business class' are still there on Norwegian Air, if not as elaborate as the menu offerings in the higher priced airlines.

Cost penalty. . none. Not if I was to compare the 'Premium Flex' fare rate of Norwegian, (which includes my choice of either a FULLY refundable ticket OR changeable dates) with the Economy+ fare of the larger airlines which does not include refundable tickets. I had also considered Condor and Icelandair as well; I have flown with all three before, and all three are comfortable enough for 14 hours of airplane sitting. It just happened that Norwegian Air was the best cost/benefit choice for me.

I found these airline choices through my research of what airlines fly the routes I needed. There were other 'economy' airlines to consider as well. But airline choices are going to be different based on location.

If I lived in a location where I could NOT obtain good cost tickets, that were fully refundable by the airline, I would not have been planning a late fall Camino

Lodging. Well, lodging is all done with Booking.com or Hotel.com. In a pinch, Airbnb. IF camino walking is open late fall, I have no idea what numbers of fellow pilgrims might be on the Camino. Therefore, where bottlenecks of lodging or albergue availability may be seen, I've pre-booked ahead. All reservations can be cancelled.

Ground Transportation. Getting from Paris to Pau to Somport for the Aragones was a bit more complicated. Going from Paris to Pau was easy. But the issue of getting the 90 or so kilometers from Pau to the Somport-Candanchu area on the French side was a bit more problematic.

Right now, there are no reliable public transit schedules available this far in advance. No trains, shuttles, or buses are showing definitive times and dates for late September, and that is normal even when COVID-19 was not at issue. Schedules are often limited to 90 days in advance.

So I got a quote from a local Pau taxi company and negotiated a pretty reasonable rate for a reservation pickup at the Pau airport. . compared to normal taxi fares. I did make sure that cancellation could be made up to 24 hours in advance. I allowed the 'sharing' of the taxi with up to two more passengers as part of the deal, as long as there are no signs of coughing and sneezing or runny noses :)

So, that's it. IF Camino travel becomes tenable, everything important is in place. If Camino plans need to be cancelled, I am not out any money, and Jill and Caleb do not sacrifice vacation time that is not used.

Again, this is just what I am doing. . . primarily because I can do it. For those who are going to wait and see, what I am doing is not a challenge or a criticism to your decision. If it was risking my money to do the planning I did, I would be waiting with you.

Anyway. . how are any of you on the Forum doing with similar planning?
First I thank you for such a detailed post and will definitely take some of what you have done into consideration as I move forward.

I am still in a holding pattern for my wife and I. Our plan was to start the CP from Porto in mid/late May this year. I would be happy to delay to September but am a little hesitant to pull that ripcord and reschedule all the transportation until I have a better idea (read crystal ball) whether the Portuguese and Spanish governments will "open" access to the camino and camino services by then. My hope would be for early September if possible since one major consideration for us is weather. I am still about 6 weeks away from needing to reschedule my air transportation so things will probably change considerably by then.

The good is we are retired and can go at almost any time for almost any length. The bad is my wife is not a cool/cold weather fan so I wouldn't want for her to be miserable if the temperature is not warm enough for her during the entire camino.

If things work out, and God smiles on us, there is a chance we may cross paths on the CP later this year.
 

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