The best of times and worst of times for deal-seeking travellers

For a budget traveller, it was the best of times and the worst of times.

For one frantic week, while the world woke up to the spread of the coronavirus at home and began swiftly shutting down schools, sports competitions and festivals, travel deals flooded my inbox.

A week in the Azores islands for $1200, including airfare from Boston.

The two trendy Arlo Hotels in Manhattan, New York, at 50% off, starting at $150 a night.

A two-week G Adventures safari for less than $2000 in South Africa and Namibia, which I could reach on Qatar Airways from $1100 round trip.

But almost as soon as these offers emerged, the reality of taking advantage of them began to evaporate. European travel was effectively suspended. Israel instituted a mandatory two-week quarantine for visitors. Argentina, among other countries, closed its borders. Viking and Princess cruises stopped sailing until May; others postponed departures. Disneyland closed, and Disney World soon followed suit.

Events I was traveling for in March and April — my son’s baseball tournament in Florida, my friend’s Broadway opening in New York City and a conference in Switzerland — were canceled or postponed. I did my own cancelling of flights, hotels, Airbnbs, rental cars and restaurant reservations.

As friends gathered at a brewery and stood drinking several feet apart, many declared they would continue with upcoming spring breaks. But I began to wonder if travel was ethical any longer. Would I — as a healthy person under 60 with no underlying health conditions — do harm by traveling?

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A life in Travel: Kiwi actor and director JJ Fong, creator of TVNZ OnDemand’s MEME

JJ Fong is the creator of MEME, TVNZ OnDemand from March 27

What are your strongest memories from your first overseas trip?

Fiji when I was 9 or 10. I remember getting my hair braided with my cousin, and the kids club was the absolute best. I remember being really enamoured with the club organiser, a jovial Fijian man, who always told jokes and sang songs. We participated in fun activities such as egg-and-spoon races, painting classes, and swimming competitions. Time of my life.

What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?

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