We were on a skiing vacation the week before the Coronavirus popped, and this is the story of getting home to deal with it here.
With the closure of America to foreigners on Wednesday (Thursday morning for us), things began to change rapidly. We spent Friday finalizing travel plans (not skiing), and took our ski bus - a 10 minute shuttle - to St Anton to collect our skis and boots.
(The image below on the right is from a guide friends and I have used in that region in the past:)
The 3:00, 3:15, and 3:30 shuttles back to Pettneu (the village we were staying in) didn’t arrive on time; something was different. (When things work, the Arlberg / Tirol shuttle services are predictable and efficient.) Among the growing bus crowd, we spoke with a Dutch family from our hotel who had just learned the border between Arlberg and Tirol - between St Anton and Pettneu - was being controlled by police. We could all be stuck 5 miles from our hotel! This was getting real. (Good thing we were not skiing).
Finally a different bus headed to Pettneu arrived and we pushed our way on. Jammed with people. The ten minute ride took about a half hour, passing through the police security control, weirdly, as they interrogated cars trying to leave the area, but let our local bus pass.
Once at the hotel, I went to an ATM for cash and a nearby market for non-perishable food. On returning to the hotel, Peter came out with his luggage: the St Anton area was imposing a quarantine; a taxi would arrive in five minutes. Pack and checkout now.
Our hotel owner advised going 20 miles east to Landech, a stop before St Anton, to catch the train to Zurich immediately, as the Swiss border would close at midnight. In Landech we learned, at the ticket machine, that the Swiss had already shut the border, so we pivoted further east to Innsbrueck, the capital of the Tirol region (where we were), which had an airport; the train would leave in five minutes.
On the train we learned that flights out of Innsbrueck would take over 24 hours to get home, so we chose to head immediately to Munich (Germany), as the Austrian - German border had not yet closed, and a train left in less than a half hour. On the train we discovered that United had a flight to Boston leaving at 9:50 the next morning so we had a solid solution.
After another train change - and by the way, while humping ski equipment along with vacation winter clothes, in a pandemic panic - we arrived at Munich airport at about 10PM. Multiple efforts to secure seats online for the United flight to Boston failed (at United’s end), and the Lufthansa counter (all others were closed) told us to arrive early in the morning when the United desk opened.
After a fitful sleep at the airport hotel, we learned - at the same Lufthansa desk as the night before - there was no United desk - that the United flight was full. Our only option was to get to Lisbon, where we had a flight (the original Zurich connection) scheduled for Sunday morning.
We are now through security in Munich, with an airbnb apartment waiting for us in Lisbon. If flights still leave Lisbon to Boston - our original final leg, we will be home as scheduled. But stay tuned. (EDIT - beautiful afternoon / evening in Lisbon, home as originally scheduled)
Take-aways: when rules change without notice, people panic. When liberties are restricted without notice, people react. Large airports provide better options. Some decisions need to be made with partial information, or questionable information; as always, good reliable information is king. Two canisters of disinfectant wipes were adequate for wiping down every new surface: baggage carts, airport, train, taxi and bus seats, luggage, regularly...
Also, when traveling, always check for wallet, passport and phone before moving from anywhere. The rest is replaceable.
Last thing: for extra spice, do all this during a worldwide pandemic.
Final EDIT: We are home. 14 day (minimum) self-quarantine, working from home, physical office closed to public, we've gone virtual.