Students and chaperones return from France after travel ban forces them to cut the trip short

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) When Dianna Lindhag and her 16-year-old daughter Kaylee started saving for their European trip two years ago, they never thought it would be cut short by a worldwide pandemic.

The mother and daughter duo had started outlining their tour of Paris, Normandy and London along with 26 other classmates and chaperones through North Pole High School’s International Club.

Several weeks before traveling, Dianna was having second thoughts.
“The closer it got to this trip I started wondering, Is this a responsible thing to do?” Dianna asked herself.

Dianna contacted the school district to find out if they were canceling any international trips. “They (the school district) said they were not, they were just going to follow what the state recommended.” Dianna said.

After a discussion with her daughter, and hearing several tourist attractions in Paris were closed down, Dianna attempted to cancel their trip. She contacted EF Educational Tours. “I said 'ok, I want to bow out of this trip,'' and they said 'you won’t be refunded any money.'”

Dianna said the whole group needed to cancel for her to receive back the $9,000 she had invested in the trip.

Dianna spoke with family living in Europe and learned many places were still business as usual, then spoke with the tour company who promised to take care of any extra expenses due to the coronavirus. So, the Lindhags decided to go, looking at this experience as an adventure.

“I prepared for the worst. I told my daughter, I said 'let's pack as if we are going to be quarantined'. So we took some books, coloring books, cards, extra activities, and we packed are bags full of hand sanitizer and wipes for the plane.” Dianna said.

The Lindhags, along with 24 others boarded a plane and headed for Europe.

The first day the group landed in Paris, and they explored the city. “The locals seemed very calm,” Dianna said. “It was nice, the city was relatively quiet and calm.” The tour group traveled to the Eiffel tower and the Louvre museum with only minutes wait for each attraction.

A few days later the group got the news about the European Travel Ban. “Because of the time difference our phones started blowing up at 2 a.m.,” Dianna said. “I think I had 48 messages and one of them was from my husband!”

The group packed their bags, and by the next morning the tour company had them all on flights home. “We were told we would have health screenings,” Dianna said. “We went through customs and the extent of the screening was, ‘Where are you coming from?’ and we told them 'Paris'. The second question was, ‘Have you been to China?’ and we said 'no' and they said ‘Ok proceed.'”

Dianna said even with their trip cut short, she still wouldn’t have done things differently. She is grateful for the experience she did get, being able to see the city without the normal crowds and hours of waiting in line. "The overall feeling in Europe, even though they were hit harder, was one of just common sense and to take the necessary precautions. They weren’t emptying shelves out of the supermarket. There was no toilet paper hoarding. It’s interesting to see how they were dealing with it, versus when I came back and I felt this mass hysteria.” Dianna said. “Even in the Seattle Airport, I could feel the difference in how they were reacting and how we were reacting.”

Dianna’s employer has a mandatory 14 day quarantine for anyone traveling from level three areas, which she knew could happen before her trip.

And what is Dianna going to do with all her downtime? “I’ll have a couple of weeks of guilt free painting. I’m pretty excited about it.” She said.

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