On Saturday at 9.25pm, I leave Australian soil (or at least its asphalt) for Britain. On the evening of December 14, the wheels touch down and I am back home.
But it's not an easy trip. Even though international travel is back, there are hoops to jump through before I sit in front of the plastic tray with the soggy pasta.
If you, too, are thinking of foreign lands, there are strict conditions which demand paperwork completed and uploaded quite a short time before departure. There's many a possible slip between buying the ticket and boarding the plane.
Firstly, you need to be double vaccinated at least seven days before departure. You have to have proof of it, ready to upload to the airline website but not until three days before take-off. The Commonwealth government makes that a condition of departure and the destination government will invariably do the same.
The government does not make a negative COVID test a condition for departure - after all, if you are infected, you are leaving Australia with the virus.
But the government of your arrival country will demand proof that you are not infected. In the case of Britain (and probably most, if not all, countries), the negative test result needs to be uploaded or presented at check-in before you leave Australia. No negative result, no boarding.
The test cannot be the fast one. It has to be the PCR test, and it has to be done within 72 hours of your departure. If you are transiting, for example in Doha or Abu Dhabi on the way to London, the UK government demands that the test must be done 72 hours before that final departure from the transit airport.
Which can make the timing tight - you need to be tested and get the negative result within those three days before the mid-flight transit departure.
On top of that, the testing has to be done through a private company, and at a charge of $150. Your local testing centre won't do because the proof has to have your name on it and your passport number. A simple text message won't suffice.
You will also need to conform to the rules set by the government in your destination.
In the UK, that means filling out a "passenger locator" form, and you must do it before departure from Australia. This form will want an address where you are staying and the order number for a rapid test which you need to have pre-booked for two days after arrival. You will need to have bought the British test before leaving Australia and have it sent to the hotel or home where you are staying.
The "passenger locator" form can't be completed until 48 hours before departure.
Assuming you get the paperwork done and in the hands of the authorities before check-in at the Australian end, you have to be careful when you are abroad. If you catch COVID on the trip, you will have to go into quarantine when you return, and at your own expense.
You will need the PCR test in London or wherever you go, with the negative result on a form from the clinic, naming you and stipulating your passport number.
And you will need to conform to the conditions set by the state or territory where you live.
Landing in Sydney and living in NSW or the ACT may be one thing but transiting through to Queensland quite another. The Queensland government says: "If you are coming to Queensland direct from overseas, you will need to complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at a government nominated hotel at your own expense."
Given all that faff and uncertainty with tight deadlines as departure times get closer, you may wonder whether it's worth it.
If you haven't seen your family for more than 18 months, I think it is.
I last saw my partner on March 16, 2020, saying, "See you in June" - last year. There is a strain to being separated from those we love. It's a strain which creeps up and puts pressure on us mentally.
So the paperwork and the angst are worth it. Don't even think of the disappointment if the form-filling fails.
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