Kaylin Portillo Chavez and her boyfriend, Cameron Ervin, started planning in June of 2019 for the occasion that would follow a year later: their college graduations and five-year anniversary.
The California couple put aside $30 a month and any extra cash from birthdays and Christmas to spend on a week-long vacation in Mexico, where they planned to relax and celebrate before both started law school. Instead, the coronavirus forced them to cancel their June plans and keep the celebration extremely local in Sanger, Calif.
“I bought some steaks from Costco, he cooked them up, and we talked about the last five years of our lives and what we thought the next five years would look like,” says Portillo Chavez, 22. “It was the best thing that we could have done given the circumstances.”
All over the world, the long-awaited trips of 2020 fell to the wayside as the pandemic grounded planes, closed borders and canceled cruises. Some of those marked a milestone that will never come again: the 50th anniversary. The bar mitzvah. The 40th birthday. The college graduation.
And while thwarted travelers who spoke to The Washington Post recognized the far greater toll of the pandemic on people’s lives, health and livelihoods, many still felt a twinge of sadness over long-awaited plans that fizzled and special occasions spent at home.
Travel agent Lynda Turley said her clients had trips in 2020 that ranged from a grandson’s fifth birthday trip to Disney to 80th birthday celebrations with extended families and 50th wedding anniversaries. There were Alaska cruise celebrations, European river cruises, South Africa trips and Switzerland getaways.
“It was a big year for celebrations,” she said.
Most of her customers have rescheduled for 2021 and 2022, regardless of what birthday or anniversary they’re marking by then.
“It’s just a matter of making memories, whether you’re 80 or 81,” Turley said.
The Carroll family is hoping that holds true. Family of Tim and Marie Carroll had rented a beach house in Florida to mark the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary, which was in April — a time when most of the country was still locked down.
“That was what my mom wanted, for their 50th wedding anniversary to have the whole family together and all the grandkids and be at the beach,” said their son Josh Carroll, a software developer from Knoxville, Tenn.
When it became clear that couldn’t happen, they rescheduled for 2021.
“The plan — at least, fingers crossed — is still to try to do it this year come April, May, that time frame,” Carroll said. “We’ll just have to see.”
Several people who spoke to The Post said they were waiting to reschedule — possibly for years.
Cleveland and Satyra Riggins of Charlotte, canceled their 20th anniversary trip to St. Lucia but celebrated this week at her parents’ house with a photo shoot in shirts that bore their wedding date and a seafood feast made by an aunt.
“It was spent with family, which is most important especially in this challenging year,” Satyra Riggins, a litigation paralegal, said in an email.
She said that because a big family vacation to Japan is planned in 2022, she and her husband, a security system technician, will likely wait until 2025 for an anniversary trip.
Shailushi and Justin Ritchie had their 15th wedding anniversary in August of 2019, but planned a trip to celebrate for January of 2020 because of school and work schedules. That got bumped to March of 2020 because of unexpected health issues, and then canceled due to covid.
“It was just going to be about the two of us finally, after 15 years of raising kids and building a life, it was going to be like ‘We made it 25 years, we’re still together, we still like each other,’ ” said Shailushi Ritchie, 44, of Oak Park, Ill.
Now, she says she’s not sure when they’ll go — maybe for their 20-year anniversary.
“At this rate, we could just wait for another three years and it’ll be fine,” she said.
Miami-area travel agent Enrique Brener said some of his clients kept their milestone trips, adjusting to stay closer to home or visit a place that’s still open to visitors such as Mexico.
Others, he said, were in the midst of planning a 20th anniversary trip to Greece in February when they decided to wait and see what happened with the coronavirus.
“Here we are, still waiting,” he said.
Laetitia-Laure Brock, who lives in D.C., had long planned to run the Paris Marathon for her 40th birthday in April of 2020. She was on a training run in late February when she got word that large gatherings were banned. Her Instagram caption from a photo that day read: “realizing the marathon you’re training for is not going to happen in the middle of an already miserable 18 miles run is not super motivating.”
Brock had turned 40 in January and spent it running a half-marathon in Charleston. But the big celebration was meant to be in Paris, where she’s from, with family and her best friend. She said she’s not planning to reschedule the run, instead hoping to do something for her friend’s milestone birthday in 2021.
“We’ll do what she wants to do for her 40th birthday,” Brock said.
Shannon Copeland said she canceled her 25th anniversary trip in September to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada with a mix of sadness and anger. She had hotels, flights, a car rental and excursions all booked.
“I had planned it out for a year and wanted to make it really special,” said Copeland, 47, of Fort Worth.
Unable to get away, she turned to social media to ask for help for a gift for her husband that would approximate travel: proclamations of her love in different cities around the country and world. She put together a photo album with almost 50 pictures of a heart with the message “Shannon’s love for Eric is so big it’s reached [fill in the blank with a city].”
They celebrated at home with grilled salmon and Guinness, and Copeland gave her husband the photo album.
“He thought it was really beautiful,” she said.
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