Traveling can be stressful even in the best of times.
But, obviously, because of the pandemic, simply dealing with the normal stresses of traveling would be a welcome change to the stress of COVID-19.
Especially if your travel-starved.
With so many people having been stuck at home for most of 2020 and 2021, the urge to travel is only natural.
And with the holidays coming up, you might even be thinking about traveling for the first time this year.
And you may even hear about people going on safe-cations these days, so the temptation is definitely there.
But, if you can ride it out (no pun intended), not traveling is the safest route.
The safest way to travel is to stay home
Of course, the only surefire way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home.
Particularly if you’re older.
The older you are, the greater your risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Without a vaccine, the older population is especially at risk, and the CDC still recommends people should not travel unless fully vaccinated and/or unless it’s essential.
It’s also worth noting that the CDC recently advised to postpone your travel if you are sick with a fever, cough or other COVID-19 symptoms and to instead, stay home and isolate.
If you must travel, confirm that it’s truly safe and necessary. For instance, consider going for a solo trip or a road trip to minimize contact with other people. But, if essential travel plans are in your future, keep reading for some tips on what you can do to keep safe.
For essential travel, confirm that it’s worth it
Before you travel, check to see if your destination has any restrictions or any quarantine requirements.
Then ask yourself:
- Is your current locale experiencing an outbreak? or
- Is the place you are traveling to in the middle of a flare-up?
If the answer is yes to either question, and your destination is having a peaking number of COVID-19 cases, consider postponing or canceling your travel plans. The unnecessary risk is probably not worth it.
Also, if you’re coming from a place with an outbreak, some states are requiring a mandatory 14-day quarantine, enforceable through fines, so it may not even be worth landing in your destination unless your travel plans are for 14 days or more.
Luckily, though, if you do have to cancel your flight, many airlines are offering free changes and refunds to tickets if your cancellation is COVID-related.
If essential travel is worth the risk, take flight precautions
Before booking travel, find out what your chosen airline’s updated COVID-19 policy is.
It’s also worth scoping your airline’s cancellation policy in case an emergency, illness, or need to cancel, comes up.
If you are flying:
- Before heading to the airport, confirm your flight is still scheduled. Check to see if the airline has changed or canceled your flight.
- Bring PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) with you everywhere you travel. (I.e., Wear a mask that’s comfortable for the duration of the flight, so you don’t have to take it off or fidget with it. If you can, wear an N95 or KN95 mask for maximum protection.)
- Avoid crowding the aisles during take-off and landing.
- Once you’re on the plane, wipe the seat, window, armrests, and any other high-touch area down with alcohol wipes. Although airlines have increased their cleaning standards, many airlines are encouraging customers to be proactive as well.
- If someone nearby is coughing or appears sick, exit the plane immediately.
- Keep the middle seat clear unless you are sitting with immediate family.
- Avoid usual airplane small talk if possible. (This is a tough one if you love meeting new people on planes, but, again, it’s not worth the risk.)
Although this sounds extreme, it’s comforting to know that airplanes filter the air with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters constantly.
And, as of yet, there have been no super-spreading events due to air travel.
Even still, double-check any traveler safety guidelines.
Once you land in your destination city, the precautions don’t stop there.
Then, take hotel precautions
If you’re planning to stay at a hotel, follow these precautions:
- Many hotels are operating a reduced capacity, so be sure to book your hotel room as far in advance as possible. Don’t count on simply walking up to the hotel counter the day-of because max capacity is smaller these days.
- Ask the hotel what precautions they are taking to fight the spread of COVID-19. It’s worth making a booking decision based on which hotel seems to be taking the most precautions. Most major hotel companies have declared that they are following strict cleaning guidelines, either with new technologies or with hospital-grade disinfectants.
- Wear a mask anytime you are not in your room and, if possible, try to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Since the elevator is a confined space, the air is not circulating.
- Plan ahead if you want to use the hotel’s amenities. Most hotels have opened pools and gyms, but are requiring guests to book appointments.
- If the hotel restaurant is indoors, try to avoid sitting too close to another table. Social distancing indoors is a must.
Here’s a recent chart on the precautions hotels are taking in response to the current pandemic state. Precautionary hotel responses include social distancing, health checks, required masks, contactless check-in, and enhanced cleaning.
Beyond your hotel, there are a few more safety precautions to consider.
And take these general travel precautions, too
It’s wise to check the CDC website for travel health notices before any traveling, so you can avoid any areas experiencing a Level 3 travel health notice.
Unfortunately, most of the globe is at a Level 3 risk as of this writing, marked in orange on the world map:
And according to the CDC, the following activities are considered high-risk and should be avoided to reduce your exposure to COVID-19:
- Avoid large gatherings, like family reunions, funerals, weddings, and any other crowded event.
- Avoid crowds in general and try to minimize your time out in public (i.e. train stations, bus stations, restaurants, and even airports).
- Do not travel on cruise ships.
Here’s to safe (essential) travels
Following these outlined travel tips, of course, doesn’t guarantee anything.
Again, the only reliable way to avoid COVID-19 is to stay at home and physically steer clear of people beyond your safeguarded household.
If you’re traveling locally to any holiday events, try to get tested (and encourage testing).
With more testing options becoming available, hopefully, family members can get tested before planning any holiday parties or dinners, so the celebrations can be held without worrying about spreading the virus.
All in all, if travel is an absolute and worthwhile must, take all possible precautions and try to have a safe and enjoyable trip.