What you need to know before traveling during the pandemic

Keep safe and sane on the road without endangering your health - or others.

Life + Leisure Travel and Getaways Simon Elstad

This article was published on August 2nd, 2020

While most restrictions and health guidelines remain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is opening up for local and domestic travel. If you had 2020 travel plans, health experts stress that you should remain extra careful if you decide to go out and about – a pandemic is no time to put your guard down.

Keep in mind that the people you meet on the road, take the plane with, share space in a restaurant, or encounter hiking trails might infect, or expose you to the virus.

However, there are certain precautions you can take – items to check off your list, guidelines when visiting certain places, etc., to protect yourself.

Below you’ll find the best coronavirus travel advice to help you as you plan your trip.

Best practices for travelers during the pandemic

Is it necessary?

Must you travel right now or can it wait? There is no time like the present, but weighing the risks can put your travel plans in perspective.

  • Is there COVID-19 where you’re going?
  • Are you or your travel partners at a higher risk of contracting the virus? People with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension and diabetes that puts them at higher risk of fatality from COVID-19 should limit travel.
  • Do you with someone at a higher risk of getting critically ill from COVID-19?
  • Does your destination state or local government require 14-day isolation for all travelers, and how does that affect your plans?
  • Will you miss work or school if you get sick?

Honest answers to these questions help you evaluate your travel plans.

If you decide it’s still worth it, the following should be part of your travel logistics plan.

The basics

Your safety is your responsibility when on the road. As such, remember to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching commonly handled surfaces such as railings, doorknobs, etc
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60%) if soap and water are not available. Rub the sanitizer on all parts of your hands until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Keep a safe distance of about 6 feet (2 meters from others
  • Always wear a cloth face mask in public
  • Cough into your elbow or cover coughs and sneezes with tissue paper and dispose of it properly
  • Pick up food through minimal contact avenues such as curbside restaurant services, drive-throughs, stores, etc.

Also, keep these coronavirus travel advice while checking items off your travel list:

  • Carry extra cloth face coverings to wear in public places.
  • Pack enough alcohol-based sanitizer and keep it in an easily accessible place.
  • Carry enough of your medication to last you through the trip and account for emergencies
  • Take extra precautions when staying overnight at hotels and lodgings—Research the hotel’s policy around COVID-19 before booking.
  • If you decide to clean and disinfect your travel lodgings, follow this CDC guide on how to clean and disinfect.

State and local travel restrictions

Even before you embark on your trip, thoroughly read through any travel guidelines and restrictions on your destination. Keep in mind that these guidelines often change, so plan around that. It’d be unfortunate to arrive at your dream vacation destination only to realize you can’t even step on the beach!

Plan to keep checking these guidelines, such as the CDC travel advisories.

Air Travel

While most germs and viruses do not spread on flights because of how planes filter and distribute air, you still have other avenues of exposure.

From security lines to airport terminals, you are constantly amidst people who can infect you.

To protect yourself, always keep a safe distance from other passengers and wear your face cloth. Sanitize your hands regularly, too, such as before and after screenings.

The TSA has recently made changes to the screening process due to the pandemic.

  • Travelers must always wear masks during the screening.
  • You can only have one hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces (about 350ml) in a carry-on bag. The container must be taken out for screening.

Car travel

If your trip is ground-based, for example, a road trip, you have better control over your environment, but must still take precautions on the road.

  • Make as few stops as possible, but don’t drive if you feel drowsy.
  • Pack enough facemasks and hand-sanitizer for the trip
  • Carry enough food and water, including non-perishables, in case you can’t access restaurants and stores.
  • Bring cleaning supplies and disinfectants if you plan on staying in a hotel or lodging.
  • Opt for drive-through food services if you must pick a meal on the road
  • Minimize using public restrooms, and if you must, choose well-ventilated places, and thoroughly wash your hands after.
  • Use disinfectant wipes when refueling at gas stations etc.

Hotels and lodgings

Most hotels have taken steps to protect guests from contracting the virus at their premises. They enforce social distancing and require staff and guests to wear masks. Additionally, they fumigate rooms and allow at least 24 hours before putting guests in previously vacated rooms.

Despite these precautions, you can take it a notch higher to protect yourself.

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, faucets, etc. when you arrive.

Maintain your safe distance from staff and other hotel guests

Safety first

Traveling during the pandemic is different. Your health and safety must come first, and the coronavirus travel advice and checklists above will guide you as you plan.

However, if you fall sick before planned travel, stay home, and get medical care.

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