Preparing for a trip has always been a bit stressful. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and it’s no surprise travelers have mixed feelings about getting back out into the world. To help ease your stress, check out the following tips for safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of the world spent the better part of 2020 sheltering-in-place and fulfilling our social and moral obligation to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting with stay-at-home orders in March of 2020, we spent the next nine months nearly captive inside our home. We rarely ventured out, except for walks, to visit (socially-distanced) a handful of friends and family, and for necessities, like groceries, doctor appointments, and the like.
As we concluded a year of increased isolation, I was going stir crazy. I became progressively more worried about the surge of COVID-19 in our community, and how I would mentally survive a cold, dark winter locked inside.
I knew we had to get out. We had to do something. As we weighed the pros and cons of traveling during an international pandemic, I created a game-plan on how to do so safely. Over the past year, we have learned and adopted many simple, yet life-saving tools. The same tools I use when going to the grocery store, doctor appointments, and other outings (masks, distancing, sanitizing), I could surely use to travel safely, right?
Whether you plan to travel for pleasure, business, to visit your family, or the multitude of other reasons people around the world are taking to the skies again, it’s important that we travel responsibly, take precautions, and not let our guard down – to keep ourselves, our fellow travelers, and our communities safe.
Read on for 21 tips to help you travel safe during the pandemic.
Before your flight
1. Do your research
Does your destination require a negative COVID-19 test to enter? What airlines have the strictest distancing protocols? How is your choice of accommodation keeping its guests safe? What will you do if you contract COVID-19 while on your trip? What does your travel insurance cover? Where will you get a test if you develop symptoms?
2. Review your travel insurance policy
What does your policy cover? What doesn’t it cover? Do you need a supplemental policy?
3. Arrange a test prior to departure
Even if your destination does not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test, it’s the right thing to do. PCR tests are most accurate, but if you’re in a time crunch, find a local office that can administer a rapid test. If nothing else, this gives you piece of mind that you are not unknowingly carrying the virus to another location.
4. Reserve plenty of luggage space for PPE
Make sure you pack enough face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and anything else that is in your daily protection toolkit. While your destination will likely have these items as well, you never know when there could be a rush to purchase these items (remember the 2020 toilet paper debacle, right??)
5. This won’t be a “normal” vacation
If your vacations usually entail spending a majority of your time away from your accommodations, this one will be different. Be sure to pack any “fun” things you might want: a book (or Kindle), playing cards, iPad, dominos, sketchbooks, etc. to keep you occupied.
6. Prepare for your flight
How will you get there without getting exposed to the virus? What will you wear? Make sure you have your PPE in your carry-on bag and that it’s easily accessible. We wore a KN-95 mask, face shield, and wiped down every surface of our corner of the airplane with our sanitizing wipes. Also, be sure to pack a change of clothes so you can immediately change out of your potentially contaminated clothes and into clean clothes when you reach your destination.
At the airport and flying
7. Now’s the time to invest in lounge access
Check your credit card to see if it offers access to any airline or Priority Pass lounges. If it does not, now is the time to buy a day pass, even if you only use it for the restroom. You’ll encounter less people and less touch-points by using the private bathrooms and lounge chairs, and you’ll be able to stock up on any water or drinks before your flight.
8. It’s also the time to pay for flight upgrades
Depending on your airline of choice, it might be worth the extra $30 to $100 to upgrade your seat to a class with more room between you and other people. Also, take a look at your seating assignments a day or so prior to your flight, and change your seat based on the number of openings around you.
9. Keep your distance!
I had not been around this many people at one time since March, and I’ll admit, it was a little difficult to keep my distance from others. While lots of people are still crowding the boarding area, hang back and wait for the mad dash to board – you’re all going to the same place anyway.
10. Disinfect your airplane quarters
Tray tables, seatbelts, window shades, windows, armrests, seats, headrests. Literally, disinfect your entire area – and then try not to touch anything!
11. Limit food and drink consumption in flight
Most airlines have suspended food and drink service on shorter flights or provide a pre-packed bag that you can pick up when you board. Try to limit the amount of times you remove your face covering and, if possible, consume any snacks or drinks when those around you have their masks on. This is why I love the face shield – you can pull your mask down briefly, and still have a level of protection while you take a sip of water.
Arriving at your destination
12. Pre-arrange transportation
Nothing is worse than getting to the airport and scrambling to figure out how you’re going to get to your accommodation. Even more so now. Pre-arrange a private car or van to pick you up from the airport, so you can be out of there lickity-split.
13. Disinfect your luggage before entering your accommodations
Your bags have been touched by A LOT of people by now, so take the time to wipe them down with your disinfectant wipes before bringing them into your hotel or Airbnb.
14. Disinfect your room before settling in
Likewise, take 10 minutes and disinfect all the touchpoints in your accommodations: doorknobs, remotes, light switches, fan pulleys, countertops, faucets, etc.
15. Take a shower and change clothes
Rinse off any airplane/airport germs you might have collected and put on a fresh set of clothing. Heck, I do this even when there’s not a pandemic!
During your vacation
16. Food and grocery delivery
Check to see if Instacart, Uber Eats, DoorDash, or other delivery services are available at your destination and use them as much as you can, just like at home. If you are going somewhere more remote, ask your host if there is a local individual who can deliver necessities to you. Recently, in Puerto Vallarta, we used Pig Out Groceries. They dropped off our groceries two hours after we arrived, and we were set for days!
17. Considering restaurants
Part of my favorite part of going on a vacation is trying the local food and the hottest restaurants. Frankly, we didn’t do much of that on our last trip. We ate at restaurants that were outside, less crowded, or ones that offered takeout and delivery.
18. Don’t let your guard down
We sometimes go on a vacation to escape and forget it all, don’t we? Well. That’s just not possible now. The entire world is dealing with the virus, and you cannot escape it. Every time you leave your accommodation, book an excursion, go out to eat, talk to a local – you are adding to your chances of catching (or passing along) COVID-19. I’m not saying “don’t do anything!”, but for each outing, weigh the pros and cons, assess the safety precautions in place, and, as my dad warned me “if it doesn’t feel or look right, it probably isn’t.”
19. Follow all local guidelines
I HATE watching the news while on vacation. But it’s so important to at least stay in touch with what’s happening at your destination. Are cases spiking? Are new restrictions being imposed? What is the hospital occupancy rate? And, this goes without saying: follow all local guidelines. Wear your mask. Avoid dense gatherings. Even if the locals are ignoring guidelines, that doesn’t give you a pass to do so as well.
20. Quarantine and testing
Your final step to being a responsible, safe, and prudent traveler during a pandemic is quarantining upon returning home. Even if your city, state, or country does not require it, start a self-imposed 14-day quarantine to avoid passing along the virus to your local community, loved ones, or co-workers. As an extra precaution, consider taking a PCR test around three to five days after you return home.
Update: As of January 26, 2021, all passengers arriving to the United States from international destinations must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving in America. The test must be taken within 72 hours of departure and shown in order to board the aircraft.
21. Have fun and help boost the local economy!
We have all experienced the toughest and most isolated year in our generation. When you are considering upcoming travel, consider the local community as well. Many tourist destinations have suffered extreme financial hardships in 2020 and, if you have the money to take the vacation, please reserve part of your budget for tips and buying from small, local businesses. I promise, in a lot of destinations, it will go a long way.
Now that I wrote allllllllll of it out, these precautions seem overwhelming. But, trust me, they’re not! They are your ticket to a safe, fun, and relaxing trip.
If these tools and precautions do seem too lengthy, time-consuming, or burdensome for you though, please consider staying home until the pandemic is behind us.
But, if you’re willing to implement these considerations to help us all travel more responsibly, then get out there and start exploring the world again! Check out our Mexico stories to inspire your next trip!
Note: For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or your local health department.