How to travel Safely During the Pandemic: A Critical Guide
Posted on September 28, 2020
Vanessa is a health writer and blogging expert. Her specialities are medicine, health and wellness. She is proud to call Vancouver, BC her home where she enjoys the ocean and mountains with her dog Mr. ChowChow.
Travel in the time of COVID-19 is daunting, but travel is a necessity for some. Others are desperate to see friends and loved ones and are ready to deal with the risk of travel.
The CDC recommends staying home since it's the best way of avoiding COVID and protecting others. If you're determined to travel, there are some things you should know before you go.
You should know how to travel safely during times of pandemic and even the regular flu season. Keep reading for some travel safety tips before you step on that plane, train, or automobile.
Before Your Trip
The latest statistics reveal the global death toll from the pandemic is 984,278. Avoid becoming a statistic by protecting yourself and others. If possible, stay home.
If you've decided to travel, consider your destination. Take a look at an updated world map of COVID-19 and make sure your destination isn't a hot spot. If you're traveling to a COVID hot spot, you may want to delay or cancel your trip.
Some travel destinations have 14-day quarantine plans that are mandatory upon arrival.
Getting there is part of the risk but there are things you can do to make it safer.
The riskiest type of travel is shared travel. If possible, take a car to your destination and don't ride with anyone else.
Stopping for gas, food, and bathroom breaks are the riskiest part of car travel. Avoid making stops as much as possible.
Keep your destination in mind. A car excursion from New York City down to Florida takes you through some high-risk states.
If you're driving from a high-risk state, you're putting others at risk, so consider waiting. If you can't wait, wear a mask in any public situation.
If you're in an enclosed space with lots of people, your risk is much higher for catching any type of virus, including the common cold.
Airplanes, trains, and buses all mean you're riding in an enclosed space with others. Airflow is crucial.
The air on an airplane goes through a sophisticated system of filtration making it safer than you might think. Commercial aviation uses HEPA filters that catch 99.9% of virus particles.
The air travels downward from the ceiling and exits through the floor, and it's refreshed every 2-4 minutes. The plane ejects and pulls in air from outside the airplane.
Remember that this doesn't happen until the airplane is airborne.
The place you're most likely to pick up a virus on an airplane is person-to-person transmission. The tray table, armrests, and lavatory are also hot spots. Whatever you touch, someone else touched before you!
The TSA now allows a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on bag. Take one with you and use it on your tray table and armrests. Use a tissue or wipes, not your bare hands when wiping things down.
Airlines are doing a better job of cleaning airplanes now as well. They're fogging with special disinfectants between trips. These disinfectants stick to hard surfaces like the seatbelts.
If you're on a bus, opening a window is ideal. Wear a mask while you're on a bus. If possible, sit next to an empty seat.
Trains are like buses, only most trains don't have windows that open. Avoid trains if possible. If you can't avoid it, take the usual precautions of wearing a mask and wiping down any surfaces before touching.
Sit as far away from others as possible.
There's been some controversy over facemasks but there shouldn't be. Whenever you're within six feet of other people, you should wear a facemask.
COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact. When you breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze, tiny droplets come out of your mouth. If someone else inhales an infected droplet, they can get the virus.
Some people who have the virus never show symptoms. Others are contagious for up to two weeks before showing symptoms. Even if a person quarantines after showing symptoms, it's possible they've spread the virus before knowing they have it.
You must wear a facemask to board any U.S. airline. Once you board, you're at risk from the people sitting closest to you.
Wearing a mask will cut down on viral transmission when everyone wears one.
One of the challenges of traveling is the public restroom. When you use a public restroom, assume everything you touch has a virus on it.
There are many things you'll touch in a public restroom, but don't dismay. The key is wiping things down and washing your hands well after use.
If there's a lid on the toilet, close it before you flush. If there's not, turn your face away. You should also have your mask on at all times when you're in a public restroom.
Take your things to the sink and wipe everything down with hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes. Once you've wiped the handle of your suitcase, your purse, and other items you touched, throw the wipes away.
Wet your hands and put plenty of soap on them. If there's no soap, use your hand sanitizer.
Wash your hands for a good 20 seconds. Rub the soap and water into your hands, both the back and front. Rinse well.
Try not to touch the faucet when you turn it off. If the faucet isn't touchless, use a small bit of paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Avoid touching door handles as well when leaving the bathroom.
If you're on an airplane, use a paper towel to open the door handle and dispose of your paper towel in the lavatory before leaving.
Avoid Touching Your Face
Touching your face at any time can give you a virus. Your mouth, nose, and eyes are all primary routes of viral transmission.
If you touch something and get the virus on your hands and then touch your face, you can transmit the virus to yourself. It's hard not touching your face but avoid it as much as possible.
Do you take regular medications? Make sure you've got all your medications when you're traveling. You don't want to spend time and energy in a pharmacy getting medications you've forgotten.
You should wash your hands many times throughout the day, especially when traveling. Always wash your hands before you eat and of course after using the restroom.
For safe travel, think ahead. Where are you staying when you get to your destination? What are the sanitation protocols where you're staying?
Are you going camping? You're definitely safer camping outside in the woods than staying in a hotel.
The open-air of a campground is great as long as you're social distancing from others. Single-person tents are the best, but if you're with your family in a family tent, that's fine.
An RV is also a good option if you're with your family or your regular group of people. Having your own bathroom and kitchen makes for a safer experience.
Shared environments are the riskiest, so a busy hotel is less safe. Most hotels now require masks for staff and patrons.
Most pools and common areas are closed for now. If the pool or common areas are open, consider avoiding them.
Can't avoid a busy hotel? Bring wipes and clean the doorknobs and drawer handles in the room.
The TV remote gets touched a lot, so make sure you clean it down before using it. Wipe down anything else you'll be touching.
Airbnb may be safe but it's impossible to know to what extent individual owners clean their homes. If you opt for an Airbnb, check with the individual owner about his cleaning protocol.
Bring your own wipes as well. Wipe down the items you'll touch, like with the hotel.
Bathrooms, remotes, and door handles are all prime spots for a virus.
If you're going on vacation, choose your activities carefully. Avoiding large groups of people is safest.
Amusement parks such as Walt Disney World have a phased reopening. They're open, but not all attractions are available. Some of the hotels and restaurants are closed or offer only limited seating.
Think twice before visiting an amusement park. It's hard avoiding crowds of people, even if people are wearing masks and doing their best to social distance.
Avoid eating indoors in a restaurant. If the restaurant has outdoor seating, that's much safer.
Wear your mask when going into the restaurant. If you go to the restroom, wear a mask, and observe the already-mentioned precautions.
If possible, avoid restaurants and use take-out options.
Some vacation destinations are more outdoor than indoor. Warm climates near the beach often have outdoor, open-air shopping options.
If you're out shopping, avoid indoor malls. Outdoor options are okay because there's lots of air circulating. Keep your mask on even in open-air markets.
The beach is one of the safer options if you're planning a trip. It's outside with plenty of airflow so the risk of catching a virus is low. This doesn't apply to crowded beaches.
A crowded beach puts you at risk because of the person-to-person transmission. Find a beach where you have plenty of room between you and the people around you.
Hiking is another good option if the hiking trails aren't crowded. Most National Parks currently limit the number of people allowed in but every park is different.
Check your destination park for current operating conditions.
Weighing the Risk
With a raging pandemic, weigh all the risks before deciding to travel. Everyone's risk is different in the current situation. If you're over 60 or have pre-existing health issues, you're better off not traveling.
Do you have adequate health insurance? Can you afford to take time off work if you're sick?
Also, consider your mental health. Are you an anxious person? Does COVID make you anxious?
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If traveling during COVID stresses you, stay at home for now and work on stress-relieving techniques.
These are all questions only you can answer and you should.
Your safety is never guaranteed when you travel but a raging, worldwide pandemic definitely changes the landscape. If you don't have to travel right now, it's best to stay put.
If you love traveling, take this time to save for a big trip when things are safer.
We're All Responsible
No one likes wearing a mask and social distancing. Socializing and travel is a way of life for many people, and COVID has made it much harder.
If you do travel, remember that you're responsible for being a good citizen. Wear your mask at all times when around other people.
Don't crowd people if you're standing in a line or in a store or other venue. Leave at least six or more feet between you and others whenever possible.
COVID-19 isn't the flu. It's a novel virus that our bodies have never seen before. Doctors are already adjusting and coming up with better treatment plans, but the virus is still dangerous.
Self-care is more important than ever for a good immune system. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
Take care of your mental health as well with meditation, prayer, or whatever works best for you.
Learn How to Travel Safely
If you're traveling during COVID-19, it's crucial you learn how to travel safely. As hard as it is, the world has changed. The sooner you adopt safety measures, the safer you'll be.
Always wear a mask in public indoor spaces such as the grocery store, airport, and other places.
Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Carry hand sanitizer and wipes and use them on shared surfaces such as doorknobs, tray tables, and faucets.
Practice social distancing wherever you go, keeping at least six feet between yourself and others.
You can travel during COVID but make sure you travel safely!
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