14 Tips for Traveling Safely During the Pandemic

AlexandraSaper

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COVID-19 has spread around the world like a wildfire in 2020, and planning a trip must have been the farthest thing from people’s minds. But now, with vaccines rolling out, it seems that travel may start to become a part of our lives again soon. As borders reopen and traveling returns to our lives, we will all want to be sure to follow some safe travel guidelines.

Of course, traveling these days certainly comes with some risk, as it exposes us to a large number of people in airports, hotels, restaurants, and public spaces. Many of the people we encounter in these places are also travelers from across the world, so the risk of getting sick is higher than in your home or small community bubble. To ensure a safe trip, keep these things in mind before you start your journey:

1. Choose Your Days Wisely

Think about travel dates before buying your tickets. If you have flexible dates, choose midweek departures, which tend to be less crowded. Also, weekdays are a good time to try out popular spots or restaurants you have been eyeing, without the weekend crowds. Fewer people means more safety, less waiting, and an overall more enjoyable experience.

2. Arrive Early

Queues may be longer due to extra safety checks, sanitization measures, and record-keeping taking place during the pandemic. To keep things smooth and hassle-free, head to the airport or the train station with plenty of extra time before your set departure. Ideally, give yourself at least an hour of extra time than you normally would.

3. Complete Your Documentation in Advance

Some countries now have forms that you need to complete before leaving, and many require you to have proof of negative COVID-19 tests completed within a certain amount of time before you fly. You could even get a fine if you haven’t done the right paperwork.

So keep yourself updated with all the necessary information and documents while you plan your trip. This information can change daily, and it is your responsibility to have the necessary materials for your flight. Check with your airline and official websites for your destination one week before departure, and again 24-48 hours before departure.

4. Pack Light

If possible, consider taking only a carry-on bag to reduce the number of people handling your luggage. If you are traveling with more than one piece of luggage, give the handles a quick cleaning with an antibacterial wipe when you pick it up from baggage claim.

5. Maintain Social Distance

It’s still important to maintain social distance even as travel reopens. Whether you are at the airport, train, or bus terminal, stay at least six feet away from others. If people around you won’t maintain distance, politely ask them to give you more space and maintain distance.

6. Wear A Mask

Masks are a key measure to minimize transmission and save lives. It takes almost no effort and causes minimal inconvenience to you, while having the benefit of saving the lives and respecting the health and wellbeing of people around you.

Wearing a mask is compulsory in many places now, especially places of travel, and transport is no exception. You must wear a mask before leaving your home, or you won’t make it very far on your travel journey. If you are on a long journey, try changing your mask every 4-5 hours for more safety. Make sure you have enough masks to cover a long journey.

Remember that even if wearing a mask isn't mandatory where you live, in many places it is. Respect the rules of your destination and never be rude or argumentative to authorities or employees enforcing these rules — you are the one choosing to travel there, so you also need to honor their rules.

7. Wash or Sanitize Your Hands Frequently

Frequent hand washing has become a part of our daily life and should continue especially when you travel. Thorough hand washing or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol helps prevent the spread of the virus. Make sure you wash your hands properly before and after your flight, using the washroom, going through screening, putting on or removing your mask, and touching any surfaces in public.

Simply making it a constant daily habit is the best way to ensure you're effectively minimizing the spread of germs and keeping yourself and others safe.

8. Be Prepared For Cancellations

The Coronavirus situation is changing on a daily basis, often without any warning. Flight cancellations due to changing travel bans or restrictions on international flights are quite common these days, even at the last minute.

Sometimes aviation companies simply can’t afford to run flights with a low number of bookings. Be prepared for your plans to change at the last minute, stay up-to-date on information from your departure location, stops in transit, and destination. And be mindful that traveling during this time comes with the risk of cancellations and delays, so be respectful of airline or hotel staff who are doing their best to enforce these changes along the way.

9. Act Responsibly and Cancel Plans if Necessary

Please do not travel if you had recent contact with an infected person, or if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. Even if you’ve planned a perfect holiday, it’s unethical to follow through with your plans and put so many people at risk. Traveling with the virus is irresponsible.

If you suspect you could have the virus, self-isolate for 14 days and let the airline and accommodation know. Please only plan travel if you are willing to take responsibility for cancelling your own plans if you can no longer travel safely.

10. Eat Before You Travel

For shorter journeys, try to eat before your flight. You may even want to eat at home, as you would have to remove your mask for eating in public. Eating at restaurants at the airport or on the plane will simply put you at unnecessary risk of the spread of germs.

For the same reason, many airlines and train companies have stopped the trolley service during coronavirus, or have offered restricted menus (and, ultimately, much less-appetizing in-flight foods). For long journeys, prepare your snacks at home in advance, or buy them before your trip so that you can fuel up safely.

11. Stay Hydrated

Flying can cause dehydration, and dehydration can put you at a higher risk of infection and illness, and can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. Instead of trying to excessively hydrate right before your flight, which isn’t really effective, try instead to increase your water intake two to three days before you are set to travel.

12. Choose Outdoor Travel Activities

When planning your travel itinerary, it’s best to avoid indoor and enclosed spaces where the spread of germs is more likely. Instead, enjoy open parks, outdoor museums, private or socially-distanced walking tours of historic sites, and outdoor dining options. Avoid indoor activities like shopping, visiting enclosed galleries and museums, or crowded bars and restaurants.

13. Rent a Car Rather Than Using Public Transportation

Using public transportation may be convenient, but it’s also the easiest way to spread germs with a huge number of strangers. Consider renting your own car and taking a road trip to explore towns, cities, and national parks while remaining socially distanced.

A current popular trend is to rent a camper van and visit some beautiful outdoor areas around your state, or nearby states. You can have an incredible and unique experience, enjoy the adventure of travel, but still stay as safe as possible without the risk of infection that comes with public transportation and larger hotels.

14. Stick To The Rules and Enjoy Your Trip

Before you leave for the trip, check the COVID-19 Travel Recommendations for the country or state you will be visiting. Avoid crowds, and if you are at high risk, or if your daily life and activities may put others at risk, consider waiting a little longer to travel.

Traveling can be safe again if proper precautions are taken. Practicing the above measures are important to keep you and everyone around you safe, regardless of how far from home you travel. Always remember that we have shared responsibilities to reduce the spread!

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American travel photographer and writer, based on the beautiful island of Bali. Two years ago, I left my job as a Washington DC lawyer, sold everything I owned, and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia to turn my creative dreams into reality. I have traveled to 60 countries, have worked with major airlines, luxury hotels, tourism boards, and fashion/adventure goods companies. When I’m not working or traveling, I spend my free time writing, doing yoga, learning to surf, or swimming at my favorite beaches in Uluwatu in south Bali.

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