A 9-Step Guide To Travel Safely During COVID-19

travel safely during covid-19

It’s been nearly 5 months of lockdown, shutdowns and quarantine due to COVID-19, and people are getting antsy. It’s not easy staying cooped up indoors for months, and people are considering quick or long getaways to combat stress and find normalcy. If you’re going to travel during the pandemic, you should do it right, so we put together a 9-step guide to travel safely during COVID-19.

But should you even travel right now?

There is no right answer, but there’s a safe one, and that’s to put all your travels on hold until later this year or even 2021. Why? The coronavirus isn’t over. In fact, it’s just starting to get comfortable in a second wave, meaning that COVID-19 cases could skyrocket in the next few months. Also, in the news, it’s reported daily that people are breaking social distancing guidelines, resulting in surges in coronavirus cases across America. The virus is on a mission to infect as many people as it can, and a traveler simply increases their odds of getting (then spreading) the virus.

Now that you know the risks, it’s fair to say your mental health is important, too. I feel that it’s OK to travel if you’re reaching a breaking point in your mental health, but also if you approach travel in a logical and safe manner. While some places ares safer than others to visit, you still have to remember that things will not be the same at airports, planes, and even your destinations.

If you absolutely must travel, do it safe. This 9-step guide/checklist will help you plan our trip.

Here are our recommendations to travel safely during COVID-19.

  1. Do your homework and check your health.

safety standards on flights, Turkish airlines

First: Do not travel if you are feeling unwell or have tested positive for COVID-19. I know that’s pretty obvious, but don’t let your desires rule over practicality. Also, be sure to take a COVID-19 test before you even think about packing your bags for a vacation. Again, that’s obvious, but some destinations will not let you arrive if you are unwell with symptoms or test positive.

Once you are in the clear, and know you are COVID-19 free, do your homework, as in figure out when you want to go on vacation. This part isn’t so easy because you can’t predict the future, and you have no idea what a destination’s rules will be for the timeframe you booked your trip.

Let’s say you book a flight to Miami for the second week of August. Well, two days before your trip, coronavirus has completely surged in Miami, the city is on lockdown, the beaches are closed, locals are required to wear a mask and visitors need to do a 14-day quarantined. You’re screwed.

The reason we ask you to do your homework is because you need to know what destination you will have to quarantine for 14 days, like Hawaii or New York City (which is enforcing a 14-day quarantine from states that have surges). You may want to avoid places like these.

2. Pick the right destination.

Pick a destination that has low coronavirus numbers because it’s just dumb to go anywhere where cases are surging. Remember, you want to go somewhere more rural with low population. Now, answer the question: How do you want your vacation to be like? Camping? Beach? City? If you do decide to go for a quick camping trip to getaway with your loved ones, be sure to consider these family tents suitable for your family trips.

Remember, many beaches are closed, so if that’s on your agenda, you’ll have to find beach destinations that are open. It’s true the possibility to get COVID-19 is a lot lower outdoors than indoors, but remember, social distancing is still encouraged and quite frankly enforced in many places, so don’t think you can go buck wild without a mask or party in a bar. Also, remember, if you do go to a beach destination with the logic you’ll be outdoors all the time, you have to sleep somewhere, which requires you being indoors.

Also, going to a beach destination doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be safe. Remember that people can be dumb, like the guy who had COVID-19 and still went to a packed beach in Fire Island. There are people today that defy masking and social distance rules, so even if you’re strict about it, you can’t assume you’ll be around people who take it seriously.

3. Decide how to get there. 

Road Trip During Covid-19. How to travel safely during COVID-19

Remember, airports can be hot spots for COVID-19. Sure, they are like ghost towns now, and completely empty compared to this time last year, but again, you can’t assume everyone is being safe.

Recently, more than 1,000 TSA agents tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Washington Post, and Delta revealed 500 staff tested positive for COVID. There is currently no system or protocol for airlines to announce how many flight crew have tested positive.

Trains are still indoors and considered hot spots, so you should consider that during train travel.

Car travel is the safest option right now.

4. Determine your budget.

Airlines are offering fares that are the cheapest in history. Yes, even cheaper than 9-11, which seems to shock people, but there’s a good reason. 9-11 was a terrorist event that hurt the economy and instilled fear in flying. COVID-19 is completely different, because it’s a virus that is killing people, and nobody is immune. You can get it at any time, and you increase your risk by going to an airport or flying.

Hotels are hovering around 1 to 40 percent occupancy on a good day. Hotel rates are the cheapest they have been in decades, so you can snag incredible deals right now, but again, remember that you’ll be indoors, possibly touching surfaces and being around other people. Remember, if you absolutely must travel, please travel safely during COVID-19.

5. If you’re flying, pick the best airline that is enforcing safety. 

safest airline to fly during covid-19
Delta flight ready to board.

Delta, JetBlue and Alaska are the only U.S. airlines blocking middle seats.

American and United are allowing full occupancy on flights.

Some airlines are testing staff for coronavirus; others are not.

You’ll have to consider these facts to safely choose the right airline to fly right now.

6. If you’re driving, know the risks. 

planning road trip
Road trip through Philadelphia.

Car travel is the safest mode to vacation during COVID-19. A lot of my friends have been getting in their cars and driving to short weekend getaways. When you have your own car, you don’t have to be in the same space as strangers (who you don’t know have COVID-19 or not) and you reduce your risk of getting, infecting or transmitting the virus.

If you’re going to take a car, you still have to go through tolls and go to gas stations (and if you’re renting, you’ll have to know if the rental company is taking safety measures). Cops in many states are known to defy masks, so if you get pulled over, one could breathe all over you through your window. That’s a weird one, but it did cross my mind!

7. When you arrive, stick to the rules to your destination. 

Travel safely during COVID-19

Every county, city and state may have their specific COVID-19 rules you must follow. These are mandatory safety measures. Some places require masks in public, while other places may require them only indoors. Whatever the rules, you must follow them, if only to avoid being the next person being shamed on social media.

If you want to go party and bar crawling, many states’ bars are still closed. If you’re a foodie and want to have a huge restaurant crawl, that’s not going to be an option in many states since only outdoor service or pick up and delivery is available. If you want to go to museums, galleries or stadiums, remember that most of these are closed for the remainder of the year. If you absolutely must travel, please travel safely during COVID-19.

8. Hotel or Airbnb? 

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review
Ritz-Carlton Chicago lobby after $100 million renovation.

There have been no reports on whether Airbnbs are safer than hotels, and if you’re going on vacation, you’re going to have to stay in one or the other.

Know what kind of protocol the hotel or Airbnb is taking in terms of battling COVID-19. Are they allowing guests, whether they have been tested or not? Do they require you to be tested or take a temperature check when you arrive? Have all staff been tested?

These are just a few of many questions you’ll have to ask or have the answer to. Always check company websites to get more information, and don’t hesitate picking up the phone and calling the hotel directly.

Also, remember, if you are staying at a hotel, a lot of the services (gym, spa, restaurant, bar) will be closed. You will only have access to the lobby and your room.

9. Don’t forget — you have to do this all over again to get back home. 

If you think going on a trip sounds intense during COVID-19, remember,  you will have to do most of it all over again for the latter half of your trip.

It seems like a lot to have a vacation you may not even enjoy. Remember, rural and beach destinations are better to travel to than city destinations, but the risks are still high. Also remember that many places will be closed or have different rules. You will not travel the same way you did a year ago.

Gear for iPhone 11 For instance, let’s say you want to go to NYC. The COVID-19 numbers are quite low as of July 12. But remember, you cannot dine indoors, you cannot enter businesses without a mask, and you can’t avoid crowded streets. If you stay at a hotel, you will be indoors with other people who could have COVID-19, and you will not have access to amenities.

In a secret investigation, Inside Edition did a report showing that NYC hotels did not clean the bed, pillows and surfaces inside a hotel room, proving that you really have no idea if someone before you had COVID, and you could possibly be infected.

If you’re going to travel right now, be safe, respectful and know that your vacation will be completely different from how you envisioned. There’s no great way to travel right now, but if you absolutely must travel, please travel safely during COVID-19.

Do you have other tips to travel safely during COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.

More stories:

4 famous road trips to take in America

I spent a week at Oprah Winfrey’s favorite spa retreat

9 airline predictions based on aftermath of 9/11 and Great Recession (2008)

7 positive predictions for travel after coronavirus pandemic

When can we travel again? Here’s the $2 trillion dollar answer

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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