HOW TO TRAVEL SAFELY DURING COVID-19

Updated: Mar 17

Nearly one year ago, a virus unlike any other put the world on pause. Although Covid-19 was initially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019 it wasn’t until March 11th that the WHO declared this outbreak a global pandemic (1). Restaurants began to close, businesses were driven to operate remotely and travel was restricted in every direction. Since then however, scientists and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) learned specifically how this contagion could spread and be contracted, lifting certain restrictions including travel. With more testing available and vaccinations beginning to be distributed, the road ahead to “normal” is still a long way from us but there is hope. I, like many others, felt the effects from lockdown, sacrificing things we love like large gatherings, social events and of course being able to visit the places we love but where there is a will, there is a way. I’ve been blessed enough to travel during these difficult times and although the guilt of doing so lies within me, I can safely say that I have never tested positive nor have I spread the virus to anyone I care for. But how? In this article, I want to give some tips on how you too can start making moves traveling again but by doing so in the safest manner possible to protect yourself, your loved ones and even complete strangers.


PICK YOUR DESTINATIONS WITH CAUTION

There are many hot spots still in America where cases continue to rise including Florida, Texas, New York and more (2). States where there is no mask mandate are more likely to be a risk to visit so unless you are desperately missing loved ones, it might be best to wait until vaccinated or cases diminish. When participating in air travel, it’s important to remember that going to these high-risk destinations will likely land you with passengers from there. That means you may end up sitting next to Joe Schmoe who doesn’t believe the virus is “that bad” and the last thing you want to do is get into a debate with someone who has not been careful. Research which areas are taking the proper precautions so that you can travel a little more at ease. The AARP gives a good overview of which states may be chancier than others. If you happen to have family in one of the places where masks are not mandatory, you may want to consider an alternative way of getting there.



CHOOSE THE WAY YOU TRAVEL WISELY

In an ideal world, we would each have an empty plane to travel on that acted as our own private jet and of course the emissions would have no effect on the environment, however that is not the case. As someone who has friends in the hospitality industry, I want to help keep my people employed but more importantly safe. Therefore there may be times where it’s best to take the car across country instead of a flight. Diligently look at which airlines and hotels are going above and beyond to keep you safe. Steer clear of any airline business that does not space out seats or hotel properties that don’t mention which steps they are taking to follow CDC guidelines. If it isn’t mentioned on the website, that is all the hint you need to avoid getting yourself in a stressful situation.


BE WILLING TO SACRIFICE

Whether it’s taking the car, sleeping in the car, missing a flight or taking that God awful redeye – you have to be willing to sacrifice time and sanity in order to get to your destination safely. United Airlines has a text messaging service that lets you know if your flight starts to fill up in which they give the option to take another one. Again, it might not be ideal for someone who is limited in time, but for those working remote – it’s worth it so that you can lower the probability of infection. Not only in the air, but once you land – if you are visiting loved ones it is recommended to quarantine at least 7 days so that you do not pass along the virus (3). Although the CDC recommends 7 days, my personal rule is 10 and depending on who you visit, do your best to honor their rules. That means even if the CDC says 7 days but grandma says 14; don’t argue with her or try to prove that she is “overthinking” – her house, her rules and you must respect that. I was fortunate to make my way to Florida (which is a damn near suicide mission) after not seeing my niece for 3 years and some family even longer but no matter how badly people want to see you, sacrifice the time it takes to make sure there are no symptoms and that you test negative after that quarantined time.



GET TESTED BEFORE YOU LEAVE AND WHEN YOU ARRIVE

Getting tested at least 72 hours before you leave is to protect those you may end up traveling with. The complete stranger next to you may have a condition you can’t see so it’s important to make sure you are negative that way you can protect the complete stranger who may be at risk. You never know why people are traveling and to not be mindful of their health but only yours is very selfish. That being said, you have to also assume that people have not tested before flying and may be carrying Covid. That’s why it’s important to get yourself isolated and tested before having any interactions with others.


DON’T JUST MASK UP, COVER YOUR WHOLE BODY UP

I’ve taken a few flights this past year including one from LA to Portland, New York to Florida and soon I will be heading to Puerto Rico. Each and every time I get made fun of by others because I look like the Michelin man and honestly I’m okay with it! In my head I keep saying “Not today Corona, not today!”. So what do I wear?

- 2 pairs of gloves

- A 3 layer mask, surgical mask and ski mask

- Du-rag/bandana and a hat

- Sunglasses and plastic face shield

- Long sleeves and pants

This goes back with sacrifice because as uncomfortable as it is, shielding your skin and hair is one of the best ways to avoid contracting Covid. As soon as you land, throw all of those items in the wash and start cleaning like crazy. Do not sit on any furniture and shower yourself until you shine like a new penny. Make sure the clothes you wore are machine washed hot and dried hot to kill any contamination (I usually wash it twice!)



KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

As stressful as it is to be around others, I’ve found some joy in pretending I’m a lone survivor of the zombie apocalypse. In other words, someone can be dressed up as cautious as I am and still I assume they are infected. I will literally run to the other side of the airport just to avoid them. Do I look crazy? Yes. Will it offend people? Most likely, but when it comes to life and death, feelings are a small thing to hurt looking at the big picture. Don’t be afraid to tell others when they are too close in security or boarding the plane as most people are very understanding. If you do travel by air, it’s worth it to let everybody else on during boarding and being one of the last in line to avoid close interactions. If traveling by air, find the most empty part of the airport to chill until it is time to for takeoff. When traveling by car, use a special pair of “gas gloves” to make your transactions and prepare ahead of time by packing plenty of your own water and snacks so that you don’t have to go into any shops.


SANITZE! SANITZE! SANITZE!

When I was a kid, my mom used to carry around a hand sanitizer and wipes. My brothers and I thought she was overreacting, especially at restaurants when she would bust it out after we ordered our meals and after we’d pay. Why? Because she said the menus and money were the dirtiest things we touched. When you think about all the people who don’t wash their hands regularly or who don’t take precaution, you have to assume that the world is now your menu/money and to sanitize after everything you touch is your safest bet. So even if you are wearing gloves at the gas station, take a wipe, scrub the buttons and sanitize yourself after. Carry sanitizer, wipes and extra gloves with you everywhere you go.


TO SUM IT ALL UP

There is no guarantee that taking these steps will completely eliminate the risk of catching Covid but it will mitigate it drastically. Remember to always wash your hands, wear a mask and keep your distance. It's just not about protecting you and your loved ones but your other fellow humans.




1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500114-questions-and-answers

2. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_casesper100klast7days

3. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/noticescovid19

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