10 Tips for Traveling during COVID

Our new normal is looking quite different these days. Traveling comes with many limitations and, for some, can be very stressful. Restrictions are changing daily, which can make it challenging to plan for both international and domestic travel. After being away from my boyfriend for five months, I have decided to travel to the UK to see him in September. To prepare, I have done a lot of research on safeguards to consider when traveling during COVID.

Some of you may be asking “is it safe to travel right now?” There is a constant debate about this topic and the truth is, it depends. On one side of the argument, traveling can put you and others at risk for contracting COVID. On the other hand, travel can boost the economy and can also have a positive impact on your mental health after months of lockdown.

While I don’t encourage traveling right now, there are ways to prepare responsibly. If you plan to travel, it’s important to take the proper precautions to ensure your safety as well as the safety of those around you. To ease the process of planning, consider some of these travel tips:

Check the restrictions. Travel rules and restrictions have been put in place for different countries around the world. Make sure to check the rules of your home country and the country you are traveling to. I recently discovered that there are even restrictions for travel between states. Official government websites such as Travel.State.Gov provide a list of travel advisories to be aware of depending on your destination.

Use flight filters. Some airlines have taken extra safety precautions to help mitigate the spread of COVID. For example, some airlines have blocked off the middle seats and others require you to wear a mask. I recently downloaded an app called App in the Air, which allows you to filter flights based on these healthy and safety requirements.

Complete your documentation. Most countries require you to complete a form before entering the country. For instance, I am traveling from the US to the UK in a few weeks and I will need to provide the name of the airline I am traveling with, the date I will be arriving, and the address of where I will be staying. Usually, these forms must be completed 48 hours prior to arrival. If the country you are traveling to requires a COVID test, make sure you plan accordingly for that as well.

Do you not travel if you have COVID symptoms. Also, do not travel if you have been in recent contact with someone diagnosed with COVID or had COVID symptoms. Traveling with the virus is irresponsible. If you have the virus or suspect you could have it, do not travel. Instead, self-isolate for 14 days. Some airports are performing pre-flight temperature screenings. If your temperature is above a certain degree, you could be denied boarding.

Wear a mask. Wearing a mask is one of the main ways (along with washing your hands) to prevent the spread of COVID. If you have a long journey ahead of you, be sure to come prepared with several masks as it’s recommended you change them every 4-5 hours. My friend was kind enough to sew me several reusable masks with colorful prints on them so I can look good while staying safe and helping the environment. And although we want to minimize touching our mouths/face, it may be worth buying breath mints. Mask breath is a real thing and not ideal for a lengthy trip.

Sanitize! Handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds has proven to prevent the spread of COVID. Make sure you wash your hands before and after your flight. Of course, if you need to use the restroom on the flight, you will most likely have to touch the door handle as you leave the bathroom. Pack a hand sanitizer so that you can clean your hands and the area you are sitting in. Wipe down the seats, tray tables, and seat belts. If you really want to prevent contaminated surfaces, you can invest in a tool that helps you avoid contact with doors, keypads, and other frequently touched spaces.

Eat beforehand. Some airlines have canceled in-flight meals to avoid the risk of spreading infection. For shorter journeys, try to eat at home before your flight. It may be worth preparing a few snacks for longer journeys to hold you over until you reach your destination. Granola bars, bags of popcorn, and even packets of almond butter are great snack options.

Be prepared to quarantine. Some countries are requiring visitors to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. For instance, when I travel to the UK in a few weeks, I will be required to quarantine for 14 days at my boyfriend’s house. He and I have already discussed tv shows we plan to binge and recipes we’d like to experiment with at home. It never hurts to come up with a list of activities to occupy your time.

Prepare for cancellations. As we’ve seen so far, things are changing every day because of COVID. Along with the unpredictability of the pandemic itself comes the risk of plans changing and flights getting canceled. For the latest updates regarding COVID, you can visit the official website of the WHO. Finally, make sure to check in with your hotel and any restaurants you were planning to visit to ensure they are still operating.

When in doubt, consider a staycation. Some people may not be comfortable with traveling internationally right now and that is OK! If you’re not ready to board a plane, consider a camping trip, or book an Airbnb a few hours away from your home. Many national parks have lifted their ban for visitors so this can be a great opportunity to explore the great outdoors. And don’t forget to bring a mask!

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