Travel in the Time of COVID
As states reopened, thousands of people rushed to the beaches and began planning their trips to amusement parks like nothing ever happened. And as time goes on, we’re still seeing high numbers of COVID cases in the United States (while other countries have begun to flatten). Before we start packing our bags for our spring break and summer vacations, there’s a lot to consider about travel in the time of COVID.
I want to emphasize that the purpose of this article is not to encourage people to travel during this time. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable due to work or family emergencies. The purpose of this article is to talk about how to travel as safely as possible to keep yourself and others safe. It’s still important to maintain social distance at all times and shelter at home when possible.
Why Are People Traveling Right Now?
There’s no denying that COVID has been mishandled in the United States. Tests weren’t widely available, and it was left to the individual states to implement restrictions. This means each state (and even county) has had varied success in actually containing the virus and mitigating risks. Moreover, with the slow rollout of vaccines, it’s probably won’t be until June that there will be enough vaccines for everyone.
In short, people are traveling right now because they can and they are tired of being at home. It’s still not recommended when it can be avoided, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when some restrictions were lifted, people went a little wild. Even before restrictions were lifted, some were crossing state lines to places where beaches and other outdoor activities were open.
Is it Safe to Travel Across State Lines?
Overall, the biggest issue with short-term travel is there is no way to quarantine for ten to fourteen days after arriving at your destination. Because, even though we’ve decided this is the new “normal,” our work and life schedules have yet to catch up.
If you do decide to take a vacation, it doesn’t mean you can take a vacation from COVID-19. Remember, you may be putting not only yourself but the people around you at risk. Continue to wear masks, order take out, and wash your f*cking hands. Avoid high-risk destinations like the beach (unless you get a private house on a private beach; then, you might be okay). And research whatever state or city you’re traveling to:
- How many active cases are they reporting?
- What are their regulations regarding masks?
- Are they allowing visitors from your state?
- If so, is there a mandatory quarantine period?
- How did they handle the pandemic earlier this year?
- What are the cleaning protocols of the place where you’re staying?
- What is their cancellation policy during the pandemic?
Then, if you’re able, quarantine yourself for fourteen days after you return from your trip and get tested.
What Are Safe Accommodations?
It’s really hard to say whether a hotel would be safer than an Airbnb and vice versa. Hotels may be cleaned on a daily basis, but you’ll encounter other people in the hallways and elevators on the way to your room. You’re less likely to encounter others in your Airbnb (if you select a private house/apartment versus a private room), but they’re privately owned, and the owner’s definition of clean and sanitized may not be up to par.
If you have to travel, you’re going to have to assess the risk factors of both and make a decision. There’s always car camping if nothing seems safe enough.
What Are Some Safe Activities?
Naturally, whether you’re traveling for work or for pleasure, you’ll want to take some time for yourself and explore your destination. In my opinion, your best bet is to find adventures and activities that keep you outside and around as few people as possible. And that applies if you’re just staying at home—please go outside. It’s good for your mental health.
Hiking, walking tours, and other outdoor activities are the perfect way to see more than the inside of your Airbnb when you’re not at home.
How Should I Get There?
Until teleportation is invented, it’s difficult to travel without ever coming into contact with another human being. Below are some things to consider before packing your bags.
Airlines are still flying during this time with restrictions. Although I have not personally been on a plane this year, I’ve seen on social media that airlines are taking every precaution they can to keep their patrons safe. This includes limiting seat availability, handing out pre-made bags of PPE, and requiring flyers to wear masks at all times–which probably sucks, but so does COVID. However, you’re still sharing a tight cabin space with others for a few hours, which increases the risk of infection… even when you’re wearing a mask.
Trains run similar risks to planes. In general, traveling by train often takes longer than flying, which means you’re going to be sitting in the same airspace as others for hours. Even with seat restrictions, this increases the chances of infection.
However, trains aren’t accessible throughout all of the United States, so this option isn’t available to everyone and probably best applies to those on the East Coast.
Further Reading: Amtrak COVID Policies
I’ve had the most experience traveling via automobile during this time, and I think it’s the easiest way to limit exposure. When my partner and I traveled to Pennsylvania for what could have been a Zoom meeting, we packed a cooler of food (including our last HelloFresh meal of the week), so we wouldn’t have to stop at any drive-thrus on the way north. The only time we had to stop and get out of the car was for a few brief moments to use the restrooms at highway rest stops–always making sure to sanitize our hands when we left and returned to the car.
However, if you live on the East Coast and your family is on the West Coast, a three-day road trip may not be feasible.
Further Reading: 3 Essential Tips for Preparing for a Road Trip
I Travel During COVID?
We have been living in this pandemic for a year, so it’s understandable that many are feeling stir crazy–especially with the rollout of the vaccines. But now is not the time to let our guards down because the numbers are higher now than they were this time last year. No matter what vaccine you receive, it’s important to remember that you could still spread the virus to others, which is why wearing a mask is still recommended for the foreseeable future.
As tempting as it is to take a beach trip this spring and summer, it’s still better to stay at home and enjoy some of the outdoor activities your immediate community has to offer. Staying away from beaches and other big tourist traps will probably make it so we can safely see our family and friends over the holidays this fall–and isn’t that more important than tanning on an overly-crowded beach?
2020 was an incredibly difficult year for everyone, and we understand how important it is to spend this time with loved ones. However, it’s also important to keep those loved ones safe during a pandemic. Travel in the time of COVID is going to be difficult to navigate in order to keep yourself and those around you safe.
While we won’t encourage you to take a vacation, we want you to make the best decisions for yourself, those in your life, and the citizens of your destination. Whatever you decide to do remember to keep your mask on, keep six-feet apart, get tested often, and wash your hands.
*As of March 2021, there are three COVID vaccines available on the market with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose getting emergency approval by the FDA. Please review your state vaccine rollout plan and guidelines to see what phase you qualify for.
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Featured image by Jon Tyson via Unsplash