Can you travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s a question that many are asking themselves, especially as the pandemic starts to wane, or enters periods of peaks and valleys over the next six to 12 months until a vaccine is widely available across the globe.
You may be used to vacationing, are tired of staying home or just need to get away. In this Guide, we will attempt to give you the best current advice for traveling. Be smart before traveling by being prepared and informed.
Our general advice is to be extra-cautious, while traveling. While at home you may be comfortable being less careful, getting ill while on vacation can present a whole host of issues you may not be prepared for.
Whether you are a planner for vacations or not, now is the time to take a few extra precautions, do some extra research and be sure of your plans before you commit to a vacation. As different countries are handling the coronavirus differently, you may find yourself in a situation that puts your vacation, at risk, if you do not plan appropriately.
General Safety Guidelines
Social distancing, frequent hand-washing and the wearing of cloth masks have proven to be the first lines of defense against COVID-19. Studies have shown that just staying 2 meters or 6 feet from other people can reduce transmission. Wearing a simple cloth mask properly, covering both your nose and chin, can further increase that effectiveness.
While traveling, ensure you and your entire party follow three core principles as much as possible.
- Stay 6 feet away from everyone, as much as possible
- Wear a mask in closed spaces, public spaces and anytime you cannot stay 6 feet from people
- Wash your hands often (after every contact with people or public surfaces)
- Sanitizing your hands is a poor replacement for thorough hand-washing, but is better than nothing.
A fourth tip that can also help is keeping your hands away from your face. Follow these principles and you can decrease your chance of getting COVID-19.
Country COVID Regulations
During COVID your best bet for safe travel will most certainly be within your own country. However, if you are planning to travel outside of the US or your home country, Kayak, the travel planning website and app, provides a great break down of travel restrictions per country, available here. As of the time of writing, 50 countries are completely closed to incoming travel except for residents, citizens or special exemptions.
US State Regulations
As a US citizen or resident, it may be the best opportunity to visit other states in the union. However, you still need to be aware of any state travel restrictions, available from CNN here, before you travel. Be sure to check back often as regulations or restrictions for travel can change frequently.
For Dream Vacations’ clients, starting October 15, 2020, those visiting Hawaii should have “an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) taken no earlier than 72 hours before their flight, performed using a nasal swab, and can show proof of negative test results from a CLIA certified laboratory can avoid the state’s quarantine.”
There are no state-wide travel restrictions for California or Florida, other Dream Vacations’ destinations.
Especially if you are at a higher risk for a COVID infection (elderly, co-morbidities, respiratory health issues), be sure to check your current health insurance policy and its coverage for travel to your destination during the pandemic. Be sure to get this coverage in writing, and that it specifically covers the coronavirus during travel. Be sure to call your health insurance provider before traveling to confirm. It is a small price to pay compared to large health care bills if you are not covered and require care for COVID-19 while you are away.
What to Pack
Now that you have ensured you can travel to your desired destination, and have put in protections for health insurance, a number of other factors to help you stay safe need to be considered, the first being what should you pack for your vacation.
Coronavirus safety items should be the top priority, followed by some personal items that have run out of stock previously, including:
- 2-3 washable face masks per person
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) for your party for the duration of your stay
- Disinfectant Wipes (70% alcohol) to wipe surfaces in your accommodations/rental vehicle etc
- Thermometer, digital read external is best for quick checks
- Toilet Paper/Paper Towels (emergency supplies)
- Extra Personal Medication, in case you are forced to stay longer or quarantine (2 weeks extra supply minimum)
- Latex gloves in multiple sizes for your entire party
You may have other personal choice items to consider, should you be required to quarantine while away from home, such as career or work items, or personal comfort items.
Mode of Travel
While traveling in your own vehicle during COVID is the best option, it is not always viable. If you are traveling by air (or train or ship), be sure to take extra precaution to sanitize your seating area, wear a mask throughout the flight and wash or sanitize your hands often. Limit your time on the flight by booking a seat close to the exit door and wait until last call before boarding. To avoid contact with other surfaces, stay in your seat as much as possible and for short flights, bring your own pre-sanitized drinks and snacks from the airport concessions. If you do accept items from the flight staff, you can opt to sanitize the outside surfaces as a precaution. Avoid public transit and instead take private transit to and from airports and your final destination.
However, you have to realize any enclosed space over a long period of time, during the COVID-19 pandemic presents risks for transmission.
One of the worst areas for potential COVID transmission is public washrooms as their surfaces are constantly in contact with people and bacteria and they are typically confined spaces with multiple people. Here is a process to maximize safety in public washrooms during COVID:
- Look for small, private washrooms that are single-person use, or family washrooms that are single-family use
- Wear a mask, before entering
- Leave all bags/luggage outside the washroom with your party, if possible
- Do not put purses or backpacks on the floor
- Use elbows or arms to open doors, avoid touch surfaces as much as possible, wear latex gloves if need be
- Use sanitizing wipes on toilet surfaces before you sit
- Do not touch your hands to your face
- If it is manual flush, use your foot to flush instead
- Wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching the taps after washing by using your elbow or arm to turn off the taps (if not auto flow taps).
- Avoid hand dryers, these tend to circulate air, which is worst in a small area for transmission
- Exit as quickly as possible
If you are travelling, the best option is to choose well-known brand-name hotels to ensure their cleaning and sanitizing practices are considered best-practice. Cheap hotels or smaller establishments may not have the budget to put into effective cleaning between stays. It is also best to look up the hotels plans before you book and have these questions answered:
- What is their cleaning plan between occupants?
- Are they limiting guests to help with social distancing on their property?
- Are they encouraging or mandating mask use in common areas?
- What is their procedure if you fall ill during your stay?
When you do arrive at your accommodations be sure to do these safety items before settling in:
- Open all the windows and doors for at least 15 minutes to ‘ventilate’ and clear the air in the room. Keep your masks on during this process.
- Next, sanitize all the ‘most-touched’ surfaces including (sanitizing wipes should suffice):
- Door knobs and cupboard handles
- Light switches and faucet handles
- TV, Radio or other Electronic device control panels
- Countertops and wooden chairs
- Notify the front desk, that during your stay you do not want any cleaning services
- Limiting the amount of exposure to others is the best option
- Put out our do not disturb sign
Enjoying Food While Away
Opt to have takeout or takeaway instead of eating in restaurants, unless absolutely necessary. Be sure that any establishment you do visit offers distancing from other patrons and that their servers wear masks while serving you.
Avoid Large Attractions, Choose Private Experiences
Avoid large public gatherings. These have been known to present greater risks for transmission as the ability to distance from other patrons may not be possible. Also, be sure to check all your attractions individually to be sure that they are in fact open and what their current hours of operation are, as they may have reduced them.
It would be better to enjoy private or personal experiences for the next year to avoid over exposure while on vacation. Maybe even just enjoying the amenities of a large resort such as Dream Vacation Villas’ options including Westin Ka’anapali or Atlantis’ Harborside Resort.
It is our view that even if you do not follow World Health Organization or the CDC’s guidelines while at home, it is imperative to be extra cautious while traveling.
Most Important Tips? Wear masks, keep your distance and wash your hands frequently.