Taking a Trip During COVID-19
After fighting cabin fever during shelter-at-home orders, many people have been anxious for some new scenery and have been planning vacations.
But taking a road trip during the pandemic can be tricky, particularly with infections varying greatly from one city to another and one state to another.
Foreign vacations are pretty much off the table at this time, except for a handful of countries, and even those require quarantine periods and a doctor's clearance. So, if you are planning a vacation, the best option if you want to travel is to do so domestically with your family.
While many health experts advise against taking trips to any place where you will be congregating with others, if you feel that a change of scenery is what your family needs, there are steps you can take to make the trip as safe as possible.
Research your destination
Before you plan to head anywhere, read up on local and state restrictions in your destination. Are you going to a national or state park? Check first to make sure it is open and whether you may need a reservation, as many parks that have reopened are only taking bookings.
Also, you should do the same for any places you may stop at on the way to your destination. You can use this risk-assessment map created by Harvard to see if you are going to or passing through a hotspot.
Avoid traveling to areas with rising caseloads and that are red on the Harvard map.
John's Hopkins University also has this daily-updated chart that shows which states have the lowest and highest COVID-19 positivity rates, another measure you can use to decide whether you should travel there.
Finally, some states are now requiring 14-day quarantines for arriving residents and outsiders from certain areas, and your state may too. Make sure you plan accordingly.
Check your family's health risks
You should reconsider travel if you or members of your family are older or if you have underlying health conditions. You should also check with your doctor about each family member's health risk and you should ask if it is safe for you all to travel at this time.
Check your accommodations
Due to a massive drop in demand, many hotels are offering steep discounts to entice people to stay at them.
Also, many have instituted rules to minimize crowding due to the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the lobby and other public areas. Most hotels have cancelled their buffet breakfasts.
You may want to avoid large hotels that have many guests and shared elevators.
As a result, many travelers are opting for Airbnb, which has instituted rules for cleaning and spacing between stays to reduce risks to guests. Staying alone as a family is much safer than at hotels where there are staff and other guests, which increases the risk of contracting the virus.
Plane, train or automobile?
Stating the obvious, any mode of transportation that involves sharing space with strangers will exponentially increase your risk of contracting the coronavirus. If you have to travel by train or plane, make sure you wear a mask at all times.
If you are flying, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that you bring a TSA-compliant pandemic essentials bag, with an extra set of clothes to change into when you have left the plane. Also, check with your airline in advance about their policies for flying at this time, including cancellation, seating and mask requirements.
Try to go paperless by downloading boarding passes to your phone to minimize touch points.
Obviously, the safest bet is for you and your family to take a road trip. This way, you are not breathing the same air that strangers are exhaling.
Pack pandemic essentials
Besides packing the extra set of clothes mentioned above if you are traveling by air, you will want to make sure that you have ample amounts of hand sanitizer, face masks, disinfecting wipes and disposable latex gloves (which you can use in public spaces and discard after use).
Also ensure you have your health insurance cards with you.
Focus on outdoor activities
The consensus among experts is that crowded indoor places where you have continued exposure to others are the main breeding grounds for the coronavirus.
The U.S. is large and the outdoor options are plentiful, including hiking, camping, swimming, boating, biking and golfing.
Being outside in fresh air with few people around is the best bet for reducing your risk of contracting COVID-19 during your vacation.
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