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Travel Tips During Coronavirus

January 14, 2021

6 Things to do in La Paz Mexico

Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, but it’s changed few things more than travel. An American Passport went from one of the strongest to one of the weakest in the world in terms of how many countries it allows you to visit. In order to help you know where you can and can’t travel to, we’ve written extensively about which countries have closed its borders and all the other travel related coronavirus updates in the world, but the most important thing to know is that travel is still very possible and can be done safely. Travel itself is not inherently more dangerous than going to the grocery store and in some ways it can be even safer. Airlines, hotels, and entire countries have gone to incredible lengths to make the travel industry safe and save it from even worse economic ruin than what it’s already experiencing. 

Countries like French Polynesia and states like Hawaii are requiring negative COVID-19 test results to enter the country, restaurants in Mexico are taking your temperature and forcing you to wash your hands upon arrival, and many hotels are requiring you to enter and exit with some form of disinfecting protocol. And even with all those fun protocols, just because you travel doesn’t mean you have to come into contact with absolutely anyone at all. It’s important that as we navigate this pandemic, we don’t just assume things are more dangerous or safe without doing the proper research. For example, did you know that according to a Harvard study, flying can be safer than grocery shopping thanks to amazing filtration and cleaning technology we’ll discuss further below. Although, air travel has been significantly reduced due to the pandemic, by November 2020, according to statistics from the TSA, travel numbers had climbed from to about 36% of what they were in 2019 thanks to the safety efforts put into place by airlines, hotels, and governments around the world.

The goal of this post is to help you understand that travel doesn’t equal increased risk of coronavirus and to show you how you can stay safe and personally lower your risk of COVID-19 infection and make travel as safe as possible.

Travel Tips During Coronavirus

Planning for the Trip:

 
The first thing you want to consider is where you’re going. At the last count, there are 70 countries, completely closed, 90 partially closed, 6 reopening soon, and 54 with no restrictions. If you’re traveling domestically within the United States, you’ll need a test before going to Hawaii and states like New York and California ask you to quarantine although it doesn’t seem like there is any enforcement from those two states. We keep an updated list of places Americans can go here!
 
Check to see if you’ll even be allowed in the destination you plan to travel to and if everything looks good, see what sort of restrictions are in place. You can find this info by visiting the state department’s website or by checking out each country’s or state’s public health page. Restrictions and protocols can be anything from random temperature checks at the airport to required 14 day quarantine that you have to pay for. If you’re not comfortable with multiple required COVID tests then do not go to a location that requires it. Be sure you’re not just checking requirement.

If it’s possible to travel by car, you’ll have to decide whether or not it is safer to fly. Driving may seem like the safest option in terms of COVID, but consider how many times you’ll have to stop for food and gas and all those points of contact compared to the contactless protocols that airlines have put in place. This is a decision you’ll have to make on your own, but consider your individual roadtrip style and if flying might be a better option.
 
Lastly, if you find out that your destination requires a negative COVID test result before boarding the flight to your destination, then be sure to make a plan to find a location that administers the correct type of test and get that test done. Most countries require a specific test called, “PCR” that is more reliable than some rapid tests. Some PCR tests take multiple days to receive the results so be sure you’ve planned for this ahead of time. Some airlines are offering assistance with getting your tests done either at the airport or at designated locations, so be sure to check out if anything is available from your airline!
 
ABSOLUTE MUST: Fly an airline that is blocking out middle seats while it is still possible. Delta is the only US airline that is currently committed to blocking out seats (through March 30). This helps you not rub shoulders with strangers and not to mention it makes it so much more comfortable. But again, with masks and the HEPA filtration on airlines it is still considered safe to fly sitting next to a stranger.

Immediately Before Traveling:

Yes, I know this might sound redundant, but check restrictions again! If 2020 taught us anything it’s that you can expect everything to change all the time. Restrictions and protocols on travel into individual states, territories, and countries are constantly changing and believe me, you’d much rather find out before you leave for the airport than being denied entry once you’ve flown across the ocean.

 

Pack a bag of all the COVID safety supplies you may need! You can find our list later on in this blog post. This will vary if you’re driving or flying but the basics are the same. Bring things to clean and keep clean and things to stay safe. Walk yourself through your travel plans and think of any situation in which you might want to protect yourself better and pack accordingly.

 

Don’t forget travel insurance. This is something that we overlooked in our early days of traveling, but with the current situation, you can’t ever be too careful. Plus! Travel insurance is way cheaper than we used to think it was! We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance. Also it should give you peace of mind that most airlines are doing away with change fees during the pandemic. Yay, it’s the little things, isn’t it?!

While Traveling:

 
If you’re taking a road trip, then the way to keep yourself safe during COVID is not much different than how you would do so running errands. In all situations, you’ll want to avoid contact with people and with things people have touched. To do this, try and space out your bathroom breaks as much as possible and pack a cooler with food so you don’t have to stop and eat. If you’d rather drive thru for some food, crack your window, use contactless payment through Apple Pay or the contactless chip in your credit card, keep your mask on, and have plenty of hand sanitizer to wash your hands before you eat. If you do choose to not eat from a cooler, then try and plan where you stop so you don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one restaurant option. That option might not be as safe as if you were to choose somewhere like Chick-fil-a where the employees seem to be sticking to every precautionary measure.

 

Air travel is a bit different than before, but in some ways it is so much nicer! We toured LAX with Delta and they showed us every single safety protocol that has been put in place and even mentioned that some measures way stay that way after the pandemic! First things first, what’s the best way to get to the airport? You could have someone within your “bubble” drive you to the airport or we’d even suggest you look into using a cool service like Avail which allows you to park for free and pays you if someone rents your car while you’re away. Don’t worry they always wash and sanitize your car, even if no one rents it out. You can also rent using their service on the other end. Use this link to get $25 toward your trip!

This is a must! Check in online so you don’t even have to go to the check-in line. If you have to drop your bag off, then be sure to still have checked in online so you can just show them your boarding pass on your phone and to speed up the process. If you can avoid it, don’t check a bag. It’s one more point of contact that you can avoid by carrying on and packing everything into that and your backpack. We like our Away backpacks and Larger Carry-Ons. 

Be sure to stick to the socially distanced markers on the floor every time you are in a line at security, the bathroom, or during boarding. At many airports, including LAX they’re using bacteria-resistant bins for security and are cleaning them after every use. This is something we’d like to see all the time! 

Take advantage of all the hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal and  keep your mask on through the entire experience. Our favorite masks are made by Rothy’s. They cover nicely, and are made of a great recycled material that we prefer to cloth that get stuck to your mouth as you inhale. Since air travel is down, airports have typically been pretty open which means fewer people to avoid when finding a seat to wait for your flight.

They’ll likely board back to front to help reduce as many passengers passing each other as possible. Once you’re on the plane, you’re going to want to have brought your own disinfectant wipes to wipe down the touch points around your seat. Obviously, you want to cover everything but be sure to get the following points: air vent (but leave it open as this helps the frequency that all the air in the cabin is filtered), screen, both sides of the seatbelt (especially under the latch), light, window shade, arm rests, seat pockets, and tray tables.

 

Prioritizing and Saving for Travel

Upon Arrival:

 
When your airplane lands, do not stand up. Wait for the entire row in front of you to clear and then stand up to gather your things. The row behind you should be instructed to do the same to give you space while you gather your things. It slows down the deboarding process, but it’s worth it.
 
If you checked your bag, give the handles a wipe down and wash your hands as soon as possible like you would when you get home from the grocery store.

In terms of transportation, renting a car will help you come in the least amount of contact with people while you’re in your destination (just like driving yourself is safer than public transportation while you’re home), be sure to pick a service that guarantees they sanitize cars in between use and if your car looks like it hasn’t been cleaned be sure to say something. Again, we’ve witnessed the Avail sanitizing process and would highly recommend it. Get $25 off your trip here!

 

If you choose to use Lyft or Uber, keep your mask on, crack the windows, handle your own bags, and wash your hands when you finish your ride.

While You’re There:

 
Everyone has a different travel style, and that will determine which different precautions you need to take, but for most people you shouldn’t need to do much more than what you do while you’re home running errands. For example, Sam and I aren’t super social travelers. We stick to ourselves, we go off and explore at sunrise with no one around or go hike for a photo of the sunset. We aren’t partiers, we don’t like group excursions, we’re casual eaters, and we aren’t great at picking up conversation and making friends with strangers. Sometimes I wish we were better at that, but in 2021, I’m okay with it haha!

 

The most important thing you can do is pick activities that keep you away from people. If you choose to do a tour, which is a great way of supporting the local economy, then pick a provider that is taking things seriously and do a private tour. The extra cost not only makes for a better experience, but it reduces risk of exposure to COVID-19 as well.

 

Eat at restaurants that are following health protocols and request tables far away from others. In our experience in Mexico and the Dominican Republic last year, all restaurants were outside and tables were placed far from one another.

 

There aren’t a ton of secret ways to be safe while you’re in a destination, because it isn’t any different than being home except you have a goal of exploring or relaxing, both of which can be done privately!

When You Return:

The United States of America’s Center for Disease Control just instituted a new policy that requires all travelers, beginning January 26, 2021, going to the United States must have negative COVID test results within three days of travel. This includes US Citizens returning home. Many international hotels are beginning to facilitate this by offering the testing on site, so check to see if it something your hotel is or plans on offering and if not, make other arrangements.

When to Get Tested:

 
The safest thing to do is to get tested before you go anywhere, although not every country requires it. The states and countries that do require it typically ask you to have results from a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of boarding your flight, but you’ll want to check with the local requirements to make sure you know the exact window. When making plans to get tested, be sure to ask how long it will take to receive your results as you’ll need them before you leave! Testing is the best way to stay safe! Make sure you check with your home country’s requirements on testing before returning home. The USA now requires negative results before returning home (see above for more details).

What to do With the Results:

You’ll want to have as much proof of the results as possible, so preferably get a hard copy, but have an electronic copy of the results as a backup. 

What to Do if You Test Positive:

 
If you test positive, then you’ll have to cancel your trip until you’re no longer contagious. It’s a bummer but it’s the only option. Call your primary care provider and let them know and keep them updated if symptoms worsen.

Finding State, Local, Territorial, and National Restrictions for Your Destination:

 
You can find all national restrictions either on the list we’ve compiled here on OurTravelPassport.com or through the state department website here. To check more local regulations make sure you go to the official websites that typically end with .gov so you can make sure you’re receiving the most up to date information.
 
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What to Bring While Traveling During Coronavirus

Face Masks and Coverings:
 
This is a no brainer and is pretty much required everywhere. As I mentioned above, we love our Rothy’s masks as they’re the most comfortable to wear for long period of time. An N-95 mask is thought to be the most effective at filtering particles. You can typically find one at a hardware store when available. When it comes to what style of mask, most airlines have banned loose face coverings like bandanas or masks with breathing holes or filters. Think strapped over the head or around the ears, non-slipping, and hole free!
Disinfectant Wipes: 
 
Some airlines, like Delta, provide an individual disinfectant wipe (or more if you ask). But we recommend bringing a few of your own so you can wipe down your seating area on the flight, your baggage, or during any other time of your travels. It’s a great way to stay safe!
Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers:
 
During your travels, there is generally plenty and Delta is even beginning to install alcohol-based hand sanitizer pumps onboard their aircrafts, but having your own means you’re never without it. Our favorite is a lavender spray from Trader Joe’s. It doesn’t seem to be too drying and smells nice!
Face Shields:
 
For extra protection, you can always throw on a face mask. Personally, I’ve never worn one and don’t feel the need for the extra protection, but if you feel the need, this is a great option for an added layer of protection.
Non-Perishable Food Items:
 
Food service on airlines has been pretty much completely halted. On some airlines, they’ll bring you one small snack bag, but that’s hardly enough for a five hour flight. Bring your own food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated in your carry on. Our favorite snacks to bring that are filling are RXBars and a nut mix. Also, dried mangos!

Drinks:

With the lack of food service, there is also a lack of beverage service. Generally they have water, but the flight attendants aren’t constantly walking up and down the aisles like they normally do to serve you. You’re going to want to bring a big reusable water bottle for yourself and you’re going to want to be hydrated before you get to the airport as well. When you go through security, you’ll have to have your bottle be empty, but fill it up at one of the bottle fillers at the airport and be sure to have it full before you get on the plane.

Thermometers:
 
It’s good to pack your own thermometer so if you can check it regularly, especially if you’re feeling under the weather. It allows you to confirm whether or not you have a fever without having to leave wherever you are staying.
Day Bags: 

Having your own backpacks or day bag allows you to use your own bags to carry groceries instead of having to use someone else’s bags they may have handled. It also allows you to carry your own water bottles around instead of having to buy new ones. It’s a great idea for both sustainability and having less contact with others.

 

Of course, you are the only one that is in charge of your health and the decision to travel is completely up to you. If you have been seeing lots of people or have been potentially exposed, then you should probably stay home. Make sure you’re paying attention to all Center for Disease Control guidelines as you travel in addition to local guidelines, just as you would when you are home. Travel is very much still possible, but it’s important that it is done responsibly and safely so that the economies that rely on tourism can begin to thrive and stop suffering as much as they have. If you have any doubts on if it’s possible to stay safe while traveling, please look into the research done and come to your own conclusions! We look forward to seeing us get through this pandemic in 2021 and begin traveling beyond COVID-19, face shields, and 14-day quarantines again!

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