Is Travel Safe in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

2020 has been an unprecedented year for most. Amid the pandemic, we have seen people carry on, whether it be through new homeownership or resumed air travel. Others have been in a constant state of quarantine. Our traditions and norms have been turned upside down, and with the holidays approaching, many people are asking how safe is travel during the pandemic?

Although the safest way to vacation, for now, is a stay-cation at home. We understand that for some families, holidays aren’t optional. Can’t miss dinner at Grandma’s!

While travel is not recommended, we’ll outline ways to keep you, your family, and your home safe while traveling this holiday season!

Take Precautions Before Your Trip

Perhaps the most important thing you can do before traveling is to research your destination. Your destination may have travel restrictions in place, such as a required quarantine period when visiting. You can use the CDC’s destination tool to get recommendations about your specific destination.

You may also want to purchase insurance on your flight or any other reservations. Due to travel uncertainty, you want to make sure you can get a refund if you have to cancel.

Stock up on hand sanitizer, wipes, and extra masks before your trip, so you are prepared whenever you need them. Don’t forget to pack any medications and find out if your destination has any restrictions or rules.

Getting tested before your trip provides extra assurance that you are not endangering your fellow travelers or those you love. You should also take into consideration those with whom you will be staying. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions before you depart.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading at your destination?
  • Are you at increased risk for severe illness?
  • Do you live with someone who’s at increased risk for severe illness?

Most importantly, though, do NOT travel if you are feeling sick. If you have any of the following symptoms, it’s best to stay home.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat

family walking in airport covid aware

Protect Your Home While Traveling

Travel is stressful on its own, but you don’t want to worry about your home while you are away. Take some time to get your home ready to give yourself some peace of mind.

Set up alarms on your windows and doors. You can find inexpensive siren sensors at most home improvement stores or online. Another option is to leave a key with a trusted friend or family member who can check on the house while you’re gone.

Make a list of things to check before leaving and include items like ensuring all doors and windows are locked, check that any appliances are turned off, and turn on any outdoor lights you want to leave on.

Precautions to Take While Traveling and Afterward

A recent case study showed a symptomatic man traveling from Wuhan, China, to Toronto, Canada, with a lack of transmission to fellow passengers. How did a plane of 350 passengers not result in more transmissions? Because the airlines and passengers took the proper precautions.

During your travels, you can make sure to be safe by being aware of your surroundings. If you spot a potentially sick passenger, you can make a point to keep your distance. In fact, it is a good idea to avoid coming within six feet of anyone for extended periods.

While keeping your distance is highly recommended, in more crowded areas, it is not always possible. That’s why it is incredibly crucial for you to wear a mask properly at all times. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. The CDC has outlined a few circumstances in which you are allowed to remove your mask. These scenarios are defined as follows:

  • For brief periods while eating, drinking, or taking medication
  • When necessary to verify your identity
  • Children under two years of age are not required to wear masks
  • If unconscious and unable to remove the mask

Other than these scenarios, you must have your facemask on to stay safe and keep others safe.

Once you arrive at your destination, stay cautious. Wash your hands regularly and avoid removing your mask as much as possible. Sanitize after touching surfaces such as armrests or doors.

Follow Local Regulations

You can use the CDC’s destination tool to check regulations, but if you want information directly from the source, you can check your destination’s health websites. Some states such as New York and Hawaii continue to require that visitors quarantine for 14 days while others, like Minnesota, have no restrictions.

However, they offer solutions to test out of the mandatory quarantine. For example, Hawaii provides an early test-out option, while New York will require a negative test when you land and a second negative test a few days later.

Traveling within the United States is one thing, but what about international travel?

2 people flying safe with covid

International Travel

Many of the recommendations from the CDC hold for international travel. The World Health Organization recommends regular hand washing, respiratory etiquette (covering a cough, etc.), and face masks. You should also test before and after departure as you would within the U.S.

Although somewhat technical, the WHO has also outlined a risk assessment for countries to advise them on their travel restrictions. The most important takeaway, however, is to research your destination’s current state of community transmission. You can find this information in the WHO’s weekly situation reports.

How Safe is Flying

Social distancing may not be possible on an airplane, but some airlines have implemented limited seating to accommodate the six-foot distance. Many airlines have also increased regular decontamination, mask mandates, and restricted beverage and food offerings.

These implementations have served to improve air travel safety, but remember the measures you can to keep yourself safer! Use your disinfectant wipes on any surface you will touch and ensure you follow those products’ instructions to ensure their effectiveness.

Improved Ventilation

Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, airlines were improving ventilation on flights. The use of HEPA filters to remove particulates from the air and enhance circulation has resulted in a much cleaner air quality within the cabin.

Harvard Aviation Public Health Initiative

A recent Harvard Study found that the risk of contracting the disease on an aircraft to be “very low.” Through airlines’ layered approach, they were able to minimize the risk of contraction. This included the following measures:

  • Cabin ventilation filtered out >99% of particulates
  • Universal wearing of face masks by passengers and crew
  • Distancing protocols while boarding and deplaning
  • Disinfection of high-touch aircraft surfaces
  • Passengers stating no symptoms and committing to mask policy

Common Myths

Since our goal is to help keep you safe as you travel this holiday season, we want to dispel some myths about precautions to make sure you are doing what is most effective.

Face shields and neck gaiters are not a verified way of protecting yourself. Cloth masks capable of blocking particulates and can wrap comfortably around your face are preferable. There should be no gaps around the mask and your face.

If using gloves, make sure you refrain from touching your face or cross-contaminating objects. Handwashing is much more useful than wearing gloves as people tend to get overconfident wearing gloves and are not as careful.

illustration of the right way to use a face shield for covid

If You’re Opening Your Home For The Holidays

Whether you are traveling or staying home, you should continue to take precautions. If you live with a person who is at high risk of contracting the virus or are high-risk yourself, practice social distancing as much as possible.

Ensure those visiting you are tested and quarantine until you get the results. Practicing handwashing and mask-wearing in your home will also keep you safe for the holidays!

We hope this guide has helped ensure your safety, and we’ll be here for you when you get back! To keep up on the latest home tips and resources, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin!

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*This material is provided for information and educational purposes only.
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