Twelve tips from travel professionals on how to travel safely in this season of Covid-19 and Beyond
If you are like many of us, you are tired of being home and dreaming of taking a great vacation, just as soon as this all blows over. In fact, pent up demand for travel is (no surprise) at an all time high! Remember what it felt like on the last day of school before summer vacation when you were a little kid? The school bells sounded, the doors opened and everyone runs outside, free at last for 3 whole months!! That’s the picture I get when I think about our pent-up demand to travel; how we all just want to run outside and play. Interestingly, virtually all of our clients whose 2020 travel plans were cancelled, simply chose to roll their 2020 reservations and bookings into 2021, leaving most cruise ships with record high numbers of cabins already sold for next year.
The experts at the CDC and Johns Hopkins are telling us that we may not have a vaccine for many months so Covid-19 may be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. But what if you need to travel now? Perhaps for work or perhaps because you can’t stand to wait another day to see a loved one or perhaps your family needs the mental health break afforded by a great vacation. Are there ways we can travel reasonably safely in this season of Covid-19? Yes, we believe there are. In fact, while 7 of our trips (3 cruises, 2 conferences, and 2 family vacations) were cancelled for 2020, we were able to reschedule and take a few other trips. The information I am sharing with you is exactly what we did to travel safely by car, in airplanes, in hotels and at resorts. Obviously, we are NOT medical professionals but only offer this advice based on our own research from organizations like the CDC, the Mayo Clinic, travel industry experts and our own personal experience. And certainly, no one can be 100% safe even under the tightest precautions. But we have found these tips and tricks to be very useful in helping our own family travel as safely as possible and are delighted to share what we have learned with you!
You probably know these first four by heart and could recite them in your sleep:
Wear a Mask when out and about. According to the CDC, when everyone is wearing a mask, the rate of infection drops to the very low single digits!
Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds every time you touch a surface, or use hand sanitizer if not near a sink.
Avoid crowds. I know; we miss the concerts and the parties and hanging out in the beer gardens on a Saturday afternoon, too. Just remember, someday this too shall pass.
Here are a few extra tips we have used when traveling by car or plane and when staying in a hotel, resort or rented home.
When traveling by car:
Bring masks and gloves: We couldn’t wait any longer to see our new grandson in Florida; babies change so much in the first year! But we wanted to minimize a chance of bringing the virus with us so we chose to drive, instead of flying. We also chose to drive straight through (17 hours) instead of stopping at a hotel. Our goal was to minimize all contact with the outside world. When we stopped for gas, we wore a mask and plastic gloves (I got a box of 100 latex free ones on Amazon) while filing the tank and using the restrooms. After each stop, we carefully removed the gloves, starting from the wrist down, so as not to contaminate our hands, and then threw the gloves (now inside out) into the gas station garbage can before getting back into the car. Once back in the car, we used hand sanitizer on our hands. We placed our masks back in an individual plastic bag until needed again. Interesting note: We chose to stop at the larger truck stops along our journey (e.g. Loves, Pilot) because they always had the cleanest restrooms. We noticed that the long-haul truckers were also careful to wear masks and gloves; we assumed that was because they traveled all over the country. We took their use of masks and gloves as an indication that we were not overreacting but rather, following good health and safety protocols.
Pack your own food: We chose to bring most of our own food rather than stop at restaurants, again, to minimize contact with others. We did do drive thru for dinner. We chose Chick Fil A because they are doing an awesome job with the safety precautions. Note: we have now visited Chick Fil A’s in 5 states during our several recent road trips and every single one did a great job; all servicers masked up appropriately (mouth and nose covered- not a mask hanging down under their chin or from one ear), social distanced and brought us our food in a bag served on a plastic tray to minimize contact. Nice job Chick Fil A!
Keep extra hand sanitizer and masks: We keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in our car and another one in my purse so we are ready in case there is no water handy. I also keep an extra couple of masks in the car and in my purse.
When traveling by airplanes:
1. Don’t touch anything:
Airports and the TSA have instituted a much more touch-free check in experience. Many airlines have closed their kiosks and prefer travelers to use digital boarding passes. We still prefer to print out our boarding passes at home…just in case their scanner isn’t working (which has happened to us) or the phone dies (also happened to us).
The TSA now has travelers put their ID in a scanner and then hold their ID and boarding pass us so they can see them but not touch them.
TSA is instructing travelers to put all items that you used to put in their little plastic bowls (keys, wallets, cell phones, belts, etc.) in your carry-on luggage before going through the scanners.
If you are bringing food from home, it must be in a clear plastic bag that the TSA agent can see (but not have to touch).
2. Mask up - for everyone’s sake.
Many airlines now require you to be masked up during the entire flight (unless you have a medical condition, etc.). Many airlines are now (as of August 2020) requiring passengers to be masked up in their lounges and boarding areas as well. We bought KN95 masks (not the hospital grade kind but very close in quality) to wear for the 8 hours of flying and time spent in the terminals and airline lounges. The KN95 has a good seal around it but is designed to have a bowl shape around your mouth and nose. We found these masks more comfortable to wear for a full day.
3. Bring your wipes. Use your Wipes.
We brought a plastic bag filled with about 50 Lysol wipes (I didn’t bring the canister as I wasn’t sure I could get it through security). As soon as we got on the plane, we immediately cleaned off every surface in our area including the tray, knobs, arm rests, head rest, etc.) We put the used wipes in another plastic bag to be thrown away when we disembarked.
4. Cover up:
Normally when we fly, we wear resort wear as we often go right into dinner or a meeting from the airport. But, in order to stay safe while flying during this season of Covid-19, we have adopted our daughters’ hospital protocol. Our 2 daughters (one a doctor and one a nurse) have been caring for Covid-19 patients; in order to protect the family, when they come home from the hospital, they take off their shoes outside and then immediately remove their scrubs in the laundry room to be washed in hot water and go right into a the shower, before they ever sitting down. We chose to travel in lightweight (nylon) exercise gear, long sleeves and long pants, in order to minimize touching things. Once we got to our destination, a house we were renting in Sun River, Oregon, we took off our shoes outside, immediately cleaned every surface in the house with antiseptic wipes (yes, the rental company assured us that their house cleaners were following the CDC guideline but we wanted to be super-duper safe) and then put our travel clothes in the laundry and took showers. After all the cleaning precautions, we poured ourselves a glass of wine and sat on the deck, enjoying the beautiful Oregon sunset over Mt. Bachelor.
When staying in a hotel, resort or privately rented home:
Know before you go:
Do your homework before you go to insure you are choosing a property that is adhering to the CDC Guidelines for Cleaning, a program the hotel and resort industry is calling their “Safe Stay” program. For more information, go to www.CDC.gov or go to: https://www.ahla.com/sites/default/files/safestayguidelinesv3_081420_0.pdf. The only hotels and resorts we are willing to use are those who have done an excellent job following the CDC Guidelines. For example, on another trip, we wanted to relax at a beautiful resort on the Gulf Coast because the beach is our happy place. So, after careful research, we found a property in Sandestin, Florida. Their website was impressive; they clearly explained all of their CDC certified protocols from touchless check in, to cleaning the rooms, to cleaning and social distancing in the pool, beach, bar and restaurant areas. Once we arrived, we were pleased to see that they were doing everything they advertised! Our room even had a sticker on the door/door-jam indicating it had been cleaned according to CDC guidelines and no one had entered the room since it had been cleaned. However, we still chose to immediately clean every single surface that we would touch (all door knobs, light switches, remotes, desk, pen, etc.) just in case. We had a fabulous 3 day stay at this resort, enjoyed laying at the pool, walking along the beach and sipping fun drinks at sunset at the outdoor bar. In fact, we are returning in a few weeks for another long weekend because they did such a great job with their safety protocols!
What to do if you arrive at the hotel or resort and they aren’t doing the safety and health protocols they advertised? Leave! We did our research on another property along the Gulf and they, too, had everything clearly spelled out on the front page of their website. They even sent 2 emails before we arrived explaining their safety policies before our arrival. I felt very good about this resort. They sounded like they were doing exactly what we experienced at the other property. But, once we arrived, it was obvious that no one, (ok, maybe about 5% of the guests and resort employees) were following the CDC guidelines. While there were signs every 10 feet about wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet, virtually no one was wearing a mask and certainly no one was maintaining any distance at all! Even the resort employee at the Welcome Desk (which, ironically had a sign on it requiring everyone to wear a mask at all times) was not wearing a mask. We ended up staying in our room, ordering in and leaving early the next morning. I emailed the Concierge a polite but thorough report of everything we saw and why we cut our stay short. I also filled out the survey they emailed me. Interestingly, I never heard back from either the Concierge or the company.
We hope these tips are helpful as you choose to get back out there, see the world and reconnect with loved ones. Give us a call! We’d love to help.
We specialize in group travel…planning that perfect vacation for your family, extended family, Gal Pal Getaways, company meetings or just the two of you for a little R and R.
And if you are wondering why to use a travel professional to help plan your trip, I have one question for you:
Do you cut your own hair? Of course not! So, if you know you need a professional to help with your hair, doesn’t it make sense to use a professional to plan that trip….after all, your time and money are certainly as valuable as your hair.
Jackie and John
Adventure Awaits World Travel