It’s been almost six months since we could move about as freely as we did before COVID-19. Since then, flights have been dramatically scaled down, in-person business has shrunk, and hotel reservations have plummeted to historical lows. Travel plans have vanished into thin air. Stuck at home, you might be wondering if traveling during COVID-19 is possible, because who doesn’t need to get out of the house these days?
As a matter of fact, it is possible. In fact, there might be advantages to COVID-19 traveling that weren’t there before, such as fewer people and tourists, allowing you to enjoy a vacation without the crowds. Airbnb prices might be lower due to the dramatic decrease of available tenants.
With that said, COVID-19 traveling comes with an extra set of precautions. You have to be extra careful to stay safe and prevent yourself from posing a danger to others. The tips below for COVID-19 traveling are a combination of guidelines from the CDC as well as our own suggestions to get the most out of COVID-19 traveling.
Tip 1: Avoid International Travel
This is a rather unfortunate constraint, but is necessary not only for safety reasons, but because it is becoming more and more of a hassle for Americans to enter other countries. For many places, it’s horrendously expensive to book a ticket, with a high probability of canceling, or a grueling 14-day quarantine if you do manage to get out of the country.
On a practical and safety level, international travel has highly increased risk for COVID-19 and was the reason COVID-19 spread so widely in the first place. With security lines, airport terminals, and difficulty social distancing on a plane–where hundreds of people share just a few bathrooms–it’s no wonder the CDC strongly advised against international travel. On international flights, it’s easy to get restless and start moving around, increasing contact with other people.
For COVID-19 traveling, it’s best to stick to domestic travel. As will be explained below, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore your own country, particularly in one as diverse as the US.
Tip 2: Avoid Hotels and Apartment Airbnbs, Stick to Isolated Housing
The rationale for avoiding hotels and apartment Airbnbs is very similar to the reason to avoid international travel. Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid densely populated places with cramped public spaces and several people living together in close quarters.
Hotels are particularly at risk due to narrow hallways, centralized areas, lack of outdoor air circulation, and the ease with which you can come in contact with other people.
The better option is to pick isolated Airbnbs, or a house rental. The key is to have an entire living space–as well as laundry, kitchen, and facilities if applicable–to yourself. This decreases the risk of coming in contact with others and ensures a lot more sanitary control over your environment.
Tip 3: Adjust Your Packing List
If your travel destination is more urban, this tip is more of a concern. If your destination is more rural, you have to worry less, but it’s still good to bring some anti-COVID-19 materials along.
Altogether, you don’t have to pack an entire disinfectant kit when traveling, but it’s good to make space in your luggage for at least the following:
- disinfectant wipes
- hand sanitizer (which many people already carry when traveling)
- reusable cloth and disposable masks
- gloves (usually for shopping)
- liquid disinfectant spray
This, too, is a tip advised by the CDC. And for good reason: it’s important to keep your living space as clean and virus-free when traveling, so that you’re just as safe as you would be at home.
If your living arrangement does not have contactless entry–or if there any amenities that require cleaning–these materials will come in handy for keeping yourself as well as the people around you safe
Tip 4: Pick Road Trips or Destinations You Can Get To By Car
In addition to avoiding international travel, you should avoid air travel or public transportation, period.
The CDC has many guidelines for maintaining safe standards while traveling, but the more simple, dominating theme is: avoid contact with other people. Taking buses, taxis, trains, or subways–where sanitary standards are harder to maintain–will significantly increase the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
By taking road trips and traveling by car, you avoid all these dangers. It is not traveling per se that makes COVID-19 dangerous, but simply that increased likelihood of being around other people. Eliminate that possibility as much as you can, and the safety during your travels will be just about the same if you had stayed at home.
There are many benefits to road trips that might be more apparent during COVID-19. For one, after being cooped up at home all day with nothing but electronics to keep you company, enjoying the fresh air and nature can be a great refresher. The decrease in light pollution due to COVID-19 has made for much clearer night skies. The anxiety of the pandemic can find an outlet in moving around freely without endangering yourself. And, as two of our previous blog posts described, taking a break from technology can have enormous benefits for your health.
Tip 5: Explore domestic travel places you’ve never thought of going to
Traveling is a common hobby, often publicized on Instagram and Facebook with extravagant photos of famous landmarks around the world. With the availability of plane transportation and social media, it’s easy to get caught up with the most exotic international tourist sites and forget that your own country may have plenty things to offer as well.
In the US alone, we have almost every type of climate and landscape imaginable! From the Appalachian Mountain Range to the cornfields of the Midwest, from tropical Florida to the snowy states of Maine and Montana, the range of options for domestic travel are endless. This ties into the theme of one of our earlier articles on a related topic, that of the staycation: the fun of traveling can be had even when close to home.
In America, you can even get a taste for international places due to the large number of immigrant communities and towns that have sprung up all over the country. Solvang, California, is a town that will make you think you’ve traveled to Denmark, with its distinctly European small-town architecture and unique shops. New Glarus, founded by immigrants in Wisconson, is like a mini Switzerland. The restaurants in places like Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, little Italy in New York, or Chinatown in Seattle can give you a taste of foreign cuisine without stepping foot outside American borders.
Traveling during COVID-19 comes with many precautions, but is definitely doable. With the right measures in place for safety, and by limiting your time in public spaces or in close quarters with other people, travel can be fun, fulfilling, and just as safe as shelter-in-place.