We are living in a strange time because of COVID-19. That includes those of us who live to travel. At some point, each of us is going to decide if the need or desire to travel outweighs the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Once we decide to venture out, there are steps we can take to help protect ourselves and others, not just from COVID-19, but from any virus that might be out there. Here are our suggested tips for travelers during COVID-19.
Deciding when it is safe for you to travel is an important and highly personal decision. You will want to weigh all of the factors and consider the best steps to protect yourself.
Determining the Best Mode of Travel
Trains and busses put you in an enclosed space for long periods of time. These are the ideal conditions for transmitting the virus. On the other hand, most carriers are taking extra measures to clean and disinfect the passenger compartments.
Because of air renewal and filtering in airplanes, it is difficult for viruses to circulate in an airplane cabin. However, it is also difficult for you to social distance from others on an airplane. You may end up touching shoulders with someone for several hours.
Your own automobile is probably your safest option if your destination is within driving distance. Road trips are increasingly popular as people seek ways to stay safe while traveling.
Protective Equipment for Traveling
You should wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when you are out in public and especially when you are within six feet of people not in your household. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is not necessary to wear medical-grade masks or other protective gear. In fact, if you choose medical-grade equipment, it reduces the supply available for hospitals and other clinical settings. You can get high quality cloth masks here.
Gloves are also not necessary. If the virus gets on your glove and then you touch your face with your gloved hand, the virus is transmitted exactly as if it were on your bare hand.
Protective Behaviors When You Travel
You should stay at least six feet from other people. A simple rule of thumb for most people is, if you can touch each other’s outstretched fingers, then you are probably too close.
You should wash your hands frequently, including any time that you enter or leave a location. If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, you should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
You should use disinfecting wipes to wipe down any surface that others have touched before you touch it yourself. If you enter an establishment where social distancing and masks are not in use, you should leave and find a different place that can provide what you need.
COVID-19 Lodging Guide
One of our best tips for travelers during COVID-19 is to try to find a place to stay that does not require you to pass through common spaces, like a lobby or hallways, to get to your door. It is best to find a place that has contactless check-in. You can check-in online and receive a code that allows you to open your door without interacting with an employee.
Vacation rentals like VRBO that offer free-standing accommodations can be a good option.
Once you are in your room, take a few minutes to wipe down the hard surfaces with a disinfecting wipe. You don’t need to worry as much about cloth surfaces and bedding because viruses can’t survive on porous surfaces for very long.
You may also want to use your do-not-disturb sign to prevent staff from entering your room to clean up or refresh the minibar.
Dining on the Road
Takeout is the best option when you travel during COVID-19. If takeout won’t work for you, then dining on an open-air patio would be the next best thing.
Sitting in an enclosed dining room with a lot of other people breathing the same air would be the last choice. Whether on the patio or in the dining room, make sure that the staff is wearing masks and that they are cleaning the tables between diners. If the staff changes gloves between clearing dirty dishes and bringing your food, that is a bonus that most restaurants don’t think about.
Where Did This Information Come From
To determine what steps we should take to protect ourselves when traveling, I reviewed guidance provided by the CDC, WHO, and The Mayo Clinic. Before deciding to travel, you should check these sources yourself to get the latest information. More is being learned about COVID-19 every day and the guidance changes to reflect the latest information.
Understanding Transmission of Respiratory Illnesses
To protect yourself while traveling, it helps to understand how respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19, are transmitted. There are two primary modes of transmission: through the air and by physical contact.
The first transmission method, airborne transmission, is when the virus is carried in tiny droplets of moisture expelled from an infected person’s lungs. The deeper a person breathes, the more virus contained in the droplets. The faster the person expels air, the further the droplets spread through the air.
Coughing and sneezing are the primary spreaders in this method. This is why you are advised to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Shouting and singing also significantly increase the spread of the virus in droplets but speaking or even just breathing can spread the droplets. Once the droplets are in the air, another person can breathe them in and become infected.
Physical Contact Transmission
The second mode of spreading the virus is through physical contact. An infected person expels the virus in droplets and those droplets land on a surface. Another person touches the surface and transfers the virus to their hands and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth where the virus has easy entry into their body. Now that person is infected.
The most direct way for this to happen is when an infected person coughs into their hand and then shakes another person’s hand. The second person then touches their face and becomes infected through their eyes, nose, or mouth.
The droplets from an infected person can also settle on surfaces. Another person touching the same surface can then pick up the virus. This is especially likely on frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons.
Time is also a factor. The longer someone is around an infected person, the more likely they are to contract the virus. Being within six feet of an infected person for more than three minutes greatly increases a person’s risk of infection. The virus also starts to degrade as soon as it leaves the body so the longer the virus sits on a surface or hangs in the air, the less virulent it becomes.
Who Should Travel?
If you are ill, you should not travel! You don’t want to spread whatever you have to others and you may not want to be away from easy access to medical treatment if your symptoms worsen. You may also want to consider staying home if you are at high risk.
If possible, get a COVID-19 test before you travel, so that you know you are not an asymptomatic carrier.
After You Travel
Once you return home from your trip, you should isolate yourself for 14 days so that you don’t spread any virus that you may have contracted while on the road.
With these tips for travelers during COVID-19, you can make the choice when travel might be right for you. It is important to know the facts before making any decision. When you are ready to hit the road again, we hope your adventures are filled with wow moments.