Written by Libby Ennenga
Traveling during the COVID-19 crisis creates a new set of challenges for travelers than previously experienced. While traveling may seem highly desirable or academically important, your health and safety are the most important factors to care for at this time.
However, there will be instances where travel is necessary, whether for personal or academic reasons. For those considering traveling domestically or internationally this year, the following tips will provide important information on staying healthy and safe while traveling.
Deciding Whether to Travel
The best way to safeguard yourself from getting sick is to stay home. However, we understand that in some cases it may be necessary to travel. In that case, it is important to decide whether you are healthy enough to travel.
Do you feel sick? Have you been around someone who is sick? The CDC states that it is imperative you do not travel if you or someone you have been around in the last 14 days feels sick. Of course, you should never travel if you feel ill or if you are traveling with someone who feels ill.
Do not travel if you experience the following symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
For a more extensive list of COVID-19 symptoms, visit the CDC Website.
Another important step to consider before traveling is to research the response to COVID-19 in your destination. Your travel destination may have certain entry restrictions or possibly a mandated quarantine upon arrival. Additionally, it is important to know whether there has been a spike in cases in your destination.
Important Items to Pack
The following suggestions are items you should have access to both in-transit and at your final destination. Pack enough of these supplies for the entirety of your trip, as their availability in varying locations is not guaranteed.
Face Coverings – Regardless of your mode of transportation, it is important that you wear a face covering at all times during your travel. If possible, bring extras in the event something occurs to your primary face covering. In some situations, like air travel, wearing a face covering will be required.
Hand Sanitizer – The CDC recommends carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. This should not replace washing your hands with hot water and soap. Whenever possible, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If possible, bring disinfecting wipes to use on high-touch surfaces.
Non-Perishable Food – The CDC recommends packing non-perishable food items in case restaurants and stores are not open while traveling. If you are not utilizing air travel, it is also a good idea to bring water with you. Examples of non-perishable foods include protein bars, nuts and dried fruits or granola.
Thermometer – If you have access to a thermometer, it is a good idea to pack this with your belongings. Taking your temperature regularly will help you track symptoms related to COVID-19.
Types of Travel and Their Specific Challenges
Air Travel – According to the CDC, air travel causes you to be in close proximity to others, such as when standing in security lines and airport terminals. It also greatly exposes you to frequently-touched surfaces. Additionally, while flights are trying to space passengers out on planes, there is a high likelihood of sitting less than six feet away from someone else.
Bus/Train Travel – The CDC says that train and bus travel will often require you to sit less than six feet away from other travelers. Such travel also includes exposure to frequently-touched surfaces.
Car Travel – According to the CDC, car travel requires travelers to come into contact with frequently-touched surfaces and can expose travelers to other people when stopping at gas stations, rest areas and restaurants.
How to Stay Safe During Transit
With any of the above methods of travel, there are a number of strategies you can use to stay as safe and healthy as possible.
First, always wear your face covering while traveling. Many public modes of travel will require passengers to wear a face covering regardless. If you are traveling by car, be sure to put on a face covering whenever exiting the vehicle, such as at a gas station.
Next, whenever possible, maintain a safe distance of at least six feet between you and others. While this may prove difficult in security lines or on a bus, do your best to keep distance.
Remember to always regularly clean your hands. Whenever possible, use soap and hot water, not just hand sanitizer.
Finally, if necessary, purchase food from drive-through lines, curbside restaurant services or as take-out rather than dining in.
What to Do When You Arrive at Your Destination
If you need to stay at a hotel during your travels, be sure to research how your hotel is keeping guests and employees safe. Once you arrive at your lodging, disinfect the room, specifically high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, remotes, light switches and faucets.
After arriving at your destination, the CDC recommends travelers stay home, avoiding others and monitoring your health for 14 days following travel. If you begin to show symptoms, do not interact with others. Call a doctor and follow their instructions for getting tested. Please visit the CDC Website to see their list of emergency COVID-19 warning signs.