Expert Interviews

Got the Travel Bug? Experts Advise on How to Stay Safe While Traveling During the Pandemic

traveling safely during pandemic

The pandemic and a series of lockdowns has given all of us the travel bug. But, we still need to be careful and mindful when traveling, and that applies to multiple aspects — from choosing the destination and transportation method to abiding by local rules and regulations regarding safety measures.

So, to ease your mind and help you prepare for your next adventure, we’ve asked travel experts and medical advisors for their best practices to stay safe while traveling during the pandemic. Here’s what they said:

traveling safely

Know the Destination’s Regulations

“Whether it is a road trip inside your own state or international travel, taking the proper safety measures is more than necessary even now. The restrictions and rules are changing every now and then, and the only thing travelers cannot afford to do is to let down their guard. Definitely, carry a mask on you at all times when you travel, just in case the place you’re going/passing through has a regulation. You don’t want to get into trouble or pay hefty fines or worse. And, yes, masks do help in preventing the spread of COVID.

Know the network hospitals of your insurance provider where you are traveling so that, if you catch COVID, you know where to go. Before booking any accommodation, check whether they are taking all the COVID safety measures by calling or emailing them. Never assume that they are doing it without checking first. Never forget to carry sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol). And, finally, if there is a quarantine measure in place, respect it.”

Travel Domestic, Rather Than International

“Approach the topic in terms of the worst-case scenarios; if something goes wrong during your holiday, it may be troublesome to be away from your country. Possibly, you may face some health insurance problems about being accepted to a hospital abroad or it may be simply very costly. Also, if somehow borders close, it would be again hard and costly to go back to your country by air. And, being stuck abroad would be hard.

If you own a private car or a van, that could be the best option to make a road trip this summer. Although HEPA filters are used on airplanes — which makes the inside as sterile as a surgery room — still, maintaining physical distance is not that easy in an aircraft. Even though airlines make it necessary for passengers to fly with a mask, it could lead to an uncomfortable journey. When it comes to buses or trains, I believe this is not the best idea. Also, going through stations or airports will make you have to face crowded places. So, you can consider this year as the time to visit locally.”

road trip

Embrace Technology

“As we all got familiar with the dynamics of the spread of the coronavirus between people, common touchpoints are one of the most possible contacts to get the virus. While wearing gloves is a question mark among different regulatory communities, in terms of protecting yourself against the spread, the best way to keep yourself safe is to wash your hands and be careful about your personal hygiene. So, one of the best ways to reduce your risk could be adapting yourself to touchless tech solutions. Most items that we touch and that come in contact with others are generally payment points, where we either exchange money or our credit cards with salespeople. Using contactless payment systems is an easy, time-efficient and healthy way to solve this problem.”

Think of Flying Private

“Private aviation has become a popular way to travel safely during the pandemic. There are less than 20 potential COVID-19 points of contact during a private jet trip, versus over 700 when using the airlines, including the airport terminals. Since private jets use separate private terminals (FBOs), social distancing is easy and, at some airports, you can be driven directly to your aircraft. In addition, you have control over your luggage during the entire process and, of course, you only travel with people you have invited. Many private jet operators have applied special virus protection treatments to their aircraft cabins. The new mask mandate from President Biden also applies to FBOs and charter flights.”

ask the locals

Ask the Locals

  • Torben Lonne, Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder, Divein.com

“Most people are looking forward to visiting new places and enjoying other cultures. However, the risks of traveling are still there. Aside from the obvious threat of catching the virus if you are not vaccinated, there are other risks when you visit an unknown place. So, a safety measure I like to recommend to anyone who plans to travel in the near future is hiring a reliable local guide. Someone with local knowledge is the most valuable resource for anyone who wants to stay safe in unfamiliar lands. A local guide will not only make sure you stay away from what could be considered dangerous places, but will also help you be aware of and respect local regulations and make the most out of your vacation trip.”

“For anyone trying to protect their health and well-being while traveling, it’s essential to research a location in advance. The best way to do that is to find locals who can provide accurate and up-to-date information on local safety practices. You can find information by searching local travel forums (TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet’s city-specific destinations, for example); by joining local Facebook groups; or by contacting local travel experts.”

Know Your Local COVID Testing Site

“As of January 26, all travelers to the U.S. need a negative COVID test to fly, and other countries have similar stipulations. Call your hotel or local host and ask them how you’ll get your COVID test when the time comes. Are there house calls, or do you have to go to the local clinic? Is it a nasal swab? What is the cost? This is crucial information, and your host must have the right answers with references to the medical staff in your host country.”

Get Insurance

“Part of protecting your wellbeing is safeguarding your finances. Traveling can be uncertain, as 2020 dramatically proved. The travel industry took a hard hit but, despite that, they offered travelers more lenient cancelation penalties than they had pre-COVID. Travelers shouldn’t depend on forgiving cancellation policies in 2021, though. Instead, they’ll need to protect themselves with travel insurance. If your plans are canceled because you get sick or are ordered to quarantine, a travel cancelation insurance policy can help you get back part of what you paid to secure your travel plans. You will not receive full reimbursement, but you’ll get enough back that you can save it and put it toward another trip.

Travel medical insurance is vitally important to protect your health while traveling abroad. Many countries won’t treat your illness or injuries if you don’t prepay. Without a travel medical policy, not many people have the funds to be able to do that. Even if you have good health insurance in the U.S., it likely won’t provide coverage overseas, so you’ll need standalone coverage for your trip.”

travel local

Be Prepared & Be Flexible

“Here are some of the best practices we have gathered from experience and guidelines: Take private tours, walking experiences, and arrange entry to attractions at off-peak times. In public areas and when in contact with other people, wear a mask. Wash your hands with soap and water after every contact with other people. Plan trips to destinations that offer outdoor activities and are not crowded. Travelers should be informed about local regulations and curfews. Avoid dance clubs and venues that are crowded. If you wish to dance, have your local agent arrange a private dance parlor for you and your group. Never self-medicate or keep symptoms hidden. Any illness is best treated if detected on time. Carry your prescriptions and a back-up dose of your medicines, in case of emergency abroad. Proper access to a doctor for a prescription or the specific medicine may not be available.

More than anything, have a plan B. This is one of the most important tips. We have helped travelers get home during lockdown back in March. We had to charter private jets, in some cases, or help travelers find a place to stay until they could board a humanitarian flight back home. Be open to changes in itineraries and, as mentioned above, carry extra prescriptions.”

local travel us

Watch Your Diet

“Staying hydrated and fueling your body with high-quality, nutrient-dense food is an important component of staying healthy during the process. It’s easy to become dehydrated while traveling without even realizing that is what is occurring. To avoid this, keep a personal water bottle with you and refill it regularly. If you’re sitting for long periods, it is easy to lose track of the last time you drank water. Set a timer or an app to remind you to drink a few ounces every hour.

Rather than relying on convenience foods while you travel, pack nutrient-dense, shelf-stable snacks like nuts, apples, bananas, and dried fruit or jerky in moderation. Travel of any kind can lead to temptation in putting aside your personal health. This is especially true when it comes to exercise and eating well. Small breaks in your routine are not a bad thing as long as they’re done in moderation. However, you can avoid some poor diet choices by planning ahead. Packing healthy, nutrient-dense snacks to turn to while you travel — rather than processed convenience foods — is ideal. It is best to consider packing snacks that are high in protein and complex carbs, as these two characteristics will prevent sugar cravings and keep you full. Some ideas include trail mix, apples, bananas, and other easy-to-travel fruits and nuts.”

Steer Clear of Other People

  • Suzanne Bratton, Marketing Coordinator, Tripshock

“First and foremost, when it comes to safe travels in 2021, it’s critical to follow all rules, regulations and travel recommendations set out by the CDC. The second-best thing to do is to be prepared! Booking first-floor rooms to avoid hotel elevators, packing cleaning supplies to disinfect your suite upon arrival, and bringing your own pillows are just a few of the many ways to be safe while traveling during COVID.

It is also highly recommended to book outdoor activities once you’re there, as well, since poorly ventilated indoor spaces can increase the risk of contracting COVID. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and kayaking. These activities not only get you outdoors and away from crowds, but they are also a ton of fun!”

details for traveling

“One of the best ways to travel safely in 2021 is to be mindful of the number of other people when booking accommodations and planning your itinerary. The more people that share common spaces, handrails and elevators, the more the risk is increased.

Consider booking a more private accommodation, such as a house or apartment. Assess the risks of public transportation in the area and contemplate driving, instead. Outdoor activities are essential for safe travel in 2021. While planning your trip, examine what outdoor interests there are in the area. This year may be the time to take a more remote trip that includes hiking in the woods or enjoying a secluded beach.”

Respect Your Destination

“Before you even consider going on a vacation, look at the infrastructure of the destination. Can they handle tourism, and do they have the infrastructure in place to deal with an influx of positive COVID cases, if it happens? If not, look for somewhere that does. Many tourist destinations were hit hard in the beginning of the pandemic due to travelers coming in and bringing COVID cases to areas that didn’t have enough essential workers, hospital beds, etc. to deal with the influx. It’s irresponsible to travel to places that aren’t able to handle high numbers of cases.

Get tested before you leave and have your negative results printed out or easily accessible on a device in case restrictions or regulations change while you’re traveling. Many countries have restrictions that are changing almost daily, and you don’t want to be stuck in a foreign country lacking the documentation that you took the proper steps to ensure your and the indigenous community’s safety.”

explore outdoor destinations

Consider Outdoor Vacations

“Safe travel is possible in 2021 — as long as the appropriate precautions are not only taken before your trip, but also maintained throughout. When planning, stay clear of flights, trains and buses where respiratory transmission is at its most prevalent. Instead, take a road trip to Wyoming, South Dakota or Utah, instead. Hiking in wide open outdoor spaces and enjoying nature are 2021’s answer to the perfect vacation. Book accommodation with extra health and hygiene measures in place or consider private vacation rentals where contact with others is minimal.

Including a kitchen space significantly reduces time mixing with others. However, restaurants are maintaining outdoor dining at socially distanced tables incredibly well. Just remember to bundle up in colder climates. Respect of the circumstances and for other travelers is paramount. Wearing a mask at all times outside of your accommodation and vehicle is the crucial first line of defense for everyone.”

Follow 3 Simple Rules

“First, don’t be afraid to ask hosts or hotels about their safety measures. For example, breakfast and dinner should be taken in your room in order to avoid spending too much time with other people in a single space. Second, avoid taking public transport or avoid peak hours. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a lot of people in an unventilated space for more than 15 minutes. Third, before you book, take a look at the reviews of recent guests. This will tell you a lot about which safety measures are taken and how strictly they are being followed. Last, don’t forget to follow all the regular safety measures! Wash your hands frequently; carry hand disinfectant with you, as well as disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces; wear a mask and keep your distance. If all of these are followed, you can be guaranteed a safe trip.”

keep distance wear face masks

Consider Your Health Situation

  • Sarah Johnson, Registered Nurse & Health Ambassador, Family Assets

“The first step before traveling anywhere in 2021 is to be realistic about your health status and the risks involved wherever you plan on traveling. If you are a vulnerable person with a complicated chronic illness or health condition, going somewhere with poor healthcare infrastructure and high rates of infection is ill-advised. The second step is — once you have decided you are willing to accept the risks involved with traveling — to purchase travelers’ insurance that covers COVID-related expenses.

Finally, even once widespread vaccination becomes commonplace around the world, mask mandates are going to remain in place while traveling for some time. Always make sure you have allotted enough masks for your journey. Ideally you should be changing masks every few hours. And, if you need to take your mask off to drink water or quickly eat something, try to keep it under 15 minutes and always disinfect your hands before touching your face or mask.”

Err on the Side of Caution

“My current travel process is to limit public interaction and maintain a safe environment. For rental cars, I spray the interior with Lysol spray, let it sit for an hour or so, and then drive with the windows open for a bit to air it out. For lodging, I do a similar process. Use wipes on all the switches and handles. Spray with disinfectant where possible. Let the room sit for a bit and air it out; go get a carryout meal or take a walk. I typically use my own sleeping bag and pillows for a one-night hotel stay.

In general, I am being overly cautious, but I feel one slip-up can have strong consequences. Certainly, I miss traveling. It is my favorite thing in the world. But, my attitude is that it is incredibly selfish to ignore reality and facts and endanger the lives of others.”

covid testing

Get Tested

  • Austin Alvarez, Marketing Manager, empowerDX

“For anyone traveling during the pandemic, I’d recommend using testing before and after travel. A recent study published in JAMA found that ‘at least 50% of new SARS-CoV-2 infections were estimated to have originated from exposure to individuals with infection, but without symptoms.’ This means that you and the people you’re exposed to while traveling could be spreading the virus and not even know it. Testing before/after travel using PCR technology — instead of rapid antigen testing — ensures that you’re minimizing the risk of false negatives.”

If you want to travel during these times, make sure you’re protected and that you research your destination well and use these tips to stay safe. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to rent apartments for a longer-term vacation or remote-work relocation, head over to RENTCafé and check out your options!

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About the author

Mihaela Buzec

Mihaela is an online content developer for RENTCafé. She has a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Current Linguistics. She is a passionate reader, writer, and researcher, with a background in academic writing. You can get in touch with Mihaela at mihaela.buzec@yardi.com.

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