In March 2020 many of us were forced into some sort of either voluntary or mandatory lockdown. At the time it seemed like the pandemic would pass after a few months and by mid-summer things life would be back to “normal”. The moment my parents have been prepping me for my whole life.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
After spending months in UK’s lockdown, a few life things came up that required me to ponder whether or not I should be travelling. Should I go stateside for one of my best friends wedding? Do I go home to my family for the holidays? Can I afford to mentally spend another year in lockdown? The decision wasn’t easy and not one that I took lightly. In fact, I even wrote a post about my internal debate. In the end, I decided to travel. Not for funsies or because I was itching to get back on a place (I mean, I was but that could wait).
When that never happened, we’re forced to re-evaluate what’s important and accept the risks. Not only that but we were forced to shift the conversation around travel. Travelling like we normally did in the past was no longer an option but equally stopping travel altogether could devastate communities and countries that rely on tourism for much of their economy.
While I’m hesitant to encourage travelling right now, if you’re going to do it, you might as well know how to do it responsibly in the present. As a start, I’m sharing 10 tips for travelling safely during the pandemic.
1. Check the requirements and guidelines carefully – and often!
Regulations around covid and travel have been changing faster than you can bat your eyelid. One minute you’re okay, the next you’re on the no-fly list and have to mandatory quarantine upon return.
If you’re a US citizen, there are only a handful of countries that you can travel to right now. And while the options are limited, not every country has the same rules and regulations.
Some countries require travellers to enter a 14-day quarantine, get tested, or a combination of both — some may require no testing at all. Regardless, if you’re taking a risk and hopping on a flight, I highly recommend getting tested even if your destination doesn’t require it.
2. Choose an airline that goes the extra mile
Choosing an airline that goes above and beyond by protecting its passengers is crucial at this time. Although it has been proven that most viruses and germs do not spread easily on flights due to how the air is circulated and filtered on planes, choosing a reputable airline will give you peace of mind and add an extra layer of protection.
If you’re really concerned, research the airline’s cleaning protocols and additional safety measures before you book your flight. Pay attention to details such as mask requirements, change fee waivers, an updated refund policy, boarding procedures, and whether or not they block middle seats.
3. Always wear & rotate your masks
This goes without saying by now, no? Airlines require masks on board, and many countries require masks to be worn at all times while out in public spaces. Additionally, hotel and resorts will most likely require guests to wear a mask anywhere on their property. So be sure to research and obey the rules and regulations of your aircraft, transportation services, hotel, and destination if you’re choosing to travel currently.
4. Remember to wash hands & sanitize often
I hate that I even have to say this but I guess it’s also the year everyone learned to wash their hands. Alarming, really. My advice? Don’t get caught without a bottle of hand sanitiser at any given time. Keeping your hands clean is important to your health and safety, but washing them might not always be an option. Be sure to pack a bottle of hand sanitiser in your carry-on or backpack wherever you go. Sanitise as much as I do and you too can have super dry paper-like hands!
5. Avoid touching surfaces as much as possible
Okay, guilty. You name it, I’m likely to touch it if passing by or hold on to railings. Doing things like opening doors, holding handles, pressing buttons. Obviously, some things can’t be helped but the aim here is to be more mindful and avoid touching things unnecessarily, especially at the airport, restaurants or hotels, to limit the risk that you’ll pick the virus up from any surface.
Oh, and if you also realise you touch everrrrything as much as I do, you too soon can develop a spasm where you randomly yell ‘oh fack’ before reaching for sanitiser. again.
6. Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose
Maaaan, this one gets me too. My boyfriend catches me out ALL the time as he’ll often find me mindlessly touching my face (more often than I’d even like to admit). Honestly, I don’t even realise I’m doing it half the time so the trick here is to have some else help you stay vigilant with this. Get them to help keep you aware.
Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose, or mouth – everything. Try to avoid adjusting your mask, rubbing your eyes, and resist scratching that itch! But if you absolutely must, make sure to wash your hands properly, or use hand sanitiser both before touching your face and after.
7. Choose a hotel or destination away from the major cities
If you have a say in the destination, location, accommodation, choose somewhere that is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their guests. If you want you can even research cleaning protocols, what measures they’re implementing, and their overall commitment to your safety and health.
Airbnb has a new “Enhanced Clean” label right that put hosts through rigorous training and testing regarding new cleaning procedures and protocols. Hosts who complete the training and pass the test will have the new “Enhanced Clean” tag displayed on their listings. Worth noting that hosts can opt-out of participating in the “Enhanced Clean” program and training. If they choose to do so, Airbnb hosts could decide to leave their listings unoccupied for 72-hours between guests. This will also be displayed under the property’s image section.
If you’re into fitness and itching for a workout, opt for home workouts so you don’t have to be in a gym and if you really can’t stand any more home workouts (you’re not alone) then find a smaller, boutique, studio or class, where the visitor count would be lower than the average gym. For example, instead of going to a typical gym like YouFit, I chose to go to a Pilates studio where each class has a max of 6-8 people and every person is a machine apart. Not only that but you’ll get extra peace of mind knowing that they’ll take your temperature before entry and have you sanitise your station before you leave. The other option is an outdoor gym, like Core Fitness, in Las Catalinas, Costa Rica.
8. Stay in your travel bubble
Stick with your designated travel “bubble” or circle as much as you can. Now is not the time to be meeting and mingling with new crews. The key here is to limit conversations with strangers, especially those who aren’t wearing masks. Oh, if you see someone walking your way, put some polite distance between you and make sure you have your mask(s) on.
9. Opt for outdoor seating and activities
Once you’ve arrived at your destination of choice, stick to outdoor dining, activities, and experiences. Being outdoors will reassure you and make your job of social distancing very easy. However, if you have to be in an enclosed space, keep your mask on whilst walking in between tables, to the bar or bathroom. To put yourself at ease, you can usually call or check the restaurant’s website ahead of time to see what their protocols are.
10. Get tested before and after trips
Although you should apply all these tips to your travels, getting tested both before and after your trip is a good practice — even if your destination, hotel, or airline doesn’t require it. A huge reason why countries are opening up their borders again is because of a dependency on tourism for their economy. It definitely doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over even though some places act like it.
It is our responsibility as travellers to adapt, change, evolve and be mindful. Protecting ourselves and those around us, especially the locals of the destination you’re travelling to, need to come first. So yes, travelling is possible, if you choose to do it but only if you accept the risks and are willing to take the proper precautions, not just protect yourself, but those around you as well.
Hope this helped to put your mind at ease a little. Stay safe out there and be sensible, friends.