As more and more of us start to return to travel, health and safety are top of mind. How do we travel responsibly in this new normal? Is it smart to consider traveling for the upcoming holidays? How do you know where you are even allowed to go to these days?
Whether youâre travel planning for the holidays, packing for a trip or already on the road, here are a few tips to level-up your travel and pandemic preparedness.
See related: The cost of safety: Budgeting for solo female travel
How to travel during a pandemic
- Tips for travel planning
- Tips for pandemic packing
- Tips for staying safe once you go
Tips for travel planning
Health and government officials are asking people to avoid nonessential travel during the holidays, but for many thatâs not an option. If you find yourself traveling during the holidays, there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe:
- Donât travel if you are ill or if youâve been around someone who has had COVID in the past two weeks
- Donât purchase flights with layovers âÂ the CDC has determined they present a higher risk than nonstop flights
- Keep gatherings small and practice social distancing
- Wear a mask and keep it on at all times
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your face
- If youâre driving, try to limit stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks
Know the entry and exit requirements of your destination
If you’re traveling outside the U.S., check the current COVID-19 requirements for the country youâre visiting.
Ask the following questions: Will the country allow passport holders from your country to enter? Will you need to show a COVID negative test before boarding or on arrival? Is there a mandatory quarantine? Donât assume that you can get into a country just because an airline will sell you a ticket there.
Sadly, thereâs not a magical website thatâs updated daily with this information, so youâll have to do some digging around. For international travel as an American, try the U.S. embassy website.
Do your destination research
Learn everything you can about how COVID-19 is being managed in your desired destination, so you know what to expect. When I was planning my trip to Cabo, Iâd frequently visit the Cabo tourism board website to look for updates on safety measures.
I had also emailed the hotel concierge in advance to check on which amenities at the resort were open and closed, and if the restaurant, spa services or pool needed advance reservations.
American Express points youâve been saving to book Delta. Remember that being comfortable with traveling these days is likely more important than making sure youâve got the best bargain fare.
See related: Best travel credit cards
Build a backup plan into your booking
When planning a trip in 2020, make sure youâre booking a trip that you can modify or cancel at a momentâs notice for any reason â including if you just change your mind.
Ensure plane tickets, hotel and car reservations, and activity bookings are refundable (or at least changeable). And be sure to have an emergency budget (or emergency points) in case you have to pivot your plans mid-travel. It requires a bit more planning, but your future self will likely be grateful.
See related: Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus
Tips for pandemic packing
Iâve always been a fan of packing as light as possible when I travel. Packing for travel in a pandemic, however, will likely require you to revise your suitcase strategy. I call this my âBoy Scout packing strategyâ because in these unprecedented times you definitely want to be prepared for anything.
Long gone are the days of using the easy-to-access side pockets of my carry-on backpack to stash spare phone chargers and adapters. I now use one of these pockets to carry my own easy-to-access sanitation kit including wipes, a small hand sanitizer and some spare masks.
While you will likely wear only one mask at a time, I can tell you from my daylong flight to Mexico experience that you will be grateful to have a change of mask option.
Iâve repurposed the other pocket of my carry-on to hold my refillable water bottle and lots of snacks. Most airlines are not currently serving food onboard except for long-haul flights and very limited meal service in first class.
With many airport lounges and in-terminal restaurants still closed, the lines in the airport at the few open stores to purchase food and water are long. I was able to fill my water bottle at a touchless refill station in three of the four airports I transited through on my last travel. (Donât refill your water at a traditional water fountain from which people drink.)
If Iâm not going directly home or to my hotel on arrival, Iâve also begun packing a change of outfit in my carry-on so I can get out of my germy and sweaty clothes on arrival.