Five tips to guide your travel plans in the time of coronavirus
The social sphere continues to be abuzz with discussions and questions from travelers wondering what travel will look like when we all can travel again. What upcoming summer and fall travel plans in the time of coronavirus might still be ok? Getting infected with COVID-19, or infecting someone else, or getting stuck or quarantined somewhere and not being able to get home even when travel restrictions are lifted continue to be a worry for many, and for good reason.
For travel writers and bloggers, like us, planned trips for the summer in 2020 and beyond are in question, and this has everybody hunkering over the social airways trying to figure out what to do. Shows, conferences and other large events have already been canceled into June, so all travelers with much-anticipated plans in the summer and fall of 2020 remain in a dilemma – will travel really be safe, should we cancel now or wait, how do I stay healthy if the trip is a go, and what do I do if my travel is disrupted somewhere.
Current guidelines from health experts advise keeping your distance (up to six feet by some accounts) from people who are sick. It is also advised to avoid or at least limit your exposure to large groups, the very kinds of clustered gatherings large conventions and tours create. Which gets downright difficult if you are traveling on an airplane, in a bus, on a train, or attending meetings or conferences.
Though each person certainly must make their own decision regarding how much uncertainty, worry, or even risk to take on for any trip, once we can all travel again, here are five tips to stay as healthy and safe as possible and guide your travel plans in the time of coronavirus or any epedimic or pandemic outbreak in the future.
- Plan for the worst and don’t travel if you are sick. Realize that in the event of an outbreak in an area, a hotel can be placed under quarantine, a city can be sealed off (no in or out), flights can be canceled, trains held at borders. Even if you are not sick, this may affect your travel plans, especially if you are caught up inside a quarantined area. Understand that if you are sick or become sick when traveling, it is possible you will be placed under precautionary quarantine in various countries and cities until tests prove you do not have coronavirus. What to do? Be sure you have contingency plans in place just in case your travels are disrupted or delayed. Make arrangements at home for someone to help if you are not getting home when you planned – feeding pets, watering plants, picking up mail just for starters. Pack a few extra things you might need such as extra medications including a supply of cold meds and a thermometer just in case.
- Stay informed. This does not mean following the posts and advice of sometimes ill-informed social media posters. Stick to experts, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for starters, or the State departments or equivalent for your country. Be sure you have the CDC travel health warnings website page. I’d also recommend you subscribe to the Global Rescue daily alerts on the coronavirus.
- Travel insurance. If you purchased your travel insurance before January 31, 2020, when coronavirus became a known event globally, insurance might be helpful in terms of covering costs of canceled flights and hotels if any cancelations were beyond your control. After Jan. 31 however, you’re likely out of luck. However, our experts at World Nomads and Global Rescue told us that their teams will still work to help with any travel changes and coordinate any medical needs due to travel disruptions from coronavirus. Read our story How good is evacuation coverage or travel insurance for coronavirus to learn more.
- Do not stigmatize anyone! Here, a conversation overheard by associates in a Prague tram by a couple discussing their upcoming holiday plans (before all travel was shut down in March): “Hey, so do you think we should cancel our holiday to northern Italy next week? I heard the coronavirus is crazy there.” “No, it’s fine. All we have to do is avoid Chinese people while we’re there.” You must remember, this is not about Chinese people or Asian people or any other people. The coronavirus does not discriminate. What you should do, according to guidelines from the CDC, is avoid close contact with anyone who appears ill. But also keep in mind that the coronavirus is one of many respiratory viruses and just because someone is coughing, or sniffling, does not mean they have the coronavirus. And, on the other hand, somebody may be contagious before they have symptoms.
- Stay aware and practice excellent hygiene. CDC and WHO guidelines suggest the following: Watch what you touch and who you are standing near to on any form of public transport or when out and about. Clean and disinfect any surface you reasonably can that you may be touching during the course of travel – arm rests, tray tables, seatback television screens, etc. Wash your hands as often as you possibly can with soap and water (20 seconds of washing according to the CDC) and, in between, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom, before eating anything, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands especially when your hands are not clean. CDC guidelines are now advocating everyone who is out in public should wear a mask to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and certainly wear a mask if you are sick with a cold and you HAVE to travel (do not even think of traveling if you suspect you are infected with the COVID-19 virus!!). To learn more about wearing a mask properly should you need to put one on, read this from WHO.