After being in lockdown for what has seemed like forever, restrictions are now being eased and many places are beginning to open up again. I know many of you are just itching to get out and about and travel again. While some of you, on the other hand, are let’s face it, scared to venture out too soon. No, the virus is not over but with a few simple precautions, you can stretch your wings a bit and ensure you stay safe.
Even the smallest of things that we took for granted only a few months ago while vacationing are now a big consideration – being around crowds both indoors and outdoors with no way of socially distancing, the cleanliness of where we are staying, access to and the safety of using public toilets, what and where to eat.
Taking a vacation is possible (and great for mental health), and there are lots of ways in which we can insure our own safety and, just as importantly, the safety of those around us.
Here are 10 tips for travelling during the pandemic:
1. Know the basics & come prepared
Don’t travel anywhere if you are sick, a member of your party is sick or anyone has been exposed to someone who has the virus. Use the number of cases in your area as a guide before you plan anything – you may be an asymptomatic carrier.
- Bring plenty of face masks and wear them in public.
- Bring sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and gloves for wearing in public bathrooms and during rest-stops.
- Bring a thermometer.
- Stay six feet away from others as much as possible.
- Pay for items using cards instead of handling cash.
- And wash your hands thoroughly as often as possible.
2. Do your research & be flexible
You may not be able to go to that regular vacation spot this year or take that cruise you booked but with a little bit of investigation, you can still plan a great getaway, with a few tweaks. A beach vacation is always lovely during the warmer months, but they are also far more likely to be extremely crowded. Camping is likely to be a more safe option, but safety precautions still need to be taken, particularly when using shared sanitation spaces.
- Look at the number of cases and rules and restrictions in place in the area you wish to visit as these can vary wildly between regions/cities.
- Choose to visit less crowded places.
- Use this as an opportunity to stay in places that will likely to be less popular and therefore less busy.
- Explore an area that is a little more local.
3. Plan ahead
Unless you plan to spend your entire vacation in your accommodation (in which case, why bother going in the first place), it is likely that you’ll want to do some sightseeing. Try and pick somewhere that will allow you to travel around by car rather than using public transport. Research what policies are in place at tourist attractions (many places of interest have mandatory booked time slots in advance and social distancing measures). You may even find that you enjoy having a reservation as opposed to standing in lines forever to get in! On the flipside, you may not get a reservation if you try to book last second.
Driving allows you to be in control of your travel situation – hygiene and cleanliness, when and where you travel and who you travel with. Do some research into rest-stops along the way as these are high-risk areas. Wear protection, do not carry extra bags/clothes into public spaces and make it quick. Don’t forget to also wear gloves when pumping gas and always promptly throw them away after use.
5. Stay in a self-contained unit
Don’t be afraid to speak to the host in detail about whether the property is cleaned to the standards set out in public health guidelines. If you are still concerned, take your own freshly-washed bedding and towels and some cleaning supplies, open the windows and give the main areas of the property that you will be regularly come into contact with a quick once-over when you arrive.
6. Ask about precautions taken
If you are staying in a hotel, research the website and check to see how they have responded to the COVID-19 crisis. Don’t be afraid to ring the hotel and ask questions – do their staff wear personal protective equipment? What are their cleaning policies? Are the rooms well-ventilated? Follow the same precautions as you would when staying in a self-contained unit by taking your own bedding and towels, plenty of soap and hand sanitizer and some cleaning products.
7. Bring your own food
If you are concerned about having to visit supermarkets in areas that you don’t know, take your own food with you. Consider the logistics of whether you have access to a refrigerator and / or freezer where you are staying and work out a meal plan accordingly. Make bag lunches and include plenty of snacks and bottles of water if you go out on day trip (making sure that you dispose of your rubbish properly).
8. Be prepared for pit stops
When using public bathrooms, try to find ones that are larger and well-ventilated. Wear your mask and gloves, take your own hand sanitizer or soap and try to avoid contact with surfaces.
9. Dine out safely
If dining at a restaurant, use sanitizing wipes to clean the space in which you are eating. Do not be embarrassed. If you believe standards are not being met, leave or at the very least, order your meal to be wrapped up to go and wait outside for it.
10. Think about the potential actions of other people
It isn’t medically possible for some people to wear masks, and there are inevitably those who have decided not to, and who have no consideration of personal space. For your own sanity (and to avoid potential confrontation with others), be aware of your surroundings and the general direction of others and simply move out of the way.
Above all, be kind, courteous and patient.
Taking a vacation during a global pandemic may seem like a daunting experience, but with some sensible planning and precautions, that much-needed holiday time can indeed be enjoyable!