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What You Need to Know About Traveling During COVID-19

The CDC strongly advises against traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, as this increases your risk of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best option to protect yourself and those you love—especially those at a higher risk due to age or underlying health conditions.

Even if you feel well and have no symptoms, you could have the virus and spread it to others for up to 14 days after being exposed. If staying home isn’t an option, however, follow these traveling-during-COVID-19 tips for a safer journey.

Precautions to Take Before You Travel

Check to see whether there’s a high COVID-19 infection rate at your destination, or in any of the communities you will pass through along the way. Keep in mind that each point along your route holds the potential to make you ill.

It’s important to note that some local, state, and international governments have COVID-19 travel restrictions in place. You may be required to wear a mask or to quarantine for up to 14 days after your arrival. To avoid surprises, make sure you check out any COVID-19 travel restrictions before you go.

You’ll find information about traveling and COVID-19 on local, state, and national websites. Keep in mind that conditions can change rapidly, so continue to get updates as you near your travel date.

When packing, make sure to include masks, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, a thermometer, and enough disinfectant wipes to thoroughly clean all frequently touched surfaces while staying in overnight accommodations.

Precautions to Follow During Travel

To protect yourself and others, the CDC recommends following these COVID-19 traveling rules:

  • Wear a cloth face mask.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.
  • Avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces like handrails and elevator buttons. If you come into contact with these surfaces, use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Travel by Air

Although traveling by plane is relatively safe due to the way air is filtered and circulates, it can be difficult to follow appropriate social distancing guidelines on crowded flights. You will also come into close contact with others at airport terminals and while waiting in security lines. To see what specific precautions are in place regarding traveling and COVID-19, check the specific airline or airport’s website.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking additional safety measures at airport screening checkpoints, such as changing gloves after each pat down and using plastic shields at document-checking podiums. The TSA has also made changes, such as allowing passengers to wear masks during screening, and permitting boarding passes to be placed in trays, rather than handed directly to TSA officers.

Additional COVID-19 traveling rules for security checkpoints include:

  • Placing food items in a plastic bag before placing them in the screening bin. (Do not place these items in a carry-on bag, as this may require screeners to open the bag for inspection.)
  • Putting personal items such as keys, wallets, and phones in a carry-on bag instead of a bin to reduce handling.
  • Allowing each traveler one 12-ounce container of hand sanitizer. These may need to be taken out of your carry-on bag, however, for screening purposes.
  • Making sure you wash your hands both before and after screening.

Finally, don’t forget to take the necessary precautions when using public transportation to and from the airport.

Travel by Bus or Train

If you plan to travel by bus or train this holiday season, beware of a lack of social distancing. Sitting or standing within 6 feet of others for prolonged periods can put you at a higher risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus. If possible, sit two or more rows away from others. This will be easier to do if you travel during non-peak periods.

You should also avoid groups of people before boarding your train or bus. Enter and exit buses from the rear, when possible. Use touchless payment options and avoid frequently touched surfaces. If you must touch these surfaces, wash or sanitize your hands immediately afterward.

Traveling by Car or RV

Although traveling during COVID-19 may feel safer by car or RV, you will still need to be cautious when making stops. Maintain a safe distance from others while visiting gas stations, restrooms, and restaurants. When traveling by RV, don’t forget to take appropriate precautions while staying at overnight RV parks.

Staying Safe During Your Hotel Stay

Before you make reservations at a hotel, visit the establishment’s website to determine what coronavirus safety measures are in place. Ideally, the hotel’s safety precautions will include:

  • Enhanced cleaning procedures
  • Adherence to social distancing guidelines in lobbies and other public areas
  • Masks required for staff and guests
  • Contactless payment options
  • A waiting period between guest stays

To avoid crowded elevators, ask for a room on a lower floor and take the stairs. As soon as you reach your room, carefully disinfect all commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls, and faucets. Wash any plates, cups, or tableware except for pre-wrapped plastic items.

Adhering to these COVID-19 traveling rules should decrease your risk of getting sick from COVID-19. Still, rules are no substitute for simply staying home and out of harm’s way.

If you require a COVID-19 evaluation or test before, during, or after traveling, the MD Now team can help. We’re open seven days a week, including holidays. Walk-ins are always welcome, but we strongly encourage checking in for COVID-19 evaluations.