As the world starts to open back up and we dip our toes into the travel waters again, it is important to remember why we shut down in the first place. COVID 19 spread like wildfire, has killed thousands and continues to wreak havoc on our economies and communities.
Now some parts of the globe are starting to venture out, and let people back in. While there is nothing wrong with getting back out there and trying to live some semblance of a normal life, it is important that we don't forget that the virus is still out there, and everyone is susceptible.
Knowing how to proceed with travel and how to protect yourself in the process is what this article is all about. Let's break it down.
How Does COVID 19 Spread
COVID spreads primarily through person-to-person contact. It occurs when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks loudly, resulting in a spread of respiratory droplets containing the virus. As droplets are sprayed outward, anyone in close proximity can potentially inhale them.
In addition, droplets may land on surfaces that are then touched by others, and then without washing their hands, a person may touch their face (nose, mouth, or eyes) and inhale or contract the virus that way.
The amount of time you are exposed to someone who is sick also matters. Current guidelines state that if you are exposed for less than 15 minutes, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower than if you were in close proximity for longer than that.
So How Can We Protect Ourselves?
Now that we know how COVID is transmitted, we can take steps to prevent it, or safeguard against it. To break it down:
- We need to socially distance (stay 6ft away from each other)
- Frequently wash our hands
- Disinfect surfaces
- Wear masks (or face coverings)
Doing all of these things protects us, protects our community, and reduces transmission of the virus. In fact, these measures have also helped some countries prevent the spread to their healthcare providers completely.
As businesses open up and the world starts to accept tourists, many of us will want to get back on to working on our bucket lists. For many of us, isolation and boredom will drive our travel plans. However, no matter how antsy and anxious we are to hop back on an airplane, we need to remain cautious. The virus is still out there. Even if you’re young and healthy, you could risk contracting COVID and spreading it to those who don’t have strong immune systems.
How can we translate these precautions into our travels?
Let’s break it down:
As I mentioned above, the point of social distancing >6 feet (or two arm lengths away) is that respiratory particles tend to succumb to gravity at less than that distance. The exceptions are some extreme coughing and sneezing. Of course, covering your mouth by coughing and/or sneezing into your elbow reduces this further (wearing a mask helps even more).
So, how can we make sure we practice social distancing effectively during our travels?
Some airlines are already helping us with this by limiting the number of passengers per plane ride. More information about different airlines and the services they will be offering and rules they will be abiding by are shown in the table below:
|Airline||Masks required (crew)||Masks available (passengers)||Masks required (passengers)||Cleaning before every flight||Limited seat selection||Middle seats not sold||Back-to-front boarding|
But what else can you do to put these preventative and protective measures into practice?
When planning your trip keep these in mind:
1 – Try to stick to outdoor activities
It's much easier to keep your distance if you’re outside. There are plenty of options and activities to choose from once you've arrived. Choose activities like walking tours, hikes, and bike rides. If you have the option, choose private tours over group tours, or even opt for something self-guided.
In addition, when you stop for a bite to eat, look for restaurants/bars/cafes that have outdoor seating. Alternatively, you can pick up food and take it to a nearby park or other outdoor location to eat.
2 – Avoid densely crowded areas/destinations
This goes hand in hand with the first point. The more densely populated your destination, or more tourist-heavy your vacation spot, the harder it will be to maintain social distancing.
This isn’t to say that you can’t still go to these locations. However, when you're planning your trip, be mindful of WHEN you decide to go. Choose off-peak times, and try to avoid going during national celebrations or events.
3 – Minimize public transportation if possible
Public transportation like subways and buses are best avoided. As you can imagine, being on one brings you near and dear to your fellow neighbor. Even with a mask on, there is no air movement, and no way to distance yourself from people.
4- Frequently Wash Your Hands & Surfaces
Goes without saying that you should be conscious of your hands and what you touch, and be sure to employ good handwashing techniques. This includes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Why does this work? Because soap causes the virus to break apart. It effectively kills it.
However, when you’re on the go, it becomes difficult to adhere to regular handwashing due to lack of access or even lack of soap.
In which case:
5 – Use hand sanitizer frequently
Take a small pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Make sure it's at least 60% alcohol. Handwashing for 20 seconds, of course, is the best method, however, the hand sanitizer can keep you clean in a pinch.
I’d also recommend you use it frequently. Definitely before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching any common surfaces in a public place.
6 – Take sanitizing wipes with you – clean down tables Or Common Surfaces
Cleansing wipes are something else you can keep handy. Small travel-sized packets of Clorox wipes, for instance, can be used to wipe down handles of something you need to touch or use. For instance, going on a bike tour? You can use the wipes to wipe down the bike handles.
7- Wear a Mask
The point of wearing a mask is to protect others from you, and protect yourself by not touching your face. Regardless of the rules, a crowded space, or a place with a lot of people present requires a mask; especially if you are to be within 6 feet of others.
It’s not overkill, its not selfish. It’s good community behavior.
Take homemade masks
Cloth masks may not be the most comfortable, but they do help prevent virus spread. With their double layers and reusability, you will save money while staying safe!
The caveat here is if you're traveling with small children, it is recommended that anyone under the age of 2 should not wear one. For the little ones, face shields are available as an alternative, and for infants in a carrier, cover the carrier.
Of note, masks are not a substitute for social distancing. You should still attempt to maintain your distance.
And One Last Thing…
Of course, no matter if you're traveling close to home or abroad, always monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID, including fevers, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, body aches, headaches, or shortness of breath.
Many people have mild symptoms, however, if you experience even those, please stay home and self-quarantine!
It's not easy to develop new habits such as these mentioned above, especially when traveling. No one ever wants to limit their experiences; we all want to go on our adventures!
However, it is important to keep in mind that we live in a time of uncertainty, travel is a privilege, and it is more important to protect the health and wellness of our communities and ourselves.
By just taking a few precautions, and shifting our mindset to accept this new norm, we can protect ourselves, protect our families and friends, and protect the strangers abroad and at home whose wonderful homes you are going to explore.