How to Prepare to Travel During COVID-19

While staying home is the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many of us are wondering about the safest way to travel after months homebound. Health experts have weighed in on the best ways to travel, taking both your personal and public safety into consideration as much as possible. (For example, visiting National Parks or going to the beach may be a calculated risk worth taking to preserve your mental health in a time that’s taken a toll on us all.) 

If you plan to hit the road, it’s important to stay educated on how to do so without putting yourself and those around you at risk. And although travel right now is vastly different from travel in The Before Times,  some elements have remained the same—and in particular, travel’s penchant for the unexpected.

Always do your research in advance and adhere to local guidelines, CDC recommendations, and COVID-19 safety guides regarding travel during the pandemic. Over at Another Long Weekend, our readers have all traveled lightly since it all began—and along the way, they’ve learned a few helpful tips you might want to consider as a supplement to your typical pandemic travel guidelines.

Tips for COVID-19 road travel

Always call ahead

“Don’t trust the internet! (Maybe advice for more than just road travel!) Restaurant hours, hotel check-in times, attraction openings, and more are all subject to change on, like, a daily basis these days. As a society, we seem to be afraid of picking up the phone and calling people (thank you, Gmail), but that is the best way to ensure that something will be open and available when you arrive. Bring a cooler with sandwich fixings, snacks, and water in case you find yourself on a stretch of road without many food options. And pack a picnic blanket, paper towels, and cutlery in case your best option ends up being a park or rest stop.” – M

Check your tires (and then check them again)

“You should always do this, but Check. Your. Tires. I had to have a tire replaced on my last road trip, and despite being stranded in suburban Maryland for a few hours, I didn’t have a panic attack. It wound up being a relatively smooth experience because I’d signed up for AAA and knew I’d have a game plan no matter what. Keep in mind that a lot of tow truck companies (wisely) won’t let you ride along in the passenger seat right now. Luckily, the town I was in had Uber, so I was able to get to the car shop in one piece.” —A

If all else goes wrong, seek comfort in the novelty of your hotel room. Photo by Reisetopia via Unsplash.

Create a home away from home

“I’ve never cared as much about a comfortable flight as I do a comfortable stay—but now, that’s more important than ever. After several hours on the road, there’s nothing better than checking in to relaxing, welcoming accommodations that soothe the mental and physical exhaustion. Museums, shops, and other attractions have staggered entry these days, making spontaneous visits much more challenging. If inclement weather strikes, you may have to stay in. Also, if an outdoor seating area looks too crowded for comfort or a restaurant you wanted to visit is closed, having a comfortable hotel room or Airbnb where you can enjoy takeout makes all the difference. In both cases, it may be annoying to stay cooped up when you’ve been doing that at home for 6+ months—but frankly, even a minor change of scenery right now feels like a vacation.” —T

Both on the airplane and in the airport, consider how you and those around you will do your part to prevent the spread. Photo by Markus Spiske.

Advice for pandemic air travel

What to pack for mid-pandemic plane travel

“While I’m confident in the new sanitation procedures in place for many airlines, it doesn’t hurt to bring disinfecting wipes to give your armrests and tray table another swipe. Be sure to bring your own snacks and/or meals, since many airports have limited restaurants open at the moment and some airlines have suspended food services for the time being. Have hand sanitizer handy to apply before digging into your homemade meal. Bring an extra mask in case you fall asleep and drool in yours on the plane!” —C

Consider the airplane and the airport

“I haven’t been brave enough for this yet, but a friend told me this: The airport itself is much more worrisome than the airplane. There are just more scenarios in which you must interact with other humans—more people snaking through crowds, eating with masks off, using the same bathroom as you. It’s important to be just as vigilant there as you are on the plane.” —Y

Stagger your eating and drinking

“Stagger your eating and drinking. On the two flights I’ve taken during the pandemic, there’s been this moment after the beverage trolley passes when everybody seems to collectively forget that they’re in a very small, very shared space, and they all have their masks off to nibble Biscoffs and sip Sierra Mist. For peace of mind, wait until the passengers around you finish and have their masks back on before taking your first bite.” —N

If you really want to try that restaurant, make a reservation in advance in case of staggered seating. Photo by Micheile Henderson.

General tips and tricks

Reservations are key

“I used to not make many reservations when traveling, but this time around I almost totally relied on them. Unless your itinerary is mostly in nature, schedule out your day vigilantly: Get your timed museum tickets, make a dinner reservation for a specific time (and specify your preference for outdoor). For more spontaneous exploration, have backup plans on backup plans handy, along with a solid anything-goes attitude. There were a few times on my last road trip where I had to eat takeout in my car, but managed to find a scenic overlook with which to enjoy my grub safe from the rain.” —A

Stay vigilant, wear a mask

“Although we’re sure most people have been vigilant about wearing their masks (!!!), know that people outside your community may have different approaches to pandemic safety than you’re used to. With that in mind, continue wearing your mask and keeping your distance, even if you spot others skirting around safety guidelines.

A motivational anecdote: On my recent road trip to Maine, I spent a day in Acadia National Park. The moment you spotted someone else coming down a trail, both parties were quick to cover up their faces before passing. If Mainers can do it while literally hiking and rock climbing, you can do it, too.” —B

(Note: Another Long Weekend does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.)