Media by Annie McGinnis
5 Tips To Safely Travel During The Pandemic — From Personal Experience
Traveling during the pandemic, especially during the high travel volumes of the holidays, poses many threats to those who choose to leave the safety of their homes.
However, there are multiple ways to remain safe while enjoying a vacation, and that is how my family and I road tripped approximately 1,010 miles from St. Louis to Tampa, Fla., without contracting COVID-19.
If your family is considering traveling at the beginning of the new year, use these five tips to promote safety and sanitation while traveling.
1. Travel by road instead of plane
Avoiding high-risk airports is the first step to attempt safe travel during the pandemic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically mentions airports on a list of places to avoid during COVID-19 because of the close proximity to others while waiting in security lines or terminals.
Compared to the constant exposure to various people in airports, traveling by car maintains an element of safety by limiting long period exposure to whoever is in the car. I traveled only with my mom, so I felt safer in that aspect.
2. Avoid frequent pit stops at gas stations
Stopping at a gas station during a road trip can be inevitable because it serves as a place to refuel, use the restroom or buy a few road trip snacks. However, they are not the safest places to avoid COVID-19 as many people are touching the same surfaces such as the gas pump, the door handle or snacks on the shelves.
I recommend using the less populated highway rest stops instead of gas stations. The rest areas also provide a wider variety of safety measures, including doorless entries and automatic bathroom amenities to lessen the risk of surface contamination.
3. Always wear a mask in public spaces
Although you might strictly follow the guidelines to wear a mask, it is common to come across other travelers not wearing a mask, especially in small towns without mask mandates.
When I reached the southern states such as Tennessee and Georgia, I noticed fewer people wearing masks, and I even felt uncomfortable being one of the few wearing a mask. However, I did not give in to the public pressure of not wearing a mask.
4. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy
Having a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket or keeping a bottle stored in your car is essential during this pandemic. The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol to prevent the spread of the virus germs.
We used hand sanitizer constantly, especially after using public restrooms, while refueling the car and before eating.
5. Pack meals or use a drive-thru
As many restaurants close their indoor dining to customers, it is essential to pack a premade meal or chart out different drive-thru destinations on the road. Making a home meal is the most reliable option because, according to the National Restaurant Association, 17 percent of restaurants in the U.S. have shut down due to the pandemic.
The cooler in the car provided enormous help, keeping sandwich lunches, waters and fruit, such as apples, fresh to consume later on the road trip. Also, creating a large snack bag filled with chips, candy, etc., allows for travel without making pit stops for only snacks that could lead to unnecessary contact with public spaces.