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COVID-19 Update: Mistakes to Avoid While Traveling During the COVID-19 Pandemic

2/5/2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped many of our travel decisions over the past several months and will continue to do so well into 2021. However, people can still travel safely by taking a few precautions that they might have overlooked while planning their next trip. Below are some crucial mistakes to avoid while traveling abroad during the pandemic.
 

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Overfilling Your Itinerary

Start planning your trip abroad by only choosing one or two countries that you would like to enjoy with your close friends or family. Many destinations have restrictions on travelers arriving from multiple locations which can put a damper on your travel plans if you have already booked your hotels and excursions. After staying home for so long, you might be tempted to visit new locales and capture social media worthy pictures, but you should remember that traveling will be much different now. Focus on finding a secluded and quiet destination where you can relax without having to worry about additional transits, quarantines, testing requirements, and ever-changing guidelines.

 

Not Doing Your Research

After narrowing down your travel list to one or two destinations, do your research about each destination and check if there are any travel restrictions. You should also remember to check your government or state department website for the latest information on travel bans, coronavirus safety and security, and entry requirements. Visit Assist America’s COVID-19 travel restrictions map for updated information about country-specific travel restrictions.

Another key factor to consider and thoroughly research while planning a trip during the COVID-19 pandemic is trip cancellations and policy changes. Many travelers have lost thousands of dollars on cancelled trips since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so look for travel options that cover trip cancellations due to the pandemic. Also make sure to inquire about the seating protocols on the flight to limit exposure to the virus during your travels.


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Not Considering COVID-19 Precautions When Picking Accommodations

Before booking your stay, research the hotel’s plan to protect guests and staff by checking their website to see if they detail their COVID-19 practices and protocols or contact the hotel directly. The hotel may also have plans for guests that fall ill during their stay and you should also be informed about what to do when you feel unwell while away from home.

When you choose lodging, opt for a place where air can circulate through open windows and balconies. It would be even better if you choose to stay outdoors or plan a camping trip. Hotels with high quality air conditioning and proper filtration systems are adequate options but are ultimately less predictable than an open window and a balcony or terrace. Good ventilation can help reduce the risk of coronavirus spread as compared to rooms with poor ventilation or without windows.

Make sure to ask for a room that has not been occupied for a few days, as coronavirus can live on some surfaces, such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, according to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. You should also sanitize your room upon arrival even though the hotel staff does a thorough cleaning before your stay. This eliminates any germs or viruses that may be lasting on high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, charging stations, and TV and AC remotes to name a few.

 

Forgetting to Get a COVID-19 Test Before Departure

One of the most important items on your checklist should be getting your COVID-19 test before your flight after carefully reviewing the travel policies set forth by the airlines. You will not want to forget to schedule your test before a trip abroad since entry requirements can change in an instant and having this test can save your travel itinerary from being pushed back due to having to quarantine upon arrival. Most countries that mandate a test require a negative certificate that has been issued within 72 hours of boarding. Schedule a test two mornings before your departure, so that you receive your certificate the same evening and remember to print out several copies of your negative certificate in preparation for your flight.


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Not Packing Enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Your Trip

Traveling in general will be a little more strenuous this year with having to carry extra masks, gloves, sanitizer, and snacks. Flying during the pandemic can add an extra layer of anxiety, but preparation will help. At the airport, many bars, food stores, and member lounges might be closed due to COVID-19 regulations and similar scenarios can be true for your destination as well. Although each airport has different regulations, make sure to carry your own food and drink as you wait to board the flight.

During the flight, you will also need masks, gloves, and sanitizer in your carry-on for the entire journey. Some airlines have ungraded their mask policies and can also ask passengers to change their masks every few hours. Make sure to prepare for this ahead of time by packing enough protective equipment to last the duration of your flight, in case it is not provided by the flight. Remember to wipe down your seating area, ask for a window seat, and avoid bathroom usage to limit exposure on a flight.

 

Not Taking COVID-19 Precautions

Remember to avoid crowded sidewalks and narrow paths and choose routes that make it easy to keep your distance from crowded areas. Wear a mask when you cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance from people whom you do not live with. It is important to continue following COVID-19 guidelines even during your vacation and you may also want to do some research about the COVID-19 measures that are followed at your travel destination prior to departure. This will not only keep you healthy during your trip, but will help you relax and enjoy your time away from home.

Keep in mind that most transmission of respiratory viruses happens indoors, so avoid activities like eating inside a restaurant, especially if it is crowded. If there are tables outside, pick those or pick up takeout and find an outdoor seating area or local park where you can enjoy your food more freely. No matter what the activity, being outdoors is always safer than choosing indoor activities.