The last six months have provided invaluable research when it comes to understanding how the coronavirus spreads. As a result, we have a better sense of how to avoid contracting it. For example, outdoor venues and activities prove safer than indoor ones. Must-dos like hand sanitizer and wearing masks help flatten the curve. Coupled with social distancing, great strides have been made to diminish the percentage of infections in the US and abroad.
But what about travel with kids? When should you consider it again? The answer to this question remains highly personal. After all, you must factor in considerations such as personal comfort levels and individual risk status.
That said, if you’ve had enough of coronavirus-induced cabin fever, there are ways to get out while mitigating health risks. Keep reading for our practical guide to safe family travel during the pandemic.
Understand US Travel Restrictions
Since the pandemic began, we’ve witnessed federal, state, and local health restrictions change rapidly. How do you ensure your family’s vacation doesn’t become a casualty of changing rules? Stay in the loop when it comes to the latest news from your intended destination. Also, remember to research the regulations and restrictions in states or destinations you pass through.
Before you travel, check out Harvard’s virus risk-assessment map. It offers a county-by-county breakdown of where stay-at-home orders are necessary. This interactive map provides real-time updates on cases and disease trends nationwide. The site also contains helpful information about mitigation and policy recommendations.
What’s the best way to stay on top of these rapidly changing regulations and restrictions? Helpful sites include the CDC’s domestic travel recommendations page as well as state health departments’ websites.
Know International Travel Restrictions
What about travel restrictions to international destinations? Some borders currently remain closed. But an increasing number of destinations are welcoming residents of the United States. They include Albania, Belarus, Brazil, and Mexico. Other destinations open to US citizens with restrictions include Barbados, Bermuda, Cambodia, and more. Get the full list here.
Of course, each nation has unique guidelines when it comes to screening upon arrival. We’ve seen a wide range of requirements. These include virus testing and even deposits for potential medical expenses. So, do your destination research carefully. Or, contact us for assistance.
The US State Department’s country-specific coronavirus website will keep you abreast of changing travel restrictions.
Consult with a Doctor About Your Family’s Risk Status
Specific demographic conditions and underlying health conditions make some individuals more susceptible to coronavirus. Risk groups include older adults and those with diabetes, asthma, and other underlying health conditions. Check out this comprehensive list of risk statuses for more information.
While you might think of a safe family vacation as visiting other loved ones, it depends on risk factors. If you have a family member who’s higher-risk, avoid doing so for the time being. Consider booking your bubble to travel safely with kids.
We also recommend checking in with your doctor about your risk status. They can provide vital health-related travel information to you. After all, many of us have put off regular checkups and even pediatric appointments to avoid exposure. Immunization rates have decreased, so you’ll want to check in with your pediatrician before traveling.
What else should you ask during doctor appointments? Inquire about local medical care in any destination you intend to visit. Your physician can provide you with guidance on how best to protect your family, no matter the locale. They can also help you know which medications to pack in the event of an illness. (Remember to pack extra prescription medications in case you get stuck somewhere longer than you plan.)
Avoid COVID-19 Hotspots and Crowded Locations
What’s one of the best ways to protect your family while traveling? Choosing destinations wisely. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests traveling only to destinations with a COVID-19 positive test rate of five percent or less. While not every destination has complied with these guidelines, you can do a little research to find places that meet this criterion. Experts agree that this suggestion creates a safer environment for travelers.
Check out the CDC’s coronavirus data tracker on a state-by-state basis and compare positivity rates.
Besides being aware of numbers, experts recommend staying away from typically crowded locations and venues. They advise travelers to consider remote and lesser-known destinations to avoid being around lots of people.
Inquire About Accommodations Safety Protocol
Be aware, too, that many brands are taking extra precautions to protect your safety while traveling. Airbnb has added booking buffers between guest reservations. They’ve also ramped up cleaning guidelines for hosts.
Many hotels have done the same, even offering contactless check-in to minimize human contact. Email your destination in advance to find out more about the safety measures they’ve put in place.
Should you pack your own linens and towels as some travelers do? No. Instead, book only with places that take safety seriously and have implemented exceptional protocols to prove it.
Get Outside and Teach Kids to Stay Safe
Studies show that transmission of the coronavirus is reduced significantly by going outside. So, craft itineraries around outdoor activities. Skip indoor experiences like museums, gift shops, and destination restaurants. Instead, go hiking, bike riding, and picnicking. Another fantastic option? Spend time at a quiet beach.
Prepare your children for a new set of safety protocols while traveling. Teach them about the importance of social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands, and avoiding hand-to-face contact. To ingrain these habits in your kids, practice role-playing different scenarios at home. And don’t panic if your child forgets to wash their hands mid-trip. After all, kids will be kids. Instead, use it as a teaching moment to remind them of safety protocols.
Be Aware of the Pros and Cons of Different Modes of Transportation
When it comes to different modes of transportation, they all come with specific pros and cons. Whether we’re talking airplanes, buses, trains stations, or road trips, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Many experts consider short-distance road trips as the safest option. Why? Because you can exercise the most control over your surroundings.
Recent studies also suggest that airplane travel is very safe. After all, the quality of indoor air and its flow have significant impacts on where pathogens do and do not disperse. Efficient air circulation, fresh air piped in from outside, and High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters all mean cabin air changes every three minutes. What’s more, HEPA filters capture and block 99.97 percent of airborne particles, making them highly effective at removing COVID-19 particles from the air.
To further reduce contamination at airports, download your boarding passes in advance, and phone check your bags. These strategies will reduce touchpoints at the airport. Pack a pandemic essentials bag, too. Must-have items include face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, health insurance cards, a thermometer, hand soap, and latex gloves. Consider a change of clothes when you leave the airport to further minimize risk. And whether you’re on a road trip or flying, bring snacks, drinks, and activities to avoid unnecessary pit stops.
Safe Family Travel During the Pandemic
Travel during the pandemic is getting safer as we learn more about the invisible enemy we’re fighting. As research continues to reveal more about the coronavirus and how it’s transmitted, expect travel to get safer and safer. From protocols such as carrying hand sanitizer to wearing masks, you can significantly mitigate transmission risk.
What’s more, by visiting lesser-known places and avoiding crowds, you further reduce your risk of contracting the virus. So, use our practical guide above to get back on the road or aboard a plane when you’re ready.
Want to find out more about safe family travel? Let’s chat!