How to safely travel during covid

How to safely travel during covid

“…with a global pandemic actually making it so I can’t [travel], I realized that when the time comes and it’s safe to do so, I must.”

The Irony of Inspiration

 

It was just about two years ago, the start of the pandemic, that I woke up in a panic. I remember immediately sitting up in my bed, my chest weighed down with the heavy thought I cannot die before I go to England

 

Despite your initial reaction, I am not an anglophile. 

 

However, I am a bit of a history-buff. And during the first few weeks of the pandemic, I was non-stop binge-watching PBS Masterpieces on Prime Video. I watched so much Downton Abbey and Poldark, I’m surprised I didn’t pick up an English accent. 

 

What I did get though was a love for the scenic views, the cobblestone roads and the presence of life that had been lived and documented on that land for centuries. 

 

Moments before I shot up in my bed, I had a dream that I got covid. While that’s still a very realistic possibility, at the time the public had little to no knowledge of what exactly that meant. The thought of never being able to see different parts of the world and experience diverse cultures scared me. But that fear quickly transitioned into inspiration to learn, travel and be more spontaneous. 

 

Of course, I would have the epiphany that I need to get out more at the start of a worldwide quarantine. 

 

I have always loved to travel, but I have used school, work and money as excuses for why I couldn’t. But with a global pandemic actually making it so I can’t, I realized that when the time comes and it’s safe to do so, I must

 

Two years, three vaccines, six feet and multiple variants later, I still have not seen the rocky shores of Cornwall. But, with safe planning and great patience, I have been privileged enough to explore outside the confines of my four bedroom walls. 

 

With new safety policies and updated travel restrictions, planning a trip is harder than it used to be. It’s not as simple as booking a spontaneous flight and going. What I’ve learned though, is it pushes us to do better research, which inevitably improves the overall quality of the trip.

 

 

Hit the power button. Touch some grass. 

 

While it’s important to prioritize the safety of your physical health, your mental well-being is just as crucial. One of the major changes from the pandemic has been the transition to virtual everything

 

Online classes. Telehealth appointments. Even grocery shopping! Almost every aspect of our lives now has a virtual option. And the most prevalent is remote work with about 36.2 million American workers estimated to fully work from home through 2025. 

 

Although remote work allows for schedule flexibility, and has even been reported to increase work productivity, the majority of online workers claim a decline in their mental health. Isolation, loneliness and the inability to separate work life from home life is mentally exhausting. 

 

Unplug and get out. Out of the house, town or state, it doesn’t really matter. Give yourself the mental break to reset. Traveling improves your mental health by reducing stress, inspiring creativity, and giving you something exciting to look forward to. 

Convinced but don’t know where to start? Follow these steps to get the ball rolling. 

 

 

 

Step 1: Pick your destination. 

travel, safety, health, destination

This is the most important decision, because it’s the center of everything else you need to plan. When choosing on a place to go, there are a few factors you need to consider: 

  • How much time are you able to spend there? 
  • How will you get there?
  • What are the current restrictions? 

 

The last question didn’t used to be an obstacle, but to travel safely and still get your money’s worth, it’s important to pick a place that either has clear protocols or is rural enough to not need them. 

 

Because I work remotely, last March I was able to travel to Los Angeles for a month. Although it is technically a large city, there are many things you can do that don’t involve being near other people. Spending an entire month there meant I was able to stay in a private, rented room at a discounted rate. It was worth bringing my car so I didn’t have to maneuver through the crowded airports. And I was able to hike, go to the beach and try new cuisine without jeopardizing my own health or the health of others.  

 

Choosing a place that accurately fits all of your basic needs is the foundation before you plan anything else. Request the time off, book the flight, and then you can focus on what’s next.

**safety tip: Make sure you have extra masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Even if something says it’s been sanitized, it’s better to be safe than sorry! You can even get travel kits that include everything you’ll need. 

 

 

 

Step 2: Find a place to stay.  

health, vacation home, relax

Now that you’ve picked a spot and established how you’re getting there, you’ll need to figure out where you’re staying. Although rental homes, resorts and hotels have all mostly upgraded their sanitation standards, there is still a chance your accommodations might look different in person than they did when you booked. 

 

The best way to avoid this deception is to thoroughly read through their reviews. Some places might have a higher rating, but that could be from other factors like good location, customer service, and other amenities aside from the cleanliness. Additionally, make sure there are enough reviews to have accurate data. If the Airbnb has a 5-star rating but only two reviews, it’s probably not the most reliable testament. 

 

If possible, the smartest choice is to stay with a friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out and see if they have some extra room for you. Most likely, in this day and age they can use the company too. 

 

Last November, I went across the country to stay with a friend in Florida. We were both vaccinated and covid-free, so I got to sleep on her couch for two weeks and tan under the warm Florida sun while she had someone to talk to that wasn’t on a screen. 

Of course, that won’t always be an option. So here’s what I recommend: 

  1. If you’re going to a larger city, get a hotel. 

They’re used to dealing with safety protocols and oftentimes the cities have stricter safety guidelines for commercial businesses to follow. Someone renting out their space in the city though is probably trying to escape the city themselves, so the host is likely to be less available and any discrepancies won’t be handled until after you’ve already traveled all the way there. 

  1. If you’re going somewhere remote, opt for the rental home. 

The host is most likely used to renting out their vacation home, so they’ll have pre-established guidelines in place. Take advantage of having your own space and being able to live comfortably outside of our own home. While hotels are still an option, they can often be more expensive in rural areas due to demand and the quality of amenities are hit or miss. 

 

**travel tip: “Reserve now and pay later” options give you the flexibility to reserve your room before you get there without having to pay. So if you find somewhere better or you don’t like what you see when you arrive, you don’t lose your money! 

 

 

 

Step 3: Do what you love. 

We are finally to the fun part: choosing the activities you want to do. 

Are you a foodie? A thrill-seeker? Athletic adventurist? 

 

Whatever you are, now is the time to figure it out. Maybe you need some peace of mind. If you love the outdoors, see if you can find a rustic trail and listen to the sounds of nature. Maybe you prefer indoor activities, check out the day-spa options and schedule in some self-care. 

 

Need some excitement? Look up the venues in the area you’re staying in to see if there are any events going on. Most of the time, especially in larger cities, these places will require negative covid results and/or vaccine cards to ensure the health safety or yourself and others. 

 

If you’re an active, food-loving, history-buff like myself, find a museum or exhibit in your area and then see the best places to eat within walking distance. I love being able to cross multiple things off my checklist within the same outing. 

This past December I traveled to New York City for a week. Despite staying in a packed city, I spent so much quality time socially distanced. From the MoMa to the Met and the American Museum of Natural History to Broadway, I would reach over 40,000 steps a day walking through the city, absorbing the culture and enjoying diverse food options along the way.

 

Whatever rules you make for yourself at home (eat healthy, wake up early, exercise, etc.), give yourself a break to do the activities you really want to do. Now is the time to really enjoy yourself, so don’t hold back. Pick the activities that will actually bring you happiness. Trust me, when you get home, you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do. 

 

**travel tip: Remember to give yourself enough time between activities. With new health and safety procedures come less workers and longer wait times. Have patience and a positive mindset. You can’t be mad on vacation! 

 

**travel tip: Don’t forget your vaccine card! If you don’t have one, make sure the activities you have planned don’t require one or see if there are options in the area for rapid tests. 

 

 

 

Step 4: Avoid the post-travel blues. 

home, mental health, wellbeing, travel, self-care, staycation

Once your trip is over, there are a few things you can do to take extra precautions for your health. 

 

Although the air circulation and filtration decreases the chances of virus transmissions, the packed space is still a hub for germs to grow after making your way through the crowded terminals, touchscreen kiosks and security lines. Taking a nap or getting some food might be the first thing you want to do when you get home, but it’s highly recommended to shower and change your clothes to rid of any germs from your traveling. 

 

Make sure to wash all of your laundry and sanitize your luggage. It helps if you pack all of your dirty clothes separately so they can’t cross contaminate with your clean items. This will also save you time from having to wash all of your clothes instead of just the dirty ones. 

 

If there’s anything that you truly take away from my advice though, it’s to avoid the post-travel blues. 

Coming home after a long stay away should be a relief. It’s normal to miss the freedom of your vacation, but the break should have been a mental health reset so you have more energy when going back to your everyday life. 

 

If you’re going back to stagnant thinking, isolation, and dreading your day to day, as a short term solution, I recommend planning your next trip. Hype yourself up to work towards something that excites you. Long term though, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what makes you happy. 

 

Traveling and creating new experiences help us grow and learn more about ourselves. Take care of your mental health and make a change if you need to. Sometimes post-travel blues are less about where you go and more about where you stay. 

Two years ago, I would’ve never thought that I would’ve had the opportunity to travel to all of the places I’ve now been. But if the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to live without regret. Our bodies and minds are really all we truly have at the end of the day, and both deserve nourishment. 

 

Keep your body safe and your mind engaged. Take a break to enjoy yourself.

 

 


References:

“Statistics On Remote Workers That Will Surprise You (2022.)” Apollo Technical, 16 January 2022, https://www.apollotechnical.com/statistics-on-remote-workers/

“Remote Workers Report Negative Mental Health Impacts, New Study Finds.” Bryan Robinson, Ph.D, 15 October 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2021/10/15/remote-workers-report-negative-mental-health-impacts-new-study-finds/?sh=f1b60da74b84

“How Travel Affects Mental Health.” Dan Brennan, MD, 25 October 2021, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/how-travel-affects-mental-health#:~:text=a%20new%20way.-,Traveling%20for%20Your%20Well%2DBeing,symptoms%20of%20anxiety%20and%20depression.

“COVID-19 Travel Advice.” Mayo Clinic Staff, 15 February 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-safe-travel-advice/art-20486965

 

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