When Is It Safe to Travel Again?

Maybe you had to cancel your trip. Maybe you feel like you need a vacation now, or at least plan a getaway that you can look forward to. But when will it be safe to travel again? And what does it mean that it’s safe to travel? And when will you feel confident to venture out?   

Let’s look at travel before the end of the year.

Part of your decision on whether you should travel depends on if you can get to your destination and have a place to eat and sleep. Equally important is your comfort level for travel. Here are some things that you may want to consider when you decide where and when you travel.

How far in advance do you want to plan your trip?  If you want to travel early this summer, you’re probably better off with domestic travel, either by plane or as a road trip as lockdown measures are easing off and US destinations are gradually reopening. The US State Department issued a Global Level 4: Do not travel Health Advisory. While you can travel internationally, you are advised not to travel. Many countries either have travel restrictions in place or require that you be quarantined for 14 days when you arrive. You should know which countries have restrictions. If you do want to make an international trip, you may be better off planning a trip a little farther into the future. Regardless of when you choose to travel outside of the United States, you need to consider getting travel insurance to protect both yourself and your travel investment. Check out our article on insurance in the time of Covid-19 on how to select a policy.

If you want or need to fly away, you can get anywhere in the US. Be sure to check your airline to see what the travel requirements are. 

The entire travel industry has shifted to improve cleanliness and social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This move is not just for passenger safety. They need to restore customers’ confidence in returning to travel. This improvement in cleanliness and attention to customer health is long overdue.  

Let’s be honest: most airplanes in operation prior to the pandemic outbreak were less than clean.  The seatback pockets were notoriously filthy, as they are often used to store dirty diapers, used dental floss and tissues, and trash. The tray tables are used to change diapers, and collect an amazing amount of dirt.  And the bathrooms, particularly the door handles are a real health hazard.   One of the reasons for this is that the airlines often rely on flight attendants to clean the cabin between flights.  This is not what they have been trained for.

One major upside to airplane travel is the air filtration systems feature very advanced HEPA filters.  They filter as well as a hospital HVAC system in an isolation ward. The air is replaced in the cabin more than 15 times per hour.  If everyone on the aircraft wears a face mask to minimize infectious disease droplets in the air, then the effectiveness of the filtration system increases 10X, virtually eliminating the chance of spreading the infection through the air. There isn’t much separation between passengers, and it is absurd to believe that leaving a middle seat open between passengers is enough personal separation, but if all passengers are wearing masks, and the filtration system is running, then you shouldn’t have to worry about catching Covid-19 in the air of the plane.

The bigger concern is contracting the virus off the hard surfaces of the airplane. Airlines are now thoroughly cleaning the planes overnight or when on the ground for more than an hour.  All the hard surfaces are sprayed and cleaned. You can ensure that everything is cleaner by bringing sanitizing wipes or alcohol spray to clean your seat, the arm rests, the tray table, vents, and the flight attendant call button.  

Cruise ships are cleaning up their acts.  There is a major movement to create a much cleaner and safer cruising environment with handwashing stations, and hand sanitizer everywhere.  This alone may eliminate norovirus on cruise ships.  When a ship is infected with the novel coronavirus, it undergoes extensive cleaning to sterilize every surface.  After that sterilization, it might be the best time to come aboard for a trip.  

Cruise companies like Carnival have eliminated other areas of health risk too.  There are no longer buffets where passengers share serving utensils. They are deep cleaning the bedding and at night, scrubbing down all highly trafficked areas. 

Hotels are now focusing on cleanliness as a differentiation. The Four Seasons Hotel has teamed up with Johns Hopkins Medicine to develop a global health and safety program.  Rooms are specially cleaned and pillows are exchanged after checkout.  Service is set up to minimize face-to-face contact with staff.  Public railings have warnings to keep people from touching them except in an emergency.

Even when states and international travel destinations start to lift restrictions, when will the average traveler want to return to hotels, flights, and cruises?  It is possible that we may see a vaccine for Covid-19 as early as January 2021.  Many people only feel comfortable traveling when they have received the vaccination. Face covering masks are likely to be a requirement even after the vaccination comes out for at least the next 18 months. In the short-term, the travel industry is doing everything they can to create a clean and safe environment to give travelers a better sense of comfort and security.

Travel insurance will change too. Cancel for any reason plans are always the safest coverage for your travel arrangements. Read our expert article covering the ins and outs of Cancel for Any Reason policies. 

It will be highly likely that countries around the world will require proof of medical insurance coverage before you can leave their customs.  We also believe they may require proof of Covid-19 vaccination, just as countries that worry about yellow fever require vaccinations.    Make sure you have medical coverage and cancel for any reason coverage before you venture out.  

Everyone has a different comfort level regarding travel plans right now.  Some people are ready to go anywhere, from New York to Italy. Others will consider a carefully planned trip. Still others will wait until there is a vaccine.  One of your biggest problems during the coronavirus pandemic may be balancing your concerns with those that will be traveling with you.  There’s no reason not to plan a trip even if you’re waiting for a vaccine.  Plan a trip for 2021 out, and definitely purchase trip insurance.  It will give you something to look forward to enjoying. In our article we’ve compiled a list of the best deals available online for travelers.

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