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How to Travel Safely

Written by | Updated July 20, 2020

After being cooped up for months thanks to the novel coronavirus, people are finally starting to step outside and into a plane, train, or automobile.

Knowing how to travel safely is always important, but during the COVID-19 pandemic safety is more crucial than ever.

To help you satisfy that wanderlust safely, we’ve updated our travel safety guidelines. We added specific tips about protecting yourself and your fellow travelers during the days of the coronavirus.

It’s important to note that the CDC currently recommends staying home over any kind of travel. But if you’re not going to stay home, check out the CDC website for more tips about how to travel safely during the pandemic.

Before you leave

Travel safety begins before you even leave the house. From making sure your home is secure to brushing up on current coronavirus restrictions wherever you’re going, planning ahead sets you up for travel safety success.

Secure your home before you leave on vacation

To deter potential burglars, you want to make sure your home looks lived in even while you are away. Statistics show that burglaries tend to rise in the summer months, which is peak vacation time for most of us. And thieves know the best time to strike is when your home is vacant.

Here are some steps you can take to tighten security before you hit the road.

  • Tell a neighbor your travel plans. Ask them to help keep an eye on your property and alert you of any suspicious activity.
  • Lock all your windows and doors. Don’t forget about doors leading to the garage or second-story windows.
  • Have mail and newspaper delivery stopped. A stack of mail and newspapers or garbage cans left at the curb are signs that nobody’s home. You can temporarily stop delivery by contacting your newspaper carrier and the United States Post Office. And recruit a neighbor to bring in the garbage bins.
  • Hire someone to help you keep up on yard work. An overgrown lawn or unshoveled walkway is a dead giveaway that no one’s at home.
  • Make sure any yard tools are put away. A ladder, rakes, and even patio furniture can all be used as tools to gain entry to your home.
  • Don’t post your travel plans on social media—if a burglar spots your post, it can turn your home into a target.

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Research coronavirus trends and restrictions

Travel can increase your risk of getting infected or spreading COVID-19 to others. Don’t let the coronavirus ruin your getaway.

Take these steps before you leave to minimize your risk during vacation.

  • Check coronavirus trends. Find out if coronavirus infections are spreading both where you’re traveling from and at your destination. This can help you decide what risk you may pose to others and the risk they may pose to you.
  • Research coronavirus restrictions. See if the city, county, or state where you’re going has any restrictions on visitors. In addition to smart practices like social distancing and wearing a mask or other face covering, some places require visitors from COVID-19 hotspots to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
  • Stock up on essentials. Make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer and face masks. We recommend carrying a ziplock or other reusable bag where you can easily store and retrieve face coverings, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer. This way, if you have to take off your mask, you won’t lay it on a surface or throw it in a pocket or bag. It also makes it easier to sanitize your hands without touching everything in your bag.

Travel safety for the whole family

People have different travel needs, depending on things like age or ability. Make sure everyone who’s traveling with you is safe and comfortable with these family safety travel tips.

Travel safety tips for kids and babies

  • Bring a car seat. Whether you’re driving or flying, youngsters that require a car seat need to have one during vacation. If you’re flying and have a lot of stops, it might make sense to invest in a lightweight car seat that’s easy to move from plane to plane. And make sure your car seat is FAA approved.
  • Pack sanitizing wipes. Wipes make it easy to disinfect anything your child touches (including themselves) when you’re on the go. Wipe down chairs, tables, airplane trays, and toys—especially if you have a little one that likes to stick everything in their mouth.
  • Wash their hands. Whenever you have the chance, hit the sink. Wipes and hand sanitizer are great in a pinch, but nothing beats washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Make masks fun. Children over 2 years-old should wear a cloth face covering in public. To make this feel like less of a chore, get your kiddos some special masks for the trip. You can get masks with fun patterns, bright colors, or even find some emblazoned with their favorite characters.
  • Social distance. Do what you can to keep your kids at least six feet away from others who are not in your immediate family. This can be especially crucial if you’re visiting someone who’s at high-risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Consider a GPS tracker. It doesn’t take a pandemic to make us panic if we lose sight of a child in an unfamiliar or crowded place. Make things easier on your blood pressure and safer for your little one with a kids GPS tracker that lets you keep an eye on that tiny wanderer no matter where they go.

Travel safety tips for seniors

  • Assess risk. You don’t want a road trip or plane ride to end in illness. Because age can make the symptoms and complications of COVID-19 more critical, assess your health and the general health of each person you’re traveling with or visiting. If there are any signs of illness, it’s best to reconsider your travel plans.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. Falls are always a threat, so stay steady on your feet, whether you’re sight-seeing or rushing to your gate at the airport. Sacrifice fashion for safety with reliable tennis shoes or other supportive footwear that gives your body the balance and bounce it needs.
  • Social distance. Make sure that to stay at least six feet away from older family and friends you see during your travels. If you’re reuniting with folks you haven’t seen in months, it’s tempting to hug or plant a kiss on a loved one’s cheek. But those momentary greetings can result in infection. Get creative with air hugs, elbow bumps, and other safe ways to show your love.
  • Air it out. It’s fun to huddle around the dining table or share a family puzzle, but if you’re seeing some people for the first time, it’s best to stick to the outdoors. Have a picnic, go for a walk, or set up some lawn chairs for fresh air social distancing.
  • Keep it small. The more people you interact with (especially in higher-risk settings like in the airport, a store, or in someone’s home), the higher your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus. Try to get together in small groups—10 or fewer is best—regardless of state or city guidelines that may approve larger gatherings.
  • Consider a medical alert device. If you have a medical condition that puts you at risk for a fall, fainting, or any condition that could leave you unable to call for help, a medical alert pendant can be a lifesaver. It also makes it easier for someone to access your medical records if you need help when you’re far from home. If you already have a medical alert device, talk to your provider before you leave to make sure it will work when you’re traveling.

Safety tips for air travel

Airports are full of people, all rushing to catch a plane or make a connection. On top of normal airport safety, if you decide to fly right now, you should take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here are some travel tips to help you safely navigate the airport both during the pandemic and any time you fly:

  • Watch your bags. You need to keep a close eye on your luggage at all times, even once you board the plane.
  • Team up. If you’re traveling alone, try to find someone in line to befriend. This is someone who could watch your luggage while at the counter or going through security.
  • Protect your laptop. When going through security, put your laptop on the x-ray belt last. This way, your laptop will come out after your carryon luggage and hopefully about the time you are cleared. You don’t want your laptop in the open for too long.
  • Sanitize. Carry hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes to wipe down your hands, bags, laptop, and phone after going through security. If you’re cleaning your hands with hand sanitizer, be sure to use a generous amount and rub it into your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash your hands. After you’ve wiped everything down, stop at the nearest bathroom to wash up in soap and water—that’s the best way to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
  • Wear a comfortable mask. Both in the airport and during your flight, you need to wear a face covering. This will likely be the longest stretch you’ve had to wear a mask (unless you’re an essential worker), so pack one that fits well and is comfortable. Fidgeting or adjusting it constantly defeats the purpose of wearing the mask.
  • Store your carry-on nearby. On the airplane, if you don’t put your luggage under the seat in front of you, put it in the overhead bin across the aisle from you. You’ll be able keep an eye on your bag during the flight to ensure nobody is opening your luggage.
  • Wipe things down. When you get to your seat, wipe down the seat, the safety belt buckle, the tray, and anything else that gets touched (especially if you’re traveling with little ones).
  • Try to limit contact. Unless your airline is booking flights for social distancing, chances are you’ll be seated next to, behind, or in front of someone else. If possible, request a window or middle seat. We think the window is best because you won’t have someone climbing over you or rubbing elbows when they head down the aisle to the bathroom.
  • Don’t be shy. If you see an empty row or end up next to someone who’s sneezing or coughing a lot, ask if you can move to a different seat. This is no time to hesitate. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to look out for your own health.

If you decide to skip the airplane and hit the open road instead, read our tips for a safe road trip during the pandemic.

While on vacation

You’ve successfully navigated the airport and now you’ve landed safety at your destination. Don’t relax on safety just yet. Whether at a theme park or at a fancy resort, there are a few safety precautions (on top of washing your hands and social distancing) that you can take to make sure you’re as safe as possible.

  • Stay off social media. Don’t tip criminals off by sharing too much information on your social networks. Refrain from posting photos, status updates, or “checking in” while on vacation. Even if you have the highest security settings on Facebook and Twitter, your personal information could still be seen by unwanted eyes.
  • Tell friends and family at home your itinerary. It’s a good idea to tell family and friends about your plans. Always let someone know when you’re expected to be back and what route you’re planning to take.
  • Go contactless. Whenever possible, choose contactless options to check into your room, get meals delivered, or purchase tickets if you’re going to any events or venues.
  • Keep cash and credit cards in separate places. Never carry your credit cards, cash, and passport at the same time. You’ll want to keep some cash in your wallet, and then stash the rest in a pocket or money pouch. If you have a safe in your hotel room, leave the majority of your cash there and only bring what you’ll need for the day.
  • Make a copy of your passport. You’ll want to make two copies of your passport. Leave one copy at home with a trusted friend or family member and take another copy with you. When you go out sightseeing, take the copy with you and leave the original in a hotel safe until you are ready to travel again.
  • Do a security sweep of your hotel room. Always keep your hotel door locked and never answer it for someone you don’t know. If you can, try to get a room near the front desk or the elevator.
  • Do a sanitizing sweep of your hotel room. Even though hotels are stepping up their cleaning routines during the pandemic, you may want to roll up your sleeves and do some extra disinfecting. The CDC has a whole guide to help you clean and disinfect your temporary lodgings the right way.
  • Keep your mask on. During your vacation activities, it’s important to keep up the habit of donning a face covering whenever you go out—even if it’s just down the hall to the ice machine. On second thought, don’t even use the communal ice machine.

You can never be too careful, especially when it comes to traveling. Make sure things are safe at home and while you are traveling by taking the necessary precautions.

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more

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