Posted Date: February 18, 2021
Should I travel during COVID-19? Is it safe to travel right now? Where can I travel during the pandemic? These are just a few questions that we have been asked during COVID-19.
It’s hard to believe that it has almost been one year since the devastating pandemic charged into our lives and changed the way we live. Suddenly, everything was shut down and borders were closed.
I think we all hoped that once 2021 came around, life would return to normal. But the truth is, even with the vaccine rollout underway, we are still months away from the return to normalcy that we all crave. At the time this was posted, we still need to take precautions when we leave our house and especially when we travel.
In this post, I am talking about traveling during the pandemic, sharing tips on how to travel safely, and providing resources to help you travel responsibly.
Traveling During The Pandemic
Is It Okay To Travel Right Now?
This is a hard question to answer. The CDC recommends that people should postpone traveling unless absolutely necessary.
The safest thing to do is to not travel at all. Staying at home and practicing social distancing until the majority of people are vaccinated is the best thing we can all do right now.
We have taken the personal approach to limit our travel as much as possible during COVID. Our original plans in 2020 were to spend most of the year abroad, but we quickly had to change our plans, as did so many of us.
While we have still managed to see a few new places during the pandemic, we have done so thoughtfully and deliberately while taking precautions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
With that being said, the decision is ultimately up to you if you decide to travel or not. There are no mandates in place that say you can’t travel. If you feel comfortable traveling, there are ways to make it a safer and healthier experience for everyone.
Our Experience Traveling During The Pandemic
For the record, Colin and I have traveled during the pandemic. We haven’t stayed stationary for the entire year, but we have followed the guidelines and recommendations from the CDC to make sure we are taking all necessary precautions.
In 2020, we lived in 4 different states and traveled across the country from Oregon to Washington, D.C. by car (we were moving across the country). We mainly traveled by car, with the exception of 2 flights, and stayed stateside for the entire year.
We decided to avoid international travel until it is safer to do so. Plus, so many things are closed right now – we are saving our money for international travel once things open up again.
Overall, our experience traveling during COVID-19 has been a positive one. Neither of us has contracted COVID-19 yet (knock on wood), and I believe that is mainly due to the precautions we have taken while traveling.
Tips to Travel Safely & Responsibly
Wear a Mask
We’ve all heard this time and time again – wear a mask! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that masks do help reduce the spread of infection, and they also help reduce your chances of getting infected.
Masks are also now required to be worn on any form of public transportation. That includes airplanes, trains, buses, ferries, etc. Make sure to take a few masks with you on your trip just in case you lose one and to switch out your used ones with clean ones.
We wear masks anytime we leave the house – that includes walks, hikes, at the grocery store, and anywhere in public. Believe me, I daydream about the day when I don’t have to wear it anymore, but I’m happy to wear it knowing that I am helping to protect myself and others.
Here is a helpful guide on how to properly wear your mask.
Stay in One Location on Your Trip
If you stay in one location on your trip instead of city-hopping, you reduce your chances of exposure.
We like to travel almost as if we are at home. We rent an apartment on Airbnb to avoid other people at a hotel. We cook most of our food. We drive everywhere. We go on walks, hikes, and find other local outdoor activities.
By traveling this way, you limit the amount of people you come into contact with – which during a pandemic is a good thing.
When we traveled around the U.S. in 2020, we didn’t hop around from one city to another every other day. We picked a destination and stayed there for at least one week or longer.
We stayed in Oregon for 3 months, Utah for one week, Idaho for one week, Boston for one week, and now we have been in Washington, D.C. for 6 months.
It may be a more slow placed trip, but hey, at least you are on a trip, right?
Follow Local Guidelines
Every state has its own guidelines and travel restrictions.
For example, New York currently requires you to get a COVID-19 test before visiting and another test on your third day after arriving in New York. Hawaii also requires you to quarantine for 10-days upon arrival unless you have proof of a negative COVID test. Whereas Florida currently has no requirements or mask mandates.
Make sure to do your research ahead of time to ensure you are following all of the rules, so you don’t get stuck having to quarantine for your entire trip.
You can see all of the travel restrictions for every state in the U.S. on this link.
Traveling is always a good excuse to eat out and try new foods.
However, this past year we have opted to get carry-out instead of eating inside restaurants. In fact, I have only eaten inside one restaurant since the pandemic began.
We just haven’t felt comfortable eating in an enclosed area with other people who aren’t wearing their masks. So instead, we order ahead, get carry-out, and have a picnic if it’s warm or take it to our rental and eat there. And on a few occasions, we have sat and eaten in our car.
It’s not quite the same experience as eating in the restaurant, but it’s definitely the safer option.
Consider planning your trip to a destination that offers a lot of outdoor activities. Whether that’s hiking in the mountains, kayaking on a lake, or skiing – visit a place where there is a lot of open-air and space to social distance.
We spent our summer hiking in the mountains and along the coast in Oregon. This was a great opportunity to travel around and social distance at the same time.
On hikes, we always made sure to give plenty of space to any other hikers passing us on the trail and to put on our masks anytime we were near another group.
The main downside to being in Oregon during the pandemic is that a lot of hikes were closed. I would recommend checking closures of national parks, hikes, and beaches in advance so you don’t miss out on your trip.
Clean and Sanitize Everything
Keep everything as clean as possible! My hands have never been cleaner before, which is kind of gross to think about.
Take hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you on your trip. We keep hand sanitizer in our car or in our backpacks and use it anytime we go out in public.
We also use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down the steering wheel and dashboard on our car every week.
If you are flying, the airline provides you with a wipe to wipe down your seat and table, but it’s always good to take some extra wipes to have on hand. These wipes are also great for wiping down doorknobs and surfaces in your hotel room, you know, just in case.
Go on a Road trip
It’s kind of crazy how many places there are to visit in your own backyard. I always get distracted by the incredible sites abroad, but if you look close enough, you’ll see that there are a lot of activities to do within a few hours of home.
Road trips are a great way to stay isolated and to get out for a few days without coming into contact with too many people.
We literally have driven all over the country this past year, and we discovered so many gems that we would have never known about previously.
Be Aware of Covid Cases
Before you head out on your trip, check the COVID-19 cases at your destination. Avoid traveling to places that have a high number of cases in order to minimize your risk of getting infected.
I use the John’s Hopkins map to track cases in the U.S. and Worldometer for international cases.
This is so important – quarantine before and after your trip, especially if you are meeting up with people.
A lot of people are asymptomatic, so just to be safe, quarantine when you return from a trip to avoid potentially exposing someone to COVID-19.
We always quarantine before a trip to ensure that we aren’t infected with the virus while traveling. It’s an easy precaution that you can take to ensure you and others around you stay healthy.
Here is a list of quarantine guidelines on the CDC website.
Where Can You Travel?
Domestic travel within the U.S.
All state borders are open as of February 2021, so you can travel anywhere in the U.S. if you reside here. Again, make sure to check out this website before traveling to see if there are any restrictions.
This article from The Points Guy has a detailed list of state restrictions.
Many borders are still closed to U.S. citizens; however, there are a few countries allowing tourists to visit. This article clearly states where you can travel internationally right now.
If you want more information on travel restrictions In each country, you can google “U.S. Embassy [country name] COVID-19” and a link to the U.S. Embassy in that country will show up. You will be directed either to the embassy’s site or the local health department for more info on COVID-19 related travel guidelines and restrictions.
This is important to note – As of January 26th, all travelers entering the United States from an international destination must have proof of a negative COVID test within 3 days of departure. This is a recent mandate, so make sure that you can get a COVID test before returning back to the U.S. See more info on the State Department website.
Airlines are required to deny entry onto the plane if you do not present a negative COVID test. So make sure you get a test before you leave – or else you will be missing your flight home.
Here are all of the resources from the article compiled into one list.