What to Know About Traveling During the Covid 19 Pandemic

pandemic travel

Traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic is not for the faint of heart, but if you do decide to travel, you can mitigate risk through some careful research and planning. The reality is that these precautions are probably going to be necessary for quite a while, even after the vaccine comes out and things open up a bit, so we may as well get used to them now. 

Avoiding illness during a pandemic is all about risk management. Make sure all your steps of travel are as safe as possible when traveling during COVID-19.

pandemic travel los cabos airport 4
The airport in Los Cabos, Mexico. Despite masks and marked off chairs, clearly it’s difficult to socially distancing in an airport, so risk management is important.

Here are some things to look for: 

Airlines: If you’re going to fly, check for air filtration procedures (most planes have hospital-grade HEPA filtrationnow), sanitizing procedures, and capacity reduction (e.g. keeping middle seats open.)

Be aware that airlines have adjusted procedures and some things will have changed since the last time you flew. For example, when we flew Alaska Airlines, they were only operating a very limited drink and snack service. None of their usual meals or snacks were for sale, so make sure to pack food for long flights, especially with kids. 

Masks are, of course, required on all flights. If your kids aren’t accustomed to wearing masks for long periods, you will want to prep them by practicing beforehand. Also, make sure to pack extra masks. Spills happen. Plus some kids (who shall not be named) have a habit of licking/chewing on their masks. Yes, it’s totally gross.

Pandemic Travel by Airplane
A flight on Alaska Airlines: well spaced, with middle seats left empty. Check carefully that this policy will still be in place at the time of your travel.

Car Travel: If you’re going to drive, plan your route carefully. Bathroom stops and restaurants on the way will be your riskiest business. If your children are very small, consider a travel potty for your car, if you want to avoid taking them into gas station bathrooms.

Accommodations: Every reputable hotel or resort should have clearly stated COVID-19 procedures. Look for sanitizing measures, temperature checks, sick leave policy for employees, outdoor access to hotel rooms/doors (so you can avoid hallways), and outdoor dining options. 

pandemic travel to Cabo San Lucas
An empty resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. We traveled in pursuit of socially distanced sunshine. Resorts in Cabo have been limited to 30%-50% capacity to encourage social distancing.

Destinations: States and countries with mask mandates will have safer airports. In states without mask mandates, you’ll run into lots of unmasked people in airports, which can be risky. Fortunately, many tourism destinations (like our most recent destination, Los Cabos, Mexico) are bending over backward to control the pandemic — the entire town is masked, with hand sanitizer and temperature checks everywhere.

Cancellation Policies: Everything has changed since the start of the pandemic, and cancellation policies are all over the place. Sometimes they’re great, sometimes you have to prove a COVID-related cause to get free cancellation, sometimes you only get credit. Our most recent VRBO rental’s policy was that you could cancel anytime, but would only get credit towards the same rental for up to 1 year. Read the fine print carefully!

Medical Care: It’s worth planning for the unthinkable during a pandemic. What happens if you get sick? If you’ve never bought travel medical insurance, now might be the time. At minimum, check out local medical facilities just in case. And make sure if you were sick or exposed to COVID-19 and HAD to quarantine at your destination for an extra 2 weeks, you could. 

Finally, once you’ve decided to travel, relax. Make your best decision, then try to avoid thinking about judgement from other people. I know people judged us for traveling during this pandemic, but I also know I’ve judged lots of people for going to weddings, funerals, and restaurants/bars. So, let’s do our best and give ourselves — and each other — a little grace.