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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Travel in the Time of COVID-19

Is it Safe to Travel? Here’s what the experts are saying.

Cabin fever: everybody’s got it. But there is much debate as to whether it is safe to go to your favorite local restaurant, much less across the country. You may really need to travel somewhere, such as to help aging parents relocate. Or it could be you’ve heard that a cruise you’ve always wanted to do is half off if you buy tickets now. Should you? Find out what experts are saying about travel today. 

What About Airbnb Stays?

Lodging is a whole other can of worms. Many families are looking to the comfort of whole-house rental for a safe stay, while others eye cabins. In late April, Airbnb announced its Enhanced Cleaning Initiative to standardize cleaning and sanitation among its members. It gives hosts three options for cleaning their rentals:

  1. Most rigorous. Hosts enroll in the Cleaning Protocol learning and certification program. Only approved disinfectant can be used, and rentals maintain 24-hour periods between hosting to mitigate the risk of airborne particles being shared among guests. 
  2. Booking Buffer. In this level, the rental remains vacant for 24 hours after a guest leaves. It is then cleaned, and another 48 hours must pass before another guest enters. This protocol works for hosts who cannot obtain the required cleaning products of the Cleaning Protocol or can’t use them because they outsource a cleaning provider. 
  3. Nothing new. The third option is business as usual, but there is going to be serious market pressure to follow option 1 or 2. 
These guidelines are expected to roll out in June. Watch the space for changes and ask potential hosts what they are doing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus before you book.


Which airline you take, and which aircraft from their fleet, has a direct bearing on your safety in the skies. Since there are no national protocols at the time of this writing, it is only wise to dial the airline and ask a few questions. How many passengers are they seating to a row? Will alternate rows be empty? What are their sanitation procedures? Does the aircraft you will be in have a HEPA filter? Are they seating the middle row?

Most airlines are fogging the aircraft with disinfectant, but you still may want to wipe down the most germ-filled surfaces, which are the tray in front of you, arm rests and buttons, plus the lavatory door and sink handles. Avoid using the bathroom if you can. Wear a mask, and use gloves throughout your trip. The HEPA filter contained in most planes today is the same filter used in hospital ICUs. You can turn on the overhead air flow and adjust it to just in front of your face, helping to whisk away any virus that may be headed your way.

Additionally, be careful in the airport to maintain at least six feet in the security line and terminal. Hanging out in a crowd can increase your risk of getting the disease. Bring sanitizer and/or wipes and use them whenever you must touch something that could be exposed to the virus. Recent travelers report overall positive experiences in the air and at the nation’s airports; however, TSA personnel cuts may mean that the special clearance you paid for has no dedicated line, and you will be taking your shoes off in security like everyone else. On the bonus side, most airlines are currently offering free changes up to, or even including, the day of travel, and flights are picking up daily, increasing your odds of a direct route.

Bus and Train Travel

Again, a call to the company you are riding with will tell you a lot about the safety factor. Are passengers seated in alternating rows? What happens to passengers with a fever? What sanitation protocols are in place?


Cruise ships have been referred to as “floating petri dishes,” so why would anyone book a cruise now? Price, my friend, low price. But would you be crazy to get on a boat at this stage in the game? Currently, the CDC’s answer is “yes.” Visit this travel site for updated details.

Although cruise lines are working out how to ensure safer travel onboard, it is currently quite risky to be at sea with a thousand of your closest friends. There is just no way to isolate in a cruise vessel, where mingling is normally encouraged and unavoidable. If you must go on a cruise, do your best to maintain a six-foot clear radius around you (those German pool noodle-wearers might bear imitation). Also, consider taking meals in your cabin, wiping surfaces employees may have touched. And, as in all public areas, avoid public restrooms if at all possible.


Everybody you know has hopped in their RV for a safe travel adventure … but is it? Actually, RV’ing is not a bad way to go if you take a few simple precautions. Use the bathroom in the RV, not public restrooms, along the way. Gas up with gloves or use sanitizer or wipes at the pump. Wear a mask in public areas, such as when you stop for gas or groceries. Stock up with food and water at home, if possible. Remember that restaurants may be closed. If you are renting an RV, follow the CDC’s guidance on cleaning and disinfecting. Finally, check on state or local health restrictions along the way and at your destination.


Now there’s an idea: it’s cheap, it’s in the great outdoors, and it’s easy to stay away from other people when camping, right? Well, the answer is mostly yes. A recent study found the virus dies quickly on surfaces and in the air when exposed to direct sunlight, and other research notes that wind carries it away outdoors. These factors, plus a tendency to isolate at your campsite and in your group on the trail, make car camping or erecting a tent an excellent choice. Just remember that public restrooms can gather the virus, so you may want to invest $20 in a Luggable Loo portable toilet before you go. Wear a mask if you are around others and maintain a six-foot radius on the trail.

Other Considerations

Planning and preparation is always a part of travel, but there are more things to consider now that COVID-19 is in the world. You may be so used to going to a favorite restaurant at your destination that you forget to call and make sure they are open, but that’s important nowadays, especially if you’ve planned to eat out. If the place is open for business, it is okay to ask what they are doing to keep customers (and staff) safe. It is also better to be seated outdoors on a patio instead of inside.

Another thing that may never have crossed your mind is to carry an advance healthcare directive with you, particularly if you will be cruising. It is a legal document about what actions you would like taken for your health in the event you can no longer make those decisions because of illness or incapacity.

If you can, it is safest to stay at home. But if you need to travel, remember that the virus is still out there, and people are still getting sick and going to the hospital. We are all tired of hanging out at home, but it is a lot better than lying in bed in an ICU, and that should be top of mind when making the decision to travel.

Click below for the other articles in the July 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors