Summertime usually means beach house rentals, road trips, and family fun. However, the coronavirus pandemic has turned the idea of relaxing summer getaways into nerve-wracking and potentially risky experiences. Still, with empty social calendars and gorgeous weather beckoning, many people have a serious itch to travel. So how can you vacation safely?
Here are seven expert tips for making the most of your time off without putting yourself or others at risk.
1. Check In With Yourself and Your Companions
Real talk: There are currently over four million reported COVID-19 cases across the country, so staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from becoming infected. However, travel is still doable. First, ask yourself if you or anyone you’ll be traveling with feels sick, is at a greater risk of infection, or lives with anyone who may be at greater risk. The answers to these questions would indicate reasons not to travel at this time, according to the CDC.
2. Choose The Right Destination
Coronavirus cases are more abundant in some states than others—and the numbers shift often.
“Looking at where you’re going and where you’re coming from is important,” says Kathryn A. Boling, M.D., primary care provider at Mercy Personal Physicians in Lutherville, MD. She suggests checking the CDC’s website to determine the new cases of your current location and destination before making a decision.
When Boling herself decided to travel from Maryland to Florida in June for the birth of her grandchild, the two states had similar numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Given Florida’s recent spike in cases, she says she wouldn’t make the same decision now.
Another must-do: Be sure to check if the state or local government where you live or at your destination require any timeframe of quarantine upon arrival. For example, New Yorkers may want to head somewhere other than Montana, as that would require two weeks quarantine when they arrive back home.
3. Choose Your Travel Method Wisely
Even though taking a train or bus may seem easier, taking a car to travel somewhere relatively close affords you the ability to social distance from other travelers. (The CDC agrees that this is your best bet, too.)
“If you can’t help having to fly, look at different airline policies to see who is doing the most social distancing or keeping the middle seat empty,” says Boling.
While traveling to Florida, Boling felt comfortable with her airline’s policy to keep middle seats empty, require passengers wear face masks, and board passengers 10 at a time, she says.
A recent study out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in fact, suggests the risk of flying and catching COVID-19 in-flight is fairly low. However, there is a significant increase in risk when the middle seats are filled. Additionally, security lines and small terminal spaces make social distancing tricky, warns the CDC.
4. Plan Your Activities With Care
Many normal vacation activities, like going to amusement parks and dining out at restaurants, now come with risks. You’ll want to spend extra time prepping for your trip, since many attractions are closed or require advanced reservations. Even some hiking areas cap visitors.
When it comes to dining, the CDC recommends ensuring your preferred restaurant is following guidelines if eating on-premises is an option. Call in advance to confirm that all staff wear face coverings, check out safety protocols on the restaurant’s website and social media, opt for a table outside if possible, wear a mask when not seated, and wash your hands before and after your meal, suggests the CDC.
As for what you’ll actually do on your vacation—popular outdoor activities like visiting a pool, beach, or park are generally safe while practicing social distancing, according to the CDC. Just be cautious of over-crowded areas. It’s also a good idea to call in advance to determine if reservations are necessary, if you can pre-purchase any admission tickets, and if bathrooms will be open and available.
5. Be Mindful of Where You Stay
Returning to a clean place every day during your trip is crucial. Don’t discredit the work hotels are putting in to keep their guests safe, though. The American Hotel and Lodging Association recently released the Safe Stay Guest Checklist, which outlines a standardized experience, as well as expectations for all guests.
The checklist includes mandatory face coverings in all indoor public spaces, social distancing in common areas, and contactless check-in and payment options. The CDC also recommends taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
Additionally, the AHLA released the Stay Safe initiative, which details enhanced cleaning standards throughout hotels, the use of superior cleaning products in accordance with CDC guidelines, and overall transparency throughout a guest’s stay.
Some hotels are even offering mobile room keys through a smartphone app!
6. Pack Wisely
Plan to bring more groceries and snacks than you normally would in order to avoid having to stop in crowded public places for food.
You’ll also want to pack your bag with masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer. Boling used disinfectant wipes throughout her own trip so she could clean the seating area of the plane, rental car touch-points (like the door handle, trunk lift, and gas tank), and high-touch areas in the hotel (like door handles, TV remotes, and tables). She also wore her mask in all public areas—including the hotel lobby.
7. Boost Your Immunity
While travelling, aim for up to 6,000 milligrams per day of vitamin C, and pair it with bioflavonoids or quercetin, suggests The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N. (She encourages taking the vitamin C in divided doses to avoid stomach upset.)
For zinc, the minimum needs are eight milligrams for females and 11 milligrams for males, with 40 milligrams being the upper limit. There are many different kinds of zinc, but Michels suggests supplementing with one capsule daily of The Vitamin Shoppe brand Zinc Complex, which can provide a healthy dose.
Depending on your sun exposure, Michels recommends supplementing with 600 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. There has been a growing body of research in the last decade exploring and documenting the role vitamin D plays in immune health.
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