Have the Pandemic Blues Got You Down? Tips for Traveling Safely During COVID-19

Several years ago I enjoyed a Road Scholar photography program led by Mountaineer Photo Excursions in West Virginia. I’ve received permission to adapt the following article by one of the excursion leaders, Amanda Haddox, from their October 2020 newsletter. If you’re interested in photography, I also highly recommend checking their website: www.MountaineerPhotoExcursions.com. Here’s Amanda’s article:

Is it possible to travel safely during the COVID-19 outbreak? Absolutely! ... Use these tips to keep you (and your family safe) when ... taking to the roads (or to the air) to enjoy all the sights this unique fall has to offer!

Know Before You Go! - Research the state or the area you are planning to visit. Know what COVID-19 precautions and guidelines are in place for the individual state that you are visiting. - Is the state you are coming from on the restricted list? - Is there a 72-hour COVID test or 14-day quarantine requirement? - Can you have lodging refused to you if you do not meet the state’s COVID requirements (Maine)? - Is the place(s) that you are planning to go open? Are there modified hours or are there other restrictions in place that you need to be aware of, such as a lack of public restrooms? - Are restaurants open in the area? For take-out only, delivery, or inside dining? - What are the mask requirements? What is your time tolerance for wearing a face covering? Are there fines or other penalties that you need to be aware of? If you have a medical exemption, make sure to have documentation from your doctor with you when you travel. - Some state requirements may eliminate them as travel possibilities. For example, if you have a 7-day vacation and there is a 14-day mandatory quarantine period, in these instances look for opportunities within your own state.

Road Trip Tips - Choose an off-peak time to travel. Don’t leave on a Friday morning or afternoon when public rest stops will be more crowded. - Bring your own drinks and snacks to avoid standing in line in convenience stores. - Socially distance and avoid large groups of people. Wear a mask when you are close to others. Always keep antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers with you and use them frequently! - At gas stations, consider wearing a glove on the hand that will be touching the nozzle, credit card touch pad, your gas cap and door handle. Sanitize your hands well after coming in contact with publicly used and rarely cleaned surfaces. - Look for restaurants without lines, or that are well spaced out, that offer the option of outdoor dining. Check to see if the location accepts reservations to reduce your wait time. - When selecting lodging, look for cabins or choose hotels that have rooms with windows that open (many are bolted closed) that allow free flow of outside air, a terrace or balcony. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces such as countertops, dressers, and nightstands, and especially the TV remote control, an often forgotten object that is handled by several people between cleanings. If staying more than one night, forgo hotel housekeeping services so that you can control the sanitation of your own environment.

Air Travel Tips - Airlines are currently requiring passengers wear masks or other face coverings when flying. Take the extra step and get a face shield or safety glasses with top and side protection. They can be found at your local hardware store or online inexpensively. If you can't find safety glasses, regular glasses or sunglasses will still provide some protection. -When booking, if possible, select a non-stop flight or one with the fewest layovers, make sure the airline offers free cancellations and avoids booking the middle seat to give you some distance from other passengers. If they don’t say, ask! - Remember, the time that you spend in an airport during check-in, security checks, boarding, and baggage retrieval may be worse than the actual flight itself. Wear a well fitted mask, social distance and sanitize your hands often to minimize the risks.

As inconvenient as all these additional precautions are, you can still travel, have fun, while being safe and healthy. And for future posterity, photograph pandemic related signs along your journey; it can be a fun and stress-relieving tactic while we try and navigate our way through these challenging times.