During the Pandemic

By Mary Beth Skylis

While the sun blazes hot and kids are out of school, some adventurous spirits may have travel on their minds this season. Many modes of travel are restricted at the moment, but travel is still possible.

For most, 2020 will likely involve national exploration, rather than international, and curious souls can stay socially distant while still getting the most out of their summer months. Number one priority: determine your destination’s COVID-19 protocols and you’ll better equip yourself to travel safely this season.

Determining how to travel can help to minimize your exposure to COVID-19. Traveling by air, train and bus present an array of potential difficulties, with the challenge of maintaining six feet of social distance one of the biggest risk factors.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the air filtration process on planes can help to eliminate the threat of circulating a virus while you’re on board but maintaining social distance can be difficult in these settings. Since the virus is transmitted by mucus particles, you’re much more likely to become infected if you stay within the six-foot radius of other humans for an extended period of time.

While travel by car isn’t entirely removed from risk, it does afford more control over your ability to stay socially distant.

Here’s what you need to know if you choose to travel this year.

Road Trips

AAA predicts that summer will involve nearly the same number of road trips as previous years. Since gas prices have fallen and the exposure risk to COVID-19 seems to be less extreme for car travelers, more Americans are likely to hit the road. But it’s still important to remain vigilant if you choose to road trip.

Since road trips will likely be the predominant travel method this summer, it’s important to consider ways we can stay safe while on the go. When hitting the road, best practices might include the following strategies:

  • Packing snacks and water along busy travel routes can help to minimize stops
  • Keeping cloth face masks (bring extras!) and alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy for fast, easy use
  • Sanitizing the gas handle and buttons prior to using
  • Paying with a card instead of cash
  • Wearing a mask while in public places (many towns require it)

Be sure to check the COVID-19 policies of your destination and lodging locations. Depending on your destination, you may be required to quarantine upon your arrival. For example, New Mexico isn’t allowing travel into the state without a 14-day self-quarantine period.

Lodging During the Pandemic

Hotels like Best Western are implementing new protocols to keep travelers safe during the pandemic. During the check-in and check-out process, you should expect something along these lines:

  • Minimized guest contact
  • Extreme sanitation procedures
  • Self-sanitizing stations

Additionally, room cleaning procedures are changing to adapt to COVID-19. In most cases, Best Western will be cleaning rooms 24 to 72 hours after guests have left. Commonly used devices like remotes and thermostats will be carefully cleansed. And turndown services will only take place upon request to eliminate possible exposure.

Breakfasts are likely to be limited throughout the travel season. Rather than offering buffets where guests are handling all of the same utensils, Best Western will be offering “Grab & Go” foods that are already pre-packaged.

Finally, when possible, public amenities will remain open under careful scrutiny. This means that many pools and gyms will be available in moderation. And you may need to make a reservation before using them.

Camping

Since campgrounds offer semi-remote lodging options, looking into local reservation systems might offer an alluring way to travel this season.

Most KOA campgrounds are currently open, but they have implemented a reservation system to manage traffic. Like hotels, campgrounds are heightening cleaning procedures across the board. Additionally, campgrounds are becoming more flexible with cancelation windows due to the ongoing struggle with COVID-19. This means that you’ll usually have up to 24 hours prior to your arrival date to attain a full refund.

Colorado State Parks are beginning to re-open cabins, campgrounds and yurts. While group sizes are limited, most locations are offering reservations. But public areas like playgrounds will remain closed, and the regulations vary by location. Additionally, Colorado State Wildlife Areas are requiring visitors to possess a valid hunting or fishing license while using these areas, even for activities such as hiking. Find out more at cpw.state.co.us.

Finally, national parks like Rocky Mountain National Park are implementing practices to cater to a safer travel experience. Under current regulations, road and trail access is available to travelers under a strict reservation system. This process will involve a timed entry permit, allowing the park to facilitate social distancing practices. Book your reservation early, these can fill up fast. Most services and public areas will remain closed until future re-opening phases take place. Estes Park will be functioning under similar regulations.

Travel Outside of the USA

NOCO Style recently had the chance to chat with John and Dale Clarken of New Horizons Travel to discuss what changes they’ve seen throughout the pandemic when it comes to travel outside the U.S. As a travel company that specializes in customizing everyone’s experience, New Horizons Travel has begun to shift their approach to accommodate the fluctuating needs of their clients. In addition to becoming more attentive to travel restrictions, the company has adjusted their travel destinations in an attempt to minimize risks.

The European Union agreed to permit travel across European borders from a number of foreign countries as of July 1. However, Americans were not among them. Updates will be made by the Union every two weeks. In the meantime, rather than traveling to Europe, many are choosing not to travel or to head to less crowded destinations, like parts of Mexico.

“We’re changing the locations where we’re traveling. We’re seeing an increase of interest in people wanting to go to Mexico. And not to the crowded destinations,” John Clarken said.

Despite the decline in overall bookings, the Clarkens find that there are people still interested in travel outside the U.S. “We are still making brand-new bookings. I actually had an old client call in yesterday. They’re going to head to Mexico in July and are just ready to stretch out and take a little vacation. Obviously, that is probably out of the norm. For the most part, people have tended to look towards next year,” according to John Clarken.

In addition to the possible risk of exposure to COVID-19, many adventurers worry about troubles they might encounter while away from home. “It’s not necessarily the fear of the virus. It’s more the fear of being stuck somewhere and not being able to get home. We’re just keeping our clients up-to-date on travel restrictions,” said John Clarken.

Dale Clarken added: “Just keep yourself knowledgeable about everything. Know the travel restrictions and the emergency contact numbers. Because of the pandemic, we have to be so much more detailed.” Since restrictions are changing on a daily basis, remaining attentive to border crossings and travel restrictions will keep you safer.

Air Travel Safety

Airlines are starting to regain footing after April’s shut down. Most airlines are operating between 50 and 70 percent of their capacity, which makes it easier to stay socially distant during travel. However, even when there’s a seat between passengers, you’re likely within the six-foot safety boundary. This makes it even more important to adhere to safety guidelines like wearing a mask. In fact, there are a number of precautions to take if you decide to fly this season.

TSA increased cleaning protocols earlier this year. Across the board, there’s much more vigilance surrounding cleaning and disinfecting, but there’s still risk involved. Be sure to check your airport’s guidelines prior to setting out. Denver International Airport is taking precautions like eliminating shuttles from long term parking lots. Precautions like these might impact how you travel. It’s best to stay up to date with COVID-19 changes prior to takeoff.

Air Travel Safety Tips

  • Use your phone as much as possible. Download a mobile boarding pass. This will help to eliminate person to person contact while in the airport.
  • For peace of mind, wipe down your seat. But most airlines are spraying disinfectants between flights for customer safety.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently allowing each passenger to carry one container of hand sanitizer in their carryon or personal item. And that container can be as large as 12 ounces, which is 9 ounces larger than standard liquids.
  • TSA is allowing travelers to discontinue using bins through security for the time being. Instead, place small items like phones and keys directly in your carryon before placing it on the belt.