How to Travel (or not) During a Pandemic

From missed flights to soggy airport food, travel can be equal parts exhilarating and trying.  In 2021, travel brings entirely new layers of anxiety and stress.  Most of us have long bid farewell to any European vacations or weekend jet sets, but travel will still be an essential and unavoidable part of many of our lives. Particularly with the holidays approaching, figuring out how to get from point A to B safe and sound may be weighing heavy on your mind. Pack your bags and join us for some tips on how to be confident and prepared in your essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Start Early

By now you’ve probably been asked about symptoms or had your temperature checked by strangers more than you’d ever thought possible.  While these precautions may begin to seem rote, monitoring yourself for symptoms leading up to travel is vital.  Look for fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, and any signs of illness that may indicate infection with COVID-19.  If at all possible, get tested close to your departure date, leaving space of course to receive your results in time to inform your plans.  

You’re probably already social distancing and utilizing careful hygiene practices after and during outings, but it may be a good idea to step this up in the weeks before travel.  Consider self-quarantining for up to two weeks before departure, ensuring that you and those around you stay healthy during your trip.  Spread the word and encourage those who you will be visiting or interacting with during your trip to quarantine and get tested as well.  These extra steps beforehand might allow you to feel less anxious and more close during the time you have together.  

Last, before booking your tickets, do your homework.  Not every airline has adopted the same precautions and responses to COVID-19, and you may find that you will be more comfortable with one than another.  Before booking any tickets, check out the airline’s guidelines on masks, social distancing, cleaning, and air filtering.  This will help you ensure those servicing your travel will be doing their part to keep everyone healthy as well.  

Come Prepared

Water bottle?  Check.  Book and tablet?  Check.  Personal protective equipment?  My, how things have changed.  Make sure you have plenty of hand santizer, disinfectant wipes, masks, and disposable gloves handy in your carry-on.  Although staff around the country are doing their best to regularly sanitize public spaces, it’s good peice of mind to quickly wipe down your own seat, tray table, and even the loo during your travels.  If possible, it may also be a good idea to bring your own snacks and meals.  Remember that most airlines have limited in-flight service and relying on your own food preparation reduces inadvertent transmission from food handling.  Being able to avoid crowds congregating in lines or dining areas will have you appreciating your own preparation.  Bonus points if you’re able to pack some healthy foods that fuel the body in a stress-reducing way! 

As usual, don’t forget your favorite books, media, and activities for entertainment.  No matter how well we prepare, traveling during a pandemic has its inherent stressors and frustrations.  In some circumstances, anxiety and stress can help motivate us to prepare and attend to details.  In others, we may need to simply help ourselves tune-out and relax a little.  If you start to feel wound up during your travels, it may be time to allow your mind to tune out and tune into something engaging or entertaining.  Time on an airplane or traveling alone can also be an opportunity to spend some time journaling, drawing, and focusing on yourself.  Take some time to power down Netflix and really utilize this break from normal activities to nourish yourself!  

Second-Guess if You Need

Preparation is key, but the fact remains that risk of infection and sickness is high during travel.  Safeguards vary widely across regions and airports, and you may find yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable with the level of social distancing or precautions being taken around you.  There are plenty of legitimate reasons that travel might be necessary for you during this time, but don’t be afraid to set boundaries and say “no” if you need to.  Disappointing as it is, if travel is optional, it may be best to sit it out and look forward to a safer and less stressful time in the future.  With a little creativity, there are plenty of ways to connect with family, friends, and colleagues digitally and from afar.  

Ultimately, the decision to travel is yours.  Travel can be stressful during the best of circumstances, and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic is that much more unpredictable.  Think ahead to evaluate your personal and public risk and make an educated decision on whether to travel or stay home.  Once the decision is made, focus on doing your best to travel responsibly and mitigate risk.  As anxiety arises after this point, reminder yourself that you assessed and mitigated risk to the best of your ability and worry about elements beyond your control is a waste of your valuable energy.  Take a breath, and enjoy the ride.  

Share with us your tips and guidelines for safe and stress free (or stress…less) travel!  


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