I’ve had so many people ask me about my thoughts on traveling during a pandemic. And before I give my thoughts, I want to make one disclaimer: This post about is not about if you should or shouldn’t travel. Each family and each destination has a level of risk that is specific to them. Only you are qualified to weigh them out and decide what is best. This post will hopefully answer the questions about what it’s currently like to travel.
We just came back from a 3000-mile road trip out West. We hit Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming. This wasn’t our original summer itinerary. We had plans to be cruising along the coast of Greece and Turkey. That trip was canceled, and we re-routed out west. When we first made plans to road-trip, we planned to rent an RV so we could be completely self-sufficient and quarantined. However, as parts of the nation opened back up, the logistics of the RV became very complicated for our desired itinerary and we grabbed cheap flights in and out of Denver.
I’m not one that’s prone to worry. I didn’t think twice when we booked the airline tickets. But I’ll be honest, the night before we were scheduled to leave, I couldn’t sleep. I worried about COVID and the unknown. There’s always a fine line between living in fear and being stupid and just like all of you, I’m doing my best to find it. I tell you this just so you understand my personality and where I come from.
IF you decide YOU want to travel during the pandemic here’s what we learned during our trip. I’ve picked 5 areas that seem to get the most questions:
- On Covid-19 Testing:
These days it is so hard to make plans for the future. What if you buy plane tickets and your state shuts back down and you aren’t allowed to travel? What if you get sick and can’t go? Most airlines are being still being flexible with their tickets. Meaning you can purchase and then save the funds or even get a refund if you aren’t able to take your flight.
The week of our flight, our Addi James came down with a fever and a sore throat. I assumed it was the classic strep throat and rushed her to the pediatrician so I could start the antibiotics in enough time for them to do their job before our flight. When she tested negative for strep, our doctor sent her for a COVID test. If you have travel plans and have had COVID symptoms (she had a fever), it’s the protocol to be tested. You can’t get on an airplane and risk infecting others. It was surprisingly very easy to be tested. Well, it’s the testing itself is very uncomfortable but we were in and out in under 30 minutes and we had the results the next day (I’m assuming this will vary by location and facility). Since Addi tested negative for COVID and her symptoms resolved on their own we were in the clear to fly.
If you plan to travel – even if you don’t plan to fly and you have had any COVID symptoms, I recommend getting testing. It’s a little inconvenience for the peace of mind that you are not at risk of spreading the virus.
2. On Airports and Airplanes
Surprisingly the airports were full. I wouldn’t say they were packed, we didn’t wait long at any point, but I certainly wouldn’t classify them as empty. Just like the grocery stores, the ticket counters and TSA has installed plexiglass and placed markers in the line to ensure everyone is social distancing while waiting. When we left Cleveland, about 50% of the restaurants and shops were open. In Denver, everything was open. I assume it will vary airport by airport. We packed travel-sized hand sanitizers and I also packed a bag of Lysol wipes allowing us to clean our hands frequently and any surfaces where we were going to spend a long amount of time (tables/chairs/benches).
We flew Southwest, at this time (and I believe through October 31) they are not selling their middle seats making for a non-full flight. They are also boarding in groups of 10. The boarding process is contactless – you scan your own ticket and board the plane without touching anyone or anything. All employees were wearing masks.
Southwest states that they are cleaning the planes in between flights and the plane definitely smelled of disinfectant. I will say on my first flight, I found the tray table to be dirty, and I was thankful again for my Lysol wipes as I wiped down our seats, tray tables, buckles, and armrests. The inflight beverage and snack service have been suspended. They offered glasses of water and one snack bag option for each passenger. You are supposed to have your mask on at all times unless eating. I was too busy attending to my littles and binge-watching NCIS to notice what everyone was doing around us. I didn’t see anyone blatantly ignoring the rule.
One of the biggest adjustments was that I’m the snack queen. It’s my go-to hack for any situation with kids. You are still allowed to eat and drink on flights, but I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea. If you are traveling without kids, I’d opt to eat at the airport rather than the plane. But it was too long of a flight for my little kids to not have anything to eat. They each were allowed one snack, we cleaned our hands before and after, and I didn’t allow them to touch anything while they ate. If you have older kids or are traveling by yourself, your exposure here would be much less, I assume.
3. On Masks
Masks are required in airports and on airplanes. I didn’t see many people without masks while in transit.
We also chose to wear our masks in all indoor spaces, including walking through the hallways of the hotel and any museum or visitor center we went into. Most cities we visited were requiring masks and so we had to wear them in outside public spaces as well. If the city was not requiring a mask, we choose not to wear a mask when we were outdoors in the National Parks. We were able to maintain our distance from other groups while hiking and exploring. There was one exception. Yellowstone was extremely crowded and many of their top sights are accessed by a boardwalk trail. Some of them were so crowded you had no choice but to walk should-to-shoulder with the crowd that was exiting while you were entering. We opted to wear our masks at these spots too.
My kids don’t mind masks at all. They have yet to complain about having to wear them and I know that is a luxury many of you don’t have. If you have a kid who struggles with wearing a mask, I would practice each day. Things get easier the more we get used to them. My kids also wanted to wear their masks at points because I let them pick out their own. Addi James has a couple of different Disney Princess masks and Chaser, shockingly, chose dinosaur themed ones. I’ve bought masks from a few different sources, and the best ones were from Target (#obviously, who is surprised?). But in all seriousness, they stayed up and didn’t pull on their ears, no to mention they had adorable patterns for my pattern loving girl.
Again, most people were wearing masks everywhere we went. Even when passing other hiking groups out on the trail, most people would hold masks up to their faces as they passed other. There were a handful of people who opted not to wear masks, even when mandated by the city – but these people were not in the majority. It was encouraging to see people enjoying exploring different places while still doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus. I’ve seen so many posts about people refusing to wear masks or social distance – this was not our experience as we traveled.
4. On Food
We purchased food from the local grocery store and packed our lunches whenever possible. We also cooked most of our dinners at our Airbnb’s. We did opt to go out to dinner a few times and opted for restaurants with patio seating or take-out. This turned out to be very tricky in a few spots that didn’t have a lot of patio options. We ended up having to wait for a table a few times, and my only advice would be to not show up starving. Know that you may have to wait if you want to eat outside.
A few of our hotels offered breakfast with the purchase of the room. Jimmy and Cameron often ventured down to pick up our breakfast and bring it back to our room. One of the hotels we stayed at did have a patio option, but they had, had a large wedding the night before and we felt it best to stick to our room. Some hotels had breakfast packed up for you, while others allowed one family in at a time to make their own selections.
5. On Hotels
We typically prefer Airbnb’s, pandemic, or no pandemic. They have more space and I’m not worried about my kids disturbing the neighbors. However, there were multiple stops along this major road trip where we were only going to be in a spot for one night. Hotels made the most sense to us and so we did stay in a handful of hotels. Again, I know that hotels are taking extra measures to sanitize and clean their spaces but I opted to bring my Lysol wipes and re-wipe down the touchable surfaces of the hotel rooms. Again, most people had on masks as they walked in the hallways and to the pool. We were only in one hotel long enough to check out the pool, and they required a timed-reservation to use the pool and maintain social distancing. This was the same with the use of their gym facilities, you would need to make a timed-reservation and the room was sanitized between reservations. Personally, I feel like working out on vacation sounds like giving up sugar before you go into a dessert buffet. But hey, you do you.
One different thing is the lack of housekeeping. Most of our hotels had no housekeeping during your visit. Meaning, no one was coming into clean your room until you had checked out. We only stayed in our hotels for one night, so we weren’t impacted here but I could see how that could be challenging if you were staying in one space for an extended amount of time.
One last note: We didn’t do a lot of indoor activities. We opted mostly for nature-oriented adventure on this trip. However a couple of times we planned to hit a museum or famous store and we weren’t able to because many attractions have moved to a reservation system. Some had also changed their hours, and most did not have updated websites reflecting these changes. Next time, I’ll do a little more research, make some phone calls, and be prepared with reservations for the things we don’t want to miss.
Personally, what I’ve seen on FB through shared articles and headlines didn’t ring to be true as we traveled. Again, I’m sure that varies by location but what we found was that most people courteous, conscious, and doing their part to stop the spread. The majority of people wore masks and maintained social distancing. I didn’t feel like our trip was compromised in any way. Yes, our trip looked different and there were a lot of new practices that we had to learn and get used to but that’s ok with me. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I’m passionate about building flexible kids: kids that have the confidence and skills to adapt to curveballs. The best way to do that is to model that flexibility, for them to watch how you adapt to new situations. We did our best, we learned a lot, and we chose joy when things didn’t go as planned.
If you have any specific questions about traveling during the pandemic, let me know, I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.