After six months of quarantine, we finally traveled by air a few weeks ago. Although excited to travel again, we were both wary and very cautious of all the different factors to consider for travel during a pandemic.
Here are our tips and observations concerning domestic Air Travel.
International Air Travel has different aspects. Once the borders open up globally, we intend to take a post-quarantine International trip. And we will be sure to share our tips and observations about International Air Travel as well!
At the Airport
This is essential! Given the COVID-19 guidelines, there is likely to be a line everywhere. As a result, expect check-in, security, and boarding to all take longer than usual.
Carry Sanitizer Wipes
Disinfecting every surface area you counter is crucial. Whether you are waiting at the gate in a chair or sitting at a table, be sure to wipe down all areas before touching them. Wipe down door handles in the restrooms and tables and chairs at restaurants if you choose to enjoy a meal before boarding.
Replace Mask at Every Airport (if connecting)
If your commute is long and you are connecting through various airports, it is a good idea to change your masks. You will feel refreshed for having done so.
Everything is Not Clean
They should be, but they are not. All the communal places (at least at Newark Liberty International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Chicago O’Hare) were dirty. It did not look any different now versus pre-pandemic travel.
All Lines are Marked with Social Distance Stickers
Whether you are standing in line to check-in luggage, at the security line, at restaurants or shops — there are “6 ft apart” signs everywhere. It is easy to maintain social distance if you follow these signs.
Not Everyone is Following Protocol
Although 98% of the people you encounter follow the rules and protocols in place, every now and again, you will encounter someone who is not. This is especially true when it comes to wearing a face mask correctly. Wearing a mask that does not cover both your nose and mouth defeats the purpose. We saw some restaurant workers wearing masks without covering their noses. We recommend avoiding restaurants that are not following protocol.
Rules Exist But Are Not Necessarily Mandated
No one is mandating the rules put in place. For the 2% not adhering to the rules, there are no repercussions. It seems to be more of an honor system practice.
On the Airplane
Wipe Everything Down
Before you even sit down, wipe down the seats, belt, tray table, armrest, and window (if you have a window seat) with a sanitizer wipe (or two).
Don’t Take Off Your Mask
If you can avoid it, don’t take your off your mask. Of course, this depends on how long your flight is. Our nonstop flight was 6 hours, and we briefly took it off to drink water, and that was it.
Don’t Eat on the Plane
Try eating before boarding the plane. Most domestic flights are not serving snacks; you have to purchase them anyway. For whatever little they are serving, tuck it away in your carry-on to enjoy later.
Double Up on Mask or Add a Shield
You have to wear a mask on a plane – that is the current law. But if a mask alone doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzy about flying, consider doubling up on the mask. Alternatively, add a face shield on top of the mask—no such thing as being too careful.
Social Distancing is Impossible on a Plane
Yes, everyone is required to wear a mask, and from what we observed, everyone was following this basic rule. However, there is no social distancing on domestic flights. Middle seats are not being kept empty, so other than the mask on everyone’s face not much more has changed about the in-flight experience.
Air Circulation is Not a Problem
It is a known fact that the way air circulates on a plane, you are not likely to get sick from someone who is sitting a few rows in front or behind you. That is a relief. However, if the passenger sitting next to you coughs, sneezes or is sick; you’re going to be breathing all that in! So, again, do not take off your mask inside the airplane.
At Rental Car Facility
Call your car rental agency ahead of time to determine their policies/protocols for rental car pick up. This can help you prepare and save the time upon arrival.
Opt for Contactless Pick-Up
Whenever possible, opt for contactless pick-up. Hertz (if you are a Gold member) does a fantastic job with this. You choose your car, and everything else is handled at the car rental facility’s exit booth.
Sanitize the Vehicle
Use sanitizer wipes to clean the steering wheel, dashboard, console, gear, and any other touchable surface area.
Prepare to Wait
If renting at a standalone rental facility (not at the airport terminal), then be prepared to wait for vehicle pick up. Most facilities (if following the protocols strictly) will not allow more than x number of people in the building, so you may be waiting outside until it is your turn. If going to a colder climate, dress accordingly.
At the Hotel
Inspect the Room Thoroughly Before Settling In
All hotels are trying their best to stay on top of all the COVID procedures and regulations to ensure cleanliness in every aspect of their hotel. That is not to say that things don’t go amiss, or you will not wind up with a room where there is a strand of hair stuck to a towel. It happens, even though it should not. Checking your room properly before settling in will make the transition into a new/cleaner room easier.
Sanitize Every Surface Area
Disinfect all the tables, switches, lamps, phone, TV, remote, and bathroom counter areas. Anything you will touch, wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe.
Decline Room Service
If you are staying for 7 days or less, consider declining room service so that once you have checked in, you know for certain no one else is entering the room. You can still request additional towels or other items without having someone come into the room physically.
Mask Rules Are Not Always Enforced
Although this varies from hotel to hotel, it has been a recurring problem. We have noticed some people not wearing masks during check-in or on the elevator (with others) without any hotel staff calling them out.
This was a really perplexing experience for us. Perhaps these individuals had reasons why they couldn’t wear a mask, which was already conveyed to the hotel staff? But even if that is the case, they should still be refraining from getting into an elevator with someone not from their own party.
The signs in the hotels we have stayed in have been clear, consistent, and prominently displayed. Still, people are choosing to ignore them.
This is why it is essential to take your safety into your own hands.
Many Facilities Are Closed
Understandably so, many hotel facilities (such as fitness center, executive lounge, breakfast rooms) are closed due to COVID. Most places, however, have their pools open, although at limited capacity and usually by advanced sign-up/reservation sheets.
Check with your hotel on the latest if these are a deal-breaker for your stay.
Breakfast is Served To Go
Hotels that include breakfast either have pre-packed “to-go” bags or have their breakfast rooms set up in such a way that you can pick your own items and brown bag them (provided) yourself.
There is no denying that the face of travel has changed trifold in light of the global pandemic. Things you never thought twice about before are the significant concerns in the forefront now. But it does not have to be complicated. It does not have to be taxing. It just requires patience, planning, and being vigilant about one’s health and safety.
Wear a Mask.
Wash Your Hands.
Practice Social Distance.
The world is still waiting to be explored, but not everyone is ready to head out exploring, and that is perfectly OK. Whether you are ready for air travel depends entirely on your personal threshold for risk. The truth is, any form of travel involves some form of risk.
But, whenever you are ready to travel again, know that we will be here to help.
Happy and Safe Travels!