Five Tips for Responsible Travel During a Pandemic
In a pandemic, many people swear off traveling - at least temporarily - and hunker down at home. But others, such as essential workers, might need to travel for their job. Some people journey to reunite with family members, and others might be going stir-crazy at home and just need a vacation. If you plan to travel during a pandemic, here are some tips for doing it safely and responsibly.
- Stay informed.
Before traveling, you should research how the pandemic is affecting your chosen destination. The first step would be to determine if the area is open to visitors. If it is, what are the entry requirements? For example, if the area is experiencing an outbreak of Covid-19, will you need to present proof of a negative test result for that disease?
Next, determine what the conditions are like on the ground. Is there a stay-at-home order or curfew in your destination? Are hotels and restaurants open? Are healthcare resources stretched thin in the local community? Stay up to date on the situation, as conditions can change rapidly during a pandemic. If traveling to a certain destination seems too risky, you might decide to postpone or cancel your trip.
- Be prepared.
Once you understand the situation in the area you'll be traveling to, you can plan for the conditions you'll likely experience there. If restaurants are closed, you'll need to figure out alternative ways to get food. If there is a night-time curfew, you should plan to arrive during the day. If public transportation is shut down, you'll have to find another way to get around.
Even if you're traveling to an area that has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic, you should bring extra amounts of essential or important items for your own health and safety, such as over-the-counter and prescription medications, masks and hand sanitizer. That way, you'll be prepared for situations such as unexpected lockdowns or border closures, and if there is a shortage of needed supplies, you won't put an additional strain on the community.
- Be flexible.
Being flexible might seem to contradict the idea of planning ahead. Yet flexibility is an important key to keeping your equilibrium - and financial solvency - during the dynamic and unpredictable conditions of a pandemic. In a pandemic situation, flights can suddenly be canceled, stay-at-home orders will often go into effect with little advance notice, and borders can close without warning. In these circumstances, there is little choice but to roll with the punches and adapt to the situation.
While you can't plan for every unexpected situation, you can protect your wallet by making refundable or flexible travel reservations whenever possible. Look for flights that don't charge change fees, and book accommodations that you can cancel up to the check-in date without paying a penalty.
- Lower your expectations.
In an area that has been significantly affected by a pandemic, many facilities will be closed or operating with reduced hours or capacity. Additional disease control policies, such as mask mandates and social distancing requirements, might also be in effect. So, even if your destination is open for tourism, it doesn't mean that everything will be normal there. You might have to wear a mask while lounging by the pool, and the famous tourist attraction that you want to visit could be closed. Once you accept that you most likely won't have a "regular" vacation, then you'll pleasantly surprised when things do go your way. At the very least, you'll return with some interesting stories to tell your friends back home.
- Follow the rules.
If you travel to a different locale, the pandemic-related regulations might be different from those you're used to in your area. Instead, they'll likely be tailored to the specific situation at that destination. Following those local rules will help keep you and everyone in the host community safe. This is especially important if you're visiting an area that hasn't been affected by the pandemic. You don't want to be the visitor that introduces the virus to a new place. If you don't want to abide by the rules in a certain area, don't travel there.
Global pandemics can disrupt all aspects of domestic and international travel. Those who are willing and able to travel during a pandemic can make the process easier, safer and less stressful by staying informed, being prepared, being flexible, lowering expectations, and following local rules.