With most states in the USA slowly opening back up in phases to try to return to normal, searches for air travel are now on the rise.
The airline industry admitted it bottomed out in April, so there is only one way to go anyway for them; and that is back up. Whether this will be way back up, or a little back up remains to be seen. TSA is reporting substantial increases in air travel now each week as I write this and many of us are dreaming of a few months this summer to be able to go on some type of trip or two as the specter of Covid-19 returning in a second wave in the fall/winter looms. (And, while heat and humidity have been shown to harm the virus in the lab, researchers at Stanford point out that’s not really the same as real life, so putting all of our bets on a “normal” and risk free summer travel experience is suspect.)
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states on their website to consider the following risks you might face, depending on what type of travel you are planning:
- Air travel: Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights. However, there may be a risk of getting COVID-19 on crowded flights if there are other travelers on board with COVID-19.
- Bus or train travel: Sitting or standing within 6 feet of others for a prolonged period of time can put you at risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.
- Car travel: The stops you need to make along the way could put you and others in the car with you in close contact with others who could be infected.
- RV travel: Traveling by RV means you may have to stop less often for food or bathrooms, but RV travelers typically have to stop at RV parks overnight and other public places to get gas and supplies. These stops may put you and those with you in the RV in close contact with others who could be infected.
Airlines are trying to work on making flying safer, including initiatives like requiring face masks and blocking out the middle seat. Some airports, such as Vienna’s, and airlines, such as Emirates, are offering coronavirus testing as a way to facilitate flying and to avoid two-week quarantines. For example, upon arriving to Vienna, you’ll have the option to pay roughly $200 for an instant Covid-19 test instead of quarantining for 2 weeks. But will things like this be enough to ease people’s fears and anxiety of traveling during the pandemic? Probably not for many people.
Until there is a vaccine though, most Americans who are willing to travel will likely stick to domestic travel, if travel at all. There are so many variables that could happen with travelling internationally right now, even for those who are flexible and adventurous types of travelers, these may all be just too much to deal with. Some countries are in self-isolation and may open again to tourists at some point this year while some countries won’t open for tourism until 2021 (Italy being one of the first to announce that they will remain closed for tourists through the end of 2020).
Currently, the US State Department has issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” for international destinations, so planning travel within the USA offers much greater peace of mind for those who do plan on traveling. We have such a big and beautiful country, with so much to see and explore, “America the Beautiful” seems like it will be the travel theme for 2020. Putting some money into domestic local communities and businesses will surely be helpful right now too in our economic recovery. But stay informed because as of the time of writing this, the state of Hawaii requires all tourists arriving to self-quarantine for 2 weeks, and arrests have been made of some “rouge tourists” that have gotten caught breaking that order. Many (not all) states have their own variations of restrictions and rules to follow; for example, if you arrive into Texas from certain airports in California, Connecticut, George, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington, you’ll have to self-quarantine for 14 days and complete a special form upon arrival. Here’s a good list of all states and countries requiring special protocol for travelling into them during the Covid-19 pandemic: Southwest
The truth is, nobody knows for sure how things will play out for traveling in the age of Covid-19. Especially until a vaccine is approved and distributed. Most airlines have very flexible change and cancel policies nowadays in lieu of the virus, and the DOT (Department of Transportation) is requiring all US-based airlines to give full refunds if the airlines cancel or significantly change flights (a significant change is usually arriving or departing more than 2 hours from the original schedule you booked and/or adding an additional connection to your trip). Having travel insurance is always a good idea, especially now, and you can compare policies at www.insuremytrip.com Finally, most tour operators are offering a very flexible refund and cancel policies as well if you plan to take part in an organized tour with them. (Check what their safety and social distancing policies and procedures will be during the tour.)
Going forward in the age of Covid-19, there is going to be a risk/reward factor to consider with everything we do in our lives until there is a proven effective vaccine. So whether you chose to fly on a plane, rent an RV, take a train, or just stay put; I wish you and your family and friends optimal health and new avenues of opportunity and good fortune in our unprecedented journey forward.
My travel brand, Active World Journeys is planning a 4-5 day small group hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia in August/September 2020 (dates TBA soon). We’ll be staying in full- service lodges each evening in single rooms and masks will be required inside the ground transportation vehicles that pick us up from the trail each day (vehicles will only be half-full to allow for social distancing inside). We will maintain a responsible distance from each other while hiking on the trail and each traveler receives their own hand sanitizer on the first day and will be required to use once an hour while doing activities during the tour where there is no soap and water within easy access. The cancellation policy will be very flexible as to allow 100% refunds right up until 1 week before the start of the tour, and 85% refunds if cancelled within one week of the start date of the program.
Additionally, Active World Journeys is planning another small group domestic tour in summer/fall 2020 to another National Park area, probably Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore. Details and registration for these 2020 programs will be available soon. If you’d like to be kept in the loop on these and the re-scheduled Russia Tour (April 2021) and South Africa Safari Adventure (October 2021), you can email me at Jack@ActiveWorldJourneys.com
Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach