Look, the Centers for Disease Control says you should NOT travel unless absolutely necessary (see: a family emergency). And while a cheap-ass trip to the Bahamas might seem like a lowkey emergency, it’s (sadly) not.
Unfortch for our fellow air breathers, many people are totally ignoring those life-saving guidelines to take advantage of travel deals, attend weddings, go to bachelorette parties, or just visit friends out of state for half the price.
And while you might be saying, “Air travel isn’t against the law!” or “I’m young and healthy, so why not capitalize on a shitty situation?” or even “I’M JUST SO SICK OF STAYING AT HOME!” those excuses completely disregard others’ safety for your own personal desires—and yeah, that’s something you should feel bad about.
So with all that in mind, we asked infectious disease specialists what is safe, what’s not, and the best way to travel if it’s unavoidable. We got this, guys!
Is it just shitty for me to take a trip before a vaccine exists?
So…yes. Jetting off to hit the clurb with a big group of friends is highly shitty. But traveling from a state with low COVID-19 cases, renting an RV with the people you already live with, and road-tripping to an isolated-ish place where numbers are also down is a more responsible way to travel, says Manisha Juthani, MD, an infectious diseases expert at Yale School of Medicine. Just keep in mind that whatever your plans—and even if you take every precaution—your trip could result in someone (including you) getting sick.
What if I tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies or I’ve recovered from the virus? Am I in the clear to go anywhere I want?
“Probably not,” says Dr. Juthani. Studies suggest that the antibodies last for only a short period of time, so it’s very possible that you could contract the virus again. That’s a risk to you and all the people you travel with.
Okay, so what’s the absolute safest type of vacation for anyone to take right now?
You mean besides staying home and kickin’ it in your kiddie pool? Bc that’s truly the safest. Generally, though, the more time you spend indoors with other people, the higher your risk of catching or spreading the virus. Here’s Dr. Juthani’s ranking of options, from least to most sketchy:
• Road-tripping in an RV with your own bathroom.
• Road-tripping using gas-station bathrooms.
• Driving and staying at an Airbnb.
• Driving and staying at a hotel.
• Flying anywhere domestically.
• Flying anywhere internationally.
• Taking a cruise.
Helpful! But what if I have to travel to (or from) a place with high COVID-19 cases?
First, think about if you sincerely *have* to. If you got sick, you’d be putting more stress on the health care system. So consider canceling any non-necessary trip if your state or destination has a positive rate near 10 percent or higher. (You can check all 50 states’ rates at Coronavirus.JHU.edu.)
I do need to travel for a family emergency but can’t stay with my actual family. You sure we can trust home rentals?
It all comes down to the host’s cleaning procedures (so always ask for lots of details). But renting out an entire home is less risky than shacking up at a hotel with what could be lots of other travelers who are all using unavoidable shared common areas like elevators, restaurants, and lobbies.
What if their town doesn’t have rentals?
If you have to stay at a hotel, touchless check-in is a good idea, as is bringing your own wipes and using them on surfaces like remotes, doorknobs, and the toilet flush handle. Spend as little time in lobbies as possible, and try to stand in the corner of the elevator when you need to get to/from your room. This’ll keep you from breathing the most trafficked air. Dr. Juthani also suggests turning down turndown service and room cleaning to limit your exposure to others (and theirs to you).
Is it safe to use pools and hot tubs while I’m there?
While the water itself is safe, says Dr. Juthani, the proximity to other ppl inside the locker room or around the pool does pose a risk. If you can’t resist, sit or swim away from anyone in the pool.
Will it ever be safe to take a cruise again?
Someday, post-vaccine or when a more effective COVID-19 therapy exists, yes, says Dr. Juthani. But for now, be prepared to love you some road trips.
Asking for a friend…what if I found a really good deal on an international flight?
Welp, as of publication time, Americans aren’t even allowed into the European Union and are restricted from entering some other countries. Besides that, spending hours on a flight is highkey risky rn (and the longer any flight, international or domestic, the higher the chance of infection). Also, if you get sick abroad, it’s unclear if you’d face problems coming back to the U.S. “I wouldn’t take a risk going overseas right now if I didn’t absolutely have to,” says Dr. Juthani.
Fine, but what if I have a legit reason to fly?
If you’re booking essential travel, get a window seat. That’s your safest option since you won’t be as exposed to people walking up and down the aisle. Mask up before you get to the airport and don’t take it off until you land. Also, go to the restroom before the flight to avoid waiting in line once in the air. If there’s no line, the restroom on the plane should be safe. (As for the bathroom in the airport, Dr. Juthani says don’t stand close to others, and turn away ASAP when you flush—there’s a theoretical risk of infection from “toilet plume”…lovely!)
Yeah, I’m just not comfy traveling at all this year. Can I ask my employer to roll over my expiring vacay days?
You can try! Say something like, “I know we normally don’t allow vacation time rollover, but this year is unusual in that most of us can’t travel. Could you make a one-time exception to allow our days from 2020 to carry over to 2021?” says Alison Green of the AskAManager.org blog and advice column (@AskAManager). If the request comes from a group of your colleagues, it will have more weight, so go ahead and round up all your wanderlust-y coworkers for a cause.