Most families at this point are no doubt looking to get out of their homes and get some type of vacation in and try to forget COVID-19. However, wanting to escape the confines of our home does not mean we can escape COVID-19 altogether. So, if you are still planning to take that long-awaited summer vacation, there are some safety measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible.
Below please find tips on traveling safely from Darren Hudema, WLS, Director of Training and Technical Services at PuroClean, who has more than 40 years of experience in the restoration and cleaning industry handling residential, commercial, trauma, and large loss events.
Make sure to plan ahead and communicate with your family members
Most of our children have seen the news coverage, and yes, kids are asking questions about COVID-19! It is good to talk to them, keeping their age in mind determines what they need to know. Most young children cannot understand the complexities of Coronavirus, so keep it simple. Be reassuring and empower them to stay healthy. Remain confident and reassuring. Talk through what you all can do to protect yourselves and your children.
Pack a travel thermometer
It is always a good idea to pack a travel thermometer. This can help decipher between real illness versus someone not wanting to participate in an activity on vacation! Make a list of important medications and prescriptions that all traveling will need. Due to shortages and varying factors by destination, you shouldn’t rely on the local pharmacy for help.
Don’t forget to follow important travel to-dos
Make sure you pack water, snacks, and the essentials. Health officials recommend bringing along items like masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wet wipes, disposable gloves (for those germ-infested gas pumps), and resealable plastic bags so you can dispose of your gloves. You’ll need to be extra vigilant about hygiene when hitting rest stops with public bathrooms at rest stops, airports, and gas stations along the way
Be sure to wash your hands
This is the number one way to deter any virus. A good rule of thumb is washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or a good way for children to know how long that is, ask your children to sing the entire happy birthday song aloud to ensure they’re washing long enough to properly cleanse. Wash hands, after using the restroom, and before and after eating any meals. Also, be sure to pack hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60%. void touching your face with your hands, especially when out in public and touching those high touchpoints such as doorknobs and handles, escalator handrails, tables, and chairs, water fountains, etc.
Make sure to wipe everything down
If you are traveling on an airplane, wipe the front and back of the seat tray, as well as the hardware, armrests, television, and sound controls (basically everything) with a disinfectant or antimicrobial wipe. If you find yourself without any wipes, ask the flight attendant for extra spray and take the liberty to wipe down the seating area yourself. Alternatively, you can pack a few travel-sized bottles of liquid cleaning product and paper towels in your carry-on bag.
Coordinate accommodations and plan to clean your room when you arrive on-site
You will likely need to stay somewhere overnight along the way. Major hotel chains are still operating along the interstates but, not all hotels have reopened after the pandemic. So, if you do make reservations on the fly, it’s a good idea to reconfirm them before you get there.
Hotels are now more vigilant in their cleaning practices. Some hotel chains apply seals to the room doors to let you know they have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. If your stay includes more than one night, you may want to pass on the housekeeping services. This will help you limit the number of people – and germs – entering your room.
Wipe down all the high touchpoints when you arrive at your hotel, Airbnb, or vacation rental. A good tip before booking is to find out if the city where you plan to stay is open. Certain states have restrictions in place and have not allowed them to reopen. If they are open, find out what their cleaning protocols are before you arrive and during your stay.
Once you arrive, do not rely on their word that they have cleaned the room, house, condo, or rental thoroughly. Wipe all high touchpoints down with a disinfectant wipe, including the bathroom.
Plan your route out and prepare to clean along the way
With social distancing guidelines still in place in many states, travelers may be required to wear a face mask when they stop for gas, groceries, or other supplies. Plan ahead and bring gloves for handling gas pumps and a mask in case they’re required where you’re going. Before you head out on the road, now more than ever, you will need to preplan your route. Some states still have restrictions on in-person toll collections and rest area food sales.
Travel within the U.S. is increasing as states ease restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends following these steps to protect yourself and others when you travel:
- Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between you and others as much as possible.
- Avoid crowds.
- Wear a cloth face covering.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean your hands often. It’s especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands together until they feel dry.
Hotels and other lodging insight
The hotel industry recognizes that travelers are concerned about the coronavirus and safety. Check any major chain’s website for information about how it is protecting guests and staff. For additional reassurance, call the hotel. Ask to be put in a room that has been vacant for at least 24 hours.
Some best practices include:
- Enhanced cleaning of public areas, elevators, guest rooms, as well as food preparation and laundry areas
- Social distancing measures in the lobby, at the front desk and in parking areas
- Masking of staff and guests
- Focused employee training in the following:
- Hand-washing procedures
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- Use of personal protective equipment
- Protocol in the event that a guest becomes ill, which should include temporarily closing the guest’s room for cleaning and disinfecting
Vacation rental websites, too, are upping their game when it comes to cleaning. They are highlighting their commitment to following public health guidelines, such as using masks and gloves when cleaning, and building in a waiting period between guests.
Once you arrive at your room or rental, clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls, toilets, sinks, and faucets. Wash plates, glasses, cups, and silverware (other than prewrapped plastic items) before using.
Considerations for people at higher risk
Your risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19 is higher if you are 65 or older or you have serious health problems, such as heart or lung conditions, a weakened immune system, diabetes, or severe obesity. If you are at higher risk, the CDC recommends avoiding crowds, cruise travel, and nonessential air travel. If you must travel, talk with your doctor, and ask about any additional precautions you may need to take.
Remember, safety always comes first!
Even the best plans may need to be set aside when illness strikes. If you feel sick before your planned travel, stay home except to get medical care. Practicing these health and safety travel tips can ensure your entire family remains safe and healthy, so you can get the most out of your vacation or trip. Remember, we all have a responsibility to help limit the spread of COVID-19, so don’t forget to have that conversation with your family members. Stay safe, and have fun, responsibly.