By: Nick Callos
Got to get away?
Yes, it’s hard quarantining in one place for months. And sometimes, we need more than Zoom happy hours.
We have to travel to new places.
After all, research has shown travel relieves stress, boosts emotional wellbeing, and makes our minds more flexible. There’s just something magical about being in new surroundings.
The benefits and importance of travel can’t be understated. This is why I believe travel is a necessity—even during a pandemic.
With that said, COVID-19 has changed the game. By early July 2020, more than 530,000 lives had been lost. And everyone’s life has been impacted in some way.
Considering that, we have to travel wisely. In this guide, we cover all you need to know about traveling during COVID-19. We’ll highlight the best destinations and activities during the Coronavirus, as well as what you should do to stay safe.
Travel Destinations During COVID-19: Where to Go
Your destination matters if you plan to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some places have way more cases than others. Also, some destinations may be far from your home and therefore too risky of a journey.
So, how do you pick a travel destination during COVID?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- Is COVID-19 spreading in the destination?
- If cases are rising, like they did in Texas during the summer, it may be wise to choose another location. For updates, check resources like Worldometers and reference data from local health agencies.
- Are there any Coronavirus travel restrictions?
- For instance, American travelers were barred from Europe during the summer, as the spread hadn’t been successfully controlled in the States.
- Is COVID-19 spreading in your town?
- If so, it may not be safe to travel. Talk with your doctor. Get tested before you depart, if possible. And be even more vigilant on the road.
Another question you should consider is this: Can you get to your destination via a private mode of transportation?
COVID-19 typically spreads from person to person through droplets. According to a medical study, four factors raise the chance of that occurring:
- Being in an enclosed space
- Being in a crowded area
- Close contact with others
- Difficulty social distancing
Knowing this, it may be wise to avoid flying on an airplane, as it puts you in close quarters with people for a long time. This should eliminate faraway places. Don’t fly to Los Angeles from Boston if it’s just for leisure!
It may also be smart to avoid destinations where you could find yourself doing activities in crowded areas. When traveling during COVID-19, consider less touristy natural areas, outdoor landmarks, and small towns. While it would be fun to explore one of the best digital nomad cities, such as Mexico City and Taipei, you probably have to wait for more appropriate times.
This makes close, drivable destinations without a lot of people your safest bet. The good news is you have more options than you think!
For example, if you live in Chicago, you’re only a half-day or day’s drive from many national parks, including Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
If you live in New York City, you can easily reach many great small towns, like Sleepy Hollow (NY), Rockport (MA), and Clinton (CT). Go take it easy in a charming setting.
The point is this: There are plenty of great travel destinations during COVID. Take advantage of this time to visit a place you hadn’t thought about visiting before. You just may have the time of your life.
Travel Ideas and Activities During COVID-19: What to Do
I’ve been dreaming about backpacking around South America lately. Sadly, I’ll have to put those dreams on hold since I’m currently in the States.
Still, I’ve managed to see and do things this year that I’ve never done before. In June, I enjoyed a trip to Northern Michigan—a stunningly beautiful region. I got to hike through beautiful forests, relax on remote beaches, climb sand dunes, and bike through small towns. It was awesome, and I was able to adhere to all the COVID-19 travel safety guidelines.
If you’re looking for good travel activities during COVID-19, consider similar excursions. If you’ve never been to Yellowstone National Park, now’s the time to go camping there. If you’re in Italy and love trekking, now’s the time to finally make your way to the Matterhorn.
Love fishing? Now’s a suitable time to go on that epic fishing adventure. British Columbia has the best salmon fishing spots!
No matter what your interests and hobbies are, you should be able to find some new and exciting travel activities during COVID-19. Don’t let the fun pass you by.
Here are 20 great travel activities during COVID-19:
- Beach-bumming (as long as it’s not crowded)
- Wildlife viewing (lions and tigers and bears…oh my!)
- Culinary tourism: Make sure to exercise precautions by getting takeout and eating outside. And check out our vegan travel guide while you’re thinking about food.
- Boating and sailing
- Visiting outdoor landmarks: As long as crowds aren’t large, think of landmarks like Golden Gate Bridge, Machu Picchu, and The Great Wall of China.
- Helicopter tours
- Walking through urban parks: Monsanto Forest Park in Lisbon is as good as it gets.
- Touring wineries
- Bouldering and rock climbing
- Kayaking and canoeing
- Road tripping and off-roading
- Visiting farms for fruit picking
- Strolling around small towns
COVID-19 Travel Safety: How to Stay Healthy
Like we said before, travel during the Coronavirus outbreak is a different ballgame. You must exercise extra safety precautions.
When it comes to COVID-19 travel safety, the first thing to consider is whether you or your travel buddies are at increased risk. According to the CDC, those most at risk are older adults. In hard-hit European countries, about 60% of Coronavirus deaths are among people aged 80 or older.
Others at increased risk are people with underlying medical conditions. Those most susceptible to Coronavirus complications include those suffering from chronic kidney disease, COPD, a weakened immune system, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes. Other health conditions, such as asthma, hypertension, and liver disease, might put one at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Those at increased risk should limit travel to only necessary trips. Simply put, a vacation could have to wait if you or a close one has one of those underlying medical conditions. It may not be worth the risk.
Another COVID-19 travel safety question you should ask yourself is: Am I or one of my travel partners more likely to get Coronavirus?
Certain occupations make contracting the Coronavirus more likely. According to the World Economic Forum, high-risk jobs include healthcare positions on the front lines, jobs in dentistry, teacher, flight attendant, childcare worker, and other positions where you come into close contact with lots of people.
If you or one of your travel buddies work in a high-risk occupation, get tested before going—even if you don’t have symptoms. Data suggest up to 80% of infections are asymptomatic or mild, which means you could easily have COVID-19 without knowing it.
Moreover, while you’re on the road, adhere to the COVID-19 travel safety advice:
- Avoid risky destinations: You’re more likely to come into contact with COVID-19 in hotspots.
- Socially distance: The Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks. According to Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist at Temple University, six feet of distance allows droplets to settle to the ground before reaching you. If someone is visibly ill, however, you should maintain a distance of at least 10 feet or even leave the area altogether.
- Avoid public bathrooms: This may not be entirely possible. But scientists say public bathrooms carry added risk because of all the things you have to touch, the potential for fecal waste particles to be sent airborne, and the fact that the space is often tight and enclosed.
- Avoid crowded indoor areas: A study in Japan found that the risk of COVID-19 spread indoors is almost 19 times higher than it is in open-air environments.
- Wear a mask: When indoors and/or near people, wear a mask to protect others and yourself. A study published by Texas A&M found that masks are critical in preventing person-to-person spread.
- Wash your hands: Best practice is to frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Wash your hands after touching things like door handles and money. Use hand sanitizer with over 60% alcohol if you’re out and don’t have access to a sink. Don’t touch your face or eat without washing your hands before. If you cough or sneeze, wash your hands too.
- Only eat carry-out: Sitting indoors in a restaurant comes with risk.
- Don’t fly: As we’ve mentioned, flying is riskier than driving.
- Disinfect lodging: Studies have shown the Coronavirus can survive for two to three days on stainless steel and plastic. More research is needed here, but why take the risk? Wipe down tables, remotes, sinks, door handles, and other commonly touched spots with disinfecting wipes before you bring your stuff into the room.
Of course, you can’t forget COVID-19 travel safety preparation. Before you go, make sure to pack disinfecting wipes that kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, hand sanitizer that’s over 60% alcohol, and masks to cover your nose and mouth. Additionally, bring enough food and water so you don’t have to make more stops at a gas station or grocery store than necessary.
If you show symptoms of COVID-19 during or after your trip, contact your healthcare provider and begin isolating yourself immediately. Monitor your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. And get tested, if possible.
Upon return, it may be smart to self-isolate for 14 days, even if you have no symptoms. At the very least, exercise extra precautions such as avoiding seeing elderly family members and ordering grocery delivery (and not going in stores).
Finally, remember this: Don’t let fear ruin the trip. If you exercise precautions, you drastically lower the chances of getting infected. Be safe, but have fun too!
Traveling during COVID-19 could be just what you need
If we’re not careful, this pandemic can take a toll that goes beyond the virus itself. We have to stay engaged with our friends, family, colleagues, and the world. As research published by the American Psychological Association notes, social isolation can be detrimental to mental, physical, and cognitive health.
This is why we must remain committed to seeing the world. While it doesn’t make sense to hop on a plane and fly across the world, we can plan and take memorable trips within our own country or continent.
So, do you have any travel ideas during the COVID-19 pandemic? We’d love to hear your plans. Join the community and start the conversation!
The content of this article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Before traveling during COVID-19, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider, who can answer any questions and concerns you have.
About the Author
Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.