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Around the World: Is It Time to Resume Your Travel Planning?

Jennifer Merin on

Like most avid travelers, you’re probably not really satisfied with the pleasures of virtual travel. Internet explorations of various destinations -- and watching movies that take you on adventures around the globe -- are terrific pastimes, but for those who are inclined to pick up and go, these pandemic-inspired diversions are no substitute for the real thing.

Considering your own and public health and safety first, most people with nonessential travel plans stayed home – whether n quarantine or not – since mid-March. Their dream vacations, family celebrations and rest and relax retreats were cancelled or put on an indefinite hold.

Instead of packing up and going, everyone tucked in and took to the Internet to enjoy an endless stream of virtual travel thrills via the surge of travel content presented by tour operators and other industry businesses – content designed to entertain shut-ins while whetting their  touristic appetites for the real thing -- and to stimulate future bookings.

The good news is that as the medical establishment and civic authorities find ways to deal with the pandemic, real touring possibilities seem to be opening up. And, for those who want to take advantage of them, there are tremendous opportunities for deluxe travel at bargain prices. Of course there is still risk involved, and nobody can predict with certainty whether there will be a second wave of coronavirus infection or not, or when that might happen. So, it’s basically up to individuals to decide – based on current news reports – whether they want to remain at home or take to the road.

The choice of destination should be determined not only by the strength of your desire to see the place, but also by stats about the rate of infection – the daily number new cases over a week or two – and whether that number is on the rise or decline.

You also need to consider how you are going to get there. As the tourism gradually bounces back, most travelers are opting for nearby destinations to which they can drive. National parks are popular picks but services at them are limited, with visitor centers and lodges shut down. You really need to research what’s available. Rental car agencies are offering deep discounts, with upgrades and bonus award points. Most assure that they are sanitizing their vehicles thoroughly, but you’d best bring your own supply of Lysol and bleach and do your own thorough cleaning before driving off.

But most people who’ve been stuck at home want more than anything to reunite in person – rather than by Zoom -- with family members who live at a distance that makes driving impractical. The airlines have been flying during the pandemic shutdown, and they’ve taken measures to protect passengers from exposure to the virus and infection. Aircraft are sanitized, inflight personnel wear masks and gloves, meal and beverage service has been suspended, passengers are seated far from one another and air is passed through a purifier during the flight. And, passengers are advised to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer liberally to clean their hands and surfaces around themselves.

There is no count of the number of coronavirus infections have occurred on aircraft during flights or in airports before boarding or after disembarking. The number of people traveling by airplane is still far below ‘normal’ stats. For example, on June 21, 2020 the TSA reported that 590,456 passengers had been through airport security check points nationwide, compared to  2,719,643 passengers on the same day in 2019. It stands to reason that fewer people on a plane lowers the changes of infection, but that’s not been proven.


In fact, inflight personnel were among the first to express concerns about the dangers of infection for travelers, including themselves. And, as recently as April 3, Time Magazine ran a report quoting flight attendants who indicated concerns that the airlines – all of the majors in fact – were not living up to their claims of compliance with all protective measures required by airline regulatory agencies and public health authorities. .The flight attendants reported that passengers are routinely checked and tested at airports screenings, but they are not. Nor are they required to go into self-quarantine after traveling to or from a destination where there is a high density of infection. And, several of the flight attendants who were interviewed for the Time Magazine article said explicitly that they believe that they and their coworkers are not only being exposed to the disease, but are also spreading it.

The flight attendants’ statements warn that called for. And that warning is echoed by the Center for Disease Control’s advisories. Here’s what you’ll find on the CDC’s Website:

 “Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others; however, airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance (keep 6 feet apart from other people). Consider the following risks for getting or spreading COVID-19, depending on how you travel:

Air travel: Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Bus or train travel: Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet of others.

Car travel: Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces.

RV travel: You may have to stop less often for food or bathroom breaks, but RV travel typically means staying at RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies at other public places. These stops may put you and those with you in the RV in close contact with others.”

So, take time to weigh the risks before you pack your bags and hit the road or take to the air.


Copyright 2020 Jennifer Merin



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