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Travel during COVID-19: What's the safest route?

With international travel bans, ongoing health restrictions and COVID-19 hotspots around the country, spring break looks a lot different this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading COVID-19. But after a year of lockdown, it may be hard to resist the urge to venture out.

If you do choose to travel to visit loved ones or take a break this spring, make sure you plan wisely and take precautions.

Should you venture to a popular spring-break destination? No. (Think bubbles, not beaches.) What about booking a vacation rental? Better. (A space to call your own.) How about day trips? You’re brilliant. (You’ll be amazed by what’s out there.)

Whether you’re heading out for a day, a weekend or longer, always follow COVID-19 safety measures to protect yourself and others.

  • Wear a tightly fitted mask when out in public. If you do not have a 3-layer surgical mask, double mask for extra protection against new COVID strains.  
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others not in your travel bubble.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Pack the basics, including sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (when soap and water aren’t accessible), extra masks and a sealable plastic bag, and a thermometer.

Safe-travel tips and itineraries

If you plan to travel this spring, know the risks, and consider the best and safest options. Here are a few ideas.

Safest bet: Day-tripping close to home.

Home is where the heart is, and it’s also the safest place to be right now. But that shouldn’t limit you to a blanket tent in the den. You can still get out and about, one day at a time.

  • Check out nearby local, regional and national parks.
  • Take a hike, bike a trail or stroll along the water.
  • Revive the bygone era of long Sunday drives – any day of the week – complete with car bingo, scenic landscapes and breaks for a pre-packed picnic or nature walk.

Do some research ahead of time to avoid crowded trails or popular destinations.

Low risk: Campcationing in the great outdoors.

Self-contained RVs and campers are a great way to go, and campgrounds are allowing more space between sites to ensure proper social distancing. But staying safe requires some planning.

  • Choose your route ahead of time.
  • Make reservations so you’re not stuck without a spot. Campsites are booking up fast during the pandemic.
  • Keep close to home to reduce the number of stops along the way and avoid the need to restock provisions.

Before you go, make sure you know how everything on your RV or camper works, from hooking up water and sewer lines to troubleshooting electrical issues. You won’t want someone outside your bubble entering your RV to assist if there’s a problem.  

Medium risk: Long-hauling it on the open road.

Long road trips are fairly safe, as long as you do them right. Be aware that stops along the way for gas, food and bathroom breaks put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Limit your stops, and take some extra steps to stay safe and healthy.

  • At gas stations, wipe down handles and buttons before you pump, and sanitize hands immediately after.
  • Book accommodations ahead of time and find out what COVID-safe processes are in place to keep guests safe.
  • Bring your own pillows, pillowcases and sheets, and wipe down surfaces upon arrival.
  • Opt for takeout over in-person dining.
  • If you’re planning to cross state lines, be sure you’re up-to-date on the latest restrictions and hot spots.

Stock the car with food, water and snacks to avoid extra stops.

Higher risk: Flying to your destination.

Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. But some airlines don’t provide adequate social distancing on board, and prolonged time spent in airports means close contact with others and high-touch surfaces. If you have to take to the skies, take precautions.

  • Keep flights short and direct, and limit your stay. (Think a weekend in California vs. a week in Florida.)
  • In airports, limit contact with handrails, elevator buttons, kiosks and other frequently touched surfaces. If you must touch surfaces, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands afterward. 
  • In addition to a protective mask, consider wearing a face shield, especially if you’re high risk.
  • Use sanitizing wipes on seats, armrests, seat belts, filtration nozzles, light buttons, video monitors and seatbacks in front of you.
  • Bring your own ear buds, neck pillow and blanket.
  • Refrain from eating or drinking.
  • Try to stay in your seat if you can. If you have to use the bathroom, have the wipes and hand sanitizer at the ready.

Sidestep resorts or hotels. Short-term rentals through VRBO or Airbnb provide you your own space, offer remote check-in and limit interactions with others. Arrange for grocery or restaurant delivery to prepare meals in your home away from home.

Know before you go: Travel FAQs

Should I get a COVID test before I travel?

The CDC recommends getting a COVID-19 test 1-3 days before you travel or fly and 3-5 days after your trip.

I’m traveling to a state that requires a COVID test. Where do I get one?

All  Indigo Urgent Care locations across Washington state provide COVID-19 testing. Anyone with no symptoms and no recent COVID exposure can  get a test using the $99  video visit.

You will have a consult with an Indigo medical provider via video and be referred to an Indigo Urgent Care clinic for a test, which will be administered by a nurse.  Learn more about COVID-19 testing.

Am I required to quarantine after domestic travel?

You are not required to quarantine after you travel, but the CDC recommends you get tested and stay home and self-quarantine for seven days after your trip, even if you test negative. If you don't get tested, it's safest to stay home for 10 days. Learn more about the CDC’s travel guidelines and recommendations.

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