Summer’s here and with it comes the itch to travel. The itch is coming on strong with travel restrictions easing and the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 continuing to rise. Nearly 18 months into the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control says that fully vaccinated people can safely travel in the U.S. With careful planning and adherence to COVID-19 guidelines, older adults should be able to enjoy a “safecation” to destinations that are cleared for safe travel.
Keep in mind that the CDC emphasizes that no form of travel is completely safe: “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.” This CDC travelers’ guide will keep senior travelers informed on precautions and advisories amid the continuing pandemic.
It follows that the first step a senior adult should take when making any summer travel plans is to assess your personal situation. Risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases for older adults and the elderly. The vaccines were authorized for emergency use were designed to prevent infection or at the least lessen the chances of becoming seriously ill with or dying of the disease. Still, having a chronic condition like lung, heart or kidney disease puts seniors at an even higher risk for complications, including hospitalization. If you feel confident of clearing yourself for takeoff, keep reading for essential tips for planning and enjoying a safecation.
COVID’s shifting environment requires that all of us, especially higher-risk seniors, check a variety of resources for news and guidelines on travel restrictions and advisories. The U.S. State Department website issues advisories and reports on safety conditions for traveling domestically and internationally. Many travel portals like Kayak report on travel restrictions and include information on borders, airports and state regulations. You can check on the vaccine rollout state by state on medical research sites like the Mayo Clinic. Read up on the latest travel health notices and COVID-19 travel recommendations via the CDC. Click here to get the latest travel safety tips from AARP.
Protect Yourself and Others
Even for fully vaccinated people, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth face mask while traveling on planes, trains, buses, and other public transit, as well as in airports and transportation hubs. The practice of frequent handwashing remains one of the best actions you can take to reduce Covid-19 exposure risk. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (If soap and water are not available, bring and use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.) Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Cover coughs and sneezes. Avoid close contact; try to keep at least 6 feet of physical distance from others. Here are a few more recommended precautions that can help reduce risks of exposure when you’re in public:
- Maintain a six feet distance from other people whenever possible.
- Limit time spent in groups.
- Seek the outdoors or select attractions that have a lot of open space or are less visited.
- Use a sanitizing wipe to clean high-touch areas of hotel rooms, rental cars or ride shares.
The Relaunching of Cruise Lines
Cruise lines are restarting service under the conditional sailing order issued by the CDC last October that will remain in effect until Nov. 1, 2021. Cruise lines will have to take a phased approach to restarting service, must meet certain safety requirements for crew members and travelers, and enact up-to-date face mask policies and other protocols.
Royal Caribbean, Princess and Carnival and other major lines expect to start welcoming passengers back for cruises to Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Atlantic Coast, and other perennially popular ports-of-call. Most cruise lines are requiring their guests to show a proof of Covid-19 vaccination with the final dose being administered 14 days before sailing. Click here for a full list.
To Fly or Not to Fly?
Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, air travel is considered safe by most experts. The tricky part is maintaining the recommended 6 feet of social distancing space between you and other people while waiting in security lines and sitting on crowded flights. Seniors are encouraged to choose an airline that has protocols in place you’re comfortable with and try to book travel for mid-week to avoid big crowds. Bring wipes and clean your seat area before sitting down. Wear your mask the entire trip. Avoid standing in line to use the lavatory. Check out these airplane germ-fighting tips from AARP. It might also be wise to consult a global coronavirus map before committing to an overseas trip to visit a famous historic site.
Consider Hitting the Road
Road trip vacations either by car or a recreational vehicle are picking up speed with seniors since you have more control over your personal space. One free online tool that can help you create your itinerary is Roadtrippers, which provides routes, calculates mileage and travel time, and identifies points of interest, restaurants and RV campgrounds.
Make sure to pack hand sanitizer, several masks and disinfectant wipes, along with paper towels. Always wear a mask at gas stations and rest stops and remember to use hand sanitizer before you get back in your car. Use a paper towel if you must touch door handles and faucets at rest stops.
Bring your own food if possible (provided you can safely store it). If you buy food, use drive-through or curbside service and clean your hands before and after eating. Pay for gas, food and other necessities with a credit card to minimize contact and disinfect the card afterward. Remember to clean the inside of the car, along with phones and tablets.
Stay Close to Home
Instead of embarking on a long road trip, consider a weekender or an overnight within a 100-mile radius of where you live. Several booking sites like Travelocity are including information on hotel cleanliness policies and hygiene amenities like contactless check-in, complimentary hand sanitizer and social distancing measures.
Think about staying even closer to home with a day trip. Seize the opportunity to pare down your “senior bucket list” to a “backyard bucket list” and visit local landmarks and attractions, provided there are social-distancing and other safety protocols in place.
Armchair travel is the new black for seniors! Hundreds of portals can give you a tour of the White House, national parks, museums and zoos, global cultural landmarks, and countries or provide experiences like taking a dogsled ride in Alaska, riding a rollercoaster or attending a concert. Hop on your tablet, PC or mobile phone and search “virtual travel” or “virtual experiences at home” and you’re there!
“Travel during COVID: Tips for a Senior Safecation,” written by Michelle Flores, Amada contributor.