The COVID-19 pandemic has largely put an end to travel, but there are still people needing to fly to provide care for others or travel for essential work service. Traveling feels scary right now, especially for those who can’t drive to their destination, but there are ways to make the journey as safe as possible for yourself and others. So if you have to board a plane right now, here are the coronavirus tips you need to know for domestic travel.
Avoid Public Transportation
The goal when traveling during the coronavirus crisis it to avoid as many people as possible, so steer clear of any public transportation if you can. Either take your own car to the airport, have someone you’ve been quarantining with drive you, or take a car service/taxi. If you’re taking public transportation of any kind, wear a mask and be mindful to touch as few surfaces as possible.
Wear a Face Mask or Cloth Covering
Even if you aren’t showing symptoms, there’s a chance you may have contracted the virus. To protect others, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth when out in public. While stores are largely out of masks, you can create your own using a towel, bandanna, scarf, or t-shirt. The CDC offers a guide on how to make your own. Note that coverings should not be placed on children under two years of age or anyone who has trouble breathing. Once it’s on, don’t touch it without washing your hands first.
Check-In Online, Download a Mobile Boarding Pass, and Use a Carry-On Suitcase
Again, you want to avoid as many physical touchpoints with other people during your travels as possible. Fortunately, you can check into your flight online and download the boarding pass to your phone, allowing for fewer interactions and forgoing the need to hand over a ticket. You will still have to hand over your form of identification at TSA security, however. On the plus side, the TSA has implemented new social distancing measures such as placing markers where travelers should stand, staggering the security lanes when possible, and allowing people to keep their mask on—though they may ask for it to be removed or adjusted when verifying identity.
To skip interacting with a desk agent and prevent your bag from touching multiple people, opt for a carry-on bag instead of checked luggage. While at the airport and when boarding, keep at least six feet of distance from other travelers. Some airlines have implemented rules to help with this, like Delta boarding all of its flights row by row, starting from the rear of the plane.
Wash Your Hands Frequently and Bring Sanitizer
At each stage of your journey—arriving at the airport, getting through security, and after getting off the plane—find the nearest bathroom and wash your hands with soap and water for the CDC-suggested time of at least 20 seconds. If soap isn’t readily available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Major airports have hand-sanitizing stations set up for travelers, and the TSA has eased its liquid restrictions and is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags. Additionally, bring sanitizing wipes for any surfaces you must touch, like armrests on the plane, and pay attention to the label—most recommend keeping the wiped surface wet for a certain length of time.
Pack Food and a Reusable Water Bottle
Most airlines have stopped or limited food and beverage service on flights to avoid unnecessary interactions. And although there are still some grab-and-go retailers and restaurants providing take-out, it’s better to skip them and instead pack your purse or backpack with food and snacks from home. Similarly, bring an empty reusable water bottle that you can refill at one of the refill stations. The added perk? You’ll be saving money on notoriously pricey airport food. Read SmarterTravel’s guide on How to Pack Food and Drink for a Flight here.
Sit by the Window and Stay Seated
Due to the thorough cleaning airlines have employed for planes and the HEPA air filters found on most planes, viruses do not spread easily on planes. However, you could still come into contact with the virus, particularly if you’re seated within six feet of someone who is infected. Many airlines have said they will allow travelers to sit in a socially distant manner on the plane if that’s doable, and Delta is even blocking middle seats for now. To increase your safety, opt for a window seat and stay seated throughout the flight, thus limiting your exposure to people and surfaces.
The CDC states that the virus is thought to mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, typically between people who are within about six feet of each other. So, your best bet at staying safe while taking essential travel is by staying as far from others as possible and avoiding touching your face. When touching something or eating is necessary, be sure to wash or disinfect your hands both before and after. And remember that regardless of whether or not it’s a law in your final destination, the CDC recommends self-quarantining for 14 days.