Updated: Feb 12
If you booked a trip and you’re closing in on your departure date, you probably thought there is NO way we are still going to be dealing with COVID-19 related stuff! Well here we are, and we are unfortunately still dealing with it. Whether it is an emergency trip to see a sick family member or a vacation that you desperately need, below are a few simple things you can do to help reduce your risk while traveling.
Get tested for COVID-19 before you travel. There is nothing like knowing you are negative for peace of mind. With current testing availability, timeliness of the tests being returned, and in most cases tests being at no cost to you, it can be nice to start your trip with a negative test whether it is required or not. In addition, when you return from your trip, obtaining a follow-up test can ease your worry.
You can do better than that designer cloth mask! Wearing a cloth mask is designed to protect those around you by limiting the distance in which any droplets you aerosolized can travel. The cloth masks are not designed to protect you, but to protect others. N95 masks are coming back into supply and can be purchased on amazon easily. Make sure the mask has the NIOSH stamp and is a N95 mask without an exhalation valve. If you can not find an N95 mask, you can utilize a K95 mask (the Chinese equivalent) instead. Be sure to read the instructions prior to wearing it. N95 masks won't be as breathable as a cloth mask, but they will provide you much more protection than a cloth mask.
Pick A Good Seat
Anything you can do to limit your proximity to others can only help. However, on an airplane, this can be difficult to do. If money does grow on a tree for you, or you have always wanted to splurge and fly first class, this is the time to do it. You’ll get the extra space, and if you choose, you can be the last one on the plane and the first one off. If, like me, you can’t swing, try to avoid sitting in areas where people may congregate (i.e. the restrooms). Delta is also blocking middle seats until March so I highly recommend booking a flight with them.
Have you ever considered TSA Pre-Check? It is actually very easy to get and is not very expensive. It can help you avoid standing in long security lines and expedite the TSA process. You also get to keep your shoes on and leave everything in your bags. A little tip from a frugal traveler……. Some airline credit cards will actually reimburse you the cost of your TSA Pre-Check cost every five years.
Boarding the Plane
Travel with limited carry-on if you can so you are not desperate for overhead storage. If you don’t need space for your carry-on, there is no reason to congregate with all the other people in line and rush aboard the plane. You should try to keep your distance from the masses, let everyone board, and then just before they close the boarding, stroll down that walkway like a rockstar.
In Your Seat
Before you start touching the TV, armrest and seat belt, you may want to consider sanitizing the surfaces you’ll be touching throughout the flight. While the airlines clean between passengers, I only trust one person to clean the public surfaces I touch, and that’s me. Libbi and I carry sanitizing wipes with us and wipe down all the surfaces we touch once we sit down. Also, don’t be afraid of that little jet of air above you. Use it! Air in an airplane goes from the ceiling to the floor, and the air coming out of the nozzle is a combination of HEPA filtered air and air from just outside your window. Instead of blowing it directly on you, blow it toward the ground between you and the other passengers in your row. This helps carry anything floating in the air away from you.
Unless you are about to miss your next flight, stay seated. Airlines are getting better about exiting the aircraft row by row but if not, stay seated. There is no worse place to be than standing face to face and shoulder to shoulder with multiple people as you wait for the doors to open. The ventilation systems are designed for passengers while they are seated, not standing in the aisles.
Whatever reason you have for taking your trip I am sure it is a good one. Use one or all of these tips to help you stay safe.
*This Blog was written by Andy, The Gypsea Travellers’ Husband. Andy is a Certified Industrial Hygienist that deals with air quality on a daily basis. He often works with hospitals and schools to keep their air clean by testing for lead, asbestos, mold and general air quality. He’s become fascinated during COVID with how the airlines have been keeping their customers safe*