Traveling Post COVID-19 – What Has Changed?

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Curious about what has changed with travel post COVID-19? I know you may be thinking that COVID isn’t completely behind us, but the death rate continues to decline in most areas, so I’m praying the worst is now behind us.  In this post I’ll be breaking down the main changes we noticed on our flights and road trips we have taken this summer.   Whether you’re ready to get back on the road or into the skies now or you’re planning a trip further down the road, hopefully this will be a helpful summary for you.

Note that this post covers domestic (US) travel only, as we have not yet traveled internationally post-COVID.  Some countries are beginning to open up to US citizens, and if you’d like to see the list of countries with requirements of each one, you can find that here.  Sidenote: be aware that if you need a Passport right now, there is definitely a backlog, so allow several months before any international trips to be sure your documentation is in place.   

Post COVID Travel Checklist

I know everyone is going to have their own views about travel right now, so take things at your own pace and travel in ways that you feel comfortable with, whether that is local trips, road trips or flights.  Don’t let others dictate your actions and don’t travel shame others who may feel differently than you. That being said, here are some things that will help you be prepared for your post-COVID travel, whenever and wherever you choose to travel.

  1. Check the guidelines of the state(s) you plan to visit.  We had originally planned a trip to New England this summer, but ended up changing to another area of the country because of the quarantine requirements that many New England states currently have in place. We simply did not have enough vacation time to quarantine anywhere for two weeks.  This article gives you a good breakdown of which states have strict entry requirements, including Alaska and Hawaii.
  2. If flying, select an airline with no change fees. Most major airlines are still allowing itinerary changes with no fees, and this gives you a lot of flexibility to switch to a less crowded flight or completely change your destination depending on your needs.
  3. Bring a few extra disposable masks.  You won’t always be able to wash your cloth mask easily when traveling and it’s good to have some spares on hand in case you drop your mask or if one of the straps break.
    • Since you’ll likely have some long periods of time you’lll need to wear a mask while traveling, it’s a good idea to give your mask a test run to be sure it’s comfortable and isn’t too tight around your ears.  This can be a helpful accessory to keep the mask from being too tight around your ears.
  4. Pack light with a carry-on only system like The Journey to eliminate having to wait around hordes of people at baggage claim and reduce the amount of times your luggage is touched by other people.  Plus, it will save you money by not having to pay to check a bag!
  5. Bring your own sanitizer for use when traveling.  We like to use non-toxic hypochlorous acid which has been proven to kill COVID-19 and is skin-safe.  TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.  The limit on other liquids is still 3 ounces.
  6. Immunity Boosters and Supplements are a must have for us on any trip, but especially now as we want to be sure to keep our immune systems strong.  My essentials are propolis spray , D3/K2 and Rapid Rescue.
  7. COVID Testing – If you’re wanting to take a COVID test prior to or after your trip, you can find testing locations here.
  8. Most of all, bring a flexible disposition! Things may not all go as planned and there may be more unpredictability when traveling right now, but isn’t that all part of the adventure? 🙂

What’s Changed In…

Airports and Flights

  • Check In
    • Airlines are generally texting you around 24 hours before check in letting you know if flight is expected to be fairly full so you can decide if you want to change to another flight. We changed flights the night before for our trip home and it took less than 10 minutes to update our flights in the United app.
  • Mandatory masks
    • I’m sure you’ve heard that you must wear a mask throughout all airports now, but you will need to pull your mask down to confirm your identity when going through the TSA security checkpoint.
    • We saw a few face shields and even a HazMat suit.  If you choose a wear a face shield, note that you’ll still be required to wear a mask under it.
  • Crowds
    • I’ve seen a lot of photos shared of empty airports, but that was not our experience when we traveled in August and early September.  Denver, Chicago and Dulles were all fairly crowded and didn’t seem to be any less crowded than the last time we were there pre-COVID.
    • There are floor decals telling you where to stand/wait but there wasn’t much social distancing in the security lines or check in lines.
  • Food/Drink
    • Depending on your airline, you may have limited or no cabin service, so it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and drinks.
    • Our United flights gave out plastic bags filled with snacks and a small water bottle (pictured above) and our 3 hour flight offered drink service during the flight, but our 2 hour flight did not.
    • A lot of restaurants and some stores in the airports were closed, so food and drink options were limited.
    • Many airline lounges are still closed.  The United Club that we found open was only offering prepacked items instead of hot food buffets.  Still nice to escape the crowds and grab free food and drinks.

Related: Healthy Snacks For Your Next Road Trip

  • Boarding/Deplaning
    • Disinfectant wipes are handed out during boarding and and some airlines are handing out masks if you need one.
    • Boarding from the back to the front of the plane by 5-10 rows at a time and deplaning about 5-10 rows at a time as well. Finally, people stay seated until they can actually have a clear path to get off the plane. I hope this change sticks around for a while!
  • In Flight
    • Congregating by the bathrooms is not allowed.
    • Flights were much quieter as people seemed less inclined to chat through their masks.
    • Must wear your mask unless eating or drinking. Note that vented masks are not allowed and some airlines are not allowing cloth masks, only disposable masks.
    • Some airlines are blocking middle seats (Delta until 1/6, Southwest and Alaska until 10/31, JetBlue until 10/15) and some aren’t, notably American and United. We flew United and only had to be seated next to another person on one of our 4 flights.
    • Our flights were about 50-75% full. If you’re traveling with someone else, look at seat maps as some flights only have two seats together anyway, so blocked seats may not be relevant.
  • Dogs
    • We saw SO many dogs in every airport we visited – FAR more than any previous time I can remember.  Probably 10-15 dogs in each of the three airports we passed through.  Our plane also had 3 dogs in the cabins.  It definitely seems like airlines have relaxed requirements to fly with your pet, though I can’t find any written policies backing this up.  Either way, I enjoyed seeing all the fur babies since we had to leave our pup at home!

Road Trips and Tourist Spots

  • Road trip popularity is currently through the roof, so you’ll want to make sure you make a reservation well in advance for a rental car. Rental car shuttles at the airport are supposed to be taking fewer passengers, but ours were all fairly crowded and we encountered long lines to pick up our rental car.
  • If you are heading to a National Park or a tourist location like a museum, many require timed entry reservations now due to limited capacity, so be sure to make reservations well in advance to so you won’t miss out.
  • Be prepared for longer lines in some places. We saw this partially due to temperature checks upon entry and sometimes due to limited capacity on shuttles in places like Pike’s Peak. Many hotels and tourist attractions like Disney require a quick temperature screening to enter.
  • Be aware that even if a tourist attraction is open, portions of what they offer may be closed, so it’s good to check in advance. For example, all the hands on exhibits and simulators at Kennedy Space Center were closed, but thankfully they gave all visitors a free pass to return for a visit anytime in 2021.
  • Gas stations were hit and miss as far as being sanitary. Some clerks had masks on and some did not.

Related: How To Find The Cheapest Rental Cars with Autoslash

Hotels

  • Larger hotel brands like Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn have contactless check-in now and masks are required until you’re in your room.
  • No buffet breakfasts at hotels. Some have eliminated breakfast completely and some have just grab and go items like yogurt, muffins, bags, granola bars, and hardboiled eggs (pictured below is a grab and go breakfast we had)
  • Temperature checks at some hotels – Four Seasons was the only one we noticed this at.
  • You’ll notice extra cleaning precautions in place – from seals on the door to seals on the remote control to show it was sanitized (pictured above), to leaving 24 hours in between rooms being booked. Check with the hotel(s) you’re considering booking to learn more about their specific policies.
  • Some have added sanitizer to their elevators and they also ask that only one family/party go on the elevator at one time.

Related: How To Use Manufactured Spending to Earn Free Hotel Stays and Free Flights

Restaurants

  • Instead of physical menus, most restaurants will now provide you with QR codes to scan to pull up a menu to reduce touchpoints.
  • If a particular restaurant is a must-visit for you, look into making reservations further in advance than you normally would. A few places in Denver and Boulder were booked for several days due to current capacity limits.
  • Wearing a mask is required when going from the entrance of the restaurant to your table and when going to the bar to order something.
  • Many restaurants are keeping doors open to avoid touching handles and many have shifted to outdoor seating only.
  • We saw some tables being blocked off due to capacity limits in certain restaurants and some put up plexiglass at their bars to section off areas for each person.

Related: Biltong – the best high protein snack for an active lifestyle

Overall, we had incredibly positive experiences on all of our flights (no delays) and hotels. We didn’t feel unsafe or worried about our health at any point, and were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to get back out and explore, enjoy nature and see some new sights. Stay tuned for my upcoming post where I’ll be sharing our top suggestions for what to see in Colorado and Utah National Parks!

Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments. Before you go, be sure to check out my list of travel essentials to pack for your next journey!

Thanks for reading!

Emily

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