All the questions to ask yourself before planning a summer trip -- with answers from the CDC, too

If your family must take a trip, would you know what to bring?

Anyone ready for a road trip, or are you waiting until the COVID-19 threat has officially passed? (Simon Matzinger/Pexels stock image)

As states slowly start to reopen, you might be tempted to re-book that trip you had to cancel earlier in the year -- as the coronavirus pandemic put most, if not all, non-essential travel on hold.

So, where should you go? Is flying safe? What about camping?

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There are a LOT of considerations. And quite frankly, a lot of decisions will likely come down to what you, or your friends and family, are comfortable with, or where exactly you intend to visit and what the COVID-19 situation looks like there -- either now, or in the coming weeks, months or even the next year. A lot of circumstances remain fluid as we continue to learn more about coronavirus numbers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for its part, has said that COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported in all 50 states, and the situation is constantly changing. “Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick,” CDC experts advised on this website.

But they still put together some considerations, likely assuming that people would travel anyway.

So we’ll go through some of their recommendations, to perhaps anticipate some of your summer travel questions.

Think about: Where are you going? Where are you coming from?

You should be aware that you could get infected while traveling. Of course, you could contract coronavirus in your hometown too, it’s just never smart to assume you’re out of the woods, anywhere (well, unless you’re going to Antarctica). Also, ask yourself: Is COVID-19 spreading in your community? Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could bring it to others while traveling.

Does the state or local government where you live or at your destination require you to stay home for 14 days after traveling?

Some places may require people who have recently traveled to stay home for two weeks days. If you get sick, will you have to miss work or school? People with COVID-19 need to stay home until they are no longer considered infectious.

“Do not travel if you are sick, or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days,” the CDC said. “Do not travel with someone who is sick.”

If you do travel, do you remember the precautions on how to protect yourself and others?

There’s nothing new here, really. Health officials have been saying the same thing throughout this pandemic: Wash your hands, ideally with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, often. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t readily available. Avoid touching your face. Sneeze into an elbow. Continue to socially distance, which means allowing for 6 feet of space from others. Wear a face covering in public.

Travel does increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, the CDC said.

“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. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance.”

What is there to know about ... airplanes? Buses? Trains?

There’s a good chance you’ll have close contact with other people and you’ll be exposed to frequently touched surfaces, according to the CDC. It’s not that viruses and germs will spread more easily on flights -- in fact, that’s not the case at all, based on how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.

But social distancing will be tough, and you might have to sit near others for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure.

What about travel by car or RV?

Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces, the CDC said. With an RV, perhaps you won’t be stopping as often, but this type of travel sometimes means staying at RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies at other public places.

But we’re still making a trip this summer. Any guidance?

We’ll take some words straight from the CDC’s site on this one.

  • Bring enough of any medications to last you the entire trip.
  • Pack enough alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it handy.
  • Bring a cloth face covering to wear in public places.
  • Prepare food and water for your trip. Pack non-perishable food in case restaurants and stores are closed.
  • If you’re considering cleaning your lodging area, see these guidelines on how to clean and disinfect.
  • Follow state and local travel restrictions. For up-to-date information, check the state or local health department where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination. While you’re en route, it is possible travel restrictions could go into effect. Keep checking for updates as you travel.

What about campgrounds?

Camping might be OK, but again, this will come down to shared public facilities, like restrooms or picnic areas -- or whether you’re going to be coming in contact with others.

“Exposure may be especially unsafe if you are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 and are planning to be in remote areas, without easy access to medical care,” the CDC said. “Also be aware that many local, state, and national public parks have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.”

It’s just one more thing to check on.

We’ll leave you with a few more links, and then ask, too:

More from the CDC:

Health information for international destinations

How to protect yourself while using transportation

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