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In this article, we’ll highlight 9 essential tips for adjusting and preparing for family travel during the current pandemic. Our tips are based on our personal experiences, as well as our reflection on the ways in which family travel has changed over the past few months.
If your state or region has lifted its coronavirus-related travel restrictions, consider these tips for staying safe and lowering your risk of both getting or spreading illness.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a medical expert. These family travel tips are based on my experience traveling to destinations where there were NO travel bans or mandatory quarantines in place, and where 6-foot social distancing was maintained. As always, consult your doctor and local authorities for advice on safety regarding travel at this time.
Family travel can either be a choice, or a requirement based on work or other family obligations.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to family travel as partaking in things other than your everyday activities, away from your local community. This may, or may not include an overnight stay(s) during the extent of your travels.
Either way, it is important to learn how to protect yourself if you travel, as well as to consider the adjustments and changes you will likely experience along the way.
Here is a list of 9 family travel tips that we have found to be helpful when considering the recent changes that have rocked the world of travel.
1. Be flexible
Our number one tip for family travel during the pandemic is to be flexible.
What we mean by this is that you must remain open to the fact that travel is simply not the same as it was prior to the onset of COVID-19.
By adjusting your expectations and vowing to be adaptable, you are more likely to experience the benefits of family travel that you have become accustomed to.
Family travel situations that may require your flexibility:
- Many restaurants are not open, or are only open at 50% capacity. This can require a change in plans or increased wait-times to be seated.
- Hours of business and attractions have temporarily changed. This requires you to check all operating hours ahead of time and adjust your plans accordingly.
- Most public restrooms are closed and require you to use outdoor, portable toilets.
- Certain parts of an attraction may be closed indefinitely. In a recent visit to a public zoo, for example, we were only allowed to explore outdoor exhibits. Indoor exhibits were closed.
- A business or attraction may unexpectedly close due to staff or visitor reports of coming down with COVID-19 symptoms. This has been common in bars and restaurants.
- Consider having a Plan B in the case that you have to cancel your trip altogether.
2. Choose your destination wisely
If you venture out away from home, it has become important to choose your destination wisely or to perhaps not travel at all.
The best places to travel during the pandemic are places where social distancing is the norm and happens very naturally. Ideas include outdoor venues like national parks, state parks, hiking trails, and uncrowded beaches.
When not having to go out of your way to constantly try to avoid people or stay 6-feet away, you’re more likely to have an enjoyable time.
Likewise, avoid crowds by visiting destinations during off-times, such as on weekdays versus weekends.
During our recent visit to the Minnesota North Shore, we visited on a Tuesday and found that we had state parks and waterfalls all to ourselves. The vacation felt very natural because social distancing here is the norm.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a destination:
- Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?
- Will you easily be able to social distance 6 feet away from others at your chosen destination?
- Does your local government require you to quarantine for 14 days upon returning from this destination?
- Does the destination that you’ll be visiting have state and local COVID policies that you are comfortable with?
Also, before you go to a hotel, restaurant, or attraction, call and ask if all staff are required to wear cloth face coverings while at work.
And last, consider consulting a travel agent. There are more reasons than ever to explore the benefits of using a travel agent during this time for added help, protection, and guidance in your travel investment.
3. Consider your transportation risks
Depending on how you travel, there are several risks regarding getting or spreading COVID-19 that you must now consider when undergoing family travel.
Mass transit such as airplanes, trains, and buses puts you in close proximity to hundreds of other passengers (some of who are likely ill) in an enclosed space.
It also involves spending time in security lines and terminals which has the potential to bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.
If using a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, don’t sit in the front seat near the driver. In addition, consider handling your own bags during pickup and drop-off.
Last, if you’ve consulted our road trip travel tips and have decided to travel via your own personal vehicle, limit your stops for food, gas, and bathroom breaks as much as possible.
As an additional plug for road trips, you can bring along a lot more gear, cleaning supplies, food, beverages, and belongings when having an entire vehicle all to yourself.
Being able to bring along the comforts of home may help you feel more safe and relaxed while traveling during these uncertain times.
4. Always have masks on hand
The CDC, along with many airlines and government agencies, strongly encourages everyone to wear masks or face coverings whenever in public.
This is especially important in areas where maintaining social distance may be difficult.
Because masking requirements and recommendations vary so significantly between states, counties, cities, and individual businesses, it’s best to always have a mask on hand.
When it comes to family travel, in particular, plan ahead for what to do when your masks come off, especially when dining at a restaurant.
Consider bringing along a well-ventilated paper or plastic bag for each mask to be placed in individually while eating.
5. Don’t forget hand sanitizer and disinfectants
When it comes to family travel during the pandemic, be sure to pack enough alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it within reach at all times.
Even though most businesses and attractions now offer hand sanitizing stations, do not assume that this is always the case.
In addition to hand sanitizer, bring a travel size pack or Ziplock baggie full of disinfectant wipes along when traveling.
Use antibacterial disinfecting wipes on commonly touched surfaces that you’ll encounter such as airplane seats, tray tables, and seatbelts, as well as on doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, and countertops in your resort or hotel room.
Next, don’t forget to disinfect any restaurant tabletops, both indoors and outdoors, that you and your family sit down to eat at.
Additional planning tip: Assemble a pandemic travel kit (like the one photographed above) to keep in your vehicle while traveling. This way you’ll always have cleaning supplies on hand.
6. Prepare food and water for your trip
To lessen your interaction with places and people while traveling during the pandemic, prepare food, snacks, and water ahead of time.
We’ve learned the hard way that many restaurants and stores are closed or have very limited menus and inventory. Likewise, not all restaurants have an outdoor patio option that you may be in search of.
For this reason, pack perishable and non-perishable food, and water, to travel more comfortably during the pandemic.
Along with our awesome road trip food list, the following are a list of recipes that can easily be made, froze, and reheated in a hotel room microwave:
- Chicken and Black Beans (serve with tortillas or microwaveable rice)
- Best Ever Sloppy Joes (serve on buns or with Frito scoops)
- Insta-Pot Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork (serve on buns or eat plain)
Additional planning tip: Don’t expect public drinking fountains to be open. Plan ahead by always having your own filled water bottle with you.
7. Purchase tickets ahead of time
Another tip that we have learned about family travel during the pandemic is that it is very helpful to purchase tickets to attractions ahead of time.
Check to see if the places that you will be visiting offers online ticket sales and reservations with contactless payment. This is a great way to limit your interaction with others and avoid touching public surfaces.
Online tickets are redeemed by showing the confirmation or QR code that is emailed to your phone upon purchase.
8. Be mindful of changes in your hotel stay
Simply put, there are many changes to a hotel stay that have occurred since the pandemic.
Not only has it become so important to stay at a name and brand that you trust, but it is essential that you always book a refundable rate in the case that your family travel plans change.
Here are some tips and changes to anticipate when staying at a hotel during the pandemic:
- No self-serve hot breakfast buffets. Most hotels are only offering cold grab-n-go go options.
- Limited capacity in pools and hot tub. Saunas closed.
- No housekeeping services during your stay. Towels, toiletries, and linens available upon request.
- Valet parking is likely not available. Opt for self-parking.
- Don’t ride with the general public in hotel elevators.
- Nominate one person in your family to push elevator buttons then sanitize afterward.
- Wear masks while indoors and don’t hang out in common areas.
- Study the hotel’s COVID policies and cleaning procedures ahead of your stay.
If opting out of hotels during this time, consider an Airbnb vs. VRBO vacation rental where you will have the entire property to yourself.
In addition, consult our tips for choosing the best vacation rental to simplify the process and pick the best property.
9. Remember, “Safety first”
With the increased emphasis on preventing the spread of the pandemic, it’s easy to forget the basic healthy family travel tips that apply to all travel at every time during the year.
Simple steps like eating right, getting enough sleep, and remembering to take your regularly scheduled medications are more important than ever when traveling during this time.
Remember, even the best plans may need to be set aside when a new travel advisory gets put into place, or if illness strikes you or your familiy.
If you feel sick before your planned travel, stay home except to get medical care.
The world will be there waiting for you!
Safe and happy travels!
Have you experienced any major differences in family travel lately? Are any of the changes for the better?Jen
If you liked reading our article on family travel during the pandemic, check out our related posts:
- 9 Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy While Traveling
- 8 Unexpected Benefits of Traveling with Kids
- How to Make a U.S.A. Family Travel Bucket List
- Top 10 Tips and Hack for Planning a Family Road Trip
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*