Travel is one of the biggest parts of my life. It’s what I do, it’s what I love. I’ve shaped my life to be able to do it more easily, cheaply, and sustainably (in more than one sense of the word). So stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, and closed attractions due to the coronavirus have been a bit of a conundrum for this Global Gadabout.
As an introvert, it has not been difficult for me to social distance or entertain myself alone at home (check out my Virtual Vacation posts for tons of online “armchair travel” experiences). In fact, it’s been kinda nice… ? As a frequent, long-term traveler, however, I have been feeling the itch, the wanderlust, the need to see new things, explore, and adventure. With certain limitations, there are ways to travel responsibly while following medical guidelines. I’m back on the road again (albeit domestically) and wanted to share some tips and newly necessary gear for traveling during this pandemic.
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Note: Guidelines, restrictions, and suggestions vary from place to place, country to country. I have no medical expertise. These are merely a concerned traveler’s suggestions. Visit the CDC website for the latest US information.
Wearing a cloth or disposable mask has been shown to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wear one whenever you are out in public, in a building (grocery store, gas station, etc.) and unable to distance yourself properly from others at all times.
I’m a fan of the “buff” or “gaiter” style mask, which you can wear around your neck and pull up over your mouth and nose whenever you go into a building or get close to people. It’s actually a great, multi-functional travel item in general! I’ve used mine as a headband, hat, and sleep mask. You can even soak it in cold water before putting it on to help stay cool during hot weather. They make ones with earloops, too, to help keep it in place!
P.S. I’m loving this not-essential-but-pretty-awesome capelet that helps to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays and to beat the heat with cooling fabric and airflow. The hood has a visor and a zipper in the back for your ponytail. Plus, it has a built-in face mask!
A face shield is a great alternative for people who have trouble wearing a mask for extended periods of time. You can get one that goes around your head or one attached to glasses frames. Plus, it helps reduce risk in other ways by covering your eyes as well as your nose and mouth. A pair of clear safety goggles work well for that, too. Or try this version built into a sun hat – the face shield is removable when you just want the hat!
When you can’t wash your hands all the time, hand sanitizer is a must-have. Get a small bottle to carry in your pocket or bag (you can refill it from a more cost-effective larger bottle). Use it after anytime you touch something other people also touch, like a gas pump or credit card reader.
Use these to double down on sanitization. Carry a pack of wipes to disinfect surfaces like grocery carts and public toilets before you touch them.
Female Urinal/Personal Urinal
This little item is one of my 5 Most Ingenious Travel Gadgets. When you must use public restrooms, avoid touching as many surfaces as possible. A female urinal allows women to do just this by standing up to pee. You can get disposable paper ones or a reusable silicone one. They even make a unisex version with a small tank attached to avoid the restroom altogether. Or go all out and bring a whole camping toilet!
Pandemic Travel Tips
Avoid Public Transportation
Arg – I hate saying this! Public transportation is one of the best ways to travel on a budget. Unfortunately, it also puts you in close contact with a lot of other people in an enclosed space for an extended period of time… Traveling in a private vehicle (be it your own or a rented one) is a much safer option right now. Take a road trip, cycling adventure, or boating sojourn – basically, any vehicle that only holds you and members of your “household” traveling with you or where you can properly social distance.
Bring Your Own Accommodation
Avoid sharing space with other people as much as possible by choosing a holiday where you bring your own place to sleep. Go on a camping trip with your own tent or rent an RV (check out my post on relocating RVs for how to get one free or super cheap!). A well-equipped RV or camper has the added advantage of your own private toilet and shower, as well. Or, with the right gear, you can even sleep in your car without much discomfort!
Or At Least Go Private
If camping, be it in a tent or RV, is not your thing or not an option, definitely opt for private accommodation with a private bathroom. Hostel dorms can be a super cheap place to sleep but I wouldn’t risk sharing a room with strangers in such close proximity during this pandemic. Most hostels have private rooms that, while more expensive than dorms, are still cheaper than normal hotels. Or try Airbnb (new users get $40 off by clicking here!) but filter your search to include only “entire place”. You might also consider “private room” and “hotel” options if they have a private bathroom. I also use Booking.com and Skyscanner.com to find deals on hotels, most of which should have private rooms with private baths. Whatever you can do to limit your interaction with people not in your group and the necessity of using shared spaces is best!
Outdoor Activities & Attractions
Even as places open up, choosing activities and attractions in wide, open spaces make it easier to social distance. Being outside provides more airflow and less risk. Go for a hike or bike ride, visit a park or garden, admire outdoor art and open-air museums. If you are visiting a popular place, try to go at off-hours – weekdays right when they open or before they close – to avoid crowds.
Instead of joining a tour group of any kind, create your own private, personalized tour for you and yours! Do a little research to find outdoor and uncrowded activities and sights you might be interested in and create your own itinerary. Guidebooks (paper or digital!), apps, and blogs are great sources of info to learn all the facts and history. Or create your own “tour guide” on the go with informative podcasts!
Step Away & Turn Away
Respect social distancing and keep physically away from those outside your household as much as possible. If you find yourself in close proximity to other people, it’s not rude right now to step back or even turn away from them. I’ve been on several narrow hiking trails and sidewalks recently where I stepped off the path and turned away to allow others to pass by me more safely. I’ve seen many others do the same. 90% of the time I’ve gotten a verbal thank-you for this behavior. Be courteous and do what you can for yourself and others.
I look forward to a more “normal” time when these pandemic travel tips and gear are no longer necessary!
- Best Road Trips Worldwide
- 5 Things I Never Travel Without
- The Classic DIY Walking Tour
- 5 Best Countries to Camp for Free
- Save on Rentals by Relocating Cars & Campers
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