A pediatrician shares how to travel as safely as possible during a pandemic

Dr. Mona Amin is an In The Know parenting contributor. Follow her on Instagram for more.

As health care workers around the world begin to vaccinate as many individuals as possible, it’s comforting to think we may be able to safely travel again soon. Here are my tips for traveling during a pandemic as things finally start to open up again. 

How to travel as safely as possible during a pandemic
Credit: Getty

Perform a risk analysis 

First, let’s do a risk analysis. Even though more and more vaccines are being distributed, the risk of contracting COVID-19 still lingers.

When deciding to travel, think about everyone involved. Is anyone in your family considered high risk? Is anyone immunocompromised and/or over 65 that hasn’t been vaccinated? If so, you may want to reconsider or postpone the trip. 

You also want to think of anyone you may visit or encounter during your travels who may be high risk and unvaccinated. It’s important to remember we can bring germs to these individuals if they haven’t yet had their vaccine. Remember to not only consider the health of the individuals traveling, but the individuals you may see on your travels. 

Know how and what to pack 

Packing can be a pain, pandemic or not. Plus, the more kids you have, the more of a struggle it can be.

I personally use packing cubes to help stay organized and recommend using one specific cube for pandemic-related items, like extra reusable masks, hand sanitizer, wipes and even your own soap, if possible. Having a dedicated cube in a backpack that you keep on your person can help keep these items easily accessible. This will also be helpful when wiping down surfaces around you (tray tables, armrests, seat back, seat belts and windows shades). 

When it comes to the actual packing, I like to buy different color cubes for different family members, especially when sharing a suitcase. I also like to organize clothing by type or day. Lastly, I might consider checking most of your bags to reduce the number of things you have to touch in an airplane cabin. 

Consider the destination 

Consider if COVID-19 is in high transmission in the community you are traveling to. You also want to remember that if you do travel from an area of high transmission, some locations still might require a self-quarantine for 14 days, or a negative COVID test.

Of course, at any point, restrictions and guidelines may change. The CDC continues to recommend trying to avoid non-essential travel. Flexibility is key.

Think about transportation 

HEPA filters on airplanes do circulate air in a way to reduce risk, but the risk is still there compared to not flying at all. Driving is less risky. Of course, the decision on your mode of travel largely depends on where you are going, how necessary the trip is and the overall risk of the people who are traveling. Driving can be the best way to travel amid a pandemic, as long as you are mindful of rest stops and the germs located there. If you do need to use a rest stop, wash your hands and your child’s hands after.

Another benefit of driving is being able to bring snacks and water and drinks, which eliminates having to make pit stops. Some rest areas may also have picnic tables, which can allow for a break in the car, a stretch of the legs and a safe, socially-distant lunch. 

Trips by car where you will primarily be outdoors may still be the best. Consider taking a road trip to go camping or taking a day trip to go hiking. Being outdoors in a non-crowded area is one of the safest possible travel destinations. Staying in a rental home is better than staying in a hotel, as there are fewer bodies to interact with (including cleaning services and other guests you may encounter in elevators and common areas).

Talk to your kids 

Kids are naturally curious, and travel is an amazing way to foster that curiosity and teach them about other people and the world. Prior to traveling, it’s important to speak to your child about the importance of physical distancing, the importance of hand-washing and wearing a mask if they are over the age of two. Explain to them why we are being precautious (to keep people safe from germs) and empower them to help keep themselves, their loved ones and strangers safe. 

Stay safe and mask up 

The best way to stay safe when traveling is the same way I encourage folks to stay safe at home in their communities: hand-washing for 20 seconds with soap and water (or use hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available); masking for adults and children over two; and staying physically distant when and where possible.

If you enjoyed this story, check out this baby’s hilarious reaction to trying solid food for the first time.

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