Enjoy Travel

Hand Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, And Protecting Yourself When Flying The Friendly Skies

Rebecca Cohen  |  March 10, 2020

Life doesn’t stop. If you have to travel in the near future, here's how to keep yourself (and those around you) healthy.

Acting against all other advice, Jean and I found ourselves on a plane to Portland, ME yesterday. I got to LaGuardia airport and boarded the plane as if this were just another normal travel day — as if there weren’t a pandemic looming. Many of our fellow passengers on the tiny commuter plane came prepared with soap, wipes, and hand sanitizer, oh my! I started to worry as I watched them wipe down their seats and scrub their palms with hand sanitizer. Should I have been more cautious? Is this more serious than I thought it was? Am I going to catch the coronavirus on this flight? 

The short answer to that looming question: We don’t know. The CDC is still investigating how long the virus lives on surfaces and updating the world in real time. While stepping on a plane does not mean you’ll walk off with COVID-19, the longer and much more complicated answer: Don’t fly if you don’t have to. 

Travel restrictions are changing daily. If you absolutely have to travel (like Jean and I did), head to the CDC website: It will tell you if the destination printed on your ticket is safe to travel to, or if you should channel your inner Rachel Green and get off the plane. 

With that said, all you can do is stay up-to-date on the latest virus information and be proactive in protecting yourself from infection. Here are ways to do just that. 

Pre-Travel 

  • If you’ve already booked a flight you’re feeling like you might want to skip, check to see what your airline’s current policies are on cancellations and changes. Many are waiving change fees, and hotels are allowing free cancellations for the time being, says Rob Karp, Founder and CEO of MilesAhead. 
  • Check the CDC website to see if your destination is on the safe travel list. If it is, consider how essential your trip is before heading off on your adventure. 

Booking for the Future 

  • Life doesn’t stop, and you probably have somewhere to be in the near future. Karp recommends reaching out to a travel advisor if that isn’t something you do already. They can help you to understand whether it makes sense to plan a trip to your desired destination, or if you should hold off on making any purchases right now. If you’re booking flights, Karp says looking into travel insurance is a must, and if you’re planning a trip for 2020, book refundable airfare and hotels. “The best thing you can have is flexibility,” he adds. 

Necessary Travel Right Now 

  • Like I said, don’t head anywhere the CDC says not to, but if getting on a plane is in your future, make sure you’re doing it right — unlike me yesterday. Natalie Compton of the Washington Post recommends keeping the best hand hygiene you can, since you never know what or who you’re touching. She adds that you do not need a mask unless you’re already sick (PS: If you’re already sick, please stay at home), and wiping down communal surfaces is important in all public places, but especially on planes.  
  • Before you head out on a business trip, make sure that whatever event or meeting you are set to attend is still happening. Many companies have cancelled events or other happenings due to the virus in an attempt to keep the coronavirus at bay and avoid spreading the sickness. 
  • And if you are in a high-risk group or care for someone in a high-risk group, have a frank discussion with your boss about your medical situation and how it might affect your ability to travel.

And for those who don’t have air travel in their future, lucky you. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear, but avoiding exposure to new places and new germs is definitely preferred amid an epidemic such as this one. 

Whether you’re getting on a plane or not, though, let’s all practice these hand hygiene tips as long as COVID-19 is hanging around. Or forever. That works, too. 

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