The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a lot of things, but your summer vacation doesn’t have to be one of them.
As states reopen and travel restrictions ease, you’re probably wondering whether it’s safe for you and your family to travel this summer.
The short answer? Travel still isn’t recommended, at least according to federal guidelines. But as some states are pulling back stay-at-home orders put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, travelers must grapple with the choice to venture out. Suddenly, that beach trip you planned or that hotel you booked might be enticing for you to escape your home.
Tourism experts say outdoor landmarks will be popular this summer. But they urge people to avoid destinations with large crowds.
“The key is to find the place that everyone isn’t going to,” Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of TravelingMom.com, told USA TODAY.
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What is open right now?
Some beaches, including in Los Angeles; Maryland; Florida and elsewhere along the East Coast have reopened – many with restrictions.
Hotels have shuttered around the country, but occupancy is starting to tick up again after a precipitous drop. More people have started flying, though the already dismal numbers have led to diminished airport service around the country.
Restaurants and bars, too, are starting to open again in tourist-friendly destinations, as is transit service. One such restaurant, Fish Tales in Ocean City, Maryland, got creative in adhering to social distancing guidelines by sitting customers at tables “shaped like oversized inner tubes,” according to the Salisbury Daily Times, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
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Some major landmarks, including parts of both the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, have reopened. Others, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Ohio, have announced reopening plans. But uncertainty remains for many major attractions across the country, including the Empire State Building and Disney theme parks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance Thursday to help restaurants, mass transit and other businesses to reopen safely while protecting against the spread of the virus.
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CDC: If you need to travel, here’s how to prepare
The CDC still recommends staying home as much as possible – especially if you have a higher risk of contracting severe illness.
If you choose to travel anyway, and your local or state guidelines allow, wash your hands often; physically distance at least 6 feet from those around you; wear a face covering in public places; cover your coughs and sneezes and get food at drive-thrus, from curbside restaurant pickup or at stores.
What you should know depending on your method of travel, per the CDC:
- Air travel: Most viruses and other germs don’t spread easily on planes, but crowded flights could lead to transmission from other passengers.
- Bus or train travel: If you sit or stand less than six feet away from someone, you’re putting yourself at risk for getting or spreading coronavirus.
- Car travel: Stops along the way could pose risks, depending how you interact with others.
- RV travel: Overnight stops at RV parks, not to mention trips to fill up your gas tank and purchase supplies, could put you and others at risk for infection.
Planning a road trip? First off, don’t travel if you or someone you wish to travel with is sick. Once that’s all clear: Take food and water with you – specifically nonperishables in case restaurants and stores are closed along the way. Make sure you have medicine and hand sanitizer as well as cleaning supplies. Avoid stopping at too many places, though when you have to, be sure you follow the aforementioned hygiene guidelines at bathroom stops and gas stations along the way.
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You should also plan lodging in advance if you need to spend the night somewhere.
Staying in a hotel or vacation rental poses risks, too, given potential exposure via person-to-person contact or contaminated surfaces. Keep in mind that though the hospitality industry is working to prepare for travelers again, not every accommodation may have safety plans fully rolled out. .
The American Hotel & Lodging Association is working to establish cleanliness standards for hotels.
“It’s really an effort to make sure that no matter if you’re staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you’re staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry,” Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, told USA TODAY.
In addition to washing your hands frequently and wearing a mask, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces once you get to your room or vacation rental, like doorknobs, light switches and sink faucets (though this may have already been done for you). Take EPA-approved disinfectant and other cleaning supplies with you, as well as plan to wash plates, cups or silverware.
State Department: Do not travel internationally
U.S. citizens shouldn’t travel internationally due to the coronavirus impact around the world, according to a State Department global health advisory posted March 31. Citizens who live in the U.S. but were abroad were advised to come home immediately unless they wanted to stay indefinitely.
U.S. citizens who live abroad shouldn’t travel internationally, per the agency’s guidance.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, Nicquel Terry Ellis
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