We’re getting to the point in this pandemic where we need to start living some semblance of a normal life while also keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. That means, in part, the return of vacations. But what happens if you inadvertently end up in a Covid hot spot and how do you prevent it from ruining your trip? Here are some tips on how to stay safe when traveling in a high risk Covid area.
There’s no safer route to staying Covid-free than avoiding Covid hot spots altogether. This is not the time to be stubborn about the places you want to visit. Be flexible and save risky locations for a better time. One tip for how to do this is to book everything with free cancellation, and whenever possible, book at the last minute. Even just 2-3 months’ time can mean the difference between a relatively safe epidemiological situation and a major outbreak.
Waiting until a couple of weeks before your trip might end up being more expensive but it might save you a much bigger hassle. The longer you wait, the more updated information you’ll have, which can help you assess whether you’re comfortable with the risk it takes to vacation somewhere. This is doubly important if you’re traveling internationally and there’s the potential for borders closing at the last minute. So maybe saving money doesn’t have to be the most important thing at the moment.
Opt for more outdoor activities
If, like me, you end up in Florida at its peak of infections (a truly commendable feat after 8 months of vaccinations), then be wise about what you do on your trip. Go to the beach or go for a hike where you won’t be in the immediate vicinity of other people. Covid doesn’t spread by water so swimming is a safe activity as long as you’re not at a Las Vegas pool party shoulder to shoulder with 600 people. If you’re vacationing in a high risk Covid area, maybe leave bar hopping for another time.
There’s plenty to do in the great outdoors: kayaking, boating, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, playing beach volleyball, camping, picnicking. Aside from being relatively safer activities, they’re also more likely to actually feel more like a vacation instead of alternating between drunk and hungover in New Orleans. This pandemic is a great time to finally get around to seeing those national parks that you’ve spent your whole life wanting to visit.
Mask up indoors
Naturally, there are going to be indoor activities that you want to enjoy on your vacation, too. For all your museums, art galleries, sporting events, or other crowded spaces, just wear a mask. If you’re one of those people who “can’t breathe” with a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose, you’re a little bitch and Covid would probably put you in the hospital. So don’t be a little bitch. Follow local guidelines for mask-wearing, especially if you’re visiting when Covid cases are surging. Wearing a mask is the tiniest, most insignificant behavior modification that might protect you from a pretty terrible illness. If doctors can wear a mask for 18 hours a day, you can handle wearing it for the 2 hours it takes to tour the MoMA.
Travel with people who share your risk tolerance
To find compatible travel partners, we have to consider a brand new issue aside from how much you like to plan and whether or not you’re a morning person. Now we have to be sure that we’re traveling with other people who share our views on Covid risk. The alternative is that you may end up doing things that you don’t feel totally comfortable with and that may be unsafe just to avoid a vacation fight. Or if you’re traveling with someone more cautious than you, you might end up being bored and not getting as much out of your vacation.
Either way, it’s important to discuss the issue in advance so you know where everybody stands. Better to find out ahead of time and bow out gracefully than maybe get Covid because your friend wanted to spend the entire vacation doing shots and making out with strangers at a club.
Consider how you want to wine and dine
Since it’s the only indoor activity where you can’t wear a mask the entire time, eating out is all about risk tolerance. If community spread is high, you might prefer to have more takeout to your hotel than you normally would instead of going to restaurants. It might seem like a bummer, but there’s nothing more decadent than having takeout brunch in bed with your own bottles of champagne in a nice hotel. No one’s cutting off your mimosas when you’re the bartender. If you do prefer to keep it safe with takeout, you might want to spring for nicer accommodations where you have a cozy eating area in your room or you can bring food out to the hotel pool.
A happy medium is to eat only where they have outdoor seating or dine out only during off-peak hours. Get in just before Happy Hour starts or have a late European dinner after the 7-8 pm rush has passed. If you do want to risk it all for a good dining experience, be judicious. Imagine that any and everything you do might infect and kill you, and take the risk only for the things that are worth it. If you weren’t always traveling like that, you were probably missing out. Read reviews, Google menu photos, get recommendations from friends. Life is too short for a bad meal.
Isolate when you return home
Everyone is super happy for you that you went to Tulum for a week; we will like all your photos on Instagram. But don’t impose your risks on people who didn’t choose to take them as well. While it’s fine to get back to normal, maintaining conscientious habits is the best way to keep your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors safe. So make use of Covid testing and stay home for a few days after your trip. No one wants to become the headline: “Area man returning from Lollapalooza infects 12, 3 dead.” The internet is vicious; they will never let you live it down.