Covered’s Q&A for Summer Travel During COVID-19: What You Need to Know (Part 1)
We’ve all done a fine job staying home. Go, us! Who knew it would ever be an achievement worth trumpeting? But cabin fever comes for us all eventually. For many, dreams of summer travel are taking root — dreams of interiors, exteriors, and yards not our own, and of places blessedly free of any interiors, exteriors, and yards whatsoever.
We get it. We’re all in the same boat. But social distancing necessitates that, going forward, we all choose different boats. The world is changed, and so are we. But we still deserve our summer vacations.
Covered is in the insurance business. That means we help our customers prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. That also means we’re a fairly great fit to help you figure out the risks, considerations, and best practices for summer travel during COVID-19. Read on for everything you really need to know.
Am I Allowed to Travel?
Sure, provided you’re not yourself sick and you’re not violating any city-, state- or country-specific stay-at-home orders or quarantine regulations. So do your homework, kids, as things can change quickly.
Wherever you go, research current regulations and conditions while planning and just prior to departure. The New York Times has an interactive map providing state-specific guidance. If you need more granular info, try the CDC’s list of state health department websites. Fodors offers a good rundown of what’s happening globally. You can also check out Airbnb’s resource tracking travel restrictions and advisories.
At the time of publication, many countries still have closed their borders to non-residents, and some still ban US travelers in particular. Some countries and a couple of US states still require out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days. Was that how you wanted to spend two weeks of your vacation?
But Is It Safe to Travel?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still don’t recommend non-essential travel. Per the CDC, “Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.” (Notably, the bold print is the CDC’s, not ours.) The CDC offers a list of questions to help you gauge your travel risks and considerations. All this to say, “safer at home” is still the prevailing guidance in most places.
What Are Good Places to Travel During COVID-19?
Summer travel during COVID-19 should include a focus on reducing your risk of exposure. That may mean places that:
- Offer lots of outdoor space. COVID-19 seems to have a harder time spreading outdoors, especially in sunny or windy conditions. There’s a growing consensus that, if you’re going to leave your home, “it’s safer to be outside than in the office or the mall. With fresh air and more space between people, the risk goes down.”
- Aren’t crowded. Whether indoors or outdoors, crowds increase COVID-19 transmission risk.
- Are genuinely off the beaten path. Forget about top 10 lists or even top 50 lists. Get out a map and find places you’ve never even heard of. Then do your research and figure out what’s possible.
- Aren’t too far away. The further you travel, the more risk you assume. What happens if your car breaks down? If somebody gets sick or needs hospitalization? If a COVID-19 spike where you are means sudden closures of restaurants and hotels, overwhelmed hospitals, or even travel bans?
- Are local. Staycations, baby! Support local businesses while challenging yourself to get creative in exploring an area you thought you knew. Staycations are also the #1 way to keep your exposure risk low while still getting out of the house.
- Will allow you to cook or order takeout. If you’re comfortable doing so, you can dine in at restaurants (in accordance with state and local regulations). Just don’t do it for every single meal.
- Don’t require exclusive use of shared bathrooms. Staying at that campground may not be safe if it means you’ll be using the same bathroom as dozens of strangers multiple times daily.
- You can drive (road trip!) rather than fly or take public transport. Though the CDC maintains that the risk of COVID-19 infection on airplanes is low, many experts still recommend sticking with driving if possible. Airplanes are close quarters: The cabin widths of the most common commercial airplanes average between 11 and 13 feet. Makes that 6-feet social distancing guideline pretty hard to adhere to, even if middle seats are left empty. Airport terminals also bring you into close contact with others. The same is true for trains, buses (~8.5 feet wide), and crowded terminals.
So I Shouldn’t Book Those Crazy-Cheap Airfares?
It depends how far out you’re planning. According to Condé Nast Traveler’s experts, these low-priced airfares should stick around awhile. The safest course is to plan at least a year out. (Here’s how.)
Condé Nast Traveler’s experts also recommend booking directly with hotels and airlines when possible. Many are allowing fee-free changes or postponements. Conversely, third-party booking sites often have restrictions and conditions that make it difficult to recoup costs in the event you need to cancel.
Whatever you’re booking, be sure to carefully review cancellation policies and explore travel insurance options. Like, super-fine-toothed-comb review. As The Wall Street Journal explains, most basic trip-protection policies won’t issue refunds if you simply don’t want to travel due to COVID-19. It’s worth considering a more expensive “cancel for any reason” policy.
Bonus Insurance Tip:
If you’re taking a summer road trip, remember to keep any valuables secured and safely out of sight while you’re eating at a restaurant, parked for sightseeing, or parked overnight at your accommodations. If your car does get broken into, call the police to report the theft. If there’s any damage to your car, take a picture of the damage and contact your auto insurance carrier to file a claim. Don’t wait until you get home! By making a quick call or filing a claim online, you can get the process going — and get yourself back to enjoying your holiday.
Here at Covered, we want to help keep you safe every way we can. Why not take two minutes to learn if you can fine-tune your homeowners or auto insurance coverage? Our fast, easy quoting tool helps you make sure you’ve got the right coverage at the best price.