Spring Break - COVID Style
Longing to dip your toes in the sand, feel the sun on your face, and take a deep breath without wearing a mask? You're not alone. With Spring Break on the horizon, pandemic-weary Americans are undoubtedly feeling the urge to spread their wings and, quite literally, fly to new destinations.
Does that mean that we are beginning to experience a return to normalcy? Do we still need to take measured precautions as we plan to move beyond our homes and travel? This post explores tips for safe travel, and how to plan ahead to help keep you and your loved ones safe during the spring holidays.
Where We Stand, Currently
Change is arguably one of the few constants during the pandemic. Establishing a sense of consistency amidst a highly politicized, mutating virus has been difficult. Despite the availability of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advises that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. At the time of publishing, the CDC still encourages Americans to avoid nonessential travel. Those who are vaccinated are urged -- and in many cases required -- to wear a mask.
Catching the Travel Bug
After more than a year of lockdowns, protocols and restrictions, it's clear that pandemic fatigue is beginning to set in. Many people are looking forward to traveling to see friends and family or just get away from the tedium of home-bound life.
Perhaps you are among the many millions of Americans who have been hoarding PTO and waiting for the right time to travel. With Spring Break on the horizon, opportunity abounds.
Good news: If you are fully vaccinated, you can attend small gatherings without wearing a mask! There are stipulations, however. Everyone at the gathering should have received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine and waited at least 2 weeks after the second dose for the vaccine to be fully effective. For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you must wait at least two weeks after your singular dose for the vaccine to be considered fully effective.
According to Cleveland Clinic, fully vaccinated individuals may also have small gatherings with others from a single household who are not vaccinated -- as long as no one in the household is considered high-risk.
In public places, continue to wear your mask out of precaution and out of respect for others who have not yet been vaccinated. If you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, visit your state’s health and human services website to see who is eligible and if you qualify. If you are eligible, you can try to schedule a vaccination appointment through local pharmacies, medical groups or organizations running mass vaccination events.
Before you travel out of the country, research COVID-19 requirements and restrictions for your destination at least one week prior to departure. Plan to give yourself enough time to complete your COVID test and get your test results. Each country has specific rules for entering and exiting. In most cases, you must present a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure. Keep in mind that appointment availability may change as more people begin to consider international travel options.
Some countries require all American travelers to quarantine at their destination until they can confirm a negative test result. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, and any other Vaccine you may need prior to travel, please visit the CDC website.
Coming soon: a vaccination passport issued by the World Health Organization. The white vaccination cards issued by the CDC are not enough to let you skip the COVID-19 test or quarantine simply because they are easy to forge.
If you are traveling to a highly-populated area, you may want to choose activities that offer accommodations for a smaller group. Try renting out a conference room, or using a restaurant that offers outside seating. Go to the quieter side of the beach versus the more populated areas. If you can't find a less crowded space, try to stay a minimum of 6 feet apart from others when possible. Camping is another great option. As this pandemic has shown us, there’s nothing like the great outdoors!
Consider setting limits to your group size. You may have friends and family that are not receptive to this request. Let them know that you will visit with them as soon as you and your family are fully vaccinated!
For travel within the United States, guidelines and restrictions vary from state to state. As you travel, continue to make choices that feel right for you and your family, even if the state you are visiting adheres to more flexible guidelines. There is no shame in rocking your cool mask while out in public.
Airlines are working hard to win back customers and keep people safe. However, driving is still your safest option. The risk of exposure is greatly reduced, and it will cut down on the amount of time spent wearing a mask.
Research & Plan Ahead
This may not be the year for a spur-of-the-moment road trip. Advance planning is advised since many sites and activities are operating at reduced capacity or are closed altogether. Each state has different travel websites that give in-depth information about local attractions and services. Calling ahead for reservations will help steer you clear of disappointment.
When it comes to accommodations, consider these options:
- Rent a vacation house - A few websites are offering vacation rentals at a discount so you can gather in smaller groups and enjoy the time with your family or friends safely. Note: Don't wait to book! Ski resorts and beach houses are experiencing higher-than-usual capacity and selling out because many people are traveling regionally!
- Rent an RV - Hit the road, recreationally. RV rentals are a great option if you’re still feeling skittish about staying in hotels. While they don’t offer electrical service or accommodations (think emptying the septic tank) typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among their best customers. As long as there is room, they permit RV overnight parking! It’s a great option if you failed to book a spot at a campground or didn’t reach your destination in time.
- Book online - Here is a list of sites to visit if you want to book a cabin, hotel or vacation house: Vrbo.com, Hotels.com, hometogo.com, Airbnb.com and expedia.com. Go online or call ahead to confirm if they offer accommodations for small groups.
- Plan for outdoor activities - Try doing safe outdoor activities such as bike riding, walking, a visit to the beach, camping, canoeing or hiking. If you decide to do any type of water activity, try purchasing your own equipment whenever possible.
Control What You Can
The pandemic has a way of making things feel quite out of control, but there is plenty you
can do while traveling to help minimize the risk of infection and pave the way for some well-deserved time off. Be sure to:
- Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer) and cover your mouth when coughing.
- Use your own pillows and blankets instead of the airline's or the hotel’s.
- Avoid handling airline magazines and catalogs.
- Bring your own antibacterial wipes for unsanitary situations.
We now know much more than we did last year about COVID, and we have more options when it comes to traveling and taking care of our safety. Whether work, travel or even travel for work is in your future, enjoy your spring and be safe!
Want to Learn More?
At Armstrong, we place a lot of emphasis and value on work-life balance. Sure, some weeks are more hectic than others but recognizing that employees feel better and perform best when their physical, emotional, and mental needs are met is central to our culture. If you’re looking to shake things up in 2021, connect with our team and see why Armstrong could be the breath of fresh air you need.