Traveling Safely During the COVID-19 Crisis

September 3, 2020

Although uncertainty still remains about what the fall may look like, travel will still be an essential part of doing business in college sports. As the NCAA and colleges around the country come to terms with the challenges and unique opportunities of a potential football season during a global pandemic, CollegeAD spoke with travel industry insiders about what traveling safely during the COVID-19 crisis looks like.

“It can be done safely, but you do have to think about things differently than just a few months ago,” explains Christy Bruce with Sports & Entertainment Travel. “There are precautions you can take, there are ways to make this safe and relatively painless.”

Bruce, along with Kyle McDonald, also of Sports & Entertainment Travel offer these tips to athletic departments, donors, and fans who will be planning to travel as fall football season inches closer.

“It’s a good idea to brush up on basic guidelines before you schedule your trip,” explains McDonald. “Remember to practice social distancing, try to stay outdoors for events, wear a face mask, and wash your hands as often as you can.”

He also says it’s a good idea to seek out contactless payment and mobile ticketing options. Things like kiosks at the airport or setting up your Apple Pay or EZ-Pay for other interactions in shops or stores. For the organizer of an event, McDonald and Bruce stress planning and preparation.

“Contactless interactions are best, plus you need to make sure there is enough space to set up at least 6 feet of social distance,” he says.

“You’re going to want to know what the situation will be before you arrive at your destination,” stresses Bruce. “Look into the travel restrictions that might impact where you’re headed. Some states, like New York, are asking travelers from other states to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. You need to realize that before you book travel.”

Hitting the Road or Taking to the Skies

According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, flying can actually be safer than other everyday activities during this crisis. Airlines and airports have measures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Still, flying doesn’t come without risk, here’s what Bruce and McDonald recommend before taking to the skies.

  • Check airline policies beforehand. Choose an airline with precautionary measures you’re comfortable with.
  • Try to book seats without other people nearby. Many airlines are blocking middle seats to keep more distance between passengers and reduce COVID-19 spreading.
  • Bring disinfectant wipes with you, and clean your area carefully before sitting down.
  • Wear your mask the entire flight, except for when eating or drinking.
  • Don’t wait in line for the restroom. When you use the restroom, bring a paper towel or disposable wipe to touch common surfaces. Then, sanitize your hands again when you return to your seat.

“It’s really about thinking ahead at this stage. We know there are concrete things like wearing a mask, wiping down surfaces, washing hands, and maintaining distance, that slow and stop the spread of COVID-19,” explains McDonald. “Now it’s a matter of putting those things into practice.”

If you’re traveling via a van or bus, make sure there is social distance set up between each row. Pack your sanitizer and wipes and use them frequently. Wear your mask while in the vehicle and when the caravan stops touch as little as possible while stretching your legs. Remembering these trips can increase your chances of traveling safely during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The same is true if you are alone traveling in your car when you stop, wash your hands frequently and touch as little as possible,” says Bruce. “If you can bring your own food and drinks in those situations, that’s also ideal.”

“Keep your hand sanitizer within reach,” explains McDonald, “on the passenger seat of your car or even on your keychain. For things, you must touch, like door handles and faucets, use a paper towel and throw it out before you get back in your car. Always wear a mask at gas stations and rest stops.”

Once You Reach Your Destination

“Before you book your stay anywhere,” says Bruce, “check the protocols they have in place because a lot of shared facilities at hotels are closed right now.”

She also says not to assume your space is clean. Wipe down all hard, nonporous surfaces regularly. If you’re renting a house or condo, her suggestion is to prioritize cleaning high-touch surfaces, like keys, TV remotes, nightstands, handles on sinks and doors, the fridge (inside and out), light switches, cups, and plates.

They also suggest:

  • Bringing clean sheets for your bed.
  • Visiting shared spaces at off-peak times. Wear a mask unless you’re outside and there’s no one nearby. Leave if you can’t maintain social distance.
  • Skipping indoor shared spaces, especially bars, unless it has been set up for social distancing
  • Steer clear of any communal food and drink, like cookies at a reception.  Make sure items are individually wrapped.

“For rental homes, ask your host how much time will pass between you and the previous guest. If possible, delay your stay so there’s a 2 to 3-day buffer. If that’s not possible, doing your own cleaning is much more important,” says Bruce.

The bottom line is that travel will have to happen as economies around the country and world open up. Business can’t always be conducted online or via a phone call, as fall approaches, every sector will have to learn and adapt to traveling safely during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Things will be different traveling during a global pandemic, you’ll have to stay on alert and know the protocols ahead of time, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting where you need to go,” explains Bruce. “Leaving your house comes with an extra layer of planning right now, the same is true for travel. Planning ahead and making a few tweaks to how you do things while traveling will help lower the risk of being out in the world.”