Ask Answers: Is Summer Travel in 2020 Canceled?
Summer is nearly upon us, which means travel season is about to be in full swing — though perhaps not in the same ways as in years past. Many people planned their vacations before the coronavirus pandemic’s full effects were realized, but as the summer months approach, it's time to start making vacation decisions with COVID-19 in mind. With false information circulating out there, it's challenging to find advice that helps people make smart choices.
We've gathered the latest information and updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Be sure to follow up on these recommendations; information can change daily.
Is It Too Soon for Easing Restrictions?
Some states are beginning to ease stay-at-home orders, and each county may implement individual plans and restrictions for local travel. Limits will vary widely from place to place. According to the CDC website, "Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19."
If You Must Travel...
Staying at home all of the time isn't feasible for everyone, but you should try to postpone travel if you can. The CDC recommends "limiting close contact by restricting local travel to essential errands like grocery shopping, takeout food, gas fill-ups and medical trips." Essential errands also include providing home and medical care to others.
What About Traveling by Air?
As restrictions ease, airports may start to see increases in passenger traffic. Although some airports remain closed, others may allow people to continue their pre-planned trips with some restrictions. According to the CDC, "because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights."
What About Traveling by Bus?
It should go without saying that anyone who’s sick or who has come into contact with someone who may be sick should refrain from traveling. Travel often requires sitting next to others — making it hard to socially distance — and it can also expose people to parts of the country with varying levels of community transmission of the coronavirus. For these reasons, bus travel is another form of transportation that can put people at higher risk of getting sick.
Are Trains Any Safer?
Sitting or standing in the same spot for prolonged periods also encourages the spread of COVID-19, says the CDC. Not only can buses present an easy way for the novel coronavirus to spread, but trains are where you’ll find concentrations of people sitting or standing for extended periods. Whether it's the Amtrak or a local subway system, you should avoid traveling by rail when possible.
Taking Long Drives
One of the more popular methods of travel is by car. Road trips are a foundation for any summer vacation. But there's a lot to be wary about on the road. Traveling by automobile may seem safer than going by train or bus, but the CDC has warnings in place.
Traveling by RV Should Be Safer, Right?
Kind of. Similar to cars, RVs are another popular means of traveling the country by road. If you’re planning on traveling this way, stock each RV and car with enough non-perishables, medicine and alcohol-based sanitizer for your entire trip. This limits the number of times you may need to stop to purchase items — and the number of times you might expose yourself to the novel coronavirus.
Staying in Hotels and Similar Lodgings
The CDC website states, "Staying in temporary accommodations (hotels, motels and rental properties) may expose you to the virus through person-to-person contact and possibly through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects." The organization recommends that travelers take the same precautions as they would in all other public places.
Taking Care at Campgrounds
Because many hands touch surfaces in hotels, you might think that camping is the best option. There's nothing quite like sleeping under the stars in a remote location. While camping has the potential to be a lot safer due to the limited contact you may make with people, there’s still plenty to keep in mind if you choose this option for your summer vacation.
The Cruise Ship Dilemma
At the start of this unprecedented pandemic, a few of the more severe outbreaks happened onboard cruise ships. But there are still thousands of people who took advantage of the strikingly low cruise ticket prices in the weeks that followed. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to vacation this way.
Visiting Theme Parks
Each state will have its own guidelines for re-opening theme parks. David Miller, an analyst with Imperial Capital, told The Hollywood Reporter that it's "a two-step process with getting consumers comfortable with going back to the parks" — meaning people have to be comfortable with both getting on a plane and with visiting the parks themselves.
To Beach or Not to Beach?
The U.S. coastline is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and visiting beaches remains one of the more popular summertime activities. With each state beginning to implement specific restrictions, any traveler with the beach as a final destination should observe all CDC guidelines for washing hands, covering their face and practicing social distancing.
Another popular vacation activity is visiting one of the many engaging, fascinating museums across the country, whether in your hometown or as a road-trip destination. Some museums may remain closed, even as states ease social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Museums are crucial for learning about culture and history — but aren’t helpful when it comes to avoiding contaminated surfaces and staying 6 feet away from other people.
Visiting National Parks
National parks are also popular vacation spots for locals and tourists alike. Visiting a national park might seem like a good idea — after all, you’ll be outdoors. But the National Park Service remains steadfast in its COVID-19 response. According to the NPS, "The safety and health of NPS employees, visitors, partners, volunteers and resources remains our top priority."
Eating at Restaurants on the Road
As mentioned, road travelers should stock up on non-perishable items to bring along on the drive before heading out on vacation. If you must travel by air, buying food at a supermarket at your final destination is best for optimal social distancing. But not every traveler can avoid restaurants for the duration of a trip.
Stopping at Gas Stations
Filling up the tank is unavoidable on a road trip. With gas prices so low, it's tempting not to take full advantage of the great deals you can find. But gas stations can be perfect locations for the spread of COVID-19. Gas pump handles and payment keypads are potential sources of contact transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Attending Sporting Events
The WHO has developed guidelines for what it considers mass gatherings, which the CDC defines as "planned or spontaneous event[s] with a large number of people in attendance that could strain the planning and response resources of a community hosting the event, such as a...sporting event."
4th of July Celebrations
There's nothing more American than the 4th of July, and Independence Day celebrations define the summer for many Americans. There's no telling what conditions will be like at the beginning of July. But planning for a community barbecue at a public park or beach goes against CDC recommendations.
Concerts and Similar Gatherings
Concerts might be the riskiest example of a mass gathering, as shows put hundreds or even thousands of people within inches of each other. People can avoid each other to a higher degree at beaches and 4th of July celebrations. But at concerts, touching other people can be unavoidable. Not to mention, all of that saliva comes out when people are singing along to their favorite tunes.
Interstate travel is what makes a road trip around the United States something really magical. Plus, our Constitution guarantees us the right to enter one state and leave another, barring some exceptions, so an interstate road trip can feel like an expression of our liberty.
Intrastate travel (within the same state) carries the same burden as traveling between states. The CDC says that traveling increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. Although people are allowed to travel around their states at the moment, it’s important to ensure that each traveler washes their hands often and avoids touching public surfaces as much as possible.
Travel to Mexico
The WHO has updated recommendations for international travel. Many world travelers already made international travel plans before the pandemic, and that’s one reason why it's essential to keep up to date with what's going on globally. Mexico, for example, has seen relatively slow growth in coronavirus cases.
Travel to Canada
As of early May 2020, Canada reported over 60,000 cases of COVID-19, and new cases have been confirmed daily. As with visiting any country, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Canada. Our northern neighbor also put in place travel restrictions for visitors.
Travel to the United Kingdom
As with many countries, the CDC recommends travelers avoid all non-essential travel to the United Kingdom. The UK has over 200,000 active cases of COVID-19 as of early May 2020. Even if it's okay to travel to the United Kingdom from the United States, it’s critical to be aware of the restrictions UK citizens face.
Travel to Australia
Australia and New Zealand have been two of the more successful countries when it comes to handling the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s been common for Australia to report new cases that are only in the low double digits each day. But it doesn't mean that it's socially responsible for people in other countries to make trips Down Under.
Travel to Italy
Italy has been experiencing one of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks per capita. Postponing any plans to visit Italy this summer is a good idea. As expected, the CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to Italy until further notice.
Travel to China
China has begun reporting fewer coronavirus cases, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to hop on a plane and visit Tiananmen Square. And again, if you’re returning to the United States from China, you’ll need to be screened at one of the 13 approved airports.
Returning From International Travel
The CDC has put together a list of after-travel precautions for citizens who are heading abroad. The first thing it asks people to do is to stay home for 14 days to self-quarantine from the time they arrive home. During this time, the website advises people to take these steps to monitor their health and practice social distancing.
Alternative Travel Plans
Perhaps the best thing for everyone to do is make alternative travel plans this year. It's a difficult decision considering that most people have been stuck inside for a few months already. But taking an extra year could have immeasurable benefits.
General Guidelines for Travel
Deciding to postpone a trip might not be feasible if it’s something essential. If you must travel, the CDC recommends a period of self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return home. Continue to monitor your health and practice social distancing.