With COVID-19, my travel plans for 2020 went down the drain. The thought of traveling made me feel a slew of emotions: discomfort, excitement and anxiety. I found that the anxiety and discomfort pieces were secondary to planning for all the unknown variables. The thought of staying healthy during this time was one of the most important and stressful things. So it was time to look at the research.
We looked up what the CDC recommended, which was a huge help. We then found that Dr. Emily Oster started a website, COVID Explained, that focuses on the current research related to COVID hot topics by a team of researchers and students at Brown, MIT and Harvard. Along with looking at what the research said, we called lodging places and restaurants to see what precautions were currently being implemented, looked up the COVID cases in the cities that we wanted to travel to, talked to locals in the cities to see what their community was like and interviewed individuals that decided to travel during the pandemic.
As a cardiologist-cardiac electrophysiologist and a speech-language pathologist and travel blogger, we want to share our experiences of planning safe travel during COVID to help you plan your next road trip. As you read about our experience and our recommendations for precautions to take, please keep in mind that everyone is different and the best things to do when it comes to traveling is to use evidence-based information, pray about your upcoming trip, give yourself time to plan for all the unknown variables and then go with your gut. Let’s dive in!
My travel experience
My first experience traveling during COVID was to St. Paul, Arkansas in August 2020. My husband and I traveled with another couple two days, canoeing 6 miles down the Buffalo River, hiking and glamping.
We requested our cabins to be unoccupied 24 hours prior to arrival, and for check in/out, the owners gave us a passcode so we didn’t have to be in contact with anyone. We packed Clorox wipes, Lysol disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, soap (both hand and dish soap), thieves household cleaner, paper towels, disposable masks, gloves and fabric masks enough for the trip. We wiped down the cabin upon arrival.
We wanted to be extra careful so we packed our own food, including meat for hamburger patties and breakfast burritos, eggs, bread, milk, lots of snacks and most importantly, my Nespresso machine — gotta have my coffee!
For gas stops, we only made two stops roundtrip driving from Dallas, used seat covers in gas station bathrooms and wore gloves for pumping gas. We took our masks hiking and on our canoe trip. After arriving back to Dallas, we quarantined for 14 days and monitored our symptoms.
As you are planning a road trip during a pandemic, here are my top precautions to take:
❤️ Hand hygiene: wash hands frequently, and if soap isn’t available, sanitize
❤️ Wear a mask
❤️ Social distance: 6 feet apart as much as you can
❤️ Pack your own toilet seat covers, and toilet paper, in case you have to use the bathroom at a gas station or restaurant
❤️ Avoid large crowds: if you can travel on weekdays, restaurants and hotspots will be less crowded than on weekends.
❤️ Dining: use drive-thru or curbside pick up instead of dine-in
❤️ Lodging: request a space that hasn’t be occupied for at least 24 hours and wipe down the space upon arrival
❤️ Gas stops: use gloves to pump gas
Alaa Khalil is a Texas-based speech-language pathologist and travel blogger @thetravelinghijabista. Dr. Hafiza Khan is a UCLA & Harvard trained cardiologist-cardiac electrophysiologist in Texas @heart.beat.doctor.