Traveling during the Corona pandemic isn't the same as it was before all of this began. Globe Aware volunteers must be prepared with the right essentials to stay safe and prevent any further spread of the virus.
Traveling this summer?
These 12 things will keep you safe and comfortable
June 17, 2020
As states lift their stay-at-home orders after months of quarantine, more and more people are beginning to venture out. But they aren't just heading to the grocery store or the gym—some people are starting to travel again, as well.
Whether it be for business or pleasure, traveling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic isn't the same as it was before all of this began. Not only are airports, airlines, and other public transportation companies instituting new rules and cleaning procedures, but travelers themselves must also be prepared with the right essentials to stay safe and prevent any further spread of the virus.
If you have plans to travel in the near future, we've rounded up 12 things to help you stay safe and comfortable. Our advice comes from guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advice from experts, and even suggestions from people who have already been traveling amid the pandemic. From the necessary face mask you'll need to wear from point A to point B to products that will help you sanitize your hotel room, these are the things to take with you on your next trip.
1. A face mask
The CDC advises people to wear a cloth face-covering whenever they are out in public—including while traveling—to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. To help you find a fabric face mask that's still in stock (they've been constantly selling out), we've compiled a list of 55 places you can buy face masks online right now. Some of the most popular picks include Nordstrom's new basic black masks, Anthropologie's pretty patterned masks, or the plethora of homemade options available on Etsy.
2. Hand sanitizer
While washing your hands is the best way to keep yourself (and those around you) safe, if you don't have access to soap or water, the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol before and after using public places or eating food. Since hand sanitizer has been so popular and selling out everywhere, our experts have spent the last few months tracking where you can still buy it online, including retailers like Amazon and Ulta. Tip: New TSA rules allow you to bring hand sanitizer in bottles up to 12 ounces (previously 3) through airport security.
3. Disinfecting wipes or spray
A pack of disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray will come in handy while you travel. You can use them to wipe down public surfaces before you touch them (like an airport check-in screen or the armrests of your plane seat) and to thoroughly sanitize your hotel room or rental home when you first arrive. While disinfectant wipes are hard to come by and are sold out at many retailers, our staff has been diligently tracking (and continuously updating) where you can still buy wipes and spray online, including places like Amazon and Target. The CDC recommends using a cleaner that's at least 70 percent alcohol, if possible.
Tissues are a great thing to have on hand during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when you're traveling. While you can use them to sneeze or cough into (avoiding your hands), you can also use them to pick up or touch items that tend to be havens for bacteria (like hotel room TV remotes). You can find one of our experts' favorite tissues, Puffs Plus Lotion, in travel form at Walmart with these convenient to-go packs that are perfect for tossing in your bag.
5. Reusable snack bags
Whether you're flying, driving, or taking the train, whenever you're traveling during the pandemic, the less public things you touch, the better. That includes trying to cut down on the number of stops you make or shops you have to go into. Some travelers suggest packing your own snacks to carry rather than going into a gas station store or touching the buttons on a vending machine. We recommend using these Lunchskins reusable sandwich bags (which are the best ones our experts have tested) because they're environmentally-friendly and will keep your food fresh for longer.
6. Disposable gloves
While the CDC says that gloves aren't necessary for everyday use (even when you're out in public), they do recommend wearing disposable gloves when cleaning. And if you plan to sanitize your hotel room or wipe down your plane seat or even the interior of your car when you're traveling, you might want to pack some gloves to wear while doing so. Our experts are constantly updating this list of where you can buy disposable gloves online, including Amazon and Walmart.
7. A portable charger
Dealing with a dead phone when traveling is never convenient—but it's even more of a struggle during the times of COVID-19. People may be hesitant to let you borrow their phone or charger, and trying to find (or sanitize) a public phone can be difficult. To prevent yourself from running into that problem, pack a portable charger in your bag. We've tested some of the top ones available and found the Jackery Bolt to be the best in terms of compact design and charging power (it can even charge multiple devices at once). While the larger 10,500mAh Bolt is currently sold out, you can still get the slightly lower-capacity 6,000mAH Bolt on Amazon.
8. Bottled water
Even if water fountains happen to be open at the airport (many airports have opted to close public drinking fountains) or at a rest stop, the buttons can be a hotspot for bacteria. Avoid having to use the public fountain by traveling with your own bottled water. You can buy bottled water in bulk to pack in a cooler if you're going on a road trip or, if you're flying, buy a bottle at one of the airport convenience stores (this will also prevent you from having to sip from the cups provided during in-flight service).
9. A travel pillow
If you're expecting to be handed a pillow and blanket on your next long flight, don't be surprised when neither are available. When the coronavirus pandemic first began, many airlines decided to stop offering blankets and pillows to passengers as a safety precaution. Instead, carry a lightweight travel pillow with you to stay comfortable on your flight. Of all the ones we've tested, we prefer the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow because it provides the best all-around comfort and neck support thanks to its plush memory foam.
10. A lightweight blanket
Just like pillows, blankets will no longer be provided on many airlines. Not only that, but some experts also advise you to be wary of using the blankets or bedspreads at a hotel or rental home. That's why bringing a travel-friendly blanket with you is a smart choice. This micro plush one has hundreds of glowing reviews because it's super soft and packs up neatly into a case that even comes with a luggage clip and belt so you can carry it completely hands-free.
11. A travel mug
If you don't feel comfortable drinking out of the cups provided at your hotel or rental accommodation (or even the cups from a restaurant), bring your own travel mug with you. That way you'll know that you're the only one who has used it and you can keep it clean as you go. Our favorite travel mug here at Reviewed is the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug because it's durable and portable and kept our coffee piping hot for up to 24 hours (!!).
12. A phone sanitizer
Even if you clean your hands regularly and try to avoid touching things when out in public, your phone is still a bacteria hotspot (think of all the places you've put it down!). Keep it germ-free on the go with PhoneSoap's travel phone sanitizer. Our senior scientist tested out PhoneSoap in Reviewed's labs and found that it was incredibly effective at killing bacteria. Plus, it only takes six minutes and can be used for more than just your phone (like your keys and credit cards). While PhoneSoap is currently sold out, you can prer-order your sanitizer now and it will ship before July TK.
As lock down restrictions are eased in many countries, borders are being opened up again too. Many countries rely heavily on travelers during the summer therefore it is vital for the economy to get tourists vacationing back in their country again.
Where can I travel this summer? Countries open for tourism
June 15, 2020
The coronavirus has forced several countries to close borders and airline companies to ground flights but what countries can I travel to this summer?
The coronavirus continues to spread in some areas of the world and is fluctuating in others from week to week. As lockdown restrictions are eased in many cities and countries, borders are being opened up again too. Many countries rely heavily on tourism during the summer with Spain, for example, relying on the tourism industry for €159 billion a year and 2.65 million jobs. Therefore, it is seen as pertinent to the health of the economy to get tourists back into the country.
According to the New York Times, “Approximately 100 million travel sector jobs have been eliminated or will be.” They say passenger travel is down 95% compared to last year and loss of revenue are expected to be more than $300 billion. In the middle of the first wave of coronavirus, it was believed all summer holidays would be cancelled, but things have changed rapidly since then. It is now seen as 'under control' in some countries.
The European Commission wants its members to come together to provide a list of non-EU countries where Europeans can travel to from 1 July. With infection rates and cases changing by the week, this list will be reviewed regularly based on how the country is responding to the virus.
There are fears that with countries in the EU containing the virus for now, opening back up the borders could cause a second wave and so they will handle the situation with extreme care. One of the criteria for making it on to the list of non-EU countries will be that the country has an epidemiological situation that is similar to the E.U. average and where sufficient capabilities to deal with the virus are in place.
Ylva Johansson, European Home Affairs Commissioner explains: "As travelers entering the E.U. can move freely from one country to another, it is crucial that member states coordinate their decisions on lifting travel restrictions.”
With people confined to their homes and neighborhoods for the last number of months, many are now planning holidays.
Which countries are open amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Spain will open its borders on 1 July. The virus is considered to be under control and the Balearic Islands have been chosen as a place to launch a ‘pilot project’ to make sure the protocols for foreigners visiting are in place and functional. According to El País, 33,500 people entered Spain in May but that number is set to explode once the borders open back up.
A detailed list of every European country travel restrictions can be found here. Politico explain restrictions, planned re-opening dates, quarantine rules and rules for non-European travelers.
Antigua, the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Lucia are open already. Meanwhile, Jamaica opens up again on 15 June and the Bahamas and Bermuda will open on 1 July. Aruba will open up again on 10 July.
Japan, Vietnam and Singapore have not yet announced when they will re-open their borders but Bali is reportedly considering October as a date to lift border shutdowns.
The US have banned certain countries from landing passenger flights including China, Iran, the European Schengen Area, United Kingdom (including Ireland) and Brazil. Arriving from other countries will see you spend 14 days in quarantine. The same is true for Canada and the US - Canda border remains closed to non-essential travel until 21 June.
Mexico is opening state by state, and Quintana Roo (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum) opened this week. It has, however, been named as one of the seven international coronavirus hotspots. Mexico has seen almost 150,000 cases and over 17,000 deaths so far due to the virus.
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Peru remain closed and Colombia will not allow passenger flights to land until at least the end of August. South America is currently seeing rising cases and these dates might change depending on the number of family and weekly average cases. Argentina will not allow passenger flights to land until the end of September.
Globe Aware volunteer recognized for community service will share in a Lions Club scholarship as she prepares to attend Duke University.
Saratoga Lions Club Awards 2020 Scholarships
THURSDAY, 11 JUNE 2020
BY SARATOGA TODAY
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs Lions Club Scholarship Committee proudly presents $32,500 in academic awards to seven Saratoga Springs High School Seniors. All seven seniors are pursuing four-years + in academic programs with diverse fields of study.
It is disappointing that the annual Lions awards luncheon was unable to be held this June, however, we are anxious to share these students and the honor they receive for their hard work and perseverance during this difficult senior year.
FIRST ANNUAL LIONS FOUNDATION - JACK BERKOWITZ MEMORIAL $10,000 SCHOLARSHIP
Duke University/Chemistry - Pre-Med.
First in the class of 2020, she has received multiple awards and honors for her excellence in scholarship, high character, music (violin) and athletic (tennis) competition. Elizabeth’s community service was at home in Saratoga’s food pantries programs, in class leadership and government roles and abroad in Ghana and Peru as a Globe Aware volunteer. Elizabeth received the highest ranking score of all twenty-seven applicants to receive this scholarship award.
$5000 FOUR -YEAR ACADEMIC PROGRAM AWARDS: THREE AWARDEES
Siena College/Business - Advanced Regents Diploma.
Volunteer work for Special Olympics, Lions Stars Skating, Best Buddies (5 yrs) provided Trinity with leadership skills to be selected for International conferences for Special Olympics both state and national. Channel 13 recognized her as a Kid who Cares for her outstanding community achievement.
College of William and Mary Williamsburg - International Relations.
Leadership as the Leos Club Vice President for 2 years with organization and participation in the club activities as well as community work with her church, the Saratoga Library Book Buddies program, her work ethic and varsity sports provided Megan with this award.
Siena College/ Biology - Pre-Med Track with the goal of ER Doctor.
As Leo Club President with dedication to the growth and development of the Leos Club through leading by example, as well as her work ethic, giving to her community through her favorite ,The Skating Stars- A Lions Club Program, Claire clearly demonstrated her Lionism.
$2500 FOUR-YEAR ACADEMIC PROGRAM AWARDS: TWO AWARDEES
Roberts Wesleyan College/ Engineering
3+2 dual degree program with RIT Christian is praised in his references for his leadership, positivity, respect and as a team player. He is an avid cross country, track and field athlete and will be running for RWC. As a young entrepreneur, he developed and managed a lawn business and his volunteer work in the community with Food pantries, Adopt a Soldier, Best Buddies and the Marine Biology Club speak to Lionism.
University of Notre Dame/ Physics.
NHS Blood Drive Coordinator, Franklin Community Center,Turkey Trot speak to community as well as Honduras on a medical mission. Exceptional work ethic, communication and organizational skills and her determination to discover medical techniques through shadowing experiences are just a taste of her success.
$2500 LEOS CLUB SCHOLARSHIP - AWARDED TO A SENIOR CLUB MEMBER
University of South Carolina / Public Health.
Participation in all of the club activities and helping to bring awareness of the club and its mission to the underclassman was McClaren’s strength. Leadership, organization and involvement: what all Lions strive to accomplish.
Something New Is Here!
Racism, like in many other sectors of society, has been built into the travel industry. Globe Aware, a nonprofit that specializes in volunteer vacations, takes their responsibility to be anti-racist seriously.
How the Travel Industry Can Do Its Part in the Fight Against Racism
JUNE 02, 2020
One of the first features I wrote about the subject of race and racism in the travel industry, a travel executive reached out to me to ask me who or what had made me so angry to write the piece. As a brown woman of color, he was essentially inferring that I was an “angry brown woman,” a stereotype that has long been used to highlight women of color who discuss controversial topics such as racism.
To say that I wasn’t surprised by his reaction is accurate. The travel industry tends to think of itself as a space of leisure, fun, and escape where such things like racism are left behind for good times. The problem is, for black individuals and people of color, escaping racism is not something they can do by taking a vacation. Racism, like in many other sectors of society, has been built into the travel industry, both knowingly and unknowingly.
It’s the travel industry’s responsibility to do something about it.
I can showcase the pervasiveness of racism in the travel industry through study after study, through anecdotes of racial attacks on planes and racial biases in hotels or cruises. I can provide interviews with black men and women and people of color who share stories of harassment in various destinations, even those by travel agents like Alfred W. who told me, “I get looks all the time when I travel. I'm a 6' 6" 270 lbs. black male and when I enter a room/resort lobby/airplane/restaurant, I see it on some of the faces. You should see the looks of shock I get when I sit down in first-class seating.”
I’ve provided travelers of color, travel agents of color, and travel industry leaders of color a space to share their experiences through my articles, but it has not been enough to dismantle systems of racism in the travel industry. As we watch the Black Lives Movement work to topple racism in our justice and law enforcement systems through protests, it’s a good time to consider how the travel industry can do their part to fight racism.
The travel industry is trying to rebuild their companies after a devastating blow from the pandemic, making it the most opportune time to reevaluate how the travel industry has done business in the past, and creatively work toward a future in which the travel industry can be better.
I don’t have all the answers, but whether you’re a travel agent, tour guide, the owner of a hotel or airline company, the captain of a cruise ship, working in travel PR, or a travel employee in between, please read how the travel industry can fight racism.
The first thing the travel industry must do is recognize racism, and accept that we all have biases and blind spots. I have it, you have it. We all have it.
I once asked a group of travel agents: “How do you best serve travelers of color? How could you serve them better if you’ve yet to try to connect with them?”
The responses I received were eye-opening and I wrote about them in an article: “Many agents were uncomfortable with the question, stating things like, ‘My agency doesn't base service on a particular 'color,' we service everyone.’ Others, in some form or another, said they ‘don’t see color’—a well-meaning response meant to indicate they're not racist, but inadvertently meaning they don’t recognize that systems of racism exist and that they don't ‘see’ that the experiences of people of color are different. Some agents turned it around on me, claiming I was biased and my question inappropriate.”
The clear discomfort that these travel agents had speaking about race only highlighted that people in the travel industry would rather ignore that racism exists in the industry than do something about it. Start by accepting that racism is here; it is in your company and it affects travelers. Don’t ignore it, don’t attack people of color or others who point it out. Sit in those feelings, accept it, and know you’re not alone on this learning journey.
Inform Yourself About Racism in the Travel Industry and Beyond
If we don’t know what racism looks like in the travel industry, how then can we fight it? Racism in the travel industry is no longer overt, such as in the 1950s when hotels refused black travelers a place to stay. Rather, racism has been built into the travel industry through a lack of equal opportunity, travel technology, poorly designed customs and immigration systems, and ignorance about the experiences of people of color.
You can inform yourself as to what racism looks like in the travel industry by reading articles and studies related to racism on TravelPulse and other outlets, as well as memoirs written by black travelers and travelers of color like Maureen Stone’s Black Woman Walking and Amanda Epe’s Fly Girl, a memoir written by a black female flight attendant. Consult sites like Travel Noire, a digital media company serving African Diaspora travelers.
Better yet, hire a consultant within the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) Industry to assist your travel company. They’ll develop courses and sessions about unconscious bias within your company and services. They’re equipped to lead small and large groups on conversations about racism, how to be an ally to people of color, set up systems in place to stop microaggressions that people of color experience within the company, and more.
It Starts From the Top
Dismantling systems of racism and inequality start at the top of a travel company. When travel company owners and CEOs don’t recognize that racism exists, it’s much harder to fight against.
On June 1, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO and chairman Richard Fain sent a message to his employees discussing racism in the travel industry. He pointed out: “Racism is chronic, a condition of the system that has afflicted us for centuries. And like any chronic condition, we can never stop fighting it, or it will overwhelm us.”
I was glad to see him discuss white privilege and the consequences of racism left unchecked: “At the end of the day, it is still much harder to be a person of color in America than it is to be white. We can go months trying to tell ourselves otherwise; then there is yet another episode like George Floyd's to remind us of the hard reality.”
Fain noted that Royal Caribbean’s Employee Resource Groups would be leading the way on virtual discussions of racism within the company and that they are “evaluating philanthropic partners who are demonstrating an ability to mobilize for change on this subject.”
As a white male CEO, Fain’s words to his employees create an environment in which promotes conversations of race and racism within the company. This is extremely important: if your company does not discuss racism, the likelihood of the company improving the experiences of black travelers, travelers of color, or black employees and employees of color are minimal.
Diversify Your Travel Company
One of the most effective ways the travel industry can fight racism is to diversify their staff and employ people of color at the highest levels of that company.
I had the opportunity to speak with Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, who spoke to this: “As both an African American and a woman – one who came of age in the very heart of the white and male-dominated 1950’s and 60’s – I’ve spent my entire life working and fighting, often against the longest of odds, to gain even the smallest toehold on the American Dream.”
“It is our obligation [as hospitality leaders] to continue to elevate the curious, intelligent, inspiring leaders of the black community and remove the preconceived notion of what that looks like in hospitality.”
Sheila Johnson is the CEO and Founder of a luxury hotel management property chain, Salamander Hotels & Resorts. (photo via Sheila Johnson)
She added: “There needs to be a recognition that people of diverse backgrounds bring forth new ideas and experiences and look at life from a different perspective. It is the only way we are going to evolve the industry and make an impact.”
“Change truly starts at the top, and at Salamander Hotels and Resorts, it begins with me.”
More Representation in Sales and Marketing
Look through your marketing materials and travel ads from the past five years: who do you see? Do the people you use in your travel branding look the same? How many people of color are clearly visible? Count them.
If you want to make your travel company more inclusive of people of color, you must provide visible representation across your sales and marketing plan. Not only does this mean showcasing black families traveling, solo Muslim travelers, groups of Asian and Latinx friends, and interracial couples on romantic trips, but this also includes hiring writers and editors of color to shape the messages in your ads, social media, branding copy, etc.
Make a Plan to Fight Racism
Travel companies know that the first step to success is a good plan. So, make one to fight racism. It might look like this:
Create an anti-racism committee of diverse employees who will lead the fight against racism within your company and through the services provided to travelers. Have this committee remove racial bias in job descriptions and create policies that allow employees to call out and discuss racial bias and racism in company meetings and policies.
Committee, teamwork, company
Have them create a mentorship program that helps people of color move up in the ranks of the company. Urge your recruiters and hiring managers to look for diverse candidates, at historically black colleges and through groups that uplift people of color. And encourage your committee to create opportunities and events for open dialogues and the exchange of new ideas to fight racism.
For small companies or solo entrepreneurs, analyze your travel services. Are they inclusive of diverse groups of people? Does your branding promote unconscious bias? Are you sensitive to the needs to travelers of color or supporting travel companies that fight racism and promote diversity?
If you see racism occur, whether systematically, subtly, or overtly, call it out. Bring it to the attention of your managers and human resources department. If you don’t feel like your travel company is doing enough to fight racism, gather coworkers for support and approach management with an idea for a committee against racism.
You have power and you have a voice, even at the lowest levels of a travel company, to fight against racism. It’s up to you who work in the travel industry to fight racism from within so that everyone can enjoy the joys of traveling equally.
To Sum it Up…
I’m amazed at what travel companies will do to help their customers. I’ve seen airport employees search planes for lost stuffed toys to bring joy to a child, travel agents move mountains to get their clients a new hotel when the initial one cancels their reservations unexpectedly, and hotel managers craft elaborate surprises to bring cheer to their guests.
I want to see that same enthusiasm, creative thinking, and teamwork among the travel industry to fight racism.
As your employees, company, destination, or industry works hard to make your service or place safe for travelers again after the pandemic, I’d urge you to take on racism now. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Not five years in the future. Now.
The Camino del Mayab is the first long-distance trail in Mexico with a network of 130 kilometers of trails developed in conjunction with 13 Mayan communities seeking to develop to improve their quality of life. The Camino del Mayab is a path similar to the more famous trail that exists in Spain called Camino de Santiago. The area is known for its natural beauty and hospitable communities of the Yucatan peninsula. The project highlights the cultural and historical legacy of Yucatan, taking its visitors through fascinating towns, haciendas, and cenotes south of the city of Merida.
This is the perfect program for the volunteer with a sense of adventure and desire to connect with local community members.
The objective of the Camino del Mayab is to generate direct benefits for the people of the communities that make up the Camino del Mayab. The main point is to grow tourism regenerative in these areas, and that women, men and young people may have opportunities for growth in guidance services, food, lodging, transportation, and many more.
During the program travelers will be able to live like locals, participating in life activities daily such as beekeeping, handicrafts, cornfield work, tending to livestock, and more.
There are three main problems that we work to eradicate: Social Inequality; Species Extinction; and Environmental Destruction.
It is estimated that when this project is in its fifth year of operation, it will generate benefits direct to 360 indigenous people; of which 216 will be women and 72 young people.
The conservation of the area of the Camino del Mayab is the most important for the recharge of the aquifer that supplies the City of Merida, so environmental protection is vital to the area. During the program different activities will be carried out on rural construction, cleaning of trails, sanitation of areas, agricultural work, rehabilitation of schools and environmental and animal conservation. Everything will depend on the needs of the community at the time the group travels.
Our Mexico program runs on a Monday-Sunday itinerary. Days 1-4 will be spent in the communities of Camindo del Mayab working on a variety of projects most mornings. Leisure and cultural activities are generally scheduled for the late afternoons/evenings. The last day of the program (departure day) will be a free day of sorts, though our coordinator will be happy to recommend places for you to visit during the day and often tag along with you. Regardless, they will be back around to transport you back to the airport in time for your flight home.
While volunteers will have the opportunity to walk along the path to various sites, the predominant mode of transportation will be by vehicle from community to community.
Food and Lodging
Accommodations will vary depending on the community that you are volunteering in. The first four days of community work you will be housed in either camping areas and/or homes of locals of the communities. On the fifth day volunteers will be transported to the City of Merida and stay in a mid-range hotel in the city center. Volunteers activities will take place in nearby communities in the morning on this day and the evening will be spent exploring the city with our coordinators. All meals are provided for the duration of your program. Keep in mind that while in the communities outside of Merida, accommodations will be rustic and simple. If camping, tents, sleeping bags and often a mattress pad are provided. In the homestays, the bedding is simple and probably not as plush as you are accustomed to back home. Washing facilities will vary in amenities based on location.
Leisure and Activities
This program offers a truly immersive experience for the volunteer. Not only will you have the chance to spend quality time with local coordinators and guides, but also take meals and participate and various duties and activities with community members as well while staying in a homestay. There are various unique archeological sites, biodiversity zones, and spectacular nature walks along the trail. Visits to archeological sites are included in the price of the program. Coordinators will arrange a variety of team/community activities ranging from bonfires to cookouts to team games.
Arranging your airfare
Volunteers should plan to arrive at the Merida International Airport the day your program begins. You will be picked up directly from the airport and transported to your accommodations. On the last day of the program you will be transported to the airport in accordance with your departure time.
Safety and Security
No vaccinations are required but you should always check with your personal doctor. There are nearby clinics and hospitals within an hour’s drive of the communities if needed. Additionally, there is a paramedic with the group that can tend to minor injuries or illness. Volunteers will travel as a team with Globe aware personnel. Please contact our office for any needs or concerns regarding safety on the ground.
Travel is slowly starting up again and people locked down for months want to go out, whether its a road trip or international volunteer vacation. Learn how you can safely explore the world without endangering yourself or others.
Is it safe to travel now? It depends.
Here are the best practices for getting on the road without endangering your health—or anyone else’s.
BY JOHANNA READ
PUBLISHED MAY 28, 2020
ALTHOUGH MANY RESTRICTIONS are still in place, travel is slowly starting up again. People locked down for months want to stretch their legs, see something other than a screen, and boost the economy. Restaurants and some tourist attractions (Florida’s Universal Orlando Resort, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) are opening for local and domestic travel. A few countries (Greece, Italy) are starting to welcome international travelers.
But how can you safely explore a world of potentially deadly encounters with friendly people who might infect you (or who you might expose to the virus)? Is the airplane really a soaring petri dish? Is visiting a national park possible while social distancing? And if you choose a seemingly safer road trip, can you stop to use a public restroom?
A poll by National Geographic and Morning Consult finds that just 2 percent of 2,200 Americans said they’d jump on a plane now, and only another 8 percent would consider it later this summer. That’s wise with travel advisories still in place, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warnings against international travel and cautions about travel within the U.S., and with many countries and states (Maine, Hawaii) still requiring 14 days of post-travel self-isolation regardless of symptoms.
As we recently report, travel planning is good for your mental health. Knowing more about real and perceived COVID-19 risks might help you feel better about getting out as roadblocks lift. Here are best practices for travelers.
Should I get on an airplane?
Challenge: Being crammed next to strangers in a flying metal tube
Best practice: It’s reassuring to know that “data to date suggest only rare possible occurrences of in-flight transmission” of COVID-19, says Dr. Lin H. Chen, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of Cambridge’s Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn. She explains that if everyone follows the World Health Organization’s guidelines, the risk of transmission aboard planes, and anywhere else, is significantly reduced.
A plastic drape covers an airline check-in counter at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on March 27, 2020. Barriers like this between workers and travelers are meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
PHOTOGRAPH BY REMKO DE WAAL, AFP/GETTY IMAGES
“Many people think they get sick on an airplane, but the reality is that the air quality on an airplane is actually really good—high amounts of clean outdoor air and all recirculated air passes through a HEPA filter,” says Joe Allen. An assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Allen explains that you’re more likely to pick up a bug standing in line at airport security, at the boarding gate, or on the subway.
Airports and airlines are trying to minimize the risks of contagions in their often-crowded environments. Intensive cleaning is now the norm; planes are now being fogged with electrostatic disinfectant that sticks to surfaces like seatbelts. Some airlines give you wipes and the Transportation Security Administration has upped the size of hand sanitizer bottles you can bring on board from 3.4 ounces to 12.
Face coverings are required to board most flights. Airlines are trying to seat people so they have more space. But that doesn’t necessarily mean middle seats are remaining empty, especially with reductions in numbers of flights. There’s no national U.S. policy yet, but several airlines are checking for fevers. They won’t let you fly with a temperature above 100.4℉ (though testing is far from foolproof).
Internationally, some destinations require proof of a negative COVID-19 test; other destinations test passengers on arrival. Many have mandatory 14-day quarantines, sometimes requiring you to submit a quarantine plan for approval, download an app, or get a tracking bracelet to ensure you follow the rules. Vaccination certification may eventually be needed for travel, but so far the science doesn’t support “immunity passports” or proof that a person has had COVID-19 and is, in theory, immune.
Should I head to a national park?
Challenge: Avoiding big crowds in the great outdoors
Best practice: “There are many health benefits to being outside in nature, and the risks are low and manageable,” says Allen. The key is keeping a six-foot distance. A good practice at a park is to pretend that other people are grizzly bears and stay away from them.
Check the National Park Service’s find-a-park website to see if the park is closed or partially closed (restrooms and food services, in particular), for limits on numbers of visitors, and other rules like mask-wearing. Avoid group activities that involve close contact and practice social distancing at camp sites. Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, reminds us that “summer is tick and mosquito season,” so don’t forget your bug spray and sunscreen (though perhaps a face-mask tan will become a badge of honor that you’re doing your part to protect others).
(Related: Learn how COVID closures are impacting the small town bordering Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.)
Should I rent a cottage by the sea?
Challenge: Assessing the safety of beaches and vacation rentals
Best practice: Like park trips, seaside vacations are great if you can stay away from others and obey beach closure rules. There’s no evidence you can catch COVID-19 from the water (it’s other people you should be concerned about). Remember to bring your two best beach friends: reef-safe sunscreen free of oxybenzone and hand sanitizer.
A woman sunbathes in a roped-off social-distancing zone on the beach in La Grande Motte in southern France.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CLEMENT MAHOUDEA, AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Regarding rentals, ask whether properties are cleaned according to public health guidelines, such as the WHO’s accommodation sector advice. Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Initiative includes a 24- to 72-hour vacancy period between guests (though cleaners may visit during that window), but it’s likely unnecessary given evidence that the coronavirus floats in the air only up to three hours. Since it’s possible for the virus to live on surfaces for two or three days, you could give high-touch surfaces an extra clean. As Chen says, “good hand washing should overcome potentially contaminated touching.” If anxiety outweighs the benefits of a vacation, it’s a sign you’re not ready to venture out yet.
Should I stay in a hotel?
Challenge: Distancing safely and trusting housekeeping
Best practice: Hotels that take better care of their employees (by providing them with personal protective equipment and paid sick leave) are more likely to take better care of you. Check the website of any hotel you’re considering to determine how they’re responding to COVID-19. Many U.S. hotels are following the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s new Safe Stay guidelines.
Choose properties that base their protocols on science, rather than things that sound good but have little effect or take focus away from areas that really matter. Look for hotels that have installed plexiglass at reception and that require staff to wear masks, or where you can check-in online and use your phone as your room key.
(Related: Want to stay healthy on the road? Follow these germ-fighting tips.)
In Pristina, Kosovo, a worker in a protective suit sprays disinfectant in a hotel room to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARMEND NIMANI, AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Avoid elevators and, if able, “take the opportunity to exercise and use the stairs,” advises Sanchez. Room service may be safer than the restaurant. Go for a swim if the pool isn’t crowded: Standard pool cleaning kills viruses, so the pool is probably safe; it’s the people you need to worry about. While clean rooms are important, what’s more important is staying six feet away from others. And, of course, wash your hands when you arrive in your room and again before you leave.
Should I use a public restroom?
Challenge: Taking care of business in busy bathrooms
Best practice: Assume public restrooms “are not properly disinfected and treat surfaces as if they have live virus on them,” says Sanchez. That said, it’s often necessary to use. When you do, choose single-stall and well-ventilated bathrooms if you can, and keep your distance from others.
Chen says that “good hand hygiene is key after using a public bathroom,” meaning wash and dry your hands; if there’s no soap, use hand sanitizer. She adds “I am unaware of any data to show that flushing aerosolizes SARS-CoV-2 and transmits the virus.” Regardless, it’s always good practice to put the lid down before you flush.
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What about people who don’t wear masks?
Challenge: Staying safe while respecting others’ boundaries
Best practice: Following all the new COVID-19 protocols takes some getting used to. It’s easy to revert to pre-pandemic habits in new situations, when we’re stressed, and when we’re trying to relax and have fun. Being as kind and understanding as possible helps minimize stress.
Setting a good example is the best way to encourage others. Jonathon Day, associate professor and graduate program director at Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, says “safety when traveling (and when out and about in general) is a ‘co-creation.’”
“If it’s someone you know who is non-mask-wearing [or] non-social-distancing, it might be worth discussing the reasoning behind these measures,” says Chen. Remember that not everyone can wear a mask and that we’re all human and can forget the new norms. You could politely ask anyone who gets too close “would you mind giving us a bit more space, please?” but it might be easier just to move away from them. It’s likely not worth the risk, or the stress, to confront a stranger. If you can’t escape the situation, ask a store manager or flight attendant for help.
Remember that, with communicable diseases, “if everyone is responsible to themselves and community/society, then we would all be safer,” says Chen.
Know the safety basics
We’re still learning about COVID-19. But one consensus is that it seems to spread most easily by close contact between people. The CDC says that touching objects isn’t the main way of contracting it.
This means that whenever you’re away from home, the most important thing you can do is maintain a six-foot (or more) distance from people you don’t live with. Wearing a face covering also minimizes the chance you’ll pass a virus or other illness to others.
Other key prevention measures, outlined by the World Health Organization and other public health authorities: washing your hands well, avoiding touching your face, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, disinfecting frequently touched items like your phone, and staying home if you’re sick. Practicing these measures keeps you—and everyone else—safer, regardless of how far you roam. “COVID-19 has shown that we have shared responsibilities to reduce spread,” says Chen, who’s president of the International Society of Travel Medicine.
General considerations for travel
During a pandemic, going to the grocery store—let alone traveling to another city or country—requires new protocols. Follow policies about lockdown restrictions and mandatory quarantines, both at home and at your planned destination. The CDC provides links to the rules of each state’s and territory’s health departments. Many international borders remain closed to nonessential travel, and some countries also limit domestic travel between regions.
Examine your personal situation. Extra cautions are needed for anyone at elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. Check post-travel quarantine rules, including your employer’s. Just as important as protecting you and your loved ones is shielding other people. You don’t want to bring the virus from your community, especially to places with low case numbers, or bring it home (the CDC tracks cases and deaths by state and county). Consider whether the benefits of travel outweigh the risk that you might spread the virus.
When deciding where to go and how you’ll get there, scrutinize how easy it will be to stay away from other people. “Generally speaking, driving is going to be safer than flying commercially from an infection standpoint because you can control how you reach your destination—who is sharing the car with you, what measures are used for disinfecting surfaces, where you stop along the way, and when you return,” says Sanchez.
Johanna Read is a Canadian travel and wellness writer and photographer. A former Canadian government policy executive, she worked on issues including pandemic influenza and food safety. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Once Thailand opens to international tourists, they'll likely only be able to visit certain vacation spots. This will be beneficial for both tourists and local residents, Globe Aware will continue to track when volunteer vacations can resume in their Thailand locations as well.
THAILAND REOPENING TO TOURISTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
MAY 29, 2020
The Thailand Tourism Authority has said that tourists will have to wait a few more months before visiting.
The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said that tourism could return in the fourth quarter of this year.
Here is everything you need to know about Thailand reopening to tourists and what to expect when one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world opens their border.
"It is still dependent on the outbreak situation, but I think at the earliest, we may see the return of tourists could be the fourth quarter of this year." Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand told CNN
Even then, there will likely be restrictions on who can visit and where they can go said Yuthasak.
“We are not going to open all at once,” he adds. “We are still on high alert, we just can't let our guards down yet. We have to look at the country of origin [of the travelers] to see if their situation has truly improved. And lastly, we have to see whether our own business operators are ready to receive tourists under the ‘new normal'.”
Similar versions of this strategy are already being looked at in the region — referred to as “tourism bubbles.” Basically, a country will open borders reciprocally with destinations that also have their coronavirus situation under control.
Once Thailand does open to international tourists, they'll likely only be able to visit certain spots, says Yuthasak.
“We have studied a possibility of offering special long-stay packages in isolated and closed areas where health monitoring can be easily controlled — for example, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui. This will be beneficial for both tourists and local residents, since this is almost a kind of quarantine.”
Yuthasak says they're finishing up a framework to restart tourism, but much of the decision-making lies in the hands of the CCSA — the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration — which will decide when is the best time to open the border.
Phuket-based Bill Barnett, managing director of Asia-focused consulting firm C9 Hotelworks, says “baby steps are needed” to reignite international tourism.
“The next step is bilateral agreements between countries,” Yuthasak told CNN.
“Thailand's good standing in the face of the crisis with China, along with strong pent-up demand, make it a logical short-term solution for overseas tourism to return to the Kingdom.”
For now, Thailand isn't taking any chances and the country's borders are firmly shut.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has issued a temporary ban on all international commercial flights into the country until June 30, excluding repatriation flights. The Thais who do return on these flights are put into quarantine facilities for 14 days.
Meanwhile, on May 26, the Thai Cabinet agreed to extend the nationwide state of emergency until June 30.
Thailand has seemingly managed to avoid the ravages of the virus experienced by many other nations around the world.
When this story was published, the country had recorded 3,042 Covid-19 cases and 57 deaths. It's reporting only a handful of new Covid-19 cases each day — occasionally even zero. Instances of local transmissions are low, with most recent Covid-19 infections discovered in quarantined returnees.
Thailand is now focused on reopening to domestic tourism in June, says Yuthasak. Resorts and hotels in some tourism destinations throughout the country have already been given the green light to reopen, including in Hua Hin, a popular beach resort about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Bangkok.
Nationwide lockdown measures put in place in late March have been easing in stages throughout May.
Malls, markets, museums and some tourist attractions have already reopened and more are slated to follow. Bangkok's Grand Palace, for instance, will reopen June 4.
National parks, theme parks, stadiums, spas, massage shops and cinemas remain closed, but local media reports some will likely be given the go-ahead reopen in June.
Restaurants — limited to offering only delivery and take-out services in late March — can now allow customers to dine in but are banned from serving alcohol and must adhere to strict social distancing measures. Pubs and night clubs remain closed, and a curfew is in place from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Local transport networks are increasing services, including rail and bus lines, while airlines are upping the number of domestic flights.
Phuket International Airport, however, remains closed until further notice.
Thailand's most popular tourism island emerged as a coronavirus hotspot in March, facing the highest infection rate per capita out of all of Thailand's 77 provinces.
As a result, Phuket officials imposed strict lockdown measures and embarked on an intensive drive to test residents.
But with cases slowing to a trickle in recent days, embattled travel industry players question the continued closure of the island's airport when the rest of the country is opening to domestic flights.
“The Phuket tourism sector at the moment is sad, stunned, annoyed and dismayed at the lack of a defined plan to reopen the airport,” says Barnett.
“The recent 24-hour notice by CAAT of a sustained closure was a hard pill to swallow for a damaged industry. There is no point to open hotels, while the airport is the trigger for reopening. The vague notice and lack of a clarity on when the airport [will reopen] makes it impossible for businesses to plan forward actions.”
Even with domestic tourism starting to kick off in some provinces, it's only a drop in the bucket.
In 2019, nearly 40 million tourists visited Thailand, according to government data. The TAT estimates only 14 to 16 million will visit this year.
Financially stressed hotels in need of cash flow have already started aggressively selling hotel rooms and vouchers, says Barnett, while also looking to the local market to provide some relief.
“Staycations and road trips are being touted but in a country where tourism represents 12 to 14 percent of the GDP, these small bites are not going to bridge the road to recovery,” he says. “Broader ASEAN bilateral agreements and getting airports open and airlines back in the air is what's needed.”
Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the city's most popular shopping destinations, reopened on May 9. But though Thais and expats have returned, it's simply not enough foot traffic for vendors to make a sustainable living, says shop owner Tassanee Larlitparpaipune.
“International tourists make up about 50 percent of my customer base,” she says. “Most are from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.”
Before the Lunar New Year holiday in January, Tassanee owned four clothing shops at the market. She has since closed two and is now considering shuttering a third and shifting her focus to online orders.
But the Covid-19 pandemic hasn't had completely negative consequences. As seen in other once busy global destinations, Thailand's wildlife has benefited from the global shutdown — particularly marine animals.
Marine biologist Dr. Thon Thammawongsawat says the changes he's witnessed have been remarkable, with animals returning to destinations once crowded with humans.
“For example, pink dugongs were spotted around Ban Pe, in Koh Samet and green turtles laid eggs for the first time in six years at Koh Samui beaches,” he says.
More than 200 of these turtles were born on the secluded beach of the Banyan Tree Samui resort, with three nests hatching between April 4 and 24, according to hotel staff.
Other species of turtles have returned to Thailand's shores to lay eggs, too.
“The most crucial indicator of positive side effects from this crisis is that we've seen leatherback turtles lay eggs in the highest amount since we began recording statistics eight years ago,” says Thon.
“Last year, we recorded that there were about 100 leatherbacks hatched. This year, up until now, there are more than 300 hatched and returned to the sea.”
The country's national parks officials say they hope to preserve some of these gains.
“The department has decided to close national parks — both land and marine parks — every year between two to three months a year,” Sompoch Maneerat, director of information for Thailand's Department of National Parks, tells CNN Travel.
“Durations and dates will be varied depending on the nature of each location. The purpose is to achieve sustainable tourism, where nature can rest during the low season.”
As for popular Maya Bay, where the 2000 movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed, Sompoch says it will remain closed until at least 2021, as the ecosystem has not yet fully recovered to an acceptable level.
The bay has been closed since June 2018 part of a rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area's decimated corals.