Is it possible to travel safely? Find out how you can take that trip without any worries

Published January 14, 2021, 12:39 AM

by Johannes Chua

As much as possible, and I say this with conviction as some of my family members are still sick with the dreaded virusㅡdo not go out of your homes if you don’t have any important matters to attend to. This is also not the time to let your guards down. The worst, as health experts have said, is yet to come, especially with concerns about the efficacy, delivery, and storage of vaccines. . 

Cabin fever, however, is very real. It has been more than 300 days since the lockdown in March 2020. People want to travel, even just to step foot at the nearest mall. Some are even willing to throw caution to the wind just to see the beach or the mountain.  

So, if you really want to travel in the days ahead, no one is stopping you. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the correct precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19. 

The Mayo Clinic has published an extensive guideline for those who are considering travel during the pandemic, listing down precautions on how to protect yourself and those around you.  

Before you travel

The medical center lists down three questions that you should answer first before embarking on that trip.  The questions are as follows, “Is COVID-19 spreading where you live or at your destination?” “Are you at increased risk for severe illness?” “Do you live with someone who is at increased risk for severe illness?”  Any “yes” answer to even one of the questions should be enough reason for you to cancel that trip. Going on with that trip only is not only risky, but foolish as well. 

A week prior travel

Once you are “free” to travel and go to a destination that has no (or low) COVID-19 cases, check first the requirements to enter the province. For easy reference, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has published an online guide, detailing the requirements. 

For destinations that require testing, testing (RT-PCR test is recommended) must be done not only before the trip, but also after the trip (which is neglected by most). The Department of Health (DOH) recommends getting tested one to three days prior to the trip. Keep a copy of your results when you travel. And please, do not fake your test results. It endangers not only your group, but also the community you are about to enter.  

The Mayo Clinic has further advice: “Repeat the test three to five days after your trip. Even if you test negative, reduce non-essential activities for seven days. If you don’t get tested, reduce non-essential activities for 10 days. If, at any point, you test positive, stay at home. Immediately isolate yourself and follow health recommendations.” 

During travel

It is not “business as usual” when you travel. You can’t just enter any establishment or buy stuff like you used to. Videoke singing in public is still not allowed, so is drinking and dancing in bars and clubs. Even if you are on vacation (and you feel you really deserve it after months of lockdown), you still have to observe the proper health protocols. Even if you are in your bikini, you should still wear a facemask even if its color doesn’t match your OOTD.  Remember: The virus doesn’t take a break, it is always in search of a victim to latch on 24/7. 

Aside from wearing a facemask, observe physical distancing too. Maintain at least two meters between you and others as much as possible. Do not go out, socialize, and “group hop,” as these actions are a fertile way to spread the virus. 

Since you are on a trip, it is unavoidable that you will touch a lot of things, starting from your car’s door, hotel’s handrails, elevator’s buttons, etc. If you do, avoid touching your MEN (mouth, eyes, and nose). 

Cleanliness is the utmost priority during travel, so don’t forget to use hand sanitizers or wash your hands as often as possible, even if you feel the hotel looks “clean.” The Mayo Clinic suggests that once you arrive at your room or rental, “disinfect high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls, and faucets. Wash plates, glasses, cups, and silverware.”  It is better to be safe than sorry. 

When going out for lunch or any recreation activity, choose the outdoors over air-conditioned spaces. If it is available, request for cashless payment. 

During air travel 

It is not the best of times to experience air travel. If you are “paranoid” about the virus, skip air travel as crowded flights make physical distancing impossible. You also don’t want the hassles such as spending more time in lines, more checks and inspections, and the lack of “fun” usually associated with travel. 

If air travel couldn’t be avoided since you really insist on going to that sale in Bangkok (or else you’ll get crazy), then be comforted with the fact that airlines are now strictly following health protocols. Aside from the crew wearing facemasks, every passenger is also required to wear one (even face shields). Airlines also encourage online bookings and electronic payments, plus self check-in of baggage.   

Check first the website of your chosen airline for their requirements and schedules.  It is also advisable to check the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website to see travel advisories, which is regularly updated due to the “fickle” nature of the virus. If not, you could be quarantined in a strange land for 14 days, turning your vacation into a nightmare to remember. 

During car travel

Driving to your destination may take some time, but it is safer as you can control the environment. But this should not be your usual road trip. 

First, plan to make as few stops as possible in order to limit your exposure to other people. This means preparing a baon for the whole entourage instead of stopping at coffee shops or roadside restaurants. If you can’t bring food with you, opt for restaurants with drive-thru. 

Make sure to have facemasks, hand sanitizers, or disinfectant wipes readily available and accessible to everyone in the vehicle.  These pandemic necessities do not only give you peace of mind, but will make the trip worth the risk.