Now That You’re Vaccinated, It’s Time to Travel

Traveling in 2021 isn’t like it was before. There’s a host of new things you need to think about.

It’s been a long, dark year of Groundhog Days since we were thrust into a state of suspended animation. We’re all eager to let loose and see the world again, the crazy world that seemed to have stopped spinning.

The Return of Travel

Look for uncrowded beaches like the one at Casa Marina in Key West l Where Traveler
An uncrowded beach holiday at Key West's Casa Marina (©Meryl Pearlstein)

But should you book your plane ticket, gas up your car, and pack your outdoor gear to leave tomorrow with the same spontaneity you had in the past? Well, not so fast. There’s a new set of protocols and considerations that need to be part of your updated travel arsenal.

Choose Your Destination and Activities Wisely

Covid-19 hasn’t gone away. It seems to be smarter than a lot of us, developing new variants that want to trick us into complacency as they gather strength for another onslaught. Because of this, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you still need to behave as though everyone around you could be a carrier, including yourself.

Road trip to Napa vineyards is great for slow travel l Where Traveler
Explore the vineyards of Napa Valley (courtesy Amtrak Vacations)

The best travel destinations right now are those that aren’t overly crowded. This could mean a lot of things. It could mean renting an Airstream and overnighting in campsites near national parks. Or booking a small home or inn for your “pod.” Or traveling by train to smaller towns and cities that don’t usually appear in guidebooks. And with a little research, you may discover some ways to help support the economy in these areas too.

Safe travel kayaking off the coast of Maine l Where Travelers
Enjoy outdoor sports off the coast of Maine (©Meryl Pearlstein)

Choose activities in the great outdoors like hiking, walking and kayaking. Make dining outside a part of your schedule, but be wary of restaurants not observing social distancing. For concerts, beaches, sports and other events, if you’re feeling like you’re too close, you probably are.

Take a leisurely stroll among the art galleries in Santa Fe l Where Traveler
Canyon Road's famous art walk in Santa Fe (©Meryl Pearlstein)

Follow CDC Safety and Health Protocols 

Be safe. Mask up. This should be your mantra when you’re around other people. If you’re traveling by plane, train or another public conveyance, double mask. Always carry multiple face coverings with you and be sure they’re lined to be effective. Look for K95’s or N95’s for the best protection – some even come in stylish colors that you can rock with your travel outfits.

Wash your hands often and bring hand sanitizer with you. If you’re dining, it’s a good idea to wipe down surfaces and wash your hands before and after eating. Remember to keep your mask on until you actually begin your meal. It will protect you as well as the server who is working so hard to take care of you in a healthy way.

Inns like The Tides have socially distanced dining l Where Traveler
Small inns like The Tides Beach Club have socially distanced outdoor dining (©Meryl Pearlstein)

Travel Smart

Knowledge is power, as they say. Try to book flights with carriers known to go the distance to sanitize and protect. If they don’t have a solid air filtration system and don’t clean the planes and restrooms regularly, find another airline.  The same goes for the train service.  If you can travel off-peak, you’ll be safer and you just might score that empty seat next to you.

Be a little obsessive. Before you sit, wipe down any hard surfaces and even seat upholstery with a disinfecting wipe. Tray tables have always been a source of germs, and now it’s more of a concern than ever. Bring seat covers for the train or plane and a “camp pack” with your own bedding. Double mask or wear a shield over your mask for the duration of your journey, except for brief eating or drinking moments. Pack food for your travel – even travelers in First class no longer get a hot meal on long-haul trips and it’s safer for you, too. You can expect beverages and perhaps a bag of pretzels, but not much more.

Socially distanced sunset at Castle Hill Inn in Newport l Where Traveler
Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island (©Meryl Pearlstein)

If you’re booking accommodations, stay at inns or hotels affiliated with reputable brands that publicly detail their safety protocols. Some will clean your room only upon request, some will only book a room after leaving it empty for a few days. All of these are important considerations. You’ll want a room that doesn’t have “communal” soap or shampoo dispensers. Single-use bottles, while not environmentally sound, are safer at the moment.

Know Before You Go

Quarantine and testing rules vary by state and country and seem to change overnight. Something might disrupt your trip before or after you leave, and you need to be prepared. Having a back-up plan and a little knowledge will serve you well.

Consult the CDC for advice about any destination and bookmark the World Health Organization site as well for global updates. Importantly, locate medical facilities where you’ll be traveling. You may never get sick, but you might need a Covid-19 test before you return home.

A travel agent can help arrange a guided hike in El Paso's Hueco Tanks State Park l Where Traveler
Have your travel agent arrange a guided hike in Hueco Tanks State Park in El Paso (©Meryl Pearlstein)

A travel agent can help manage the morass of new rules and will serve as a valuable resource should something go amiss during your vacation. Take note of hotel, tour, and transportation cancellation policies before you commit. Travel insurance is a must for any significant trips, particularly a policy allowing you to “cancel for any reason” if you have serious concerns.

Hot air ballooning in Albuquerque stays away from crowds l Where Traveler
Hot air ballooning in Albuquerque (©Meryl Pearlstein)

A final note. Don’t be shy about flaunting your vaccinated status. Carry a copy of your immunization card at all times. New York State has just developed its Excelsior Pass program which allows you to show digital proof of vaccination (or a Covid test). Apply before you travel and download the app – it’s like carrying a passport with you at all times.