Five things to remember while traveling during COVID-19
September 1, 2020
1. Check the entry permission and procedures
In 2019, you probably booked a ticket and a hotel room and packed your bags the day before your flight and that was it. That is no more the case. Covid-19 has made air travel not so simple anymore.
Firstly, you need to check the rules of the airport you are disembarking from. Most airports ask for a PCR test at least 96 hours before your travel date. Some ask for it 72 hours before. So be sure to check that in the website of the airport itself. While PCR test results come within hours, it is advisable to do it at least two days before to not cause any last minute stress.
Then check the quarantine rules of the country you are traveling to. The rules will depend on where you are coming from rather than your passport. In my case, India only allows its citizens and valid resident visa holders to enter. And all passengers need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, despite the PCR test result. I had to fill out two forms, one for thenational government (Air Suvidha) and another for my state government (Jagratha). Both were simple and quick. Depending on the country you plan to visit the procedure will be different.
2. Pack smart
Start packing your bags at least a few days before your flight. And only take essential clothes and amenities, because you will need space for your health kit (more on that in a minute). If you are flying internationally, you will probably have check-in-luggage. Use that to the maximum. Your goal should be take as little as possible with you into the cabin.
This is because with less bags to carry about you minimise touching any contaminated surfaces. Furthermore you will need your hands free to access your health kit to disinfect.
3. The health kit
This for me has to be the most important luggage in your flight. Sure, the bags with your dresses and undies are important, but you won’t be using them on the flight. The health kit though, is a different case.
Why did I want one? It should be common knowledge by now that disinfecting your hands is one way to not catch the virus, especially if you cannot have access to soap and water.
So I carried a disinfectant bottle in the pouch along with some disinfectant wipes. Be sure the disinfectant is only 100ml since that is limit you can carry into the cabin.
Next in the bag were some tissues in case I needed to wipe my hands. Using your tissues is better than the ones you may get on the flight.
Last, and not least were masks. These are as essential as the disinfectant. It is recommended to change masks after every 4 hours of use, especially in flights as social distancing is hard. This applies to both surgical masks and N-95 masks. I had in my pouch six fresh masks, since my travel was going to take a total of 30 hours.
I also had spare ones in my cabin luggage which unfortunately I was not able to send via check-in. But I did not have to access my cabin baggage once during my flights because of my health kit. Every time I used the kit, I wondered how stressful this trip would have been if I had not taken it.
4. Flight seat selection
My trip consisted of two flights, Vienna to Dubai, and Dubai to Cochin. Both were booked with Emirates so I did not have to go through immigration just to get my luggage, only to put it back again. While my luggage situation was smooth, my seat selection was one area I did not think was as much.
I had chosen my seats a few days before in advance so I could have the freedom to sit where I wanted. But I chose wrong. While both flights were not packed, they were more than half full, but they still had enough free seats such that each passenger could be seated with one free seat in between. And I would think Emirates would do that.
I was wrong.
I got lucky on my first flight, I had both seats on my sides free. But some other passengers were not so lucky, even though there were free seats all around them. And do not think you can just change them. The flight attendants cannot allow that because of the rules put down by the government to help track you and other passengers down in case you or anyone else sitting near you gets infected.
So my advice, book the seat next to the aisle. That way you can be sure that at least one side is free, even if the plane is packed. Social distancing in a plane is difficult, but if you can do it, why shouldn’t you?
5. Travel only if it is necessary
This is a tip that has been shared by many governments, and for right reasons. Traveling during Covid-19 is risky. There is no getting around that fact. It is a real disease and countless lives (at the time of writing over 800,000 deaths) have been lost or affected by this pandemic. Do not concentrate too much on the death rate though; the main problem with this disease is the infection rate.
While the temptation to go on holidays would be strong for you and your loved ones (especially with the lockdowns), traveling to another country that is not your home is, if you think of it, more stressful. Not only should you adhere by the rules set there, you may find yourself stuck if unfortunately a lockdown should come. There have been countless cases around the world of people being stuck in a foreign country.
Now if your travel is necessary, then best do it comfortably. If there is no direct flight available then chose the ones with the least amount of connections, rather than focusing on a low price. Now is not the time to cheap out.
Taking a cheap ticket with multiple connections may lead to stressful situations and that could be dangerous. You may forget to disinfect your hands or not wash your hands properly and this could put you and others in danger. But beyond that, stress will bring down your immune system, which will have a negative effect in case you catch the virus.
So if you do plan to travel take these 5 tips and you can have a low stress and relaxed journey. We all need that in this difficult time.