• Monica Montanari

Traveling During COVID (Like a Pro)

Leaving the house might seem like the scariest thing ever for some people right now, but just because there's a pandemic doesn't mean the world has to shut down completely (for some of us).


Whether its for your job, family, or mental health, there are plenty of reasons people still have to travel during these unprecedented times. And I, for one, have had to learn the hard way what kinds of things you'll need to consider before taking any trip during coronavirus. Here are my tips and tricks to make your next travel scenario as comfortable as possible.




Traveling by Car



Restrooms


Gone are the days where you could just walk into a gas station and use the bathroom. Nope. You're lucky if you find a gas station that isn't completely locked up like a zombie apocalypse is coming. Even if you do find one that's open inside, most of those aren't allowing the public to use their restrooms. Not the greatest scenario if you're trying to travel without using public transportation. My suggestion? Truck stops.


Truck drivers are such a crucial part of the American supply chain- and as such, truck stops are essential for their success. Because of this, you can always count on the truck stops to be open completely. Plan your travels between Love's or Pilot Flying J travel stops. You'll feel good supporting businesses that support our essential workers. Bonus: truck stops are usually surrounded by multiple food options, so you can get food, gas, and go to the bathroom all in one stop.


Food


If you're planning your entire trip around being able to stop at your favorite roadside diner, plan ahead. Most restaurants (including drive-thru and fast-food) have shrunken their menus and/or reduced their hours to handle the lower volume of business they've been experiencing. My best advice? Call. Yelp and websites can get outdated quickly in this new age, so calling your favorite stops is a good way to check and make sure your favorite pancakes are still on the menu. Bonus: if you're going to need a restroom break, you can ask ahead if patrons are allowed to use the restrooms inside.


Gas


You're going to have to get gas in order to drive. It is what it is. If you have high anxiety about the virus, keep a box of gloves in your car that you can put on before exiting your car. Once you're out of the car, don't go back in unless you don't care about cross-contamination. Use sanitizer or antibacterial wipes (you can buy multiple little packs of antibacterial Wet Ones from Amazon and have them delivered within a day or two to keep everywhere you need them). Car and Driver Magazine posted an article with their advice, including seeking out stations with contact-less payment options.


Even if you think the whole virus is overplayed, gas stations are still nasty cesspools of germs. Kimberly-Clark Professional released a study in 2011 that proved that gas handles are one of the dirtiest surfaces you can put your hands on. So now might be a good time to get in the habit of not touching your face when pumping gas, and sanitizing your hands afterward.



Traveling by Plane



Refreshments


The pandemic has changed the way airlines serve their customers. Alcohol isn't being offered on most flights- in fact, you're lucky if you have any other option but water. So if you're like me and hate water, make a stop at one of the stores on your way through the terminal to grab some soda or juice. Pro tip: grab a straw (see below).


If you do love water, you might want to bring your own, too. Airline water comes from municipal sources- a.k.a. the same sources that hoses, drinking fountains, and sinks pull from. Studies have proved it isn't significantly lower in quality than other drinking water, but many flight attendants still consider it a last resort. But buying bottled water inside the terminal isn't great, either. Especially when you consider that for the $8 a bottle they're charging you, you could have bought, like, 90 bottles at the store. Pro tip: bring an empty water bottle or an empty reusable drink container through security (as we all know TSA doesn't do liquids). When you get through, find the nearest fast-food place and fill 'er up. Expert tip: when you get through security, find the nearest Starbucks and ask for a fill up of their water with a dash of fruit. Usually they have strawberries on hand, but you can ask what else they have, too. Usually it costs around 25 cents, but for people like me who have to trick themselves into staying hydrated, it's a great option.


Snacks are in short supply once on board, too. So if you're going to want anything other than a remedial snack pack during your flight, make sure you pick something up on the way. Most TSA screening areas will allow you through with outside food- but check first so you don't waste that Egg McMuffin. Otherwise, just grab something in the terminal to tide you over.



Protective Equipment


I think it's extended to every single airline by now: wearing a mask throughout the entire air travel process is somewhat mandatory. But, luckily, you can steal a few blissful breaths of real air every once in a while. All airlines that I've flown or heard of allow their passengers to remove their masks when eating or drinking. Hate wearing a mask? I'm not saying I suggest it, but I'm just saying that if you're constantly snacking or walking around with a straw in your mouth (because you can't have your head tilted back taking tiny sips of things every single moment)...


Some flights have stewards/stewardesses offering masks, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, and gloves. Don't count on it, though. If you're hoping to be able to wipe down your tray table or your seat, BYOA (bring your own antibacterial).



Any other tips and/or tricks I'm missing? Have questions about any part of the traveling process? Let me know in the comments below!