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If you have to travel for the holidays—especially now that infection rates are spiking in America—there is one smart way to reduce some of the anxiety: be well-prepared before you go.

It’s not just that you won’t have the arsenal of cleaning products, masks and other gear you keep at home, it’s also that the protocols differ depending on your mode of transportation, how long you are away and what destinations are on your itinerary.

Does your airline block seats? Do you know the hotel’s safety procedures? Do you know where to get a rapid test in another city? These are just some of the many questions to ask before you take off.


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PRE-DEPARTURE TO-DOs

Check Your Home State’s (and Your Destination’s) Travel Restrictions: It’s good practice to be on top of all the safety protocols before you travel—such as state and city mandates. That way you’re going in with your eyes open and prepared for even the worst scenario. For instance, I’m traveling from New York City to Las Vegas. And while Sin City doesn’t currently have restrictions for incoming guests, New York State requires you to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before you board your re-entry flight. You will also need to bring a filled-out New York State Traveler Health form, which will be collected in the airport upon your return to New York. (So make sure you print it out before you leave.) Beyond that, once you land you will be required to quarantine for three days. And on the fourth day, a PCR test is required. (You can only break your quarantine after you receive a negative diagnosis.) Non-compliance of this directive could lead to a hefty fine: $10,000. And no one wants to get dinged with that. If you find yourself with more questions, here’s CDC’s official stance on holiday gatherings—plus their recommendations.

Check Your Hotel or Airbnb’s Covid-19 Sanitizing Protocols: I highly discourage staying with friends and relatives without taking a PCR test and quarantining beforehand—especially if your relatives are in the high-risk category. After all, small intimate gatherings such as dinners, drinks, and get-togethers at a home are proving to be “spreader events,” much more so than say, a holiday meal at a restaurant. To minimize the possibility of infection, consider a hotel or an Airbnb with high sanitation standards: Make sure they require masks in public spaces, have hand-sanitizing stations, perform temperature checks, and practice contract tracing. Plus points if you’re staying at a hotel with its own on-call doctor or nurse, in case of emergencies. Beyond that, if you’re only staying a few days try to decline daily housekeeping—to minimize interactions.

Research Nearby Covid-19 Testing Sites in Your Destination: Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require you to get tested prior to re-entry, it’s always best to be on the safe side. Think of it as a courtesy to fellow travelers. Remember: not all Covid-19 cases are symptomatic and you may not be aware that you’re spreading it. So, do your part and take a PCR or rapid test. And while you’re at it, make a note of where the nearest hospital or urgent care facility is. It also goes without saying that you should look into your insurance plan and see what coverage they can offer you while you’re out of state.

Map Out Your Travel Schedule and Plan Your Itinerary: I get it, sometimes spontaneity can be more fun when you’re traveling. But that’s way too risky, depending on where you are. If you happen to be flying to a city, there are several things to consider. First things first: Choose what restaurants, shops, and establishments you deem safe to visit—and make reservations ahead of time. Outdoor, rooftop, and patio dining are, of course, ideal. But if those aren’t in the cards, look at the policies of each restaurant you want to visit—if you think their protocols are sub-par and don’t allow for indoor social distancing, then walk away. In this alarming stage of the pandemic, no establishment should be operating at full capacity.

Download Helpful Coronavirus-Related Apps: Many states, cities, and tech companies raced to develop apps that aimed to help monitor and mitigate Covid-19 transimition. While I don’t think you need to download them all, some are certainly worth a shot. Apple’s Covid-19 application—created in collaboration with the CDC, FEMA, and The White House—provides helpful tips regarding best practices and resources. Citizen’s sister app, SafePass, has a Safer Thanksgiving feature that allows you to create a holiday-specific pod, which reminds members to test negative, be symptom free, and turn on anonymous Bluetooth contact tracing. And if you’re in New York, the state has Covid Alert NY, which specializes in “exposure notification,” where you’re alerted whenever you come within spitting distance of someone who was diagnosed positive.

Don’t Leave Without Pandemic Essentials :Covid-19 has taken all of us for a dizzying spin this year. And the must-have travel essentials look completely different from what they did, even as recently as a year ago. (This time last year I was sunning myself in Miami with no care in the world.) But 2020 is different and travel-related anxiety is very real. So make sure you stock up with these very practical products that’ll make your trip infinitely easier and hiccup-free. Click here for a comprehensive list of travel must-haves in the time of coronavirus.


ON THE PLANE

Check the Seats on Your Flight: As of this writing, not all airlines are blocking off middle seats. So check if there are better seats you can transfer to approximately 24 to 36 hours before your time of departure. If possible, sit with a fellow member of your household—and wear a mask and face shield throughout the entire flight. And if you’re amenable to it you could even wear Stoggles, which feature anti-fog and UV-blocking lenses. Also: Don’t forget to bring sanitizing wipes to clean surface areas such as your armrest, your tray table, the seatbelt buckle, the in-flight entertainment screen, and other high-touch areas.

Limit Your Food and Drink Intake: If your flight is relatively short, say less than six hours, try to eat before you board. Taking off your mask and shield is a risk—so try to hang in there and eat when you’ve landed.


WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION

Establish House Rules: My partner and I will be traveling together and staying in a hotel where we are comfortable in terms of its safety measures. And here are a few of the things we’ve planned to do: No family member will be allowed in our hotel room—nor are we planning to visit their hotel rooms or homes. At this point, even family members should keep their distance from each other and spend time together outdoors—whether it’s taking an exploratory stroll or eating in a restaurant terrace. Now is not the time to let your guard down, especially with the rising infection rates in all fifty states.

Sanitize Everything: If you’re staying in a hotel room or an Airbnb, sanitize the entire space before you unpack and shower off the travel grime. I recommend bringing Clorox wipes, a spray mister containing 70% alcohol, and UV light sanitizer wands. And if you know you’ve got a sizeable bathroom—or multiple ones—bring a bottle of Clorox Clean-Up in your checked luggage. Remember, limiting housekeeping is safer, so you’ll have to periodically spray and wipe down that bathtub yourself. After all, better safe than sorry.

Get Used to Eating In Your Hotel Room: Not all your meals have to be in a restaurant—especially if they’re minor ones, such as breakfast. If there’s a particular restaurant you’ve been eyeing—but they happen to only offer indoor dining, consider getting takeout and eating the meal in your room. (But note that you can only do this with members of your household. As someone fresh off a plane, you do not want to let extended family in and you certainly should not visit them in their homes or hotel rooms.)

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