Travel, public health experts share tips for safe airplane, road trips this summer

Posted at 12:31 PM, May 20, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — As the country and Tampa Bay area continue to rebound from the pandemic, you and your family may be looking at getting vacations back on the books this year. Whether you hit the road with your family or take a trip on a plane, public health and travel experts share what you should know to make traveling as safe as possible.

If you want to fly the friendly skies, there are a few things you’ll want to take into account.

“You’ve got to do your research before you fly, drive, go anywhere, and travel at this time,” said Melissa Dohmen, a senior brand manager with Orbitz.

Many airports put COVID-19 safety measures in place during the pandemic: requiring masks, enhancing cleaning, and using social distancing markers. Dohmen recommends using contactless options when you can, like mobile boarding passes.

“Contactless really is the way to go right now to stay the safest and to really just give you that peace of mind and limit those touchpoints,” said Dohmen.

Dohmen also says when you’re on the plane, be prepared to sit next to someone in case airlines roll back blocking middle seats. However, she says you will notice how clean the planes are.

“It is a very safe and clean environment,” said Dohmen. “Many airlines have done studies to really prove that air quality onboard is really quite good, so I think you can have peace of mind knowing that if you mask up, bring hand sanitizer, and you’re on that plane, you’re going to have a really pleasant trip,” said Dohmen.

Health experts want you to avoid large crowds when it comes to the airport itself. ABC Action News spoke to Dr. Jay Wolfson, a Professor of Public Health, Medicine, and Pharmacy at the University of South Florida, about traveling safely.

“The calculus for this disease has remained the same: its proximity, time, and congestion,” said Dr. Wolfson. “So continue to assume that people you don’t know may be infected and may not even know it, and even if you’ve been vaccinated, remember that you might still be able to get it again.”

If hopping on a plane isn’t part of your plans, you may instead opt for a road trip. AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins says just in the month of March they saw a 60% increase compared to the month before in interest in road trip planning on their online web tools.

Jenkins recommends planning everything out from start to finish, including those all-important rest stops.

“If you’re pulling up to a gas station, maybe pick a pump where you’re further away from where the other cars are parked, and then whenever you’re going to a restaurant or if you have to go inside somewhere, then make sure you’re wearing your mask and try to social distance as best as possible,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins says packing snacks and water may help cut back on stops, too. The CDC says a safer option is a short road trip with people you live with or people who are fully vaccinated with few stops along the way. Travel may finally be looking up during this pandemic, but experts want you to prepare and take precautions before you head out the door.

“A little anxiety is not a bad thing,” said Wolfson. “Things are getting safer. People are being cautious. Just exercise common sense.”

For those hitting the road, AAA has a handy COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik tool for the latest state and local travel restrictions and for help to find which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels are open along your route. For people who are flying, experts say to look for free cancellations or change fees in case you need to change your trip and to also do your research on guidelines or testing that might be required at your destination.